Written by: Rowena Figueroa
In any given year, an 18% jump in online business is both desirable and noteworthy. But in a historic year like 2020, when markets across the world teetered on the brink of depression, such growth is nothing short of remarkable. And yet, that’s exactly what high growth firms achieved despite the uncertain economy.
What gave them the leg up? They took to the digital ecosystem like ducks to water. As the pandemic reshaped their target audiences’ needs, many of them donned a digital publisher’s hat and developed valuable, optimized content that they distributed through both their own digital channels and earned media.
We know the benefits of frequent blogging: more online traffic, credibility building, differentiation, and conversions, to name a few. But what about guest blogging? Despite a few eulogies written about it, a guest blogging strategy continues to offer benefits any subject matter expert wants:
- Raising your profile as a thought leader
- Expanding audience reach
- Increasing referral traffic
- Presenting opportunities for backlink building
The last two benefits make a guest blogging strategy indispensable to a firm’s SEO performance. When you write high-quality articles for high-authority external blogs or publications, you build up backlinks that will ratchet up your search engine ranking. And if you write articles regularly for certain publications, you can build a readership and channel high-quality traffic to your own site.
Landing guest blogging opportunities is not easy, especially as more and more professional services firms get into the digital content game. As a result, there’s a shrinking number of placements for a growing number of pitches. So how do you navigate such a crowded field? The following ten steps can put you on a path to success.
Step 1. Find out where your audiences are looking for answers.
You’ll need to do some research on the top publications that focus on your industry or area of expertise. They often have the high visibility and reputation you need to drive up your search engine rankings. Next, observe where your peers and colleagues look for articles to share on Twitter or LinkedIn. Finally, Google your topic and append the term “guest blog.” For example, if your area of expertise is diversity, equity, and inclusion, you might search on “DEI guest blog.” If your niche is pandemic building commissioning, use that as your key word. Sometimes a search like this can retrieve valuable results.
Step 2. Target higher authority publications.
Ideally, you will want to target publications with a Domain Authority score of 50 or higher. Getting backlinks from these high-profile sites are one of the fastest ways to build your own site’s authority. However, these sites are more selective, and many allow only far less valuable “no follow” links. But there is still a path forward. If your firm’s website Domain Authority score is low, any publication with a Domain Authority higher than your own site’s can give you a lift. If you don’t know a publication’s Domain Authority, you can find out its audience reach by requesting for their media kit or digging around their website. A bit of sleuthing will uncover this information.
It’s just as important to conduct some reconnaissance on where your competitors are guest blogging. You can find out from their websites’ newsrooms, from their social media pages, by entering their company name in Google News’ search field, and by setting Google Alerts on their companies. You can also use specialized tools like Semrush, which can help you conduct a thorough analysis of competitors, including which keywords they’re vying for.
Step 3. Look up their submission guidelines.
A growing number of pubs, especially those with high Domain Authority, require the submission of draft articles, not just pitches. Put those pubs on a separate list that you might consider returning to later on. When you are pitching, be sure to read any submission guidelines beforehand so you can tailor your pitches.
Step 4. Research relevant topics.
Our research has shown that professional services buyers are as likely to conduct web searches as they are to turn to trusted colleagues for answers to work challenges. This means if you want your audience to find you online, pick topics that lie at the intersection of what’s important to them and your expertise. That’s your sweet spot.
Next, find out what topics your target publications have covered over the past 12 months and which ones they plan to cover the rest of the year. This will give you an idea of how your topic has been addressed, how you can differentiate your content, and which articles you can cite or link your article to.
You may be able to glean some of this information from their editorial calendar or content plan, if those are publicly accessible. While time-consuming, this research is indispensable and will hike up your pitch’s success rate.
Step 5. Develop a clear, brief pitch.
Some editors receive hundreds of pitches each day. There’s no guarantee they’ll read yours, but the following elements can help your email catch and retain an editor’s weary eye:
- A catchy subject line (which can be stand in for the article’s title)
- Your intention to submit a guest blog
- Why their readers will care about your article (explained succinctly)
- What makes you an authority on this topic
- The article’s main points, including any supporting research
Don’t make busy editors slog through a long, boring pitch that’s verbose, complex, or, worse, both. Brevity and simplicity, without coming across as generic, will go a long way towards piquing their interest.
Tailoring your pitch is important, so you will likely develop different versions of the same pitch for different types of publications. Develop a system for managing those versions and clearly label which segment of your list each version applies to.
Step 6. Follow up.
A dwindling number of editors welcome follow-ups by phone. Most prefer gentle reminders via email. Regardless of which method you use, wait 1-2 weeks before you follow up. If you still don’t get a response, take another angle of the same topic or pitch a different topic altogether. If that fails, wait a few months and try again. Sometimes the problem is poor timing, not the topic. Keep the publication on your list and let some time pass. You can always return later with a fresh pitch.
Step 7. Include keywords in your article
Even if a publication doesn’t ask about keywords, go ahead and optimize your article for any keywords you want to target. After all, your article is useless if your audience can’t find it. Many editors appreciate authors who optimize their articles and make their jobs easier. The more traffic your article draws, the greater are your chances these editors will accept your future pitches. At the minimum, optimize your title. At the same time, you don’t want to go too far in the other direction. Don’t load up your article with keywords. It’s bad SEO practice and could sour your relationship with an editor.
Step 8. Link to other, related articles within the publication.
Why? First, it shows the editor you’ve taken a genuine interest in their publication. Second, it’s a great way to build your relationships with other experts, who have their own audiences and might consider sharing your article with them. The research you do in Step 4 will often uncover articles related to your topic.
Step 9: Find a brutal in-house or outsourced editor
Every writer needs an editor. At the minimum, editors will catch embarrassing typos and misspelled words. Good editors also fix stylistic issues without imposing their own style on yours. They eliminate overused business jargon for more concrete words that bring your writing to life.
Step 10. Promote your post. Again and again.
Sharing your guest post shows support for the publication. Provide a link from your site to the guest post and share the direct link on social media and with your email list. If possible share it more than once. When sharing on social media, include a hearty shoutout to the publisher or editor.
Many professional services firms lack a coherent guest blogging strategy To do it right demands research and a commitment from subject matter experts who often feel strapped for time. But guest blogging is a great way for experts to build a reputation and grow their audience. And that’s worth a lot for your experts and your firm. Even if your team doesn’t have time to do all the heavy lifting, there are ways to deliver a powerful guest blogging strategy. You can, for instance, outsource some or all of the work to an outside resource who knows your industry or niche. In fact, many firms work with outside strategists and writers—and produce outstanding results.
If you persist, you’ll become what experts should be: Visible Experts in a digital world. And the benefits to you, your firm, and your clients will be well worth what you put in.