Guest blogging is one of those small actions that has the potential of growing your business in a big way. For me, it didn’t just bring more traffic to my blog, but exposed me to a whole new audience and led to an unbelievable spike in sales, which remains my second-highest selling month to date. An often underrated form of promotion, I’ve found that many newbies have shied away from this approach, because they either feel unqualified or don’t realize the potential. This article will explore the ins and outs of guest blogging: the benefits, choosing the right type of site, methods for pitching your content, and maximizing your opportunity for exposure.
The benefits of guest blogging are plentiful. To start, you are given a new platform to share your knowledge, which organically leads to new fans and potential buyers. The more sites you contribute to and the larger their reach, the greater YOUR reach. If you are able to secure an opportunity as a contributor (where you share multiple posts on a single blog), your relationship with the website alone becomes golden. The better your rapport, the more likely the site will be to organically promote and support you. Furthermore, your contribution gives you clout in your industry, in the same way that an impressive job on your resume can lead to greater opportunities.
How guest blogging has elevated my brand
I was given the opportunity to guest blog on two amazing creative lifestyle sites: Today’s Creative Life and Remodelaholic. The posts I shared centered around printables (my area of expertise), that were designed exclusively for the readers of those respective blogs.
Initially it seemed counterintuitive to hand over my hard work for someone else to use on their site when I could have been sharing them on my own. It was only after learning how to optimize those guest posts, that I realized the potential and ridiculous value that those opportunities were bringing me.
In each guest post, the blogs gave me the chance to introduce myself and include links to my blog and shop. While it was great to get some exposure, readers weren’t given much incentive to click on those links. What could I offer that would delight them, and then leave them wanting more?
My first idea was to offer a counterpart for each printable design. For example, I created a series of guest room printables, and shared two with Today’s Creative Life readers, and included a photo of a third design that could be downloaded by visiting my blog. This post from 2014, is still bringing a ton of traffic to my blog. In fact it’s my #5 source, beating out Buzzfeed and Craftgawker.
Increased traffic is fabulous, but do you know what’s better? Increased sales!
What led to the sales spike
I have a reader to thank for this, which was a lesson in providing your audience with something they are asking you for, instead of guessing at what they might want. Last year, I shared printable “First Day of School” signs on Remodelaholic, with the current school year printed on it. One reader left a comment asking if we could share a version that was editable, so they could use the signs for years to come.
In a lightbulb moment, I thought of how perfect it would be if could sell a premium, editable version of the signs in my shop, and include a link to purchase at the bottom of my post on Remodelaholic. Before I made this proposal, I thought about how I could enhance the offer bring a better value to both Remodelaholic and to their readers.
As part of my proposition, I offered to design a matching set of “Last Day of School” signs to be published later in the year. I then asked if I could include a link at the bottom of each post for anyone interested in purchasing editable versions of the signs. To sweeten the deal further, I would provide Remodelaholic readers with an exclusive coupon code that would give them the editable “First Day” and “Last Day” signs, for the cost of one.
Remodelaholic was on board, and it ended up sending tons of readers to my shop. Last August, when most people go back to school, I got a major spike in sales, which still remains my second-highest selling month of all time, only to be beaten out by Christmas sales.
Those posts brought Remodelaholic so much traffic that they asked if I’d be willing to update the posts for the next school year and extend my coupon code offer. Wins for all!
After reading those accounts, I’m sure you are anxious to start on your own guest posting! Read on for tips that will get you the absolute most out of your guest blogging experience.
Guest blogging vs. sponsored posts
Before you jump into crafting your own pitch, it’s very important to understand the difference between a guest post and a sponsored post. A guest post is written by an individual on a topic that is in their area of expertise, that will benefit the needs of the audience. A sponsored post is an opportunity to directly promote your product or service (essentially, a paid advertisement).
If you are offering to guest post, you are signing up to provide value, not to talk about or focus on what you sell. Brainstorm ideas about topics you feel comfortable to speak on or a resource you can share, such as a free printable. Choose a topic that fits naturally with you and your brand and come up with a method to present it in a fresh way.
Choosing the right blogs
I suggest starting a spreadsheet of blogs or websites you have interest in posting on. If your area of expertise is in a certain niche like “pets” or “toddlers,” put extra effort into loading your list up with blogs that serve those audiences. You want to go where your potential customers are hanging out.
Put at least 20 names in your spreadsheet. Cast a large net so you’ll end up with at least a few bites, and understand that not every website will be a good fit for you. What I didn’t include in my account above was another website that I contributed to for a couple months that sent my hardly any traffic or customers. Remember that these relationships need to be beneficial to three parties: the website, their audience, and you.
Submitting your proposal
Once you have your list, the first thing you will want to do is see if they have any information about guest blogging on their site. Lots of blogs welcome contributions and may even have their own application process. Others may clearly state that they aren’t accepting guest posts or contributions, which you should definitely respect.
If there’s a site you are interested in working with, I suggest taking the time to build a relationship with the brand before submitting a proposal. This may include interacting on social media, or even sending an email letting them know how a piece of their content impacted you in a positive way. When you do send them your pitch, you won’t be a stranger to them, and they will be far more likely to respond.
I can’t tell you how many proposals I get from people who want to guest post about weddings on my site— a topic I haven’t covered in over three years. Those emails go right into my trash bin. If the person hasn’t even taken the time to get to know me or my site, I know that they aren’t going to care about my audience.
Keep your proposals short and sweet, keeping your focus on how you can serve them, and their audience. Don’t try to get into specifics about how many links you can include in your post or whether or not you can promote your products. Those details can be negotiated once they are on board.
Once you’ve had a guest post published, be sure to include a link to that article in your future proposals so they have the opportunity to see how awesome you are, first hand.
Maximizing your guest blogging experience
Once you’ve got your foot in the door, you’ll want to look for every opportunity to elevate your brand, while still keeping the needs of the site and their audience in mind. Here’s a list of some of the ways you can offer a valuable incentive for readers to stay connected to you:
- a giveaway of one of your products
- a series of three posts that build on or relate to one another
- an exclusive coupon code
- a free guide or printable
- a contest that involves audience participation
- an poll that would help shape future products
- a video that gives the audience an opportunity to connect with you on a deeper level
- an invitation to an exclusive group, webinar or event
- answers (solutions) to your most-asked questions and an invitation for the audience to ask you more
Guest blogging is one of the most organic ways to reach potential customers who will genuinely want to buy your stuff. Approach each opportunity with great care and attention, and be patient in knowing that not every single post will yield the same results. The more you put yourself out there, the greater your chances at having one of your own business-changing moments!