Whatever industry you’re in, you’re likely to find yourself competing for page views. While great content will bring in visitors, it’s not enough by itself. Whether you blog for profit or as part of a larger marketing campaign for your business, driving traffic to your site is critical. That’s why you need a link building strategy.
You may have tried buying backlinks, but this is a risky strategy that could cause more harm than good. Guest posting – writing content for other sites in exchange for a link back to yours – is one of the best SEO strategies you can use to build links.
Backlinks from high-authority websites will positively impact your search engine rankings and improve the chances of your website getting noticed by the right people.
Know where you stand
Before you go any further, you need to know where you’re ranking versus your competition. In other words, you need to check your site performance and compare it to other sites in your niche. Knowing where you stand will give you an idea about the amount of work you need to put in.
Start with choosing the keywords you’d like to rank for, then use a Google search to find out which sites are in the top spots for those keywords. If your content isn’t as good as theirs, you’ll need to improve its quality or reconsider your content strategy if you want to be truly competitive.
Next, use the Google Keyword Planner to check the search volume for your chosen keyword and to discover new, related keywords that you could also use to rank. Here’s an example using the keyword “guerilla marketing”:
Use a tool like Ahrefs to check how many people click on the ranking results, and the level of competition for the terms. This step helps you determine the number of referring domains you’ll need to start ranking. You can also view how many visitors you will get if your content ranks.
The screenshot above indicates you’d need to get backlinks from around 103 unique websites to rank for that search term. Armed with this knowledge, you know how many guest posts to aim for and you can start looking for suitable websites to target for your link building campaign.
Identify the sites to target for guest posts
All backlinks are not equal. Some will help drive traffic to your site, while others won’t have much impact (or can even have a negative result). You need to choose your target sites strategically.
Fortunately, there are several easy-to-use tools to help you. I use the following criteria to identify suitable sites to pitch for guest posting opportunities:
- Relevance to my niche.
- Monthly traffic of 3,000 visitors or more.
- A Domain Authority (DR) score of 50 or higher.
- A Trust Flow score of at least 15.
To start looking for these sites, choose a high-ranking website in your niche and review its backlink profile using Ahrefs’ backlink checker:
Export this list, then remove any sites that are irrelevant or do not meet the criteria outlined above.
Next, remove any that are not suitable for guest post pitches (this will include sites like Facebook, Wikipedia, Reddit, and Amazon). This process should give you a list of several hundred sites where you could pitch guest posts.
Reach out to your target websites
In most cases, you’re a complete stranger to the people who manage your target sites. Therefore, you need to find the right person and send them an appropriate outreach email.
If you don’t know the site owner’s name, start by searching LinkedIn for the site name and job titles like “Editor” or “Content Manager”. Once you have found a name, I recommend using an email finder to search for their contact information.
Write a subject line that grabs the reader’s attention
Website owners and content managers are busy people. They might receive hundreds of emails every day. Therefore, you need to catch their attention with an intriguing subject line to convince them that your email is worth reading.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Keep the subject line short and straightforward.
- Personalize the subject line with the recipient’s name or website domain name.
- Use an emoji (this can increase the chance of your email being opened by around 56%!)
Don’t be afraid to experiment with different subject lines until you find two or three that work with your audience.
Use an email outreach template that engages
The best outreach emails are clear, straightforward, and concise.
Don’t be tempted to pile on the flattery as a way of getting the editor to agree to your proposal. Treat your outreach email like a business proposition (which it is!) and focus on these key points:
- Who you are
- What do you need from them
- What’s in it for them
Your email should be professional. Use a friendly greeting, introduce yourself, and succinctly sum up your request. If you’ve published content on well-known sites and/or are a recognized expert on a specific topic, you should mention that, too. Social proof is useful if the editor doesn’t know you or your work.
Wait for a few days, then send a polite follow up if you don’t hear back. If you still don’t get a reply, assume the answer is no and move on to the next prospect.
When running your cold outreach campaign, do not worry too much about being rejected or ignored. It happens to everyone sometimes, and it’s best to learn how to shrug it off and move on. As soon as you’ve received the “go-ahead” from an editor, it’s time to come up with some great topic ideas.
Come up with guest post ideas
Don’t stress if it seems like every topic under the sun has been covered before. Want to know a secret? It has! Unless you’re writing about cutting-edge scientific research or breaking news, it’s fine to revisit existing topics.
Creating original content is all about finding a good angle. What fresh perspective can you bring to the table and how can you approach an existing subject in a new way? Let’s assume you want to write about email marketing. Writing for a non-profit audience is very different from writing about the same topic for B2B business owners. Make sure you understand the site’s audience and angle before you pitch.
Run a Google search on your desired topic to check out what content already exists. I like to use the Keywords Everywhere add-on for Chrome, as this shows you keyword search volumes and suggests alternatives you can use:
Select a few keywords from the list then check whether your target site has already covered those topics. To do this, use the search string “site:sitename.com keyword”. Here’s an example:
If the site has covered your chosen topic extensively, either come up with a new angle or move on to the next topic.
Another strategy for coming up with guest post ideas is Buzzsumo. If you haven’t come across it before, BuzzSumo is a fantastic tool that shows the top content for a specified keyword based on social media engagement, including likes and shares:
Check out which articles are trending, and see if your target site has covered those topics. If not, you have an article idea to pitch!
Always do your research before you pitch. If you send irrelevant ideas, all the hard work you put into your email outreach will go to waste. Unless the editor specifies a different preference, it’s best to send 2-3 ideas no more than 48 hours after their initial response.
If your pitches are rejected, don’t panic. Study the website more closely, then come up with some new pitches that are more closely aligned with its topics and voice. I’ve often had my initial pitches rejected, only to get a “yes” when I tried again. So don’t give up!
Write your guest post
Congratulations, the editor has given your idea the green light! Now it’s time to get writing.
Follow these tips to make your content amazing:
- Ensure it is original and not plagiarized
- Cite your sources if you use anyone else’s ideas or data
- Use a coherent structure (it’s best to create an outline before you start writing)
- Fact-check everything
- Check for spelling and grammatical errors. Tools like Grammarly can help
- Follow the website’s style guide, if the editor has provided one. If not, try to mirror the tone of other pieces on the site
- Always focus on value. What will the reader take away from this piece? Actionable advice and relevant information are essential
Even though you’re writing guest posts for the purpose of link building, fight the urge to cram your content with backlinks. One relevant backlink is fine, and two might be okay if they truly fit with the content. Any more is pushing it, and the editor will probably remove them before publishing the piece.
If the editor gives you a deadline, be sure to deliver the content on or before that date. If you need more time, let them know as soon as possible. Most will be happy to accommodate you, but they appreciate being notified of any possible delays so they can plan accordingly.
When you send over the content, thank the editor for the opportunity to contribute to their site. Building strong relationships with the people you work with goes a long way, and politeness costs nothing.
Using guest posts to increase your website traffic
Search engine results can make or break your site. If you rank highly for relevant keywords, the right people will find your content. If not, you’ll struggle to attract the audience you want to reach.
If you’re ever going to profit from your blog, you need backlinks from high-authority sites. One of the best ways to acquire these links is through guest posting. The more quality backlinks you get, the higher your content will rank.
Every business that engages in content marketing should include guest posting in their content strategy. Remember the golden rules of guest posting:
- Aim for relevant websites in your niche that have high traffic, trust flow, and domain authority.
- Send a brief, polite, and compelling outreach email to the owner or content manager.
- Come up with a fresh angle on a relevant topic.
- Write informative, readable content that provides actionable insights.
The great thing about guest posting is that it’s a strategy that scales. As you get more publications under your belt, more and higher-profile sites will be willing to publish your work. You’ll climb the rankings and drive more traffic to your own site. If you find that you can’t keep up with all your guest post opportunities, consider hiring a good ghostwriter to help you out.
A successful guest posting campaign doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a lot of patience, some trial and error, and hard work. But if you spend time on perfecting your strategy, you’ll start seeing the results. Here’s to your success in link building!
Owen Baker is a content marketer for Voila Norbert, an online email verification tool. He has spent most of the last decade working online for a range of marketing companies. When he’s not busy writing, you can find him in the kitchen mastering new dishes.