This may be silly, but I can still remember my very first guest post going live. It was an exciting day and something I will possibly never forget. After all, it started what would later become my online career.
Even though I worked for days to complete that very first post, I didn’t take nearly as much effort to do any sort of preparations on my own site.
I mean, I just wrote the thing, linked to my homepage from the bio box, sent the article, luckily got it approved, and just sat around waiting for the surge of people who would surely quickly follow.
So how much did I gain from that first guest blogging effort, in terms of whatever benefits?
… I have no clue.
And that’s the point.
I wasn’t ready at all to welcome, measure, convert, or do anything else.
Here’s a better approach – the five things to do before you start guest blogging:
1. Ask yourself what you have to offer
I know this might sound a bit vague at first, but it really is a crucially important element in guest blogging.
And it goes like this: for each post, and each site where you want to land that post, ask yourself what can be the specific thing you have to offer to that particular audience.
This question is meant to help you avoid one thing – guest posting somewhere just for the sake of it … just because you have the opportunity to do so.
For instance, even if the site is relatively big, you will still struggle to gain any benefits for yourself from appearing there if the audience isn’t particularly interested in the kinds of things your business can offer.
So before you do anything, find a specific thing that you can offer to that blog’s audience – something that they will benefit from, and something that’s possibly even custom-built for that audience.
2. Prepare that custom offer
For instance, if you have the opportunity to guest post at ProBlogger, think of what you can offer the audience of bloggers. How you can adapt your main product or service, or the content you’re sharing to appeal to them.
To solve this mystery, you can start with a specific problem that the audience is facing in relation to your business and its offerings.
As an example, I’m going to use my brand – NewInternetOrder.com. I’m marketing it as an “online business guide for normal people.” There, I try to focus on advice and tips that make our online business efforts easier to cope with and more time efficient – i.e. getting more done in less time.
One of the possible ways to optimize for a ProBlogger guest post would be to create an offer around a specific package of resources for bloggers who want to get more work done in less time.
I could call it something like, “X Blogging Tools and Resources That I Use to Write My Blog Posts 60% Faster Than Before.”
(Note. I’m not saying that this would be the absolute optimal offer. Just something I would test first.)
The idea here would be to showcase the tools from my personal toolset and then relate the advice back to my main site. The audience should be interested since they’re reading ProBlogger, which is all about various kinds of blogging advice.
The goal? Get people on my email newsletter list.
3. Create a landing page
One thing that I learned soon after my first post went live was that sending people over to my homepage was not the most optimized approach out there.
Even worse, if your homepage is a standard listing of blog posts then very few people will actually pay attention to the sidebar – where your offer might be.
That’s where landing pages come into play.
We’ve had our bit of talk about landing pages in the past, so I’m not going to get into the topic again here (feel free to check the original post), but just to recap, a good landing page has to:
- have a highly visible headline with good copy – this is where the title of your custom offer should be placed,
- feature a simplified design – to focus the visitor’s attention even more,
- showcase some form of a social proof – so the visitors know that other people already enjoy what you’re doing,
- make things personal and, if possible, emotion driven.
When it comes to the technical how-to, you can create landing pages in some WordPress themes. If there are any, the templates for them are available on the default page editing screen. Here’s what it looks like in Genesis, for example:
If your current theme doesn’t let you do anything like this, you might have to hire a professional from oDesk to build a custom page for you.
4. Include a customized welcome message
One of the main things you should take care of when sending people over to your landing page is to let them know that you’re perfectly aware of who they are and why they’re visiting you.
Basically, in your guest post (once it gets published), you will link to your site with a relevant anchor text mentioning your offer, so now it’s time to show whoever will be coming in that you’re really making the offer custom-made for them.
This can be done with a nice and brief welcome message. In it, you can mention the site that the visitor is coming from by name. For instance, “So you’ve read my post on ProBlogger … welcome!”
The technical side of things is simple too. With a plugin like Shortcodes Ultimate, you can easily create something like this:
To achieve this, I only had to use the following shortcode:
5. Give them the next step
This is the most important element of your landing page – letting people know what to do next. In most cases, this is about giving them a call to action to subscribe to your email list and get the thing that you’re advertising.
Brevity and keeping it short is key here.
Things like: “enter your email and click the big button to get it” tend to work well. Of course, adjust to your brand image and the way you talk with your people.
The reason I’m making this an individual point on this list is to emphasize the importance of a good call to action. Calls to action are incredibly crucial, and yet, it’s reported that 70 percent of SMB B2B websites don’t have any sort of call to action on them.
A weak call to action or no call to action at all can jeopardize your whole effort. You really really need one!
So, how to build a great call to action button exactly? One way is to use the Shortcodes Ultimate plugin again. With a simple shortcode, I get this:
If I place it on any landing page, it becomes incredibly visible right away.
As you can see, there are plenty of steps you can take before even sending a finished draft to your target blog. And I know, this does sound like a lot of work, but it just pays off.
Over time, having, say, five highly optimized guest posts pointing to highly optimized pages on your site will give you way better results than having 20 unoptimized posts.
So the next step … start working on the posts themselves, write them, send them, get them approved.