How do you build a successful guest blogging strategy?
In a way, how should I know? I was lucky!
Extremely lucky. I sent my very first guest post out of the blue to Neil Patel of Quick Sprout and he accepted it. It was a couple of years ago and I had no prior experience whatsoever.
So yes, I had a really nice start into guest blogging. This early success got me excited about the idea itself and convinced me that anyone can get published on even the very top of their niche’s blogs.
But things could have gone differently.
What if, say, my 5 initial guest posts had all been declined? Could it have discouraged me completely, preventing me from ever making guest blogging an important part of my online presence?
Had I not been lucky initially, I could have been in an entirely different place today. So the lesson here, although it may sound too simple, is the following:
Persist. Fail forward until successful.
This does sound vague, so let me elaborate and share the methods I’m using today when handling my guest posts.
1. Believe in your work
Time and time again I see people sharing their voices of concern (mostly in blog comments), doubting their writing skills and worrying that they are not good enough to land a spot on a popular blog as a guest contributor.
My take is this: if you don’t believe in your work then how do you expect others to believe in it for you?
Think about it this way, when you’re going to a job interview, you’re never sure if you’re going to get the gig or not, but you go there anyway because you believe that you can be successful.
So the first piece of the puzzle of the superior guest blogging technique is being persistent and believing in your work. If you’re going to guest blog and pitch some of the most popular bloggers out there, you need to approach it similarly as you’d approach a job interview. You need to believe in yourself.
2. Don’t do people’s work for them
Following up on the previous point – believing in yourself – you also need not do people’s work for them.
Hear me out. If you’re going to get your guest post pitch rejected, it’s the blogger’s job to reject you, not your job to reject yourself by not sending the pitch in the first place.
Let me say this again. Don’t rule yourself out of the equation, if anything, let the blogger you’re targeting do it.
If you want to send a certain article to a certain site, do it. Don’t question yourself.
3. Follow up like it’s nobody’s business
My own favorite technique is this: Be persistent, mildly annoying, yet polite.
I’d say that the most common point of failure for guest bloggers is not following up on initial communication.
From my own experience, only about 30 percent of my initial communication leads to getting my posts published. The other 70 percent comes from follow-ups. And sometimes multiple attempts are required before I get a yes (or a no).
So be bold, be mildly annoying and keep sending your emails until you get a response.
There’s a nice post by John Genovese over at BloggingWizard.com about outreach. Not exactly in relation to guest blogging, but his methods are nicely applicable nonetheless.
Now, and I’m repeating myself here, what you really need to keep in mind is to be polite. The sole fact that you’re following up and sending all those emails is mildly annoying in itself, so being polite is what enables you to achieve your goal when someone eventually manages to respond. If you’re not polite, they won’t respond, ever.
Besides, what’s the worst that could happen if you keep sending your emails and staying persistent? Could the blogger ignore you any more than they’re already ignoring you? No. You can only benefit if you keep trying to communicate.
Even getting an email back saying “hey, dude, stop messaging me” is a good outcome for you. At least you can cross the person off your blog outreach list and move on to other more receptive people.
4. Keep a fail record
This is a fun thing I keep just to remind me how much I’m failing on a daily basis, yet still am able to get all of my posts published.
Going back to the story I started this post with, I was very lucky with my initial guest blogging attempts. But what I didn’t tell you is that it didn’t last for long. Quite soon after the initial stream of success I started failing, multiple times, actually.
Sometimes even 5-8 pitches in a row landed on deaf ears and so I couldn’t get anything published anywhere. I was quite fed up with this, so I started a fail record just to see how many times I can fail before getting published.
In the record, I continue to jot down every failed attempt at getting on a given site. The record is just a simple mind map (text files work too).
For example, looking at my record right now, I can share with you that getting an article on Killer Startups took me 4 tries. Getting published on Smashing Magazine is still on my list and so far I’ve failed 7 times. I’m ready to fail X more times because I know that eventually I will get there.
At this point, getting declined isn’t a blow at all. I’m used to it, mainly because of my fail record. I treat failing like a competition – trying to find my max number of fails before I get a yes.
5. Don’t throw away your previous articles
When people get discouraged after getting one of their articles declined more than, say, a couple of times, they often decide to scrap the article altogether thinking that it’s not good enough.
But do you remember what I said at the beginning of this post?
Believe in your work and be persistent!
Never scrap your unpublished guest posts. Instead, find another home for them and don’t stop until you get them published.
I had posts in my collection that were declined more than 6 times before finding a home. And not just a home where the blogger was “meh” -about them. I mean home where the blogger was “oh man, this is great!” -about them. The thing is that every blog is different and even if one blogger tells you that your post is not up to par, this doesn’t mean that someone else won’t end up loving it.
Send, don’t scrap!
Have you gotten enough no’s?
So now it’s your turn to take action. Go through your list of guest post ideas and blogs you’d like to land a spot on, and dedicate yourself to not stopping until you get all of those articles out and all of those posts checked off the list.
Also, start your fail record because you will fail a lot along the way.
Let me leave you with the following thought. Getting a no is a required step on your path to success. If you get no no’s then what’s the value of a yes?