Guest blogging is a key element of an effective off-page SEO strategy. But guest blogging has to be done well and with the right intentions to the right audience to truly be great.
Use guest blogging as a grasp for backlinks from any source and your off-page SEO efforts will suffer.
I’ve written this guide to help you find the right balance.
We’ll be looking at all things guest blogging as well as some top tips for how to successfully pitch a guest blog.
What is guest blogging?
Guest blogging is the process of writing a blog in your own name to be published on someone else’s website.
Ideally, the host website will share a similar niche or audience to the guest blogger and will give the guest blogger the benefits of referral traffic and a backlink.
In return, the guest blog will bring valuable, engaging and unique content to the host’s audience.
What are the advantages of guest blogging for the guest author?
If you have a well thought-out plan and manage to secure guest features with respected sites within your field, then guest blogging can offer the following benefits:
· Reach a new audience
Writing a guest blog for a third party website gives you a platform to reach the established audience that follows the host blog.
This is an amazing opportunity to speak to new potential clients who will find your guest blog through the host’s marketing and reputation.
In many cases, this means tapping into a pre-built audience that’s bigger than your own.
· Bring high-quality traffic to your site (without paying)
With guest blogging done properly, your aim should be to create unique content for websites that share a similar audience to you.
Your guest blog should provide value and may give a different perspective to a topic that is very much front-of-mind for the audience.
For example, a website focused on marketing for small businesses might want to feature a guest blog about DIY SEO tools and tips.
With this example, there’s a shared audience (small business owners and freelancers), an overlap of topic (marketing and bringing in customers) but specialist knowledge (SEO) from the guest blogger that the host blogger may not have.
Having given the audience content that meets their needs in some way, you have a fantastic chance of attracting high-quality traffic – i.e. people who need what you offer – to your website.
In theory, you can achieve this without having to do any marketing or promotion of your own – although, of course, if you send your audience to the host’s website to read your blog, it will benefit the host by bringing them new traffic too.
· Earn a backlink (or citation/mention)
Most people who host a guest blog are happy for the article in question to contain one or two ‘dofollow’ links to the author’s website, as long as the links take the audience to relevant, helpful content.
This is one of the most effective ways of earning a high-quality backlink from a third party site to your own.
Other guest blog hosts prefer to make links to the author’s site ‘nofollow’; some may even request that you don’t include a backlink.
Should you still provide a guest blog in these cases?
If the audience is a good fit and the host blog has a high Domain Authority then, yes, you probably should.
Google now tracks mentions and citations, even if they don’t include a live link. Just having a short bio in your blog on the host’s site or mention of your name and business can still impact positively on your reputation and rankings.
· Grow your own site’s Domain Authority (DA)
Domain Authority is a score/metric of 0-100 created by Moz to predict how well a website will rank.
If you’re able to secure guest blogging gigs for high domain authority websites, it acts like a vote of confidence in Google’s eyes. The respected host is essentially saying, “I rate this content highly enough to be prepared to share it with the audience that I’ve worked hard to build. I believe it has value for my audience”.
This has a trickledown effect, leveraging the DA of the host site to add points to your own DA.
As we talked about in our off-page SEO guide, some backlinks have more weight and credibility in Google’s eyes than other backlinks – Domain Authority has a big role to play in this.
· Grow your authority as an expert
Guest blogging isn’t just about Domain Authority. It can also help you build your authority as an expert in your field or niche, both on- and offline.
We know that Google looks for signals indicating expertise, authority and trust when ranking pages in search results.
People look for these signals too.
If you can show that you know what you’re talking about, especially on a platform that’s already respected as an authoritative source (the host’s website), it will mean that people will be more likely to seek out your opinions in the future.
· Build brand awareness
By getting in front of new audiences and positioning yourself as an expert in your field, guest blogging is a powerful tool to build brand awareness.
The host’s audience may not visit your website immediately or become a paid customer straight away but a guest blog can plant the seed.
The next time someone in the host’s audience needs what you offer – or gives a recommendation – they may well turn to you because the guest blog introduced them to your brand.
· Grow your portfolio
While your own blog is a fantastic platform for your work (and the only one over which you have complete control), guest blogging can help you to grow your portfolio. This is particularly relevant if you’re a blogger, journalist, copywriter or freelance writer of any kind.
· Connect with influencers
Having a well-thought-out guest blogging strategy is a great reason to reach out and connect with influencers in your field.
Influencers are people who have an engaged following within their niche and who are able to influence people’s purchasing decisions. Their fans look to influencers for recommendations, trends and niche insights about who and what to trust.
If you can attract a shout-out from an influencer, it can have long-lasting benefits to your reputation.
· Develop your writing skills
Even if you’re not a writer or marketer by trade, it’s important that you’re comfortable talking about your products, services or industry. This is how you connect with potential customers, even if you’re briefing someone else about your marketing.
Guest blogging gives you the opportunity to develop your writing skills and explore how to best share your knowledge.
It can help you build up a picture of the topics that resonate, as well as a deeper understanding of your audience.
· Creates a new source to rank in Google
Ideally, you don’t want multiple pages on your own website to compete for the same keyword as Google may not know which one to prioritise.
However, ranking highly for a guest blog on a third party website for one of your top keywords can be a great way to appear twice for the same search.
This helps to consolidate the impression that you are an expert in the searched-for topic and build your presence in multiple sources online.
How does guest blogging benefit the host site?
As we mentioned above, guest blogging has to benefit the person/business hosting your article too.
Why else should they publish and essentially market a third party for free?
A good guest blog should:
· Offer a different expert perspective for the established audience
We’ve already discussed how important it is to guest blog for someone who shares a similar audience to you.
A good guest blog serves to extend the knowledge already offered by the host or give a new but expert perspective on a familiar topic.
For example, HubSpot offers “a full stack of software for marketing, sales and customer service”. World-famous digital marketing entrepreneur Neil Patel often writes as a guest contributor for HubSpot (here’s an example). This gives HubSpot another way to feature top-level expert advice about topics such as sales copy, blogging and SEO – all topics that are front-of-mind for its customers.
Guest blogs help the host blogger to diversify their content and potentially breathe some fresh life into a blog known for covering specific topics.
· Bring in traffic from your audience
While you might not have the number of followers associated with Neil Patel, you do have an audience, even if it’s in its early stages.
Your guest blog should help to introduce some of this audience to the host blog.
Try to use every marketing platform at your disposal to shout about any guest blogs that you write. Share it on social media, in your newsletter, in your email signature and anywhere else you usually promote your content.
· Enable the host blog to target different keywords
There may be keywords and phrases that the host blogger’s customers often use in searches that are related to the host website’s offering but aren’t an exact match.
A guest blog can help to fill this gap.
· Create fresh content when the host blogger may not have the time
Fresh content is an important part of any website as it keeps visitors coming back and gives Google an incentive to crawl a domain.
But high-quality fresh content takes time to produce (the Alexa blog estimates an average of three hours and 16 minutes per post – and that’s not for meaty guides like this one!)
By hosting guest articles, bloggers are able to offer fresh content on their website without having to spend time researching and writing it themselves. While they won’t want to do this for every article, it’s a great way to keep publishing during busy periods or to offer more content than they could do alone.
· Connect with other experts and up-and-coming professionals
Engaging bloggers who genuinely know their stuff are worth their weight in gold.
By accepting guest submissions, bloggers have an avenue to connect with experts who complement their knowledge. It’s also an excellent way to track up-and-coming individuals in the same sector.
What are the disadvantages of guest blogging?
Guest blogging does come with its downsides. And often it’s the website hosting the guest blog that’s the most vulnerable.
Common problems include:
- Low-quality content – this can reflect poorly on the host site, both from an SEO perspective and in the eyes of the audience
- Duplicate content that has been published in multiple places but perhaps slightly rebadged and edited to become a poorly written version of the original
- Guest bloggers not following through with their commitment to provide content
- Guest bloggers who create great content then disappear, not marketing to their own audience or responding to comments and questions about their article from the engaged audience
- Time spent answering queries from people pitching poor quality guest blogs
- The host blog’s audience may be irritated by guest blogs – they know and trust the host blogger and want to hear their opinions; why should they care about the guest blogger?
For the guest author, the potential downsides of guest blogging come down to having no control over how your blog is used. Also, the time you spend guest blogging could be time you spend building up your own blog.
Whether you’re prepared to risk these downsides or not will come down to your goals for guest blogging.
How to target the right sites for your content
Step one: Identify potential host blogs
Your first step will be to identify a list of potential blogs for which you’d like to write.
There are several ways you can do this:
- Make a note of websites that you respect within your industry
- Run a Google search using terms such as:
- <keyword or topic you want to write about> + guest post
- <keyword or topic you want to write about> + submit a guest post
- <keyword or topic you want to write about> + accepting guest posts
- <keyword or topic you want to write about> + guest post guidelines
For example, if I wanted to find blogs that might publish guest content about ‘local SEO’, I could perform a search for ‘local SEO guest post’
You can find some more suggestions about Google searches great at turning up guest blogging opportunities over at BuzzBlogger
- Who are the well-known guest bloggers in your industry? Use Google to find the blogs they write for – these blogs may accept your submissions too
- Use Open Site Explorer to enter your competitors’ web addresses and view whether any of their backlinks come from guest blogs – could the same referring sites accept a submission from you too?
- Search social media for guest blogs. For example, a Twitter search for ‘local SEO guest blogs’ brings up numerous posts promoting guest blogs on this topic
- It’s an old publication but Brian Keith May has a free ebook listing 1,334 sites that accept guest posts – in fact, a Google search for ‘guest posting sites’ brings up many such blog lists (e.g. this post on the Solvid website)
- Neil Patel recommends checking out com to connect with a guest blogging community
Step two: Narrow down your shortlist
Your next task is to narrow done your pool of potential host blogs to those most likely to accept your submission.
Go through your list with the following questions in mind:
- Does the website have a blog? (It’s surprising how many web hosts receive guest blog requests when they don’t even have a blog!)
- How often is the blog updated?
- How often do they publish guest submissions?
- Who is the site’s audience? Do they share common ground with your own audience? Would you be able to provide content that will be useful and relevant to that audience?
- What level is the content aimed at (e.g. beginners, intermediate or advanced)?
- What are the main categories and tags used by the host blog? This should give you some insight into the big, overarching topics covered on the blog
- How do other guest blogs perform on the site?
- Who are the guest bloggers already featured on the site?
- Does the blog include bylines, indicating the name of the author and potentially a link their information or website?
- What is the Domain Authority of the host site?
Tip: If you’re thinking of approaching multiple sites about guest blogging, it’s worth creating a spreadsheet to track what stage you’re at with each submission.
Step three: Check out the guest blog submission rules
Once you’ve got a list of relevant blogs for which you’d like to make a guest contribution, the next step is to find and read their guest blog submission guidelines (and then read them again for good measure).
You will need to pitch or draft content that falls within the guidelines. Above all, you want to make it as easy as possible to use your articles.
Step four: Find the right person to contact
Once you know what blogs you want to write for and what they expect from successful submissions, your next task is to pitch your blog idea or even send a first draft. Hopefully, the guest blog submission rules will have explained who you need to contact but, if not, you may need to do some research.
If at all possible, you will want to personalise your introductory email to the right person (see more about this below).
How to pitch a guest blog
How you pitch a guest blog will depend on the submission rules mentioned above. Some blogs just want a brief outline of a potential topic, while others will want to read a draft of the article immediately. Some blogs only accept submissions at certain times while others can be approached at any time.
Whatever approach you have to take, the biggest thing to remember is that the guest blog is not about you, so skip the self-promotion.
Pitch with the benefits to the host blog and their audience in mind and you should already be ahead of many in the guest blogging crowd.
To do this:
· Become part of the host blog’s online community
Rather than pitching a guest blog out of the blue, it’s usually worth spending a week or two engaging with the host blogger’s content before you make contact about a potential guest submission.
Actions such as commenting insightfully on blog articles or responding to content on social media will all be appreciated. Also, because the host blog should offer some value for your audience, why not share posts, Tweets, etc. with your social media followers?
· Identity the value you have to offer
Many people decide to guest blog because they want to improve their off-page SEO.
But this shouldn’t be your only motivation.
Yes, as we’ve seen above, guest blogging has many benefits for the guest author but it must benefit the blog’s host and their audience too.
Think about what topic will have the most value for the target audience and how you can offer your expert perspective.
Also, spare a thought for SEO value by targeting a keyword that is relevant to the host site and may fill a current gap in their content.
· Create unique content
One of the reasons that people can be wary of guest blogging is that the blogs aren’t always well-written, accurate or unique.
For companies trying to indiscriminately grab as many backlinks as possible, guest blogging is an excuse to send the same article to multiple sources, often with a bit of rewriting to try to game the plagiarism checkers.
Your approach should be the polar opposite to this.
A guest blog deserves attention to detail. It should be well-written and carefully researched. It should include links to additional sources of information, not just self-promotion. It should treat the audience with respect, providing a unique article to each host blog.
Note: If you do decide to republish content – perhaps because you’ve updated an article that was once very popular on your own blog (not that I would recommend this approach for guest blogging) – then you should be honest about this.
Add a short disclosure such as “Originally published on <blog name> on 1st January 2018; updated for <host blog> in December 2019”.
· Mirror the host blog’s style
Although it’s great to put your own unique twist on the topics that appeal to the host blog’s audience, I also wouldn’t recommend straying too far from the house style.
If the host blog doesn’t usually publish infographics, then you may not want to pitch an infographic as your contribution. Ideally, the style and format of your submission should sit comfortably in the host blog’s environment.
· Write or plan a blog of the right length
Some blogs have a required word count for guest submissions and it’s important to adhere to this.
If you’re pitching to or writing for a blog without word count guidelines, have a look at the existing articles published on the site to calculate the average word count.
· Include some internal links to other content on the host site
You can show the host blogger that you’re familiar with their content by suggesting some internal pages (e.g. blogs they’ve written on a related topic) to which your guest blog will link.
This helps to share link juice from more established pages on the host site to your guest post and vice versa.
· Link to influencers
As well as linking to further sources of information internally, consider how your guest blog could link to other influencers in your sector.
As the host blog should ideally have a higher DA than your own blog, it may already be on the radar of influencers you would like to connect with. Your guest blog could be a way of making your name known to them.
· Craft an introductory email
Some blogs ask for guest submissions via an online form. Others will require you to email them with your pitch.
Try to include the following:
- Send the email to the right contact and use their name in your greeting
- Introduce yourself (including a mention of what you do and/or a link to your blog)
- State some accomplishments to build authority and add social proof (this could include names of other blogs on which your content has been published)
- If a guest blog you’ve written has performed well in the past, you could include some stats such as, “My recent blog for <insert website> on <insert topic> was shared 500 times in the first week”
- Explain that you would love to write a post about <insert topic> and why you feel this will be of value to the host blog’s audience
- If you already have a draft article written, attach the link
- Keep your email short and sweet (and super relevant)
· Write a strong guest bio
Most websites that host guest blogs ask their contributors to provide a short bio, often featured at the bottom of the guest article. This is often the only place that you can include a link back to your website.
Think about your guest blogging goals when writing your bio:
- Do you want to bring people back to your main website? If so, include your main domain URL.
- Do you want new traffic to land on content relevant to the guest blog topic? If so, provide a URL for a specific landing page.
- Do you want to grow your following on social media? If so, add a statement like “Follow me on <insert the name of your most popular platform with a link>”.
Guest blogging doesn’t stop when your post is published
Getting your guest blog accepted and published should just be the beginning of your guest blogging strategy.
Your next steps are to:
- Promote your article everywhere you can – on your social media pages, in your e-newsletter, in social media groups and forums where you’re usually active (don’t just spam groups), and even in your email signature.
- Thank the blog host for publishing your content.
- Respond to comments by the host blogger’s audience or via referral traffic to your site. Have conversations in the Comments section of the blog and on social media and show that you care about the readers’ opinions.
- Monitor how the blog is performing – as well as keeping an eye on social media shares, keep in touch with the blog host about traffic volumes and feedback about your article. You might want to follow-up about a month after publication to find out how the blog performed.
You can also use the Advanced Segments feature in Google Analytics to track referral traffic coming into your website from specific guest blogs – there’s a great article about setting this up on Monster Insights.
Accepting guest blogs on your own website
In this guide, we’ve mainly looked at guest blogging from the perspective of writing and submitting guest blogs to third party sites.
The flipside is that you may want to reciprocate and accept guest blog submissions on your own website too.
To make sure that you benefit from doing this, we would recommend that you:
- Publish or send out guest blog submission rules to anyone who wants to write for your audience – if people don’t follow the rules, they don’t get published on your site.
Your rules could include:
- minimum word count (you don’t want thin content on your site)
- maximum number of ‘dofollow’ links to the guest author’s site
- disclaimer that content must be original
- style guidelines
- audience overview
- word count for author bio
- request for images to accompany the blog, as long as the guest author has the appropriate rights to provide and use the images
- whether you want to receive completed articles or pitches for potential articles
- review timescales, i.e. how quickly you’ll let the blogger know if you would like to publish content they’ve written
- Always visit the guest blogger’s own site before you accept their submission to see whether they provide well-researched, high quality content
- Check guest posts for duplicate content using a free plagiarism checker like Copyscape or Duplichecker
While working on this guide, I came across some fantastic resources that you might find helpful. I’ve linked to most of them as I’ve gone through the guide but here are a few extras for you:
- Read all about Adam Enfroy’s guest blogging experiment and find out what happened when he had eight guest posts published on high DA websites. His initial results included:
- 32 new referring domains
- 247 new backlinks
- 268 new organic keywords ranking in the top 100
- 372% increase in organic traffic
- A 12-point increase in his DA
This article includes Adam’s template for introductory emails about guest blogging.
- Check out Backlinko’s Definitive Guide to Guest Blogging
- For a recently updated list of blogs that accept guest contributions, take a look at 121 guest blogging sites to become a contributor in 2020 or check out Blogging Republic’s list of free and paid for guest blogging sites
And now, over to you. Is guest blogging part of your off-page SEO strategy? What have the benefits been for you if you do guest blog? Is there anything holding you back from guest blogging?
It would be great to hear more from you about this huge topic in the Comments below.
Hazel Jarrett, director of SEO at SEO+, is well-known in the SEO space, has won many awards during her 20-year career and has been published on various well-known sites. Through her services and training programs, her SEO strategies have generated 10s of millions of sales for her clients, earning her a big reputation for delivering the results that matter.
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