It’s hard to start a blog from scratch. Technology has made it easier than ever before to start a blog. Suddenly everyone is a media company. As a result, it’s harder than ever to rank on Google.
Why would you want to rank high on google? Two words: traffic and customers.
Given the importance of getting customers to a any business, and given how hard starting a blog from scratch can be, many startups turn to other distribution strategies, such as getting press coverage on the very blogs that you’re competing for attention with.
The challenge with getting press as a startup, small business, or online entrepreneur is that you’re vying for the attention of media outlets that are constantly flooded with similar proposals.
A journalist friend of mine told me she gets anywhere from 25 to 30 emails per day requesting press coverage. She admits she deletes most of them without even reading!
So how do You stand out in the Sea of Sameness?
Enter: guest blogging.
Guest blogging is a great way attract both large and targeted audiences to your business.
I’ve achieved a lot of success getting both traffic, email subscribers, and paying customers from guest blogging. I’ve been published on sites such as The Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, and The Next Web. The Next Web article landed over a hundred leads.
Guest blogging can bring immediate impact by putting you in front of a publication’s existing audience. It can also help you over the long-term by enabling you to build links. Backlinks are a significant contributor to how pages rank on Google.
In addition, you get to craft your own story. You get to say what you want, as opposed to a journalist, who could misconstrue your message. As my journalist friend told me:
“I was sent a request to write about an app that offered negative reinforcement to its user to encourage weight loss. The intention was to have me write something about it being funny or helpful, but when I checked out the app myself, I found that it was a really destructive way to lose weight.”
Despite what you may have heard, not all press is good press. And hiring a PR agency can cost thousands of dollar, while guest blogging is free if you put in the effort.
But guest blogging hasn’t been all the roses of traction and the butterflies of growth from the start for me. When I first pitched an Editor of a popular site, I was I afraid I was going to get rejected and forever be branded a loser. Guest blogging was all so new to me, I couldn’t bear the thought of something going wrong.
To my surprise, the Editor was quite receptive. What I’ve come to realize is the biggest challenge people face when it comes to guest blogging is not their talent, ability to write, their company, or lack of audience, it’s their own fear of rejection that holds them back.
So how do you approach guest blogging? There’s a systematic formula that can get you from cold email to published in front of a large audience of potential customers. Let’s dive into how that all works…
Step 1: Create a Customer Persona
Before you can hit a target you have to know where to aim.
Who wants your product? Where do they live? What do they do for work? What is their financial bracket?
What are the reading? Would this person be more inclined to check out Time or Bloomberg?
Identify or hypothesize a customer persona or two who would love your product. Determine what blogs they read, either using audience intelligence tools, qualitative customer development interviews, or simply searching on Google for your topic(s). Now you know where to aim…
Step 2: Create a Prospect List
For guest blogging to be effective, you need to go what your target market is. Based on your research above, create a list of potential places to guest post. Here’s an example:
Your prospect list can look much like a CRM, a comprehensive list of places you want to write for, with the ability to track your communication with the site (getting published can sometimes require lots of follow ups).
Step 3: Find Your Contacts
Different sites have different specifications for how to pitch them. Here are two common ways you can find out how:
a. Look for a “contact” page or “contribute” page. Look at the top headings or at the bottom footer of the websites.
b. Search the site name + write for us. For example, for http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/. I searched “Social Media Explorer write for us” and found this http://www.socialmediaexplorer.com/how-to-pitch-sme/. You can also try searching “site name + contribute.” For example, “Social Media Explorer contribute”
Take note of their policies on how to pitch, what to pitch, etc.
Step 4: Create Awesome Content
As you might expect any blog worth publishing on is going to want to publish high quality content. And in a world where everyone is a blogger, it’s more important than ever to create content that truly provides value to your audience. This Slideshare presentation outlines some of the strategies and tactics I apply to figure out what my audience wants. You can also listen to episode 18 of my podcast.
Step 5: Pitch
Some people recommend pitching an idea or a title before sending the entire post, but from my experience, I’ve had better reception when I send over a draft of the entire post. I recommend experimenting with this, and of course following the guidelines of each site.
Here’s an example of an email I’ve sent to an editor:
If you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em. Instead of trying to compete with blogs that already have your target audience, guest blogging is a great way to get your business out there by tapping into a pre-existing audience. A lot of startups try to get press, but guest blogging might be the better solution to getting customers.
Don’t get discouraged if you get a response that looks like this:
Because eventually you’ll get a response that looks like this:
If and when you get published, be sure to share it on your social channels and reply to any comments, as this may make the site more inclined to have you publish there again. Once you’ve been published on a few smaller blogs it can be easier to reach out to bigger names. The more bylines you have the more leverage you have to be chosen by a bigger site.
As you might notice, many of the topics discussed above could be their own post. Let me know what questions you or what topics you’d like me to expand on in the comments, and I’ll do my best to cover them in future posts.