At WordStream, we're a fan of guest posting as a way of building links and relationships. But sometimes you put in the effort to write a post and the blog editor rejects it, or never gets back to you at all. That adds up to disappointment and a big waste of your time.
If you're about to embark on a guest posting strategy, here are some dos and don'ts to keep in mind. These tips will increase your chances of getting your guest post approved and published, links intact.
DO read a few posts from the blog before you send something. You run the best chance of having your post published if it resembles what they typically run. Things to pay particular attention to include word count, reading level (beginner vs. advanced), and voice (serious, kooky, snarky, etc.). If the blog publishes guest posting guidelines, read them (duh).
DO establish a relationship before you write. This isn't strictly necessary, but if you're trying to get a guest post published on a more exclusive blog, you'll have better luck if the editors already have some familiarity with you. You could start by commenting on the blog, linking to the blog from your own, or engaging with the editors/writers on Twitter.
DON'T write a post that already exists 500 times over. Don't send a guest post so basic and familiar that everyone has already seen it or could find a SERP full of the same information with a simple Google search. (You know what I'm talking about; we've all seen the "Five Ways to Get More Blog Traffic" post.) First, you don't want to bore the editor of the blog you're reaching out to, or their readers. Secondly, essentially duplicating a familiar article is a bad SEO practice. Choosing a topic is like choosing a keyword – you're aiming for something that has volume, but not so much volume you'll get lost in the noise.
DO write a strong title that matches the content. Sometimes we get guest post submissions that don't live up to the promise of the title. For example, don't submit a post called "How Much Time Should You Invest in Keyword Research Per Week?" and then write about why and how to do local keyword research. (Yes, this just happened.) In my experience, a good title that clearly communicates what a blog post offers – along with some well-placed subheads – can make a post 50% better without even changing the content. You don't want anyone to read the article and then think, "What was that really about?"
DO send an image or two so the blog editor doesn't have to find one herself. If you're reviewing a software tool or writing a list of your favorite plug-ins, include a screenshot. If you're writing a case study, include a table or graph to illustrate your data.
DON'T link-stuff. If the first paragraph of your post has five links back to your site, you run the chance of having it rejected. Everyone knows you're guest-posting for the link, but don't make your editor feel cheap, tawdry and used. Only link to your site in the body of the post if it's actually relevant to the topic (hot tip: if there's something you want to link to, it should govern your choice of what to write about); otherwise save your links for your bio. There's a point of diminishing returns with links from a single page anyway.
DO send guest posts to blogs that cover areas where you already have some expertise. Editors can spot a hastily researched post from 30 feet. If you don't know much about the topic the blog in question covers, you'll likely end up writing one of those Posts That Already Exists (see above). If you're trying to build links outside your wheelhouse, find a way to make it relevant. For example, if you work at a law firm and you want to send a guest post to an Internet marketing blog, write about common legal mistakes that bloggers make, or five ways lawyers get leads.
DON'T send the exact same guest post to multiple blogs. Blog editors want unique content. Personally, if someone sends me an article that looks semi-generic, I always Google to make sure it hasn't already appeared elsewhere. If you're repurposing something you've written in the past, make substantial changes even if you're sticking to the same basic theme. For example, you could change a "Top 10 Tips" list to an FAQ format.
DO you have an idea for a guest post? Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.