First of all, what is a backlink, and why do you want one? Google ranks sites in part by their popularity, indicated by the number of – and quality of – the websites linking to that site. This is the founding principle of PageRank, the Google algorithm which helped Google pull ahead of other search engines from the beginning. While Google engineers have played down the importance of PageRank in recent years, it’s still a strong signal.
When you have a lot of high-quality backlinks, it enhances your website’s domain authority. This is calculated directly from other site’s links to that site. For example, WebMD is a popular source of medical articles, so it has high domain authority from all the other bloggers out there linking to it. Domain authority gets passed around. Top-level domains that naturally provide authority include government (.gov), military (.mil), and university domains (.edu). If your blog post about marine biology is linked from ten universities at their .edu domains, you’re seen as an expert source on the topic.
So you want backlinks from the highest possible ranking sites. But websites don’t just link to each other in a vacuum. To be sure, you will attract some links organically, especially if you have a blog with helpful content. But you have to rank pretty high in Google search results to get found in the first place. How do you do solve this catch-22? Do a few guest posts for other websites in exchange for a link back to your site.
Here’s how this works: You, the business website, offer to write a blog post or article for another website. Either you include a link back to your site in the post itself, or, if the other site has an “author box” bio at the bottom of posts, you get your link back there.
You get traffic and some Google Pagerank juice out of this. But what does the host get? The host gets your post as a keyword-rich SEO boost, drawing traffic to their own site as well. In addition, you saved the business and their blogging staff the work of coming up with today’s post. It’s almost, but not quite, an advertising transaction. Both parties mutually benefit.
Is it that easy? In theory, it is. We digital marketing gurus have been advocating guest posting for years. However, when we check up on the guest posting scene and ask website editors how it’s going, it appears that a lot of you need more help with this guest-posting business.
To be frank, many people are running around trying to offer guest posts, and they are terrible at it. Terrible, terrible, terrible. Somebody offered that site an article about muzzling cats, and we’d bet the editor was in a crummy mood for the rest of the day after that.
Let’s try to break this down into straightforward Sesame Street logic. Don’t make us actually use the puppets.
Finding a Good Guest Post Host
First off, your ideal guest post host should be a site with the following attributes:
- A high-ranking site in itself: no sense doing all this work for low domain authority
- A site with plenty of content on its own: preferably an active blog, and of course, one that takes guest posts from contributors
- A site that is relevant to or related to your business, without being a competitor: this part may take some creative thinking and research
- A site editor open to your pitch: many sites are drowning in offers or simply don’t take guest posts
As we mention, you want high domain authority websites linking to you. It’s easy to check; just Google a topic and see what pops to the top. For business articles, Forbes.com and BusinessInsider.com are both high authority domains that also accept guest posts. Let’s look at some other ideas for different business scenarios:
- Your STEM course professor can write a post on robotics to an electronics hobbyist site.
- Your med school instructor or research staff can release their latest COVID findings to any medical news site.
- Your dean or other high-ranking staff can share their thoughts on campus diversity to a civil rights advocacy site.
- A corporate tax lawyer can write a post on common tax accounting mistakes for an entrepreneur’s site.
- An accident attorney can write a post on getting compensation for injuries for a driver’s enthusiast site (e.g., motorcycle accidents for a bikers’ site).
- A family rights lawyer can discuss the do’s and don’t’s of custody negotiations for a parenting-oriented site.
Local Home-based Businesses:
- Landscapers can do an article on the hardiest decorative plants for a gardening enthusiasts’ site.
- Cabinet carpenters can write tips on kitchen inspection for a real estate agents’ site.
- A restaurant can share its experience in maintaining robust staffing for a hospitality website.
Everybody has something to contribute to the world because our professions and industries give us all unique insights. Put a little creative thought into it, and the possibilities are endless. Look for any place where your perspective can provide some little-known wisdom for an appreciating audience. At the same time, keep an eye out for natural allies to your business. Your local community (state, county, city) websites are eager to support local businesses, so a blog post about your business’ founding or achievements is likely to be welcomed at your city’s community news site.
Now that we know how to find a host for our guest post, let’s find out how to negotiate with them:
How To Pitch a Guest Post
First off, you should look for any instructions at the host website itself. Business Insider has their own guest post instructions, for instance. Other websites will have guest post instructions under titles like “write for us,” “submission guidelines,” “guest posting policy,” etc. If the site has that page up, read it twice and follow its instructions religiously! Ignore any advice we give if it conflicts with the host site.
For those sites which have no guest post instructions in view, here is the tactful way to go about your pitch:
- Remember that you’re the guest. Follow your best manners as a guest.
- Be respectful of the site maintainer’s or editor’s time. Popular sites get flooded with dozens of queries per week.
- Research the site thoroughly, getting to know their main audience and content tags, categories, and site culture.
- Do NOT propose a fluffy piece about the site’s general topic. Read through the site and take the time to come up with an original piece never seen before there.
- This should go without saying, but do not offer content that is already published somewhere else.
- Email your pitch:
- 2-3 paragraphs outlining your idea
- word count
- whether you will be providing image media
- your own site to which you will be linking
- brief bio / about the author or your site CTA (if the site uses author boxes)
- Some sites (if they have instructions posted) will ask that you skip the pitch and just send in a complete article, in which case you should do that.
- Contact once, wait about two weeks to hear back. If you don’t get a response, politely follow up about your query. Do not nag.
- If you still don’t hear back or are turned down, move along to the next site.
When we say “no fluff pieces,” here’s an example: Smashing Magazine is a long-standing web design resource, one of the most mature blogs on the web. It would be a bad idea to pitch a topic like “The Importance of UX in Web Design” – they’ve doubtless written on that topic a dozen times by now, and readers would not be interested in seeing that hashed out again. You would have to think hard to develop a topic niche that’s both interesting to their readers and not saturated already.
Here’s a few inspirational pitches that should be welcome guest posts almost anywhere, for whatever industry represents your host site’s main topic:
- Interview with industry authority or expert
- First-hand experience from industry insider
- Science research and findings related to the industry, broken down in layman’s terms
- New laws and regulations about your industry
- “Why this trend is the next big thing in this industry”
As any creative worker can tell you, sometimes the pitch is the hardest part! But let’s not neglect the next step…
Writing a Great Guest Post
Whatever you do, under no circumstances should you shrug this task off on a third-party lackey. The person writing the article should be comparable to, if not the same as, the person who made the pitch. This is another thing that should go without saying, but hey, we have that cat muzzler back there.
- Write with the same standard you would use for your own business website.
- Follow the same keyword research and SEO practices you would for your own website. Remember that if this post does well in search rankings, that will benefit both the host site and you.
- Show at least some familiarity with the site’s existing content. Perhaps toss in an internal link or two where prudent.
- If you have negotiated this much with the site editor or maintainer, include relevant images to which you, or the site, have rights. A banner image for blogs that use them is a nice touch.
- Don’t make your post one big advertisement for your business. If you just want to direct-market, pay for an ad instead.
- Spelling and grammar actually count. This isn’t just us being elitist grammar snobs; this affects your page ranking, albeit indirectly.
Site editors love it when you save them work. So if you can provide a formatted, finished article clean of errors, with accompanying images and a ready-made banner following default site policy, you’ve done your business proud.
For a follow-up, if this guest post transaction was successful, be sure to link back to the host site when your post is published, and also promote the host site on your own social media channels. Wait a decent period, and perhaps contact the site editor or owner again to offer a future collaboration. Maybe you can become a “regular.”
Should You Outsource Your Guest Posting Entirely?
Does all this sound like a lot of work? It most definitely is! It is also apparently more effort than most people are ready to provide. Let’s face it, if you’re the kind of master author who would be outrageously successful at guest blogging, you’re probably one good agent away from a Hollywood book deal and don’t need our advice.
There are professional link-building guest post services that offer to do the entire process for you! For example, FatJoe can handle everything from reaching out to host bloggers to writing the content and submitting it. We also help clients secure guest post opportunities as part of our SEO services. A professional guest posting service will dramatically improve your site’s rankings, and a little help goes a long way!
If you have the knack for it, maybe you can give guest posting a try. It can be fun in its own way, and you might have a chance to network with other businesses and build up a valuable partnership. Or just outsource this whole job to professionals and let them handle it while you attend to other matters.
Our digital marketing blog has a plethora of useful information on topics such as SEO practices, PPC practices, reputation management, and more. If you are interested in expanding your skillset to learn more about link building to grow your business’ authority and increase rankings, check out this article.