Guest blogging can provide a variety of awesome benefits: it can do wonders for your search engine optimization, be a great way to get exposed to a brand new audience, help you improve your thought leadership, and better establish you as an expert in your industry.
That being said, getting your guest posts accepted by and published on the blogs of others is no easy feat. As a guest blogger, you need to have the skill sets of an SEO expert, a public relations professional, and obviously, a blogger, in order to be successful. Talk about a jack of all trades!
As a blog manager, I receive quite a few guest post submissions every week, many of which don’t even deserve more than a passing glance. So to help you excel with your own guest blogging efforts, here is a look at the mistakes guest bloggers commonly make when strategizing, pitching, and writing guest blog posts — so you can avoid them and increase your chances of guest blogging success!
Mistakes in Guest Blogging Strategy
1) Having NO Strategy
This is your first big mistake. Guest blogging, like any other marketing tactic, should be strategic. Before you start trying to ramp up your guest blogging efforts, make sure you come up with a strategy that supports your goals for guest blogging. Which means — yes — you’ll need to define your goals. Are you trying to rank in search for a particular keyword? Then your strategy should probably involve creating content that allows you to work in that keyword (and an inbound link, but we’ll get to that later) and getting published on blogs that cater to and already rank for that topic. Are you hoping to get in front of a new audience? Then you probably want to identify blogs whose audience is appropriate for your business, but different than your own blog’s readers.
2) Targeting the Wrong Blogs
Most guest bloggers do this as a result of having no (or a poorly crafted) guest blogging strategy. Once you’ve solidified your guest blogging strategy, you can then identify the right blogs to target. This will involve a bit of research. For example, as we mentioned before, if your strategy involves improving your search engine rankings for particular keywords, your strategy should involve creating content around those keywords and targeting blogs that will cover that topic on their blog and rank for those keywords. In this case, you’ll want to do some Google searches for those keywords in order to identify blogs that you should be targeting. If your strategy involves getting in front of a new audience, conduct some research to identify blogs that cater to an audience different from the types of people your own blog typically attracts.
3) Not Keeping Outreach Records
Failing to keep a record of your blogger outreach, especially if you’re investing a lot of time and effort into guest blogging and are communicating with multiple blog managers, is bad news. Keeping outreach records will help you manage your communications, stay on top of your progress, and prevent careless mistakes like reaching out to the same blogger twice with the same pitch. This record could be as simple as a spreadsheet that keeps track of the bloggers you’ve reached out to, the goals of guest blogging for him/her, and the status of the communication (e.g. reached out, not interested, ready for article, sent article, published).
Mistakes in Pitching Guest Posts
4) Addressing Your Email to “Blog Manager”
If you have any experience in media relations, you know this is a big no-no. As a blog manager, receiving an email that is addressed to “blog manager” instead of my actual name shows carelessness and is destined for my trash bin. Do your homework. Check the blog’s contact page (if there is one) to determine who the blog manager is, or research published authors to identify appropriate email addresses. Do a Google site search (in Google, search site:www.insertblogURL.com “insert search term“) to find any information about how to submit guest posts. (In this case, replace insert search term with terms like “guest blog” or “guest blogging guidelines” that will help you find any material that blogger has published about guest blogging for him/her — and if the blog even accepts submissions!)
5) Not Leveraging Connections for Introductions
Blog managers (especially the ones with popular blogs) are very busy, and they’d much rather focus on perfecting the content they produce internally than evaluating one-off blog posts they receive from complete strangers. So as a blog manager, I generally pay more attention to guest blogging pitches if the guest blogger was introduced to me through a mutual connection. Whenever possible, leverage the power of your personal network. Check your LinkedIn connections. Do you know someone else who works in the blog manager’s company who is willing to offer an introduction for you? It never hurts to ask!
6) Grammatical/Spelling Errors in Pitches
If you can’t even craft a professional sounding and grammatically correct pitch about the blog post you want published, why should the blog manager you’re pitching think your blog post will be any better? Spend time on your pitches. Proofread them (or have a colleague who has an eye for editing take a look). To a blog manager who is evaluating a guest blog post from you, your email pitch is a writing sample. Make sure it’s representative of the quality of your blogging.
7) Not Including the Post/Post Idea
Don’t ever email a blog manager asking if you can contribute a guest post without providing any indication of the blog post you’d contribute. Case in point:
As a blog manager, how am I supposed to know if I’m interested if I have no idea what you’re offering? Busy blog managers don’t have the time for back and forth emails with guest contributors, so you need to put it all out on the table from the beginning. In your pitch, provide a working title for your post, and explain what you’d cover in the article — even consider providing a brief outline. This will give the blog manager an idea of whether the article you’re proposing is a good fit for their blog.
8) Suggesting Topics That Have Already Been Covered
Suggesting a blog post about a topic or angle that the blog has already covered in the past is a sure way to get denied a guest blogging opportunity. Conduct careful research about the blog you’re pitching so you can propose a unique and original article that adds value. The best way to do this is by doing a Google site search like we mentioned earlier (in Google, search site:www.insertblogURL.com “insert search terms“). If you’re hoping to write a post about a certain topic to help achieve your keyword goals, do a site search for those keywords to identify posts already published about those keywords. This will enable you to see what the blog has already covered and help you come up with a new angle for that topic.
9) Not Selling Your Writing Ability
If you can’t get an introduction to a blogger from someone in your network who can vouch for your writing ability and industry expertise, you’re going to need to vouch for yourself. Sell yourself! Explain why the blogger you’re pitching should consider a guest post from you. Do you write for a successful blog? Do you have an expansive social reach? Include some of these stats, and link to a couple of writing samples. Some of the busier bloggers won’t have the time or desire to check out your samples, but for those that do, checking out other posts you’ve written might make them evaluate your pitch more seriously.
10) Being Ruthless
There’s nothing more off-putting to a blog manager than a guest blogger who ruthlessly tries to get published on your blog. If your pitch has been denied or the blog manager is unresponsive, move on. You’re better off putting your time and effort into a pitch to another blogger than pitching the same one over and over — who rejects you every time.
Mistakes in Writing Guest Posts
11) Not Adhering to Guest Blogging Guidelines
As I mentioned earlier, blog managers will rarely spend time with guest contributors helping them perfect their posts, so it’s the near-flawless contributions that usually make the final cut. If you’ve gotten the go-ahead from a blog manager to draft a post based on your topic suggestion, make sure you strictly follow any guest blogging guidelines they’ve published or provided. The Google site search will come in handy here again. If you can’t find any published guidelines, carefully examine past guest posts’ length, structure, number of inbound links allowed to the guest bloggers’ web properties, etc. as a guide. You can also ask the blog manager if they have any specific requirements for guest bloggers before you get started.
12) Not Writing for the Blog’s Audience
When writing for another blog, it’s extremely important to understand the nuances of that blog’s particular audience, especially if it’s drastically different than your own blog’s. This is one of the biggest challenges when it comes to guest blogging, since it can take even the most seasoned bloggers months — even years — to truly understand the ins and outs of their audience. Spend some time researching who reads the blog you’re writing for, and try to get a good sense of what those personas’ problems, needs, and interests are. Read the existing comments on the blog to help you get inside readers’ heads. Read existing blog content to see how writers address the blog’s audience. Does the content use different jargon than you would on your blog? For example, where you might address potential buyers as “prospects,” this blog might address them as “consumers.”
13) Not Aligning Your Tone/Style With That of the Blog
Your guest contribution shouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb to the blog’s readers; rather, it should jive with the rest of the content that gets published on that particular blog. Before you start writing, examine other posts to identify the tone and style of the content that gets published there. Is the writing conversational or formal? Does it include injections of humor at times? If it doesn’t sound and feel like the other posts on the blog, there’s a greater likelihood it will get rejected.
14) Providing Low Quality Posts
Just because the article you’re writing isn’t going to get published on your own blog, doesn’t mean the quality of it should be any less important. If anything, the articles you write for external blogs should be even higher in quality. You need to both impress the blog manager enough to publish it, and capture the attention of the new audience you’re exposed to so they’ll want to check out your own website/blog. Put the time and effort into your guest writing. Just because a blog manager has agreed to review a post from you on the topic you proposed doesn’t mean they’re required to publish the end result. Make sure the quality of your contribution is on par with the quality caliber of other content on that blog.
15) Including Zero/Bad/Too Many Inbound Links
Sometimes I’ll receive a really great guest post and be astounded that the guest blogger has failed to include any inbound links to their website. One of the most valuable benefits of guest blogging is the opportunity to build inbound links into your website to boost your SEO — and to have more control over the anchor text and URLs for those inbound links. As you write each guest post, include 1-2 links to the web pages you want to drive traffic to. Include these links as anchor text using the keywords you want to rank for in search engines. This is your chance to design your perfect inbound link, so make sure you get what you want!
The following would be a great inbound link for a blogger who wants to generate more traffic to http://www.hubspot.com/lead-generation-marketing-hub by ranking for the keywords lead generation, used here as the anchor text of the link.
In the world of guest blogging, blog managers understand that the trade-off for free content for their blog is an inbound link or two back to the guest blogger’s web page of choice, so take advantage of it! Just don’t go overboard and stuff your post with inbound links (or expect the blogger to promote one of your own offers as the call-to-action of the post). Check the blog’s guest blogging guidelines to see how many inbound links it allows per guest post; and if the blog doesn’t publish any guidelines, stick to one or two within the body of the post.
16) Making Your Post Difficult to Upload
Make it as easy as possible for the blog manager to load your post into their individual blogging software. Ask them how they’d like you to submit your draft: do they prefer a Word doc or a Google doc? Perhaps they have a special login for their blogging platform that guest bloggers can use. When in doubt, make it simple. The best guest blogging submission I’ve ever received was in a Word document, and it included basic HTML tags to format elements such as inbound links, bolded or italicized text, and headers. The Word doc was attached to the email, and so were image files (with their appropriate attribution). All I had to do was copy/paste the text into the HubSpot blogging tool’s HTML, and voila!
Look at existing content on the blog to understand how its blog posts are typically formatted. Do they use headers? How are bylines structured? How are images attributed? Mimic the formatting as best as you can. Making it easy for the blog manager to upload your post to their blogging software will increase your chances of getting re-published on that blog later. If a blog manager remembers how easy you were to work with, they’ll be much more likely to consider future contributions.
17) Not Perfecting Your Byline
First things first: the blogger you’re submitting your guest contribution to shouldn’t have to ask you for a byline, so don’t forget to include it along with your post. Check the blog’s guest blogging guidelines and, if there are none, look at other guest posts already published on the blog to see how it handles bylines. Be sure to keep it short and sweet (1 longer sentence or 2 short sentences at most), and consider your byline to be your elevator pitch to that blog’s audience. What do you want them to know about you and your business? Include a link (with optimized anchor text, of course) back to your website where they can learn more about you — whether it’s to your blog, your business’ ‘about’ page, or somewhere else.