Building a community around your startup from scratch can feel frustrating at times. Imagine fishing in a pool you’ve just dug with your bare hands. You won’t catch anything if there’s no fish in your pool. Idly waiting for your efforts to pay off can take months if not years.
Yet, why waste the precious time when you can cast your net into a more plentiful lake for starters? Rather than waiting for your audience to grow organically, you can put yourself on the radar through guest posting on reputable blogs.
This strategy worked out pretty well for us at Chanty. Having our articles featured on some of the top-tier blogs, such as Foundr, Search Engine Journal, and Entrepreneur, helped us grow our monthly traffic from 0 to 5-digit numbers in just a year.
Of course, the success was hard won. To help you navigate the pitfalls, we’d like to share the lessons we’ve learned on our guest posting journey. Namely, here’s our 7-step guide for getting featured on the top-tier resources.
From Zero to Hero in 7 Steps: Guest Posting Strategy That Can Get You Featured on Top-Tier Blogs
1. Establish credibility
First of all, you need to start somewhere. A no-name company cannot reach out to the major resources like Forbes or Entrepreneur and hope to get published. If you do so, the chances are you will fail. At least, we did.
Instead, start your own blog and create a portfolio you can refer to in your pitches. This will help you build credibility as a brand and polish your writing skills.
If you don’t know what you should write about, start with sharing your own experience. There are many startups, just like you, who will be glad to learn about your journey. Plus, the insights you share can be of huge interest to your fellow community members and help your blog get noticed.
Some noteworthy examples are the Basecamp blog hosted on Medium, Signal v. Noise, and my personal favorite — Groove’s “From ‘Aha’ to ‘Oh, shit’” startup journey.
2. Find potential guest blogging opportunities
Once you are ready to move forward, you need to find the resources that accept guest posting submissions. Of course, you would want to choose the blogs relevant to your market and audience or at least the ones that cover the topics you have expertise in.
To get the ball rolling, try these simple steps.
* Simply google ‘guest blogging opportunities + your industry/specific keyword’. The chances are, you’ll come across an article or two with a list of blogs and resources that accept content submissions.
* Try ‘inurl:write-for-us + industry/keyword’ or ‘inurl:become-a-contributor + industry/keyword’ queries. This will guide you directly to the pages with the writers’ guidelines or submission forms on the websites that welcome guest posts.
The more potential resources for guest posting you find, the better.
You can even reach out to some blogs that don’t usually accept guest posts if you are sure that you have unique content they would want to share with their audience.
3. Evaluate the quality of opportunities and prioritize them
Of course, pitching your articles to massive blogs with 6-digit monthly traffic can be tempting. Yet, be realistic: what are your chances to actually get published on such a platform? That’s why it’s better to start with less popular blogs first.
Out of all the resources you’ve found, choose the ones that will work best, based on a number of factors. First off, check the website’s traffic and domain rating. There are multiple tools that can help you with this task — Alexa, Small SEO Tools, Similar Web, etc.
Taking into account your own domain authority, you can choose the resources with slightly higher rank. For example, our rating was just around 10 points at that time, so we focused on blogs that have around 20-40 and 10K+ monthly traffic.
Leave the blogs with better metrics for later — you will get to them eventually.
4. Pitch, pitch, pitch
Crafting a winning pitch isn’t a rocket science. Yet, as sad as it sounds, most emails will end up in the editor’s trash bin, unnoticed and unappreciated.
Here’s how to write a pitch that gets editor’s attention:
* Always introduce yourself. Explain who you are and why you decided to reach out in the first place.
* Make your email look trustworthy: it should be tied to your corporate domain address, and have a branded signature. Make sure you have a full name and a photo next to your email. If you have already interacted with the editor on social media, use the same photo in your email — seeing a familiar face in the inbox can ring a bell and win you another point at getting editor’s attention.
* Based on the blog specifics, offer several article topics for consideration. All topic suggestions should be insightful and relevant to the website’s audience. Look through the latest articles on the website to avoid duplicates.
* Provide clickable links to your writing examples. Here’s why you needed to build a portfolio first.
Here’s an example of how not to pitch:
To put it in perspective, let’s take a look at another pitch we received:
All in all, it seems OK. It does look trustworthy, it has some nice topic suggestions and even links to the published articles.
However, there is a small “but”: it sounds somewhat generic. The same email could be sent to a dozen or two of other blogs. Here’s another lesson to learn: never send generic emails! Personalize every email you send to the editor, based on the information about the resource or the editors themselves.
One more thing: if you don’t get an answer to your pitch, don’t give up. This doesn’t always mean the pitch was bad. Your email might simply get buried in the editor’s inbox. Follow up!
5. Craft quality content
According to the research by Influence & Co., there are several things editors are typically looking for in contributed content:
* Unique advice
* Unbiased, non-salesy pieces
* Well-written and edited articles
* Original content
Using these hints you can craft outstanding content every editor would be happy to feature.
First of all, put the quality of your content above its quantity. With mediocre content, you can only target mediocre platforms. Go for informative, hands-on pieces and well-founded original research.
Write with the platform guidelines in mind. Some of them are pretty basic — no promotional pieces, clear article structure, include images, etc. Others can have more specific requirements: for example, including several links to their own articles or avoiding certain words.
Above all, write excellent copy. Create your own voice and stick to it. This will help you make a good impression and build a recognizable brand. Spice up your content with some humor where appropriate. But, of course, your content should be consistent with the style and tone of the other articles on the website.
It goes without saying that your content should be free of any mistakes or typos. Use tools like Grammarly to find and fix all mistakes in the text. Or have a professional proofread your articles before you hit “send”.
6. Collaborate your way to the publication
It’s too early to rest on the laurels once you submit your article. No matter how great your piece seems, be ready to rewrite it (sometimes even more than once).
Only the editor knows what content they need, therefore you should collaborate to make the article perfect. And it’s totally fine! One of the guest contributors who wrote for our blog had to fix the article eight times before we could accept it.
To avoid rewriting the whole article, you can share the article’s outline and get editor’s approval before you spend days putting your ideas into words.
Once your article is published, promote the hell out of it!
7. Climb those stairs!
When you’ve hit your goal with lower-ranking websites, it’s time to level up and target more popular resources.
Once you’ve come all the way to the top-tier blogs, you should also change your strategy. What works with other editors, might not be as effective with the busy editors who get hundreds of pitches on a daily basis.
In this case, try to establish a relationship with the editor first. Follow them on Twitter, connect on LinkedIn. But make sure you don’t look like a stalker! Don’t comment or reblog every post they share — only the ones you genuinely like or find relevant.
Following the editors on social media can also help you get to know them better. Thus, you can choose a good news hook when you reach out and personalize your pitch to increase its chances of success.
Here’s a pitch we sent to the Entrepreneur editor as our second attempt to get published after we were rejected.
It’s worth mentioning, however, that it still took 3 follow-ups and 3 weeks to get a reply, luckily a positive one this time!
As easy as it seems, guest blogging is an extremely time-consuming task. It usually takes several weeks to get your article published on a mid-level blog, not to mention the top-tier resources.
Although it makes little sense to see guest posting as a shortcut for building backlinks or getting extra traffic to your website, your efforts will pay off in the long run. In fact, our traffic has been growing steadily since we focused on guest posting and hit 5-digit numbers in less than a year.
On top of that, we have established a certain credibility as a brand, which definitely helps a lot if you are building a SaaS startup. It goes without saying that we couldn’t be more happy with the results! And we cannot wait to see where it will get us.
Have you ever tried guest posting? Did it work out? Share your story in the comments below.