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How to Start Guest Blogging When You Are Completely Unknown

How to Start Guest Blogging When You Are Completely Unknown
I’ve got some hard news for you…

It may come as a surprise.

If you’re getting less than 250 website visitors a day, your priority should be writing for other people’s blogs, not your own.

Why’s that, you say?

Well, because when you have low visitor numbers, writing for your own blog is like shouting in a vacuum – no one can hear you.

The benefits of guest posting are many – you tap into other people’s traffic, you cultivate relationships with other bloggers in your sphere, and you build a good reputation.

Most importantly, you get ‘DoFollow’ backlinks from various websites, all of which can help raise your domain authority.

In case you don’t already know, domain authority is a scale from 1 to 100 that predicts how likely it is that a website will rank on page #1 of the search results for any given keyword.

And here’s the bad news: if your domain authority is less than about 25 or 30, it’s going to be extremely difficult for you to get a page #1 ranking for any of your chosen keywords.

Blogging is a notoriously hard scene to break into. So here’s why guest blogging should be a priority of yours if you’re really serious about establishing a name for yourself.

The world of guest blogging

Look, I’m not going to sugarcoat it for you. Guest blogging is also a hard scene to break into. The days when every second website you landed on had a menu tab titled ‘Write For Us’ are long gone.

Established bloggers get overwhelmed by guest posting pitches, and that’s why, at times, guest posting can seem like an exclusive club that has stopped taking new members.

But there’s a secret backdoor into guest posting!

And that’s what I’m going to reveal to you in this article. It’s a highly effective way that I discovered quite by accident myself. It landed me my first, second, third, and fourth guest posting opportunity.

But before we get into the details, I’d like to emphasize how important it is for you to understand the importance of traffic building.

There are only two types of traffic building techniques:

  • Those that work when you have an audience
  • Those that work when you don’t have an audience

If you’re a beginner blogger, you’re probably only interested in techniques that belong in the second category, at least at this stage.

The two that work best are interviews and guest posting, and the strategy I’m about to tell you about combines both.

The magical backdoor

I’ve read a lot of tips from experts about guest posting. They all have different approaches. But one thing they all agree on is that if you write to them to pitch a guest post and they’ve never heard of you, you won’t even get a foot in the door.

Of course, there are plenty of ways of trying to get on an expert’s radar.

You can follow them on Twitter, you can comment on their blog posts, you can sign up to their newsletter, and so forth.

These things work, to a degree. But they don’t really build relationships. It’s relationships that open the doors to guest posting. That’s where round-up posts come in!

What’s a round-up post, I hear you say?

It’s an interview. Or rather, it’s any number of mini-interviews all in the same post.

You simply reach out to a handful of experts and ask them the same topical question. And you end up with a bunch of responses that form the basis of your round-up post.

There are six key steps involved in putting together a round-up post:

  1. Deciding on the question
  2. Finding the experts
  3. Finding their email addresses
  4. Doing the outreach
  5. Writing the article
  6. Promoting the article

Most of the work involved in putting together a round-up post happens in Step #4, ‘Doing the outreach’.

Relationship building 101

Round-up posts are the key to building relationships with other bloggers and influencers in your sphere.

There are at least five points of contact with each expert in the process of creating a round-up post:

  • The initial outreach
  • The expert’s response
  • Your ‘thank you’ email
  • Your email notifying them that the post is live
  • Their email telling you they’ve just shared it with their followers on Twitter

That’s a lot opportunity for building close rapport with experts in your niche!

Now, let’s talk about how you start a snowball effect. Wait for it: you write a second round-up post.

When you start your second round-up post, you approach the same list of experts who contributed to your first round-up.

Let’s say your first roundup had 25 experts and 15 of them respond to your second roundup question. You now need to search for some new experts in your niche. But you’re in a stronger position than you were before. Because when you email your new batch of experts, you can mention that you already have responses from 15 other experts.

Towards the end of your outreach email, you can say:

Just so you know you’ll be in good company, here are the experts who have already responded:

  • Expert 1 of ‘Blog 1’
  • Expert 2 of ‘Blog 2’
  • Expert 3 of ‘Blog 3’
  • Expert 4 of ‘Blog 4’
  • Expert 5 of ‘Blog 5’
  • Etc…

As you can see, round-up posts have the power to have a snowball effect – as long as you write more than one and play it for the long haul. Each roundup post lays the foundation for the next. And each successive roundup post is bigger than the last. The psychology behind this is pretty simple: the people on your second list of experts are far more likely to respond when they see that other experts (whose names they recognize) have already responded. It’s human nature – no one wants to be left out.

Planning your guest post

The next stage in your guest posting journey comes after you’ve done three or four round-up posts and you’re ready to move to the next stage of this strategy – guest posting itself.

You should now have a list of 40+ experts who have contributed to your round-up posts and know who you are. You may even have built a close rapport with some of them. Those same experts no doubt have blogs and most of them will accept guest posts.

It’s important to remember that – as a beginning blogger – the main reason you are guest posting is to gain relevant backlinks that will boost your own Domain Authority (DA).

So the next step in this strategy is to compile a spreadsheet with columns for the expert’s name (Column A), their blog URL (Column B), and their email address (Column C). You’ll also need one more column, titled ‘Domain Authority’ (Column D).

Go to Open Site Explorer and type in the domain name of each of the blogs in your spreadsheet. OSE will show you the Domain Authority (DA) in the left-side column:

Record the DA for each blog in the relevant column of your spreadsheet.

Now you need to sort your spreadsheet by Column D.

If any of the blogs in your spreadsheet have a Domain Authority of less than 30, highlight them yellow and leave them out of this exercise.

Why? Because their Domain Authority is too low to have a positive impact on your DA.

Choosing your guest post topic

The most common mistake people make when guest posting is choosing the wrong topic for their first guest post.

Some people believe the best topic is the one they feel the most passionate about. They’re wrong – when you’re guest posting, it’s not about you, it’s about the blog owner. Or more precisely, it’s about the blog owner’s readers. What is it they want to read about?

Remove your own agenda from the equation and you’ll probably end up with a much more focused post.

Another common mistake is when people head over to a content search tool such as BuzzSumo to see what’s trending, or comb through the comments at the end of blog posts to see what readers are asking about. These techniques will give you an idea of the topics that are going to be popular on your target blog – but they’re time-consuming and there’s a simpler way to do it.

I learned this technique from Danny Iny and it’s so effective that he once had eleven different guest posts appearing simultaneously on eleven different blogs.

Go to the target blog and have a look in the right sidebar. Often there’ll be a heading that says ‘Our Top 15 Posts’ or ‘Favorite Posts’ or simply ‘Best Of’. Visit each of the top 10 posts and analyze them in terms of the following:

  • What’s the topic?
  • What’s the style of headline?
  • What’s the style of the introduction?
  • What’s the word count?

Most times you’ll see just two or three topics in those ten sample blog posts. Look for patterns in the titles of the ten sample blog posts. Here are some common types of post titles:

  • How To…[Do Something]
  • How To [Do Something] and [Achieve Something] in [Time Period]
  • How I…[Achieved Something]
  • The Ultimate / Definitive / Complete Guide To…[Something]
  • [Number] Ways to…[Do Something]
  • [Number] Must-Know Tips for [Doing Something]
  • Discover…[the Something that Does Something]
  • A Proven [Something] Strategy That [Does Something]

There are two main styles of blog post introductions:

Introduction Type #1: The Pain and the Pleasure

  1. The Hook
  2. The Problem
  3. The Solution
  4. The Promise

Introduction Type #2: The Simple Transition

  1. The Hook
  2. The Transition
  3. The Thesis
  4. The Conclusion

The first type paints a vivid picture of the problem and the pain associated with the problem. It aims to hit emotional triggers in the reader.

The second type is more formal, less emotional, and shorter. It simply introduces the topic and lets the reader know what the article is about.

Still confused? For more on this subject, you can check out my article The Definitive Guide on How to Write a Compelling Intro for Your Next Blog Post.

Anyway, you’ll end up with a list of ten or so blog post titles. Under each, you’ll record: (1) the topic, (2) the type of headline (3) the style of Introduction, and (4) the word count.

It will become clear to you as you do this analysis what topic you should write about, what kind of headline you should use, what style of introduction is appropriate for this blog, and what sort of word length to aim for.

Follow this technique and it’s almost guaranteed your guest post pitch will be accepted.

Taking it up a level

Now it’s time to reach out.

Remember, this step is a whole lot easier for you than it is for others because you’ve already established a relationship with tons of experts. They’ve worked with you, they’ve shared your round-up post with their followers, they know who you are already!

Here’s the template that I use for the initial outreach:

Hi {NAME},

It was great having your input into my recent roundup post.

I was on your website today and I wondered if you accept guest posts?

If so, I have three ideas for a guest post that I would love to submit.

Thanks for your time.

But if the blog does have such a link, then definitely read their guest post guidelines. Your outreach template would then look like this: Many blogs that accept guest posts no longer advertise the fact – they don’t have a link anywhere that says ‘Write For Us’ or ‘Guest Post Guidelines’.

Hi {NAME},

It was great having your input into my recent roundup post.

I was on your website today and I see that you accept guest posts.

I’ve read your guest post guidelines and I’d love to have my post published on your blog.

Please find below three possible article ideas.

Article Idea #1

Working Title: [Your Title]

Intro: [Your Intro – about 150 words]

Word Count: 1,500 – 2000

Article Idea #2

Working Title: [Your Title]

Intro: [Your Intro – about 150 words]

Word Count: 2,500 – 3000

Article Idea #3

Working Title: [Your Title]

Intro: [Your Intro – about 150 words]

Word Count: 2000 – 2500

If any of them are suitable for your blog, I can have a draft to you within a week.

Thanks for your time.

Best regards,

Once you start submitting guest post ideas, you need to keep track of what you submitted and to whom.

The way I do it is to create a Word document containing two tables.

The first table lists the guest post ideas:

The second table references the blog post ideas in the first table and records the blog owners I reached out to:

One of the reasons for keeping a careful track of which guest post ideas you submit to which blog owners, is that you definitely want to avoid submitting the same guest post idea to more than one blog owner.

Delivering the nitty gritty

Once your guest post idea has been accepted, get to work and deliver it within the promised timeframe. Many blog owners will give you login details that give you restricted access to their WordPress dashboard. They will expect you to upload and format the text of your article.

They’ll usually ask you to send any images as a zip file and then they themselves will optimize the images and insert them into the article.

Here’s a template for your delivery email:

Hi [NAME],

Thanks so much for this opportunity.

I’ve just created a new post on www.theirdomain.com titled ‘Your Guest Post Title’. It’s text only but I have marked with square brackets where the images need to go, e.g.: [insert image 01]

I’ve attached a word document containing a list of all the images and I’m attaching a zip file containing the images.

Please let me know if there’s anything else you’d like me to do.

Best regards,

Also, don’t forget about your author bio! Always end the email with an offer to help with any extra formatting. For example, the blog owner may want you to do internal linking from keywords in your article to their existing posts containing those same keywords.

From your point of view, the author bio is the most important part of your guest post. It’s what converts your guest post from a valuable resource filled with useful tips into a list-building tool, a branding mechanism and a booster for your Domain Authority.

Look at other author bios on the target blog to see what tone and tense they’re written in.

In general, these are the bare minimum criteria for a good author bio:

  • Keep it to only 50 words
  • Write in the 3rd person
  • Tell the reader what you do
  • Tell the reader how you can help them
  • Include a link to your website

If possible, also include:

  • A quirky detail about yourself
  • Your credentials
  • A photo of yourself

Why the quirky detail? Because that’s probably the only thing your reader will remember.

Here are some examples:

Tying up loose ends

I always end my guest posts with a line like this:

‘Let me know how you go in the comments below. I’d love to hear your experiences with [technique discussed in your blog post].’

The number of comments an article attracts is a key metric that the Google algorithm takes into account when ranking pages in its search results. For this reason, most blog owners will want you to respond to any comments on your guest post.

You need to respond promptly, within a few hours if you can but definitely within 24 hours. The faster you respond, the more comments the article will gather because readers will see that their comments are welcomed and engaged with.

The tone you adopt in replying to comments is very important. Always:

  • Use the reader’s name
  • Thank the reader for their comment
  • Sign off by wishing them all the best with their endeavours (whatever the guest post was about).

I usually try to mirror the original comment: if they leave a smiley, I do the same; if they’re upbeat, I try to be the same.

Remember that many comments are not really about providing valuable information – they’re more about making contact and establishing relationships.

In conclusion

Interviewing experts and guest posting are two techniques that will actually deliver traffic when you don’t have an audience.

The methods outlined above combine both these techniques in a powerful strategy that you can use to jumpstart your blog and take it from the wastelands of obscurity to the foothills of success.

Let’s recap the main steps:

  • Write three or four round-up posts
  • Cultivate relationships with experts in your niche
  • Research the type of blog posts they publish (Topic, Headlines, Intros, Word Count)
  • Reach out to them with three winning guest post ideas
  • Deliver your guest post and be a pleasure to work with

Good luck! Let me know how you go in the comments below. I’d love to hear about your experiences with round-up posts and guest posts using this strategy.

Guest Author: Rob Powell lives on the edge of the Great Barrier Reef with his wife and two daughters. He teaches beginner bloggers how to create epic content that will get them noticed – you can check out his own blog and website here.

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Comments

  • Hi Rob,

    Thanks so much for the shout out 😉

    Loving these tips.

    I have found that writing like mad just for practice, then, on other blogs via guest posting and blog commenting, helped improve my writing skills. Then I got busy promoting other bloggers to build friendships, with said bonds leading to guest post invites and to “yes’s” when I pitched my buddies.

    I like your approach because it is personalized and the product of deep thinking. If you do just a little bit of leg work in the thought and customizing department you will outshine 99% of most bloggers, who pitch from a careless, sloppy, thoughtless energy. Put in the mental legwork; the guest posting opportunities you land will be well worth the time.

    Thanks again Rob.

    Ryan