I get quite a few guest post requests each week for my travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com. The majority are generic cut and paste enquiries that I give a quick scan before I press delete, while others are well written proposals that catch my attention. If you want your Guest Post to get serious consideration, read on for my tips;
First, here’s what not to do
Most of the comments in this section are aimed less at the genuine travel blogger and more at the agencies that outsource their link building activities to places such as India and the Philippines. If you are a travel company or PR agency, perhaps you need to check on the practices that are being carried out on your behalf and find a more meaningful way to engage with bloggers.
Most of the enquiries that raise a red flag with me have these characteristics;
- They start with Hello or Hi and don’t address me by name even though my blog is Heatheronhertravels.com and my e-mail address contains my name twice (you’d think this would be a clue)
- They have random g-mail addresses with foreign sounding names
- They are sometimes sent from an e-mail address or have a footer that indicates that a digital marketing agency is involved
- They use standard phrases that indicate a template is being used
- They are thinly disguised attempts to get a free link (I charge for promotional posts on my blog so this won’t work with me)
- They offer me ‘free content’ and only want a ‘couple of links’ in return and ‘best of all they won’t charge me a penny’
- They occasionally mention something complimentary about the last post that I published
Of course if you are a travel blogger or writer you would not be using this kind of generic approach, but how can you give your guest post enquiry the best chance of a favourable response?
How does the guest post fit into your blog’s strategy?
Most bloggers only have a limited amount of time each week to spend on their blog, so you need to consider what you are trying to achieve – perhaps your time would be better spent crafting an engaging article on your own blog? However, there may be good reasons for wanting to submit a guest post such as;
- Your blog is in its early stages – you have some decent content but you want to expand your audience and accelerate your traffic growth. Guest posting is a recognised traffic building strategy.
- You want to establish your credibility or expertise in a particular field
- You offer a service that you want to promote e.g. you offer guided tours in a particular location
- You have a recently launched a product that you want to promote e.g. write a guest post on things to do in Copenhagen to promote your e-book guide to Copenhagen
- You want to give additional value to a sponsor by spreading content more widely around the web
- You have something to say but your own blog is not suitable for this message e.g. your blog is about consumer travel issues but you want to review a hotel that you stayed in
- You are a professional writer without your own blog, so guest posts on other blogs will help promote your writing services or pay back for sponsorship you have received
Who should I approach with an offer of a guest post?
This is where you will need to do a bit of homework to avoid the annoying, generic approach that will at best lead to a polite brush-off or at worst no response at all. Things to consider when deciding who to approach are;
- Does the blog or website accept guest posts?
- Does the blog or website have a target audience that is similar to your own e.g. backpackers or luxury travellers?
- Does the blog or website cover the locations or topics that you could write about?
- Do you already have an online or offline relationship with that blogger?
- What level of traffic, page rank or reputation does the blog have?
Let’s look at these in a bit more detail (sorry, if you thought that you could fire off a few quick emails, you’ll need to do a bit more homework now)
Making a shortlist of target blogs for your guest post
Using my travel blog at Heatheronhertravels.com as an example, here are the steps I would go through before I sent off any guest post requests;
- What’s my blog about? My blog is about travel destinations and inspirational travel experiences. Being Bristol based I travel a lot in Europe, cover quite a few city-break destination but also enjoy family travel with my teenagers and soft adventure travel such as Alpine walking.
- Make a shortlist – So first I would make a shortlist of blogs that I already follow or have a relationship with that cover similar topics and destinations to the ones I cover. Typically these are also bloggers who may have commented on my blog of Facebook page or retweeted my Tweets or that I’ve been following for a while because I enjoy what they write. Once you have listed the blogs that have the same kinds of interests as you, see if you can find other similar blogs by looking at their blog rolls or seeing who is commenting on their site.
- Expand the shortlist – Next I might widen the shortlist by looking at blogs that I don’t know well by looking at Blog directories such as Blog Top Sites or Alltop, scanning Facebook forums such as Global Bloggers Network, Travel Bloggers, hanging out on the relevant groups on TBEX, looking at the Blogsherpa posts on Lonely Planet destination pages.
- Add a few wild cards – If I am prepared to invest even more time in this activity I might try to ‘think outside the box’ and target blogs in other sectors that I overlap with – perhaps there are Mommy blogs that cover teenage travel, or walking blogs that might be interested in my Alpine walking.
Now I may have a list of 30-50 blogs with some notes on each one – and it’s time to decide which ones I’ll target first so I look at;
- Do they accept guest posts? While I have been gathering my shortlist and checking out their sites I will have been checking whether they accept guest posts. Are there already guest posts or sponsored posts being published on the site? These will be disclosed at the beginning or end of the article and may have a tag of guest post. I will check through the navigation for any pages that give information on whether the website accepts guest posts or guidelines for the type of guest posts they accept. If the blogger has a policy of not accepting guest posts they will normally say so, in which case I would discount approaching these blogs unless you personally know the blogger. Based on my information gathering I’ll categorise my list of potential blogs by high, medium and low likelihood of accepting my guest post (I can feel a spreadsheet coming on) You can read my Guest Post Guidelines here
- Traffic and size of audience – Next I review all the high and medium likelihood blogs to see which have the biggest audience (this feels a bit like stalking). On my spreadsheet I add in their Twitter followers, their Facebook page likes, their traffic numbers. You may find the traffic publicly available if you delve into their advertising or media pages. Alternatively you can use a source like blog catalogues (look for the badges in their sidebar or footer) or Alexa ranking to estimate this. Even if you don’t get an absolute number you will get an order of magnitude, perhaps by comparing your own blog to theirs in Alexa.
- Search Engine ranking – Next I review all the high and medium likelihood blogs for their search engine standing. A quick check is to get the public page rank through this Google PR checker or if I was being a bit more sophisticated I would use a free tool like the SEO Moz Open Site Explorer or one of the Firefox SEO Add-ons or SEO MOZ toolbar to check the number of incoming links the site has (the more the better). I might also look at how long the blog has been in existence (check the archives), estimate how many articles they have and check that the blog is being actively updated.
By the time that you’ve gone through this process, you may have refined your list of 50 to perhaps 10-15 blogs that are likely to accept your guest post and which are likely to help you reach the widest possible audience.
Craft your Pitch
Next it’s time to craft your pitch to your refined shortlist – here’s what I would do;
- Do I already know this blogger? Have I commented on their blog or facebook page in the past, have I met them at a conference? If so you are off to a good start, if not maybe you should take the next few weeks posting the odd comment, following their twitter feed, and generally cultivating an online relationship with them, although not to the extent that you apprear like a stalker. Perhaps you might engage them with a question on their Facebook page an a matter of mutual interest.
- Follow their posts – At the same time I might subscribe to the blog by RSS or e-mail to get a feel for the kind of articles that are being posted, dig around their archives, see where they have been travelling recently, establish some areas of mutual interest – perhaps they have mentioned that they’d love to visit a place I have been.
- What style of article does the blogger favour? Are their articles all personal narratives about travel destinations, or do they favour ‘how to’ articles on a particular style of travel.
By the time you’ve done all this, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what guest article to propose to this blog
Send your pitch
Next I would send an e-mail to the blogger that covers the following ground;
- Address them by name (at least half the approaches I get don’t do this)
- Establish your connection with them e.g. have you met them in person, do you have mutual blogging friends, are you a longstanding follower
- Indicate that you understand whether or not they accept guest posts
- Give some suggestions for the type of guest post you’d like to submit with enough detail to make the idea sound interesting
- Suggest why this article would be of interest to them but also indicate your flexibility on topics
- If they have published guidelines, show that you have read them, or indicate that you will fit in with any guidelines they send you.
- Indicate timescales
- Indicate in a subtle way what you are hoping to get out of this
- Ensure that you include your Blog address, Twitter & facebook feeds in your e-mail or footer
- Thanks them for their consideration
Here’s an example;
You may remember that we met last year at TBEX after I attended your talk on how the improve your travel writing.
I see that you sometimes publish guest posts on your blog at BestBarcelonaTips.com and I’d love to submit a guest post idea that might suit your blog. I was in Barcelona this spring and loved the whole Tapas culture and I wonder if you’d be interested in publishing a guest article on that topic. Alternatively if that doesn’t work for you I could cover some of the cultural activities we enjoyed or the things we discovered in the Eixample neighbourhood where we stayed.
I took a look at your Guest Post Guidelines page and am happy to tailor my article to your requirements, I also have plenty of great photos from my trip that you can use. Hopefully you’d be happy for me to include a bio at the end of the article with a link to my blog and social media pages as I’m trying to build up my audience.
If you are happy with any of the suggestions above I could get an article to you within the next couple of weeks, or in good time for any publication dates that you can give me. Thanks so much for considering me for a guest post at BestBarcelonaTips.com
If you have done your homework, you are likely to have improved your chances of a positive response, so I’d start by e-mailing the top 3 on your list, wait until you get a response and then follow up with 3 more. You need to ensure that you don’t commit to writing more guest articles than you have time to deliver, so this may be an activity that you need to spread over a number of months.
Writing your guest post
Hopefully you already know what will make a decent guest article so all I’d say is;
- Your article should be the best you can produce and a great example of what readers might expect from your blog – not a quick and thin article just to get a link back
- A choice of great photos will bring your article to life and save the host blogger time and hassle sourcing suitably licenced photos
- Ensure that the article meets the host blogger’s guidelines, preferred style and format
Maximise your Bio
- Make sure that you maximise your bio information. If possible include links to your name (linked to your Google+ page to establish your authorship) Website, Twitter and Facebook Page. If you feel that this will be acceptable to the host blogger, I would also try to include a link to a relevant page on your blog that is appropriate to the subject of the article. You may also submit a square headshot photo to be used alongside your bio. For more information on how and why you should link your name to your Google+ page to establish authorship, read this article and claim authorship in Google
Here’s the kind of bio that I would submit;
This Guest post about Gothenburg was provided by Heather Cowper who covers inspirational travel destinations on her blog at Heatheronhertravels.com. You can also connect with Heather on Twitter @HeatherCowper and on her Heatheronhertravels Facebook Page. For more information on everything Heather enjoyed on her trip to Gothenbug, check out her Gothenburg Podcast
Bio to promote something specific
This Guest Post was provided provided by Heather Cowper who shares her tips and advice on how to build a better travel blog at MyBloggingJourney.com. You can also connect with Heather on Twitter @HeatherCowper and on her Heatheronhertravels Facebook Page. You may also like to check out Heather’s free report on How to use Images Effectively on your Blog
The Social Media Follow-up
Sorry, but your hard work doesn’t end once the Guest Post has been published. In order to get maximum benefit out of your Guest Post, you’ll want to plug it as much as you dare through your social media channels, such as Twitter, Facebook, Stumbleupon, Google + and hope that some others will notice (including the host blog) and will do the same.
My Last word
Of course I’ve given you the heavy duty version of how you can maximise your chances of getting your guest post published and how to target your guest post so that it gets best results for the work you put in. I wouldn’t go to this level of effort unless I had something serious to promote and this was a part of a structured marketing campaign. However, now you understand the steps to go through you can perhaps implement some of this process in your efforts to promote your work.
Here’s to your Guest Posting success!