The Freelance Writer’s Guide to Guest Blogging

So let’s say you’ve been running your blog for a while. You’ve been producing good material for a while, but you’ve run into the classic blogger’s problem: low traffic.

 

If you’ve spent any significant amount of time blogging you’ll know the feeling. Week after week, you put your time and effort into your blog posts, and it starts feeling like you’re shouting into the void.

 

Because it takes time and creativity for a blog to gain traction, for one thing. If you were a major corporation you could get traction through paid advertising. But you’re not a major corporation. You’re just one person trying to attract a respectable audience to a blog.

 

It’s frustrating. It’s annoying. Unless the stars align and you luck into a freak viral post, it’s going to take a long time and a lot of painful, incremental improvement.

 

But it can be done. With hard work, diligence, and a dedication to finding what works, you can build an audience and turn a blog into an effective tool.

 

One way you can do that is through guest posting.

 

What is Guest Posting?

Guest posting is pretty much what you’d expect from hearing the name: it’s when you write up an article, blog post, etc., that gets featured in (usually) a more prominent blog or website. Most of the time you’ll write up the article and include a link back to your site.

 

The idea behind guest posting is that you get traffic sent your way, while the other site gets extra content free of charge (or on the cheap—there are a handful of sites that pay guest posters). It also builds links, which helps search engine performance for both sites.

 

In essence, guest posting gives you the opportunity to piggyback on the other site’s audience. It gives you the chance to make a good impression for readers who are engaged with your niche. In addition, and perhaps most importantly, it allows you to make contacts on more prominent sites—networking is always a factor to consider, you know.

 

In short, guest posting can be a worthwhile growth tactic, especially if you want to network with well-known writers in your niche. I’ve done a bit of guest posting in my time, and I plan on doing more.

 

Another way to think about it is that guest posting helps you build authority and reputation. I can’t overemphasize the importance of building your authority and reputation in the freelance business. That’s why guest posting is a worthwhile pursuit for even the most established freelancers.

 

If you’re interested in doing some guest posting, I’ve got a rough outline of the process you can use. Granted, every site has different policies, but if you follow the process I’m about to show you, you can’t go too far wrong.

 

So without further ado, the process:

 

  1. Build a list of sites you’d like to guest post with.

Essentially, you need to familiarize yourself with the range of blogs and informational sites in your niche. Learn which ones you like and want to work with. Learn which ones you don’t like and don’t want to work with.

 

When you’re building your list, it’s a good idea to arrange it in a clear order, starting with the ones you’d most like to post with and going down to the ones you’re not so interested in working with, even though they wouldn’t be too bad.

 

The idea here is that if you start guest posting as a newbie, you might have to prove your mettle a little before some of the more established sites/bloggers will be interested in having a post from you. So it might turn out that you’ll have to start out with a few blogs a little closer to your own level.

 

Like I said before, it’s all about incremental progress. You’ll get your number one pick eventually.

 

  1. Pick one site and prepare a pitch that fits.

Disclaimer: every site has its own pitching procedures. Some sites don’t bother with pitching and ask you to send in a full article once it’s written. On the other end of the spectrum, some sites won’t even look at your pitch unless it’s in the correct format. Whatever the situation: follow the procedures the site gives you.

 

But generally, it’s good practice to prepare a pitch and send it in beforehand. It doesn’t have to be an extensive pitch, just a paragraph or two that covers more or less what you’re going to say. The important thing is that you should have a good idea.

 

A word about why you should have “a pitch that fits”: nothing is more annoying than a pitch from somebody who clearly didn’t bother to read any of your blog. Take the time to get to know the blog you’re pitching. Take the time to get to know what kinds of ideas the blog’s owner or editor generally enjoys. If you can jam on some ideas you know they like, it will set your pitch apart from the rest.

 

  1. Send in your pitch.

Once you send in your pitch, wait until you get approval for your idea. One of three things is going to happen. Either you’re going to get approval, you’re going to hear they’re not interested, or the editor is going to say something like, “Your idea’s not quite right for us, but here’s how it could be better.”

 

The fourth possibility is that you don’t hear back from the other person at all. When this happens, you can stick an extra sharp needle deep into the wide-eyed voodoo doll you’ve got prepared for just such an occasion.

 

Pretty often, however, you’ll end up coming to an agreement with the editor on an idea you can both agree on. Then you’re ready to write.

 

  1. Write the best article you can, and send it in.

If you’re like me, there might be an evil little part of you that thinks, “Why should I bother putting my best effort into writing my guest post? It’s not like it’s going to actually go on my website.”

 

This is a bad idea for three reasons:

 

One, because you’ve got an obligation to do as well for the other site as you would do for yourself. Writing a low-quality piece is dishonest and slimy, and even if you get away with it you’ll only end up feeling useless and slimy.

 

Two, because it probably won’t work. Low-quality work has a nasty tendency to get rejected when it gets sent in to the editor. If you think you’re going to slip by, you’re not.

 

Three, because even if it does slip past the editor, you’re not going to do your authority and reputation any favors by doing shoddy work.

 

So write something you can be proud of.

 

  1. The editing process.

Once you send in your article, you’ll hear back from the editor. Either your article will be ready for publication as-is, the editor will have a few edits to suggest, or you’ll just have to rewrite the whole thing.

 

Word to the wise: don’t be afraid to kick back if the editor makes suggestions you disagree with. It stings to have your writing critiqued, and there’s a natural tendency to either wholly reject criticism or to give in to it indiscriminately.

 

The right way to go about it is to recognize that the editor is likely to be right a lot of the time, but you two are really on the same side. You both want to produce the best piece of writing you possibly can. So if you think the editor is making a mistake, don’t hesitate to express that opinion.

 

  1. When the article goes live, promote it on social media.

The blog you’re working with is giving you the chance to promote yourself on their page. It’s only fair that you return the favor as much as you can. When you share your new article on whatever social media venues you’re active on, you help improve traffic to the site. It may be a drop in the bucket to them, but it’s the principle that matters.

 

In summary, you want to treat the people you’re working with as well as you possibly can. That’s what disposes them to help you and want to work with you in the future. Maybe you can’t do much to help them right now, but the gesture matters. Plus, maybe in the future you’ll be in a position to help them out.

 

That’s pretty much how guest posting works. Now, maybe that sounds like more than you can handle at the moment. I can sympathize. Seriously, I remember the days when the thought of sending in a pitch to a blog made my skin crawl with anxiety.

 

If you’re scared, take it one step at a time. Start out by putting the list together. Imagine yourself with an article already up on these blogs. Allow yourself to get used to the idea of doing it.

 

Then you can write one pitch. Just write the pitch. You don’t have to tell yourself you’re going to send it. You don’t even have to send it. Just write the pitch, and put it away.

 

Then come back the next day, read over the pitch, and decide whether or not it’s ready to send in. If it’s ready, take a deep breath and send it.

 

Remember: even if you get a rejection your first time, you’ll survive. Because once you send in one pitch, it’ll be easier to send in a second one, and a third, and so on.

 

The trick is to ease yourself into the point where you can send in the first pitch. Once you’ve got that, you’ll be on the right path.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about freelancing. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help.

 

And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way.

 

Good luck, and good copywriting!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

It’s Time to Take a Look at Your Content

Maybe you’ve heard of content marketing. Maybe you’re a little curious about it. Maybe this is the first time you’ve even heard of such a thing, but you’re curious to know more. No matter where you are, I hope you’ll find something here to suit your needs.

 

First things first: let’s define our terms. According to Dictionary.com, content marketing is defined as “marketing that tries to attract customers by distributing informational content potentially useful to the target audience, rather than by advertising products and services in the traditional way.”

 

If you asked me, I’d tell you the most important part of that definition is the part that says “informational content potentially useful to the target audience.” That line tells you the basic difference between content marketing and traditional marketing.

 

Traditional marketing is all about pushing the sale as hard as possible. It’s about buying access to a mass audience and interrupting them while they’re trying to watch Game of Thrones. It’s all about imposing yourself on as many people as possible and hoping you’ll reach enough people that a few of them will actually be interested in whatever you’re pushing on them.

 

Content marketing changes all that. It’s about providing quality information to the people who want and need it. It’s about starting with a small audience of interested people who want to hear your message. It’s about collaborating with your audience as it grows, so you learn your audience’s needs and concerns while they learn what you can offer them.

 

Let’s try an analogy. With traditional marketing, you do the best you can to turn yourself into the dusty old professor at the front of the room, telling all those prospects exactly what they need to know. They’re not listening, and of course they’re looking at their phones every minute you’re trying to talk to them.

 

They see you as somebody trying to impose your message on them, so of course they’re not going to listen.

 

With content marketing, things are different. Here you’re the guy in the middle of the classroom who starts telling a joke. When you start out, maybe there’s only one or two people listening. As you go on, though, people start noticing. The captain of the football team turns and leans in close to hear. The weird mumbling kid from art class glances over with a hand held to his ear. The pretty blonde who sits in front of you tunes in with a smile on her face. And without trying to draw any attention to yourself, you’ve got the whole classroom in the palm of your hand.

 

How did you do it?

 

You did it by being engaging. And that’s what content marketing is all about.

 

Now, what does content marketing look like in practice? Simply put, content marketing can be almost anything in the online space. Here’s a short list of a few of the main types of content marketing:

  • Email newsletters.
  • Blog posts.
  • Online videos/vlogs.
  • Social media postings.

Nearly everything online can be treated as a form of content marketing. Whatever you use to spread your message by providing your prospects with useful information is content marketing.

 

Some people hear “content marketing” and immediately think blog posts. It’s not always blog posts.

 

As we go on, I want to do three main things with this post: I want to A) show you the process that allows you to attract clients with content marketing, B) warn you about a few of the pitfalls of bad content marketing, and C) leave you with a few tips on how to produce your own great content.

 

Content into Clients

I know I told you earlier that content marketing is not only blogging. There are many other forms content marketing can take. But for the sake of giving you a quick-and-dirty idea of how content marketing works, we’ll work on the assumption that you’re only doing a blog.

 

Before you get started with your blog, you’re going to need to know a few things. You’ll want to ask yourself a few questions, such as:

  • What are my goals for this blog?
  • Who is my target audience?
  • What problem is my audience having, and how can I solve it?
  • What pains are my audience experiencing?
  • What topics will my audience be interested in hearing about?

One of the lucky things about content marketing is that you don’t have to have a final answer to any of these questions when you begin. It’s extremely important that you have answers, but one of the joys of content marketing is that you have plenty of opportunity to experiment with your approach.

 

For example: if you start out with the idea that your audience will be most interested in seeing content that’s all about how many awards your organization has won, it won’t take more than a few iterations to realize that’s generally not the best content strategy. (That’s a bit of a heavy-handed example, I’ll admit, but I’ve seen organizations try even worse things in their wrong-headed attempts at content strategy.)

 

The idea is that you want to start out with your best guess as to who your audience is and what they need to see. Assuming you post on a pretty regular basis, you’ll be able to home in on a more accurate idea over time.

 

You want to produce content that speaks to your readers where they are. That way when you distribute your blog posts you’ll be able to explain what you can do for your readers, in terms that someone who is totally new to your industry can understand.

 

So: how does content get turned into clients?

 

It’s not complicated. Let’s say I’m your prospect. I’m doing a search on Google, or scrolling through my Facebook feed, or whatnot, when I see a link to one of your blog posts.

 

Let’s say I just did a search for “how to attract better candidates.” I find one of your posts on Google, I click on it, and I come to your site. I find you’ve got a lot of good posts with a lot of good information I can put to work in my hiring process.

 

So I spend a little time reading your material and learning the information you put out on your site. I appreciate that you’ve put all this information out there, I recognize you’ve got some authority and credibility because of the quality of your information, and I appreciate that you understand my problem better than I do.

 

Maybe that’s enough for me to want to hire your services right now. Maybe it’s not. But even if it’s not, it’s enough for me to want to keep informed about your blog and your services. I’ll subscribe to your blog and receive a notification every time you post to it.

 

That way when I finally decide to hire a recruiting agency, I’ll know which one to choose.

 

So content marketing isn’t about the immediate conversion. It’s about warming up prospects and giving them the chance to get to know and trust you. Build up good will, draw enough of the right kind of attention, and you’ll be able to have the very best clients approaching you.

 

Bad Content Marketing: What’s it Look Like?

Like most things worth doing, the idea of content marketing is elegantly simple. The execution, on the other hand, is a little less simple.

 

Not necessarily because content marketing is terribly hard. All it takes is a skilled writer, a disciplined approach to content strategy, and a beginner’s understanding of the industry. The main reason content marketing attempts fail is that they’re not given the chance to succeed. An organization that does one or two blog posts, sees that they’re not seeing an immediate return on the investment, and cuts off the campaign, is not an organization that’s giving content marketing a chance to succeed. Content marketing is not an overnight solution, and anybody who tells you it is, is lying.

 

Assuming the content is getting a chance to succeed, why might it be failing? Let’s take a look at a few possible reasons:

 

  1. It’s keyword-stuffed garbage. Some people like filling their content with so many keywords that it becomes unreadable. This is a misguided attempt at SEO mastery, and it’s simply not worth it. What you might gain from keyword density is going to be more than lost by the extent of your bounce rate. Don’t do it.
  2. It doesn’t focus on the customer’s needs. I’ve seen content pages that have no purpose other than to feed the egos of marketing managers. Heck, I’ve seen entire blogs that existed only for the purpose of letting the CEO trumpet how many awards a company has. If someone wants to waste their time, I guess that’s their prerogative. But good content is about the customers and their needs. It’s not about ego.
  3. It doesn’t have any personality. Now, even though it’s not about ego, that doesn’t mean it should be dull or boring. The only thing worse than blog posts that read like they’re some kind of organizational resume are the blog posts that read like they were written by the HAL 9000 computer on one of his dull days. I could go on all day about this, but let’s condense the whole lesson down to three words: don’t be boring.
  4. It’s obviously a sales pitch. Now, this is a legitimate mistake. The first three mistakes on this list come from sheer laziness or lack of writing ability, but this one is what you could call a tactical error. There’s a temptation to treat your content as if it’s copy. There’s an urge to use your content to push the sale as aggressively as possible. There are places on your site to do that. The blog is not the place.
  5. It doesn’t offer any positive value to the reader. This is the one, giant, uber-mistake of all bad content marketing. Bad content marketing is about pushing yourself forward and shouting at the reader to buy your thing. Bad content is all about keeping things as formal and businesslike as possible. Bad content marketing is all about you.

 

Avoid those pitfalls, and you should be able to put together some good content.

 

Good Content Marketing: What’s it Look Like?

One reason I put the signs of bad content marketing before I put the methods for good content marketing is that it’s much easier to avoid the bad than it is to create the good.

 

It’s dangerous to overgeneralize about good content marketing, because every situation is different. You can depend on the worst mistakes to remain bad, no matter what the situation, but the right way to do a content marketing campaign depends on the business.

 

For example: let’s stick with the recruiter we were talking about a few sections back. The agency’s content strategy is going to be different depending on whether they’re more concerned with drawing clients or more focused on attracting candidates. Content marketing is a matter of dialing in on the right way to talk to your audience. So the nature and concerns of that audience are going to be the deciding factor in the content.

 

So even though this is only a partial guide to content marketing, here are a few guidelines to follow as you’re beginning:

 

  1. Tell a story (when appropriate). One of the clichés you’ll find about content marketing is this airy-fairy-sounding line about “telling the story of your brand,” or some variation on that. It’s not exactly wrong, but at the same time it’s one of those empty phrases that get any decent writer frustrated. Put it this way: if you’re going to tell a story, make sure it’s your customer’s story. If it’s something your audience can’t identify with, don’t put in there.
  2. Give your audience information they can use to succeed. I know one of the mental blocks that hold people back from doing content marketing right is that they think, “Can I really just give all this information away? Why would my prospects hire my services if I tell them exactly what they need to do?” My answer: don’t worry about it. Sure, some people are going to come to your blog, read your information, and never contact you. That’s wonderful. That means the blog is working. The people who are meant to work with you will know you can do the job better than they can. The people you’re meant to work with are skilled professionals who have a different specialty than you, and who understand the value of having a specialty. They’ll see the value of your service and be drawn to it that way.
  3. Make an effort to connect with the reader emotionally. This one can feel a little weird sometimes. We’re always a little shy about revealing ourselves and taking the risk to be vulnerable. Especially in the business world, having the courage to be vulnerable can feel extremely risky. But good content marketing requires you to connect with your reader as a human being. You have to realize that there’s a human being on the other end of the screen. A human being who is just as valuable and just as complex as you are. Good content isn’t just written for the proud businesslike façade we all show the world. Good content is also written for the gooey, sentimental human being who wants to feel things and connect with others. And it takes courage to write content like that.
  4. Make it easy for the reader to contact you. Ideally, every reader would leave glowing comments at the end of your posts, all of them telling you how brilliant you are and how you’re the most perfect human being who ever lived. But that won’t happen. So make sure the reader can show his or (hopefully) her appreciation by sharing your posts on social media, subscribing to your blog, commenting at the bottom of the page, and contacting you directly via email to hire your services immediately. Make these things as easy as possible and they’ll happen more easily.

 

Remember: content marketing is going to take testing and balancing. Every industry is different, and every business is different. You may have to try for a while before you find a way to connect to your audience effectively.

 

But with practice and iteration, you can figure out how to talk to the people meant to hear your message. Try to post at least about once a week. If your message is worth getting out there, it’s worth the effort.

 

Let me know if you have any questions or concerns about content marketing. I’m always trying to tailor this blog to your needs, so I’d appreciate the help. And I know some of you don’t like to post publicly, so feel free to contact me by email at geofreycrow@crowcopywriting.com if you’d rather do it that way. Good luck, and good content!

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail