Many online creators turn to guest posting as a strategy for driving traffic and growing an audience. But is it a strategy that is worth investing time in as an independent publisher or solo creator?
It takes a lot of time and research to succeed with guest posting, so it’s important to ask these questions upfront.
In this resource we’re going to take a deeper look at what guest posting is, how to decide if it’s the correct strategy for you, and share some tips for how to research and pitch a guest article.
Guest posting explained
Guest posting is when a guest author creates original content for someone else’s publication.
There are multiple reasons why you might want to use guest posting as part of your marketing strategy. As the guest writer, you’re probably looking for a boost in SEO from a backlink to your own website, traffic from referred clicks, and brand awareness with the audience you are writing a guest article for.
It’s important to remember, though, that this is a mutually beneficial activity. You create something of high value for their audience → In return, you leverage their audience.
When executed correctly, guest posting can work well, but it’s not for everyone.
When is writing a guest post a good idea?
- When you can identify good audience alignment with the publisher
- You have something genuinely useful to offer their audience, so your incentives are fair and balanced
- Their audience is big enough for you to reap some rewards.
When is writing a guest post a bad idea?
- You’re expecting it to be a silver bullet for growth (it rarely is)
- You can’t find relevant publications to write for that are attainable
- You’re already stretched too thin or have too few resources to dedicate time to it — focusing on your own content should always the priority.
Who should I write guest posts for?
It’s important to search for guest post opportunities that are going to be a valuable use of your time. It’s also a good idea to take a look at your progress and understand what goals are attainable.
Generally speaking you need to be thinking about relevancy and size of audience.
Pitching a guest post
Guest posting is not a new or unique strategy, so you need to ensure you do it right to stand out. This requires research and preparation before you even send your first pitch.
Preparing for your pitch
In an ideal world, there are a few key things you need before you pitch a guest article:
- Demonstrated proof that you’re an expert in a specific topic or niche. Publishers should be able to easily find your work and social profiles and get an understanding of what you’re about.
- A well-researched article idea that is valuable and unique for their audience — it’s very important to put yourself in their audience’s shoes at this point.
- Have a personal introduction to the publisher, or have already built up some form of connection with them.
This might sound like a lot of preparation to float an idea by someone, but especially when pitching to publications that have larger audiences or higher domain authority than yourself, it’s important to put in a bit of work upfront.
Spend some time researching and building the foundations to begin with. A few ways you can do this include:
- Following the publisher on Twitter and engaging with their content occasionally.
- Mention or feature them in a piece on your website — this is always a nice way to introduce yourself.
- Join their community if they have one and be an active participant.
- Try reaching out to the contact you have for something other than to pitch a guest post. Make a genuine connection.
- Study their content closely to figure out what gaps there are that you could potentially fill.
Writing your pitch
At Ghost, we get a lot of guest post pitches in our inboxes and all of them are very generic. You can tell they were sent to a big list of email and no significant research has gone into pitching an article our audience would benefit from. This comes across as people simply looking for a backlink.
If you’ve done the correct preparation, you should be able to take an individual and personalized approach to your pitch instead. Yes, this takes more time, but it also increases the chances of success.
Here’s a few things to consider including in your pitch:
- Compliment their work, and link to articles or topics that you enjoyed. Be specific and add a personal touch!
- Introduce yourself briefly and informally, don’t make the message too much about you.
- Identify the content gap and explain how you’d like to fill that gap with a short elevator pitch for your guest article.
- Link to a piece you’ve written about a similar topic that you’re especially proud of.
- Optionally, you can also share a document with a more detailed pitch to show.
- Set a realistic expectation of what you’re going to do next if they are interested in working with you, with a clear timeline.
Here’s a pitch email example:
Subject: Article about newsletter landing pages on Publisher Weekly? Hey Kym, I’m a Publisher Weekly subscriber and I really enjoyed your recent [article] about email deliverability. Super insightful! I noticed you don’t have any articles about landing page best practices yet, and was wondering if you accept guest content on your site? I’d love to contribute an article about newsletter landing page techniques, to help publishers grow their audience. I’ve written many articles and a book about this topic before, you can check out one of my articles [here]. Let me know if this sounds good, I can put a first draft together as soon as next week!
Keep your pitch as clear and concise as possible, and make it very clear what value you intend to bring.
Remember, if you’re sending cold email to someone, the chances of getting a response at all are slim. It’s acceptable to send a follow up, but don’t overdo this. This is why the best people to start with are people you already know.
Some larger publications have dedicated guest posting guidelines and submission forms, so make sure you check for this before sending your pitch.
Creating guest content
Once you have an accepted pitch you can get to work. Most publishers prefer original guest content, but that doesn’t mean you can’t repurpose content that you’ve already created on this topic.
- Repurpose existing content you’ve created into something unique. Tailor it for their audience as much as you can.
- Ask if they have any content guidelines that you can review. If not, use their existing content as a guideline. The editors will be grateful.
- Expect to receive feedback and comments from their editor and have to implement tweaks to your work.
- Provide an author bio and photo for author attribution.
- Include a link to your content — but don’t go crazy, one link is fine.
- Share your draft in a format that is easy to collaborate on, such as Notion or Google Docs.
- Include all assets and dynamic content in your draft.
- Send an article you’ve already published elsewhere unless the publisher has specifically agreed to syndicate your content and implement a canonical.
- Include heavy sales pitches for your publication, product or newsletter. Some publishers might be OK with one mention, but it’s best to talk to them about this beforehand.
You should now have a good idea of whether guest posting is for you, and how to get started. Before you leave, here’s a recap of three top tips before you put your guest posting strategy into action:
- Know the audience. Identify opportunities where the audience has relevance and overlap, and find out what their audience needs.
- Make your pitch personal. All publishers want to protect their audiences
- Start with publishers you know. It’s much more effective than sending cold email.