Thesis: You can get massive traffic increases for any website using guest posting. These big traffic increases will come from organic searches rather than referrals.
A couple years ago I got an email. It’s one of the most dreaded emails you can get if you are an internet marketer, SEO, or website owner…
I received a notice that my one of my niche websites received a penalty for “thin content.”
It was devastating!
This particular website was making significant revenue so this was a big hit.
The story isn’t uncommon at all:
- Spencer Haws at Niche Pursuits
- Expedia, the major travel booking company
- Overstock, the retail company lost 3% due to a penalty
The risk is real, even for public companies.
There seems to be some resistance among some internet marketers to go out and get white hat backlinks, especially when it comes to guest posting. I resisted too.
I used to think that it just makes more sense to control my own backlinks using a Private Blog Network. (I still like PBNs for certain areas of link building.)
When you are working with clients as an SEO agency, you can’t afford gamble with your client’s name brand. It’s not ethical.
The fact is that white hat outreach, specifically guest posting, is ridiculously effective and almost completely avoids the risk of shady, old school backlinking tactics. (And I will be sharing my exact templates, plus my tracking spreadsheet to make it even easier.)
Results of Guest Posting
Let’s take a look at how effective guest posting can be in a few different scenarios. You may think that guest posting can only work for certain kinds of websites.
But if you take the approach seriously and are dedicated to the process, then guest posting can work for almost any kind of website.
Example of an Amazon Niche Site
These are the kind of sites that I have the most experience with. And while niche sites are smaller in scope than authority sites, they can still have strong earning potential. A niche site is a website with a narrow focus and usually without the depth of an authority site. They are typically monetized with ads or affiliate offers.
I ran a campaign for my own niche site starting in August and it is still ongoing. The traffic to the site is up about 70% overall.
The real story is around the pages and topics that I linked to from the guest posts. The traffic to those pages is up 200% to almost 300%.
Example for an Authority Site
An authority site is generally considered to be a step up from a niche site. Let’s look at a definition from Gael and Mark from Authority Hacker:
Lewis and I have been working on an authority site since January 2015, and it hasn’t been widely revealed until now. It is called PrepperZine. We wanted to have a white hat site as part of each of our portfolios.
We eventually ranked #1 for a massive keyword phrase – the search volume is 18,100.
The increase in organic traffic amounted to 470%.
That’s huge and we even took over the #1 spot from instructables.com. The surprising part is that it took less than 10 guest posts.
Myths about guest posting
Guest posting has been around for a long time so the landscape has changed over time. Let’s review some of the common myths.
Google doesn’t like guest posting anymore
Guest posting was a strategy that was so effective for so many early bloggers that it was eventually abused by spammers. Many guest posting networks whose sole purpose was providing links were penalized over time.
It got so bad that Google’s Matt Cutts called out guest posting in January 2014:
Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.
Many people called out this broad statement as inaccurate or at least out of context. Here are two:
- Neil Patel at Quicksprout: Guest Blogging and SEO: Still a Match Made in Heaven
- Mark Daoust at Search Engine Journal: Why Matt Cutts Can’t Kill Guest Blogging
There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.
The point being is that bad/spammy guest posting is not good. If you are paying to have a guest post published, i.e. a sponsored post, then you are on thin ice.
Take Away: Guest posting isn’t bad, but shady links from shady sites are bad.
You will get a flood of traffic from guest posting
The amount of referral traffic you get from a guest post depends on the blog that you post on. Some blogs get a lot of traffic each month and have a highly engaged readership.
If your guest post is relevant for the audience, then you should get referral traffic.
Getting referral traffic is icing on the cake, but there are other great reasons to guest post:
- Get contextual backlinks – Backlinks are still the primary way that Google assesses search engine rankings.
- Become better known in the community – Publishing your ideas on a blog, even one that doesn’t get a massive amount of traffic, still establishes you at a thought leader in your space.
Take Away: The backlinks and publicity are more important than referral traffic.
It takes forever to execute a guest posting campaign
Guest posting sounds like a lot of work. There are several steps, and if you haven’t guest-blogged before, the whole process sounds complicated. Like many seemingly complex processes, guest posting is just a series of simple steps. (We’ll get to the steps soon!)
I executed a campaign for my own niche site in one month and published 11 guest posts. I didn’t write all of the guest posts, but hired some college educated writers from the US and edited them as needed.
The average Domain Authority was 32 so these were great websites to get links from.
Joseph describes how he published 30 guest posts in about 6 weeks and that tripled his traffic. It is no small feat to publish that many guest posts, but you can’t argue with the results.
Take Away: It doesn’t take long if you follow a plan.
No one will accept my guest post idea
You have to think of several headlines that will be relevant to the topic. It only has to be a little bit related, just enough so that you can fit in a backlink to your own site in a relevant way.
Be creative and you can normally figure out a way to fit your topic into a broad niche. It will take some practice to generate topics. We will look at a specific example later.
If you do your homework by researching the niche, then you will be able to come up with some great ideas some of which are legitimately great. Not all of your ideas will be accepted so come up with few extra headlines.
Take Away: If you pitch a good idea, then it will be accepted.
No one will link to my affiliate site
If you have a shitty, thin affiliate site that has subpar content, you’re right – No one will link to you. However, if you have a nice looking site with high-quality information, then you will be able to get links.
The key will be to link to your site’s content when it provides the reader with relevant information. You can definitely add backlinks to your content if you truly help the reader.
If your client has a basic site without a great deal of content or blog posts, you should improve that aspect. It’s your job to convince the business owner that high-quality content is needed to get these backlinks. Show them some of the top ranking competitors – you’ll undoubtedly find great content.
Take Away: You can get backlinks to your site if it helps the reader.
How to Effectively Run a Guest Post Campaign
Each of the 7 steps for a guest blogging campaign are very simple. But you have to do them all and in the right order.
Never fear, though. I will tell you all the steps and what order you need to do them. My background is in project management and process optimization. Basically, I like setting up systems, especially when they make positive results repeatable.
I consolidated the process from several content marketing experts (Brian Dean of backlinko, Neil Patel of quicksprout, Ramit Sethi of iwillteachyoutoberich) and refined the process (using tools and apps that make the process easier, like Ninja Outreach) over time.
I’ve sent 1,000s of emails and published dozens of guest posts. Across industries and for big and small SEO agencies.
Figure out where you want to drive traffic
This is a no brainer. Where do you want to send organic, search engine traffic? Or referral traffic if that’s your goal?
Generally, I like to have a specific page, i.e. 1 URL, that receives the backlink. It makes it laser-focused and very clear about the goal. This focus also makes it very easy to see the results to measure your ROI.
Take Away: Pick a URL.
Figure out some interesting topics
You need to have headline ideas that will get people’s attention, so much so, that they want to host your guest post. You have 2 options:
- Think of your topics and headlines first, then figure out the niche of blogs to target.
- Figure out the niche of blogs to target, then come up with ideas for headlines
I prefer the 2nd method.
Let’s look at an example to see this in action.
- You have a client in the finance industry that needs backlinks.
- You decide that personal finance blogs will be a great fit.
- Research and read some of the prominent blogs to get ideas about evergreen type content or very popular topics that come up all the time. You can use Buzz Sumo to see the most shared pieces for a particular topic.
- Come up with a few unique spins on the old, reliable topics.
- 5 Ways Paying Off Your Student Loans Will Change Your Life
- 5 Unusual Ways To Pay Off Debt
- 7 Ways To Eat Out Less (and Not Spend All Day In The Kitchen)
- 10 Ways Recycling Will Save You Money
Not all of your topic ideas will work, but as you come up with more ideas you will get better at it.
Take Away: Generate several headlines based on researching top blogs
Find blogs that may publish your guest post
This is a matter of running some Google searches with a couple of advanced operators. Brian Dean mentions many, many footprints to use in his Guest Posting guide, so check out some more if you are interested.
Here are a few of my favorites:
- Keyword “write for us”
- allintitle: Your Keyword + guest post
- Your Keyword “this is a guest post by”
What should you use for the keyword? This is what gave me some trouble in the past. I was using my keyword in the search, instead, use some of the topic ideas. In our example, you search for this:
- Ways To Pay Off Debt “write for us”
- allintitle: Ways To Pay Off Debt + guest post
- Ways To Pay Off Debt “this is a guest post by”
You also want to target active blogs, not ones that haven’t been updated in years. That is simple – you can just filter out the older results by setting the time parameters within your Google search.
Click on Search tools under the search bar.
Then, click on the Anytime drop down menu.
And you can set the range of dates to ensure you are looking at active blogs.
Now you will have a long list of blogs in your review. I like to hire a VA to research the blogs and enter the information into a spreadsheet. (You can get you spreadsheet template at the end.) Here is the information I like to have:
- Page URL – This is from the search results above and I will provide that for the VA.
- Site Name
- Page or Blog Post Title
- Name of Blogger or site owner
- Email Address
Take Away: Be sure you find active blogs.
Send a pitch email to the blogger
There are a lot of templates out there and most of them are pretty good. I took the best ideas from certain templates and used them. You can get my exact templates at the bottom of this page, but I encourage you to try out your own.
Here are the 5 key things about the email templates:
- Keep it short. People are busy so don’t ramble on or add in too many details. 200 words or less.
- Make it personal. Use the person’s name in the greeting if you (or your VA) can find it.
- Mention the site name. Webmasters get all sorts of spam so if you make the email look like a person actually wrote it, then your email has a better chance of being read.
- Mention the post you found by its title (or some other recent post). Again, this shows that you are not a spammer. And even more important, it shows that you have read their blog.
- Provide samples of your writing. It is best to show off your guest posts on other blogs if you have any of course. If you don’t that’s okay, you can leverage the content on your own site.
Here is my standard template:
If they accept your pitch idea, great! Ask about guidelines for the post, like the number of images, resolution of images, and word count. If they don’t have any guidelines, then I usually aim for 2 – 5 images, an image resolution and word count that matches the blog’s other posts.
It’s also important to tell the blogger when you will send them a draft so they can include it in their content calendar. Set a date and stick to it. If you need more time for some reason, then be sure to let them know the new date.
Take Away: Keep the email short and make personal.
Write a high-quality guest post
Obviously, you want to deliver a great post. You can outsource the writing and the best way to do it is to provide the writer with an outline. If you don’t provide enough guidance, then it’s an issue on your side. When you give the writer an outline, you leave less to chance.
Always proofread and edit work from a writer. It is incredibly hard to edit your own material. If you do write your own guest post, then it’s a good idea to hire an editor to review your work.
In addition, you should provide some images. Some blogs have very tight restrictions on the images like they won’t accept creative commons images no matter what. I either use morguefile.com or buy a few stock images. Stock image quality is extremely high so it’s a great option.
There are two critical things to include in your guest post:
- Contextual backlinks to your content. This is what will send the link juice over to your site. And a contextual backlink has more value than a byline backlink.
- Interlinking to the hosting blog. This is a great touch that emphasizes that you like their blog. It is a compliment. In addition, this is something that all bloggers know they should be doing – so you are doing the blogger a favor. It also means they probably won’t remove the links to your site.
Take Away: Provide a very high-quality post and images.
Follow up to ensure the post is published
You might be thinking this is unnecessary. However, it is really common for the blogger to not publish your post because they got busy. So, follow up with short, 1-line emails every 4 to 7 days.
Something like this:
Hi [First Name] – Just wanted to check in on the guest post. Hope you’re well! Thanks
I would keep sending these emails for up to 6 weeks. Yes, that’s extreme, but it can pay off. I have had more than few posts get published through persistence. At this stage, most of the work is done and you only need to send a quick email.
Take Away: Be sure to persistently follow up in a polite way.
Be active in the comments of the guest post
This is pretty straightforward and easy to do. Set aside some time in the week that the post is published to read and respond to all the comments on the post. It is good etiquette and will really go a long way as being a thought leader in the space.
You should have a decent idea about how many comments you will get based on the average number the blog gets. You may be able to find other guest posting opportunities by networking in the comments.
Check to see if any of the commenters have their own blogs. If they do, then drop a comment on a recent post of theirs. Then, follow up with a friendly email without pitching a guest post. If there seems to be a good fit, you can pitch another idea.
Take Away: Set aside a few minutes each day for the first week after the post is published to read and answer every comment.
Guest posting or guest blogging is an ultra effective way to increase your traffic or your client’s traffic. It sounds complicated if you get bogged down by the details, but in reality, you can follow 7 simple steps:
- Figure out where you want to drive traffic.
- Figure out some interesting topics.
- Find blogs that may publish your guest post.
- Send a pitch email to the blogger.
- Write a high-quality guest post.
- Follow up to ensure the post is published.
- Be active in the comments of the guest post.
The steps are really simple. But people seem to be scared off by their impression of guest blogging – maybe it’s the fear of rejection, maybe it’s Matt Cutts’ statement about sticking forks in things, maybe it’s something else.
Since guest posting is not widely executed, it becomes a BIG competitive advantage.
So give guest posting a shot and you will see how easy it can be.