How to Guest Blog for More Traffic and Links
If you’ve spent any amount of time dabbling in the world of guest blogging, then I’m sure you and I can both agree that there are at least a hundred other things we’d rather be doing…
But the benefits that come along with this link building strategy make it way too hard to ignore.
So we do it anyway …even if it is a long and grueling undertaking.
Guest posting doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom however.
Like most things, if you come up with a repeatable system or checklist that you can follow each time you start a campaign for yourself or a client – then you’ve just made life a whole lot easier for yourself.
So that’s what I’ve done for you here…
What you’re about to read below is a guide on guest blogging that’ll take you by the hand, and show you step-by-step how to land high quality white hat links that you or your client can feel proud of …without having to worry about getting your site penalized.
What Are Your Goals for Guest Posting?
Before we get into the nitty gritty, we first need to determine the outcome you’re wanting to achieve by guest blogging.
Like I mentioned in the intro to this guide, there are massive benefits involved with guest blogging.
And determining which of those benefits are most important to you is something that needs to be done prior to starting your campaign.
Typically we guest blog for three main reasons:
- To gain exposure to your website through referral traffic
- To position yourself as an authority
- To build links to your website
Now depending on which of these three you’re going after, will determine the types of sites you’ll be targeting during your campaign.
If you’re wanting all three, you’ll be targeting the top authority blogs in your industry.
If exposure is important to you, then you find sites that have plenty of monthly traffic, an active audience (shares/blog comments/email list), and a fair amount of social media followers.
If it’s links you’re after, make sure the sites you’re targeting have a decent Trust Flow, Domain Authority, or whatever metric you use to gauge a website’s “link juice”.
Personally I look at referring domains, and Domain Rating from Ahrefs. But most importantly is how relevant the blog is to the site you’re link building for.
Once you’ve figured out your “why” for guest blogging, then it’s time for you and I to embark on our wonderful adventure together where I show you how to get high quality guest post links.
1. Search For Guest Post Opportunities
The first thing we need to do is figure out a way to find the types of websites that we think will be good for posting our article on.
Generally there are three levels of websites you’ll come across:
A Level Sites: These are the top dogs in your niche. They publish the highest quality content, have the highest SEO metrics and typically require some sort of credentials/expertise to be able to contribute on their site.
B Level Sites: These range from your average to above average list of sites in your niche. They’re not publishing ground-breaking content, have pretty good SEO metrics, and typically have a decent sized audience.
C Level Sites: C level sites are low quality blogs that usually exist for the sake of solely accepting guest posts. They look spammy, publish generalized 500 word content that provide little value to the reader, and have weak SEO metrics. You’ll be skipping these.
Here are some strategies you can use to find your A and B level sites (plus a hidden gem that hardly anyone uses):
Custom Search Modifiers
Search modifiers are strings of text you put together to form a search query that you can input into search engines, like Google, to give you very specific search results.
Still with me?
Here, let me show you an example…
A classic search modifier is something like, “keyword inurl:write-for-us”. (where you would replace “keyword” with a keyword relevant to the type of content you’re targeting).
Let’s pretend a keyword for this campaign is “link building” – turning our search query into “link building inurl:write-for-us”
So now we enter that query into Google (without the quotes), and the search results will show us all the websites that are a) about link building, and b) have the exact words, “write-for-us” in their website URL.
Having write-for-us in a URL means that the website has a page encouraging people to contact them to pitch guest articles – perfect!
What’s the point of this?
Well instead of having to comb through the entire internet for blogs that are both relevant to our keywords and accept guest posts, we now have this very specific list that shows us exactly what we’re looking for.
This is just one example of the power of search modifiers. There are dozens out there that you can use to pull up specific search results depending on what you’re looking for.
I’ll give you a list of them all at the bottom of this guide.
Search modifiers are the most popular and most effective method for finding guest blog opportunities. Most people (including myself) tend to spend 90-100% of their time using this method.
In saying that, here’s another method you can add to your arsenal…
Done-for-You Guest Blog Lists
Depending on how popular your niche is, you might have some blogs out there that have put together a list of other blogs who accept guest posts in your industry.
To see if these lists exist, simply use search queries like:
- Keyword “guest post list”
- Keyword “guest post sites”
- Keyword “accept guest posts”
Keep in mind that these sites probably get spammed to death since they’re on these lists that everyone else has access to, so make sure you have a pretty good pitch if you want to stand out and get a positive response.
Pretty much the same deal as our first method (Custom Search Modifiers), we use certain search queries within Twitter to pull up tweets that mention our keyword and talk about guest blogging.
Reverse Engineering Top Sites
This is link building basics 101, but another way to find guest posting opportunities is to look through the backlink profiles of the top sites in your industry.
Often times you’ll be able to find some quality sites that you wouldn’t have found using the other methods.
To find the backlinks of other sites you’ll need to use a tool like Majestic or Ahrefs.
The hidden gem. This is more or less the same as Custom Search Modifiers, but in this case we’re searching for sites that don’t specifically have a “write for us” page or mention anywhere on their site that they accept guest posts.
So we’re basically just looking for sites related to your keywords that have a blog.
Use the following search modifiers to find them:
- Keyword inurl:blog
- Keyword inurl:article
- Keyword inurl:category
- Keyword “next post”
- Keyword “previous post”
- Keyword “view all comments”
This method works really good because these sites don’t get spammed with guest post pitches all day, so when you reach out to them they’re more likely to respond. Some of the best links I’ve gotten for my clients have came from using this method.
How To Find A Website’s Contact Info
Of course, having all of these websites in front of you is a little useless unless you have some sort of way of reaching out to them. This is usually done by email.
Here are a few bullet proof methods I use to find someones email:
Contact Us Page – Self explanatory. Often times there will be an email listed on their contact page.
Guidelines Page – Sometimes a blog “write for us” page will include an email you should contact.
Staff/Team Page – If the site has a page that lists their staff, sometimes they’ll include their respective emails as well.
Author Bio – Check to see if they list their email at the bottom of their posts in their author bio.
Social Media – Check their social media profiles to see if they have an email listed anywhere. Best bet is usually their About page on Facebook. Alternatively you could always just reach out to them using social media.
Email finder tool – Use a web app or chrome extension like Hunter.io that’ll automatically find emails for you if they are present somewhere on the web.
Tracking Your Outreach Opportunities
While you’re going through the motions of finding guest post opportunities and collecting their contact info, you’ll want to make sure you’re marking everything down into an organized list.
Using Excel, or a Google Sheet simply label a few columns for each piece of info you’re collecting, then fill them up as you go along.
So if you’re searching for websites that specifically have a “write for us” or “guest post guidelines” page then you could create something like this:
Column A: Website URL
Column B: Guidelines URL
Column C: Contact Info
Column D: Notes
And if you’re tracking certain metrics for each site (like DA, TF, or DR), then you could add those as well.
Here’s an example:
2. Vet Opportunities
Not every website you find is going to be worth your time.
This is why we come up with a set of criteria to follow as we comb through each of our guest blog opportunities.
You can either do this as you’re going through the methods in step 1. Or blindly gather a bunch of websites (marking them down in your opportunities list), then double back and go through them one-by-one, removing any that don’t fit the bill.
Personally, I have my team filter them out while they’re going through the searching process, not after.
Let’s go over some of the criteria you can use to determine whether a site is worth reaching out to:
Relevance – More important than any 3rd party metric, make sure the sites content is relevant to the site you’re guest blogging for.
Traffic – The more traffic a site gets, the more referral traffic you can expect. Plus, traffic is more and more becoming a ranking signal (which can help boost the effectiveness of your link).
Some sites list their traffic analytics somewhere on their site, or you can simply ask them during your email conversations.
Another way to get a rough estimate of a website’s traffic is to use a tool like SEMrush, Ahrefs, or even SimilarWeb.
Use these tools at your discretion though. They’re not always accurate.
Here are screenshots using the three tools mentioned above, using the same website as a test (I own this site and know the real traffic numbers):
Quite the range, right? This is why you should always be skeptical when using 3rd party tools.
And for the record, Ahrefs was the closest of the three to being accurate to the real traffic number.
Strong backlink profile – When a site has a good amount of high quality links pointing to it, typically the link you get on that site pointing to your site will provide more link juice.
You can use any backlink checker tool to find out this information.
A note on Moz’s Domain Authority (DA) – I see a lot of guides and people posting in forums/Facebook groups that you should only target sites that have a minimum DA of 30-40…
If you’ve been analyzing websites as long as I have, you’ll know that this advice isn’t realistic.
Remember, DA is a 3rd party metric that Google or any other search engine doesn’t give a shit about.
When you’re going through step number 1 (searching for guest blog opportunities) you’ll quickly see that a lot sites that you think would be good quality don’t have a DA of 30-40+
So are you going to skip over these sites because they don’t have a high DA? Nah. Relevance, and traffic are number 1, forget everything else.
And if you really need a metric to look at, then in my opinion Ahrefs DR is the most accurate tell of a website’s authority, not DA.
Active following – Check to see how many social media followers, how many social shares, and how many blog comments the site gets. Obviously the higher quality the site, the more activity you’ll see.
Up to date – If there hasn’t been a new blog post in a year then the site is most likely inactive. Skip!
Site design and content quality – Pretty self explanatory. Websites with a crappy looking design, lots of ads, and low quality content are a pass.
Guest post farm – Guest posting is big business. Some people have taken advantage of this by starting “blogs” that only exist to accept guest posts (usually with a price tag). If you look through the sites previous articles and notice most of them are guest posts (with an obvious commercial link within the content), then you should skip these.
These types of sites are just nicer looking PBNs.
So those are some of the main things to look for when judging a website. Depending on your goals for your guest blogging campaign this will determine how strict or lenient you’ll be when filtering through your target sites.
Over time, and the more you go through these steps you’ll develop your own criteria that will match what you’re trying to accomplish.
After you’ve put together a solid target list of guest blog opportunities, then it’s time to start the outreach process.
3. Prepare and Send Your Pitch
Probably the most important step of this entire guest blogging process, is crafting the perfect pitch that’ll land you the most positive replies.
When putting together your initial outreach email, think about how you would want someone to approach you if you were the owner of this blog.
You probably get bombarded with emails already, so anything that doesn’t catch your attention or seems spammy will quickly be ignored.
Long winded pitches, copy and paste templates, and flattery where you can smell the bullshit from a mile away are some things to avoid when sending your pitch.
Below I’ll list a few things to consider when putting together your email pitch. You don’t necessarily need to include all of these elements in every pitch. With experience you’ll figure out what works best:
- Use the person’s name if you can find it
- Short and to the point
- Personalize if you can
- Demonstrate experience/authority by showing samples of your previous work
- If you’re going to compliment them, be genuine.
- Guest blogging is a value exchange. What value are you providing them in return for posting your article?
Now remember, there are typically two levels of websites in our target list. A and B.
You’re more than likely going to need to put more effort into your pitch to an A level site, compared to a B level site.
Pitching an A level site:
For A level sites you might even need to do a little bit of foreplay before you send off your pitch.
What I mean by that is, if you really want to increase the likelihood of getting an opportunity to guest post on their site, you should get on their radar first.
- Comments – Contribute to their discussion by posting on their blog. Make sure the comment(s) are genuine, and add to the conversation. And not something like, “Great article! Thanks!”.
- Become a customer – Depending on your industry and the types of sites you’re reaching to, you could purchase one of their products/services (or maybe you already have), then let them know about your experience with it during your pitch.
- Reach out – Your first email to them doesn’t even need to be a pitch. If you noticed an issue with their site, or found a particular piece of content useful, let them know!
- Social Media – Engage them on whatever social media platform they’re prominent on. Same idea as blog commenting; be cool, and stand out somehow by adding something insightful/helpful to the conversation.
Now once you send your email pitch, you can refer back to any of these moments and that’ll hopefully spark the, “Yep, I trust this guy” signal in their head and get you a positive reply.
Do note that since the amount of effort and time it takes to work your way into these sites heads, I only recommend doing this for the most authoritative blogs on your list. The A levels of the A levels.
Pitching a B level site:
You can usually get away with pitching a fairly generic email when reaching out to B level sites.
Keep in mind that you’re still reaching out to real people who are more likely to respond if you also sound like a real person on the other end of the computer screen.
So the best strategy for these types of sites is to put together one or two pitches that are fairly general and have room for some personalization, then simply send whichever pitch makes the most sense for the site you’re working on at the moment.
4. Come Up With Article Ideas
*note – Sometimes a website’s guest post guidelines will ask you to submit your ideas along with your initial pitch. So depending on the site, you’ll either be doing this step before or after the pitch.
Alright so you’ve got a website that wants to hear some topic ideas for your guest post – nice!
Let’s not blow our chances here by pitching ideas that are boring, rehashed topics that have been done to death.
We want to make sure the ideas you come up with provide value to their readers while matching the sites writing style and voice.
To best way to accomplish this is by going through the sites top performing content, then seeing if you can offer another angle on something.
Here’s how it’s done:
There are a few ways to find a blogs most popular posts…
Check to see if they have a Popular Posts section somewhere on there site (usually in the sidebar).
Drop the website’s URL into Buzzsumo and you’ll get a list of their top content based on shares.
Use Ahrefs’ Top Content feature that works pretty similar to how Buzzsumo does.
Once you’ve identified their top posts, we can now use those as inspiration for your topic ideas.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that’ll help you come up with the ideas:
- Can you offer a different angle on one of the posts?
- Do you have any personal experiences related to one of the topics that you can turn into a, “what you can learn from my journey” type post?
- Does one of the posts have outdated information? Can you put together an updated version?
- Can you take a single point from a listicle type article and turn that into an entire post?
- Can you put together a tutorial/how-to guide based on one of these posts?
Using the strategy mentioned above should be more than enough for you to come up with a few topic ideas for each guest blogging opportunity.
And of course, A level sites should receive a bit more care and attention compared to B levels.
Also, make sure the idea(s) you come up with are somewhat relevant to the piece of content you’re wanting to link back to on your site so it’s easier to naturally include a contextual link.
5. Write the Guest Post
Once one of your ideas has been approved, it’s time for you to step up to the plate and crush it.
Now remember to keep our A and B level filters in mind…
When writing a guest post for an A level site you should be putting in the same (if not more) amount of time, effort, and attention to detail as you would if you were writing for your own blog.
These sites are top authorities because they only publish authority content. If you consider sending them anything less, then we’ve just wasted all our time building up to this moment.
B level sites require a quality effort on your end as well. Just not necessarily spending a week’s worth of research and writing.
You could even consider hiring a ghostwriter for these guest blog opportunities.
Simply come up with an outline of what you’re wanting to cover in the article, then find a writer on somewhere like Upwork to fill in the blanks.
Make sure you get them to read through a few of your own written pieces of work first, so they can try to match your voice.
Here are a few tips to help you put together a winning guest post every time:
Become a chameleon – Remember you’re writing for an audience that exists on this site not only because of the type of content they publish, but how it’s presented as well.
When putting together your article, make sure you structure and format it so that it looks similar to the other posts on the site.
Follow the guidelines – If the site you’re writing for has certain guest post guidelines, then make sure you’re following them.
The last thing you need happening is getting an article rejected because you only wrote 750 words when the guidelines asked for a minimum of 1500.
No self-promotion – Your article should be 100% focused on the reader, and providing valuable information. Any mention of your business should only be used to support a point or used for examples – not to advertise.
Internal / source links – If you’re citing any facts or statistics, be a dear and link to your sources within the article.
Also include internal links to any of the websites relevant content. Doing this shows you’re familiar with their site, and saves them the effort of doing it themselves later on. They’ll appreciate it since it helps with their on-page optimizations :).
Easy to read – Keep paragraphs and sentences short. Use headers and bullets to break up the content nicely.
Custom images – In a world where Google images exists, it’s often a good idea (and a nice touch) to include your own unique images to the post.
These can be screenshots that help visualize your tutorial, photos you’ve taken yourself, or custom designed graphics.
6. After the Post Goes Live
All of that hard work has finally lead up to this moment.
> You’ve painstakingly gone through who knows how many websites
> You’ve done the grueling outreach
> You’ve stretched your imagination to its limits to come up with article ideas
> And you’ve managed to put together some words in the right order coming up with an awesome article
Now your post is live, and you’ve earned your website a crisp, high quality link. Grats!
So what now?
Well if you’ve just published a guest blog on an authority site (A level), there will more than likely be some comments rollin’ in.
Stick close to the article for a day or two and respond to any comments that show up on your post.
You should also be promoting your new article on all of your social media channels, and email list if you have one.
And finally, be sure to shoot over an email thanking the blog for publishing your post. Doing this will help keep the relationship open to any future partnerships.