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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d rather do it that way.
Good luck, and good copywriting!