Despite a few ups and downs in the community opinion at large and some twists and turns in the value of link building, guest posting remains one of the best and most efficient offsite elements of any inbound marketing strategy. You can earn brand presence, personal authority, direct referral traffic, and even search rank increases with a sufficiently powerful guest posting strategy, all in exchange for content you’ve produced on your own.
There’s only one problem holding many entrepreneurs back from pursuing a guest posting strategy: guest blogging yields compounding returns. That means the longer you go, and the more effort you put in, the more rewards you’ll reap. On the surface, this is great news; once you’ve established yourself as an authority and you start posting on high-profile publishers, you’ll see far greater results than when you first start. But underneath, that creates a significant issue; without pre-existing authority, it’s hard to get anything published on a significant platform.
Once you have a handful of guest posts in circulation, getting more opportunities is much easier, but starting a guest posting campaign from scratch is quite difficult. Earning that first guest slot is arguably one of the biggest hurdles in any campaign. I’m here to help you do it.
Step One: Build a Foundation
Before you start building a house, you have to have a solid foundation. When it comes to guest posts, that foundation is going to be your own website. It’s possible to garner a reputation without a core website tying your posts together, but without some common place for the end of your funnel or a target for SEO rankings, you’ll be missing out on a lot of potential traffic and interested customers.
Your site doesn’t have to be anything fancy. A professional designer and developer can help you make your site more appealing or functional, but for the most part, a basic template is all you need to get started (and most of those are free or cheap). The only requirement is that you have a few pages and a blog to host the majority of your content (but I’ll be touching on content in a subsequent step).
Step Two: Earn Credentials
Just like better resumes make you more likely to get hired for a job, greater credentials can make you more attractive as a guest poster. If you’ve had industry experience, you can mention your previous job titles (or companies that you’ve worked for). If you’ve ever been featured as a speaker or a special guest of an event, you can mention that too. Any board experience or community experience you have could also be beneficial, depending on your area of expertise.
Take inventory of these credentials (and start looking for some new ones), and make them a prominent feature of your site—the About page is a perfect opportunity to do so. You’ll also want to set them aside so you can use them in your pitch in step five.
Step Three: Produce an Archive
Once you’ve established a baseline for your site, it’s time to get started writing content. You’ll need a sufficient bank of referenceable posts so prospective publishers can evaluate your writing ability and style. Your pace might prohibit you from moving quickly, but as a general rule, you’ll want 20 to 30 posts live on your site before going any further, and it’s a good idea to post a new one at least weekly so your readers get used to recurring updates.
In addition, you should start building out your social media profiles and tie them in with your site. Make it easy for people to share posts of yours on their own social media accounts, and syndicate your posts regularly to spread the word about your material.
Step Four: Select a Perfect Candidate
Once you’ve got a nice cache of posts and a decent social media posting schedule in place, it’s time to make a short list of viable guest posting candidates. Aiming too high, like going after a high-profile national publication outlet, will likely waste your effort at this stage. Aiming too low, like seeking a place on a low-quality “fluff” blog might damage your reputation. You want something in the middle—an industry-related blog with a bit of a reputation, but without a breakout level of popularity. Try to find several options here, and if you find viable candidates for the future, set them aside for when you’re ready to scale.
Step Five: Pitch, and Repeat (if Necessary)
Finally, start making pitches. Track down the editor or owner of each blog and email them an idea for a piece of content you think would be great on their site. Be original, and keep in line with the blog’s tone and purpose. The more thorough you are and the more you pay attention to the audience and needs of each individual site, the more likely you are to be picked up. And if you get rejected, all you have to do is move on to the next potential opportunity.
If you feel intimidated, rest easy knowing most people pitching their first guest posts are similarly intimidated. It will take some time and effort to build a baseline reputation, and even then you might get rejected by a handful of external blogs, but if you stay dedicated to your strategy and persist despite those challenges, there’s no reason you shouldn’t expect to make progress over time.
Timothy Carter is the CRO for AudienceBloom. Since 1997 he's been helping businesses maximize their sales revenue from websites via content marketing, SEO and Internet Marketing strategies. Over the years he's written for publications like Marketing Land, Search Engine Journal, MarketingProfs and other highly respected online publications.