Prediction: by the end of 2010 @lisabarone will have at least one post on every major search/brand marketing blog.
— Tony Verre (@TonyVerre) March 11, 2010
So I’ve been doing a bit of guest blogging lately and I think some people may have started to notice. ;) I’m a really big fan of using guest blogging as a marketing tactic for your business and I think it’s one that is entirely underutilized by bloggers. A good post on the right blog can expose your brand to new communities; bring additional links, traffic and comments your way; build strategic partnerships; get you away your incestuous bubble; and, frankly, introduce you to a whole lot of fun!
But how do you find those worthwhile guest blogging opportunities? Here’s a look at how I hunt out fun guest blogging gigs for both Outspoken Media and our awesome clients.
Get Off Your Stoop
Listen. Your blog may be your home base on the Web, but you need to get off your own damn island to start really driving people to it. The content you produce OFF your site is just as important, if not more, than the content you produce ON your site. If you don’t leave your site, you’re missing an entire world that lives outside of your immediate community. One of the perks of guest blogging is that it forces you to seek out these other islands and to set up shop there, at least for a little while. Yeah, there’s value in blogging for the well known industry blogs already in your niche to build up some authority, but don’t get stuck there. Get off your front stoop.
For example, one reason I was really excited to be part of Duct Tape Marketing’s Make a Referral Week [here’s my post on how to use surprise marketing] was because it put Outspoken Media in front of a whole new audience. Posting on Copyblogger helped put me in front of a more writing-centric community, which I don’t always get to do through my day job. It’s fun to get out there and spread your wings. Don’t be scared.
[Fine. I’m telling you not to be scared but it took me four months to get Brian Clark my Copyblogger post out of pure fear and intimidation. But that won’t happen to you. You’re all way smarter than me.]
Do Your Research
One reason many people stick to the same industry blogs is because they’ve closed themselves off and have no idea what else is out there. The truth is there are lots of ways to do some research and track down bigger opportunities.
Here are some ways I’ve been known to track down relevant blogs. Remember, you’re looking for communities that may be interested in who you are, but also that you think you can bring value to, as well.
- Google Web Searches: Performing some quick Google searches is a really easy way to scout out some relevant blogs that may be open to guest blogging opportunities. Searches like [keyword + blog], [keyword + guest post], [keyword + guest blogger] are super simple but can open your eyes to blogs you may not have known existed. They’ll also help you pick out the blogs that have a history of being friendly to guest posters.
- Technorati: Another great site to perform keyword searches on. I’d also recommend using Technorati’s blog directory to hone in on particular interests and see what blogs are already out there. Once you select a category, not only can you search it, but Technorati will also give you the names of other categories that fall under the same umbrella. This is often really useful in finding elated areas you wouldn’t have thought off. And because blogs are ranked by Technorati’s authority score, you can also get an idea where certain blogs fall in the mix and which are Rising or Falling. You don’t necessarily need to go after the most authoritative blogs, but it gives you a nice overview.
- AllTop: As much as I hate to say it, AllTop is maybe my favorite resource for finding new blogs. I know, it kills me to give Guy Kawasaki props like that, but it’s true. He’s created a great aggregator that tells you ‘what’s happening’ in virtually every subject area you can imagine, from adoption to zoology to whatever falls in between. It’s a great service. And now I need a shower for recommending it. Thanks.
- Twitter: Use sites like Twellow, WeFollow and Listorious to help you identify people who are interested in what you do or areas related to you. Once you know, follow them and check out the blogs that they’re sharing, the ones that they really like or maybe the blogs they write themselves. If you see lots of people tweeting about a certain blog, it’s a good sign it’s a trusted resource for that community and maybe you should get to know it a little better.
- Listen: Often bloggers will hint (meaning to or not) that they’d be open to accepting a guest post. If your favorite blogger mentions they’re about to go on vacation, offer to fill in while they’re away. If you’ve noticed they’ve slowed down posting a bit, offer to help out. Did they tweet about just having a baby, buying a new house or how they’ll be going offline for a bit? This may be a great opportunity for you to hop in. Don’t wait for the personalized invite that may never come.
Really, Really Do Your Research
Knowing that the blog exists is one thing, knowing what that blog and community responds to is an entirely different animal. Before you reach out to the blogger or submit a post, get to know what that blog is really about. Ask yourself:
- Who is the audience?
- What topics are the most well received?
- What is the voice like?
- What content holes could you fill?
- What level is the blog written for?
- What is the overall feel of the community?
- Who is this blog in the blogosphere?
Every community on the Web has its own feel and your post should try to bridge that feel with your own identity. For example, I wouldn’t write a post for Top Rank in same tone that I would write it for Outspoken Media or Techipeda. I understand that the audiences, while perhaps related, are still pretty different and they’ve come to expect different things. The stronger you can target your content, the more value you’re going to give that blogger’s readers and the better received your post will be.
Start Creating The Relationship
Once you know the blogs you’d really like to write for, start creating relationships with the bloggers who write or manage them. Essentially, you need to woo the hell out of them. Follow them on Twitter, engage them in conversation and pass on their content when it deserves it. Leave comments on their blog to add value to the community and help them become comfortable with your name. Maybe drop an email to give kudos on a post or to offer an alternative viewpoint.
For me, it’s really important to create relationships with bloggers before I go in asking for something. There are way too many people on the Web looking to get something for nothing. Show them that you’re different by providing value first, asking for value second.
Write The Post
In a perfect world, A-list bloggers would immediately know how smart you are and ask you to contribute a guest post to their blog. Unfortunately, that doesn’t happen without quite a bit of previous exposure. While you’re waiting for that golden ticket to come, you’re going to have to bite the self promotion bullet and ‘pitch’ the blogger you want a chance with. It may sound like a risky move or a wasted time investment if the blogger decides to pass on it, but if you’re producing something of value there’s really very little chance that someone is going to turn down free content. Bloggers are always strapped for content. Sending them a relevant post that is already written, properly formatted and that includes images is like tempting a pit bull with a steak. I suggest you put it down slowly and then get the hell out of the way. Of course, if the blogger does turn it down, you can always post it on your own blog or offer it to someone else.
Hopefully, everything mentioned above will help you get your foot in the door. Of course, it doesn’t stop there. Once you land that perfect guest blogging gig you’ll have to worry about engaging with the community, responding to comments, and promoting the post to help you steal readers and traffic. If you have some extra time, Glen Allsopp did a fantastic job explaining much of the latter in his own ultimate guest blogging guide. I recommend you give that post a read and then go out and create a list of places you want your brand to appear over the next few months and a plan for how you’re going to make contact. It’s actually not a bad way to spend a weekend. Or you could spend it on the couch. Whatever.