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22 Guest Posting Best Practices for Newbies

Guest posting is still a powerful way to improve your SEO, branding and sales but many still struggle with consistently publishing on quality websites.

After building 1000’s of guest post links over the years, I’ve learned a thing or two about focusing on quality opportunities and avoiding the shortcuts - tempting as they may be.

If you’ve failed at guest blogging in the past or are ready to try it for the first time, this guide will help you dial in the best practices around prospecting, pitching and promoting your guest post.

Key Points

  • To be successful at guest posting, focus on quality over quantity.
  • Use Ahrefs to check the site's backlink profile and domain rank to get an idea of the site's overall quality. 
  • Manually review sites for key signs they are low quality, such as a cheap looking text logo or a broad selection of topics in their menu.
  • Start small by targeting a few really good, relevant websites. As you guest post more, you'll become a better writer and build up.
  • Write a guest post with the intention of ranking for a keyword.
  • Take time to research the target website and their ideal customer.
  • Create a comprehensive outline so that your article is packed line-for-line with information.
  • Have a plan for promotion when you guest post to most of the opportunities.
  • Reaching out to notable influencers in your space and include them in your guest post.

Deciding Guest Posting Opportunities

Choose Quality over Quantity

A common mistake by a novice is thinking that any backlink is a good backlink. But Google is getting better at ignoring low-quality guest posts, so you could actually be wasting your time.

Instead, take some time to vet guest posting opportunities before you submit a pitch. Here are some things to look for:

  • Make sure the blog you're targeting doesn't only publish guest blogs. A website that relies too heavily on guest content is likely of low quality.
  • The website should have its own internal writers and content strategy. This shows that they're serious about producing quality content, not just churning out guest posts.
  • Take a look at the authors of most articles on the blog. If they're all "admin," that's not a good sign.
  • Another red flag is if there's no interesting About Us page. This shows that the website isn't really invested in building a brand or identity.
  • If the only way they monetize is by selling outbound links, it's probably best to avoid guest posting on that website. Selling ads, having a SaaS, providing services, selling products or a course are all legitimate ways to make money.

Be Strategic With the Type of Websites You Pitch

There are two types of guest blogging opportunities that people usually target - paid guest posts and high-end publications.

Paying is easy at first but it can result in long-term penalties from Google.

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On the opposite end of the spectrum, if you try to guest post on high end publications but haven't built up a track record or personal brand yet - you're going to have difficulty getting a response.

The best way to get started with guest posting is to aim slightly above your current standing. This means that if your domain rank is currently at 30, you should look for websites with a domain rank of 40. As you climb the ranks and get more experience guest posting, you can then start aiming for higher end publications.

One of the reasons this approach works well is because you can learn from your mistakes. As you guest post more and more, you'll become a better writer and build up a stronger body of work. This will then make it more likely that higher end publishers will want to work with you.

Use Ahrefs to Find Sites that Allow Guest Blogs

Their Content Explorer works well here. 

The goal is to find websites that have good traffic and are near or slightly above your authority level.

You don't want to waste your time with sites that are too high authority or that don't have enough traffic.

There is also a lot of junk and spam in the Ahrefs database so use the filters appropriately.

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Use Google to Find Sites that Allow Guest Blogs

You can use search operators like [allintext:"guest post from" keyword] to find blogs to reach out to in Google.

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Google tends to return super high authority at the top of the SERPS and those success rates will be low unless you have a brand already.

Instead, build a small list of bloggers who have a high likelihood of responding positively to your guest post request.

Look for websites that look like they are run by an individual or a small group instead. You'll have more chances to succeed with getting your first yes.

Use Ahrefs to Review Site Quality

Use Ahrefs to check the site's backlink profile and domain rank to get an idea of the site's overall quality.

Look for high-quality, high domain authority sites that are linking to the guest posting website.

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Check to see if the website ranks for valuable keywords that are not easy to rank for to further verify the website's quality.

Often, crafty bloggers will rank for low competition, high volume terms related to celebrities, TV shows and error messages which tricks people into paying them for backlinks.

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These are just PBN sites, and it's best to avoid them.

Use Common Sense to Review Site Quality

There are some key signs that can give away whether a website is worth reaching out to for a guest post or not.

For example, sites that have cheap looking text logos and random keywords in their domain are likely not worth your time.

Additionally, if a website only publishes spammy posts with obviously commercial links, it's probably not worth your while either.

Similarly, if a website has a broad selection of topics in their menu, they're probably selling posts.

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This example website has a low quality logo, too many topics in the menu and is publishing spammy posts.

Stay Organized with Spreadsheets

When you first start out guest posting, it's easy to get overwhelmed trying to keep track of everything in your inbox. 

But if you want to be successful, it's important to stay organized. The best way to do this is by using a Google Sheet.

Keep a column for Website name, website URL, contact name, contact email, draft URL and a status dropdown. 

The status dropdowns should include New, Qualified, Contact found, Email Sent, Positive Response, Pitch Accepted, Draft in Progress, Draft review for submissions, Draft submitted to guest blogger, Blogger gave feedback for updates, Blogger accepted - pending publish, and Published.

By keeping track of everything in a Google Sheet, you'll be able to easily see what tasks need to be done and when - even as the weeks start to stack up.

Sending the Guest Post Pitch

Pitch a complementary keyword topic they haven't written about before

Most people build a list of 100 websites to guest post on and then send the same generic pitch to each one.R f2hTRJ6Z3sIcQHd8wPEKL945GeW1iEj7diojGrbW yLqTp4IFp68pyItWQeSzmxnibj Py910cRaZWKoSyhQHrOSgVzdzVtVPswF9seas2eOoalZWxNUj43ScqfiJ4UO2 8JiwFbrwr0s4LiNhFzsAM7PkmOMtw33KzZiI7R 6KT6Tf2C

Because website owners see pitches all day, they’ll often ignore anything that looks lazy and templated.

A better approach is to laser target 20 websites with slightly higher authority than your own and check their content strategy.

Then, do a gap analysis to see what topics they haven’t written about but probably would or should.

Finally, email them a note about your research and offer to write about this topic for them.

This approach is more effective because it is personalized and tailored to the specific website.

You’ll find that at least a few webmasters that typically ignore guest posts will respond, thank you for taking the time to personalize, and show interest in your offering.

Contact the appropriate person

Simply emailing the general inbox of a website is not the most effective way to get your pitch noticed because its often flooded with cold emails.

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Instead, try to find and contact the person who would be most interested in your offer.

The simple act of contacting the right person and using their first name can significantly increase your reply rate.

When trying to determine who the right person is, consider the size of the website and type of business.

For a personal blog, you can contact the guest blog owner or sometimes the general inbox is their main email.

For a small business, contact the founder of the company since they probably don’t have a dedicated marketer.

For larger businesses, look for someone in content marketing or SEO. Once you have the full name of the person, you can use tools like Clearbit Web Extension, Name2email, Kendo, Contactout, or Hunter.io to find and verify their email address.

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Spruce up your social media and portfolio

Be sure to spruce up your social media and portfolio before you make contact. 

This will give you some much-needed social proof that you can use to your advantage.

Most people simply send an initial email with no real personalization or social proof. 

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However, if you take the time to include links to your social media profiles and mention any recognizable publications you’ve been featured in, you’ll be much more likely to make a positive impression.

Try to go above and beyond the basics. If you share a sample article, also describe how it benefited the publisher.

Personalize the subject line

Most people will include something about guest posting in their subject line, like "Guest Post Proposal." The problem is that everyone else in their inbox is doing the same thing, so it's impossible to stand out.

To really make an impression, try personalizing the subject line with the recipient's name or something interesting you found on their website or LinkedIn profile. 

33% of people open emails based on the subject line alone and emails with a personalized subject line get 50% higher open rates.

Check their Linkedin or website and look for something interesting to mention.

If you're going to mention "guest post" in the subject line, at least add the recipient's name to show that you've made an effort with personalization. 

This small change can make a big difference in getting your email noticed and opened.

Personalize the introductory paragraph

Most people make the mistake of sending a generic pitch that looks exactly like the 5 other pitches the blog receives every day.

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To stand out, start by addressing the person by name. Then, personalize the introductory paragraph by thinking about how you can connect with them. 

If you're great at connecting with people, research them on social media and reference something you can connect over. 

If you're funny, include a pun or a funny meme.

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Tailoring your pitch in this way will increase your chances of getting a response from the blog owner. 

Ultimately, it's all about finding what works for you and not relying on generic templates that you find online.

Guest posting outreach template structure

Most people don't put in the extra effort to make their pitches stand out. 

They simply include their own name, company, and a list of article ideas without any personalization. 

This lack of effort results in low response rates and can cause you to give up on guest posting altogether.

To be effective, your guest post pitch should at least include a template with the following components: first name, your name, your company, where else you publish, and what topics you'd write about. 

For example:

Hello {{prospect.first_name}},

My name is {{inbox.nickname}}, and I’m a writer at {{your website’s name}}. I also regularly publish on {{popular blog in your industry}}.

Anyhow, you’ve probably already figured out that the reason why I’m messaging you is that I have some content ideas that I think would be perfect for your audience. 

{{insert article ideas}} 

Let me know what you think or if there’s anything else I can do for you.

Thanks,

{{inbox.nickname}}

However, if you really want to get high response rates, you need to go above and beyond with your pitch.

For example, in one guest posting campaign that had a 27% response rate, the pitches were personalized with a pun on the recipient's business tagline and included a funny Office meme about guest posting. 

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This extra effort helped the pitches stand out in recipients' inboxes and led to more replies.

So, if you want to be successful at guest posting, don't simply rely on a generic pitch template.

Take the time to personalize your pitches and make them unique. It'll make a world of difference in your response rates. 

Write a High-Quality Guest Post

Write as if it was your own blog

Too often, people will try to take shortcuts when writing guest posts, resulting in low-quality articles that don't do much to improve their search rankings.

Guest posting just for link building is not that effective anymore. Only low quality sites will accept guest posts of low quality content so if you don’t put effort into your guest post, you won’t get the search rankings improvements you’re looking for.

Instead, think of each guest post opportunity as a chance to showcase your best work. Imagine that hundreds of people are evaluating the quality and effort of your submission, and create something that would impress most of them.

It's understandable that time, resources, and budget are limited, and it's not always possible to create amazing content for every guest post. 

However, there are still ways to produce high-quality content that doesn't take a lot of time or effort. 

Automation tools can be a big help in creating the type of content that looks high-effort but is actually relatively easy to produce.

Write with the intention of ranking for the keyword

Many aspiring guest posters make the mistake of pitching topic ideas that have no search traffic.

Content strategy has become more sophisticated in recent years, and webmasters of quality blogs don't want to publish content that doesn't serve a purpose. 

If your guest post doesn't even have the intention of generating any organic search traffic, it will be viewed as low quality by many standards.

To avoid this issue, make sure you research keywords before pitching your guest post idea. That way, you can focus on writing an article that will actually bring traffic to the host site.

If you want to impress any editor, start by trying to understand their website's current blog strategy. 

Look at the types of articles and keywords they're targeting, and see if there are any keywords they haven't written about yet but would be interested in.

Then, check the SERP results for that keyword to see what length of content Google is returning. 

This simple process will help you deliver content that meets the editor's needs and expectations.

To make this process even easier, use a SERP scraping content tool like WriterZen or Surfer SEO

These tools can quickly and easily determine word counts for you, so you can focus on creating great content that meets the editor's needs.

Write with the intention of helping their primary audience

Keep the target audience in mind and write with the intention of helping them. 

Without knowing exactly who you are writing for, it is easy for the article to become unfocused.

Before beginning to write, take some time to research the target website and determine their ideal customer. 

Once you have a good understanding of who you are writing for, you can then decide what stage of the buyer journey your article will be targeting. 

An advanced guide will use different terms than a beginner's guide.

For example, Only Outreach is looking for clients who want to outsource their guest posting efforts and the main keyword of this article is “guest posting best practices” which is a top of funnel search term.

Therefore I need to write for novice guest posters, stay away from using industry terms and make sure to explain the basics.

Create a comprehensive outline before you start writing

Most writers will create an outline but it's usually just a high level overview of each section. 

However, this can lead to fluff content and filler, which is not impressive to guest post editors.

Instead, choose 3 top ranking articles for your target keyword and build a series of H2s and H3s based on what each article has.

Then add 3-4 data rich bullet points under each header.

This will produce an article that is packed line-for-line with information and will be much more impressive to editors.

If you don’t have time to research a huge outline, consider finding a research assistant on upwork.com or onlinejobs.ph to help you.

Use AI tools to help speed up your writing

Using AI tools can help speed up your writing process. 

While some people rely too heavily on these tools and end up with subpar content, if used correctly, they can be a helpful addition to your writing arsenal.

To use AI tools effectively, start by creating a comprehensive outline of what you want to cover in your guest post.

If you have Jasper, open up their document editor, and paste in a small section of your outline at a time. Hit Ctrl-J and let Jasper do its magic.

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Include a lead magnet

A lead magnet is a piece of content (usually an ebook or white paper) that's offered for free in exchange for the reader's contact information. 

By including a lead magnet link with your guest post, you can turn someone else's audience into your own list of potential customers.

It's also perfectly fine for an author to do this in their bio if the content doesn’t lend itself to one.

Send the article ready to publish

I’ve had people guest post on my website and send over an article with no images, links or proper formatting. 

Considering the editor is already doing you a solid by getting you in front of their audience and giving you a link, delivering a messy submission might rub them the wrong way.

It's important to send a high-quality article that is ready to be published. 

This means taking the time to format the article properly, including header tags, bullet point lists, and featured images. 

In addition, be sure to include your meta description, author bio, and headshot. 

Have a Plan for Promotion 

Include other influencers in your guest post

Most people think about writing the article and getting it accepted but they often ignore ways they can leverage this guest post opportunity into more opportunities.

Guest posting takes a lot of effort and you might think getting a backlink alone is worth it - but you’re not taking full advantage.

Try reaching out to notable influencers in your space - just a handful - and let them know about the guest posting opportunity you have and mention you’d like to feature their content in your post.

They will respond because it's free low effort marketing for them - and it's a brand new connection for you.

The editor will be especially interested in publishing this article if you mention that a certain influencer is excited to be a part of this article and may share it across their social media.

Not only have you scored a link and a new relationship with an influencer, but the publishing blog editor is getting exposed to a new audience as well.

That makes you a super connector.

Offer to create a Twitter thread

The blog editor who publishes your guest post will probably share it on their social media channels - especially if you ask nicely and create a featured image and that’s fine.

However, we know the click through rates of Tweets to articles is dying fast as Twitter has evolved to keep people on the platform.

Twitter threads are a great alternative. A Twitter thread is a series of 140 character Tweets that effectively summarize the blog post in an engaging way.

Offer sending a Twitter thread to the blog owner along with your guest post.

There are some great sample templates in this article.

Announce it to your newsletter

Most people will get their guest post published, say thank you and move on to the next one.

A guest post that doesn’t get any traffic doesn’t make anyone happy - Google or the website editor.

Articles perform better in search and are regarded higher by Google if they get traffic and the website editor will be pleased to see you taking efforts to promote it.

If you’ve been building an email list then it's a perfect opportunity to share it with your audience. You’ll drive traffic to your guest post, have another touch point for your audience and strengthen relationships with everyone involved.

Conclusion

Guest posting is a great way to get in front of a new audience and grow your blog or business. 

By following the guest blogging best practices outlined in this article, you can make the most of every guest post opportunity.

If you like the idea of guest posting and think it can be impactful for your business but don’t have the time or experience for it, check out our guest posting service.

Ajay Paghdal
Outreach Labs Founder
🕒 12 mins read
Last updated on
Nov 09, 2022

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Article by
Ajay Paghdal
Outreach Labs Founder
Ajay enjoys tinkering with new link building strategies, building teams and processes around it and in general, has enjoyed being a part of the industry for the past decade.

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