[Editor’s Note: In this article, Thomas shares some very useful guest blogging tips. And his story demonstrates the power and importance of persistent follow-up. Nice work, Thomas!]

If you’ve read into search engine optimization (SEO) at all within the last two years then you have probably heard about guest posting or guest blogging in order to obtain links. Links pointing back to your site not only drive direct traffic from the hosting site, but Google (and other search engines) see these links as a signal that your site has content worth seeing and your pages are more likely to rank higher in the search engine result pages (SERP).

While guest blogging helps to increase your site’s traffic as well as search rankings, it also helps to promote yourself and your company’s brand to new potential clients that you might not have reached otherwise. Bellow I’ll detail how I went about getting a guest post here on Main Street ROI and my process for guest posting in general.

Finding Sites to Post On

The first two steps in guest posting is 1) finding sites that have shown that they’re open to outside contributions and, 2) making sure that they’ll allow outbound links within the article or author bio (where most “self-serving” links are found).

To find Main Street ROI, I ran the search query in Google – inurl:”guest post requirements” – which searches within a sites URL (not within the content) for the exact match of “guest post requirements.” I got lucky that Main Street ROI is in the online marketing niche, but if you want to take the luck out of it you could do a search like – inurl:”guest post requirements” + “online marketing” – which would help to focus in on a specific online marketing niche. There are a lot of search modifiers like inurl: – intitle: – or intext: that helps to find the keywords you’re searching for in different places on a site. For an expansive list of search modifiers and how to best use them, check out this great resource for guest posting opportunities.

Once you find a target site that you want to post on, it’s important to give it a “smell test.” Just like you sniff food you suspect went bad, the smell test is an important step in figuring out if the site you’re trying to post on is affiliated with spam or black hat SEO techniques. Being associated with these kinds of practices is never good since Google is cracking down on spam and you could see your rankings plummet if you engage in risky behavior.

Smell Test Basics

These are the basic steps in doing a quick smell test before you start outreaching to a site. Taking the time to discern the good from the bad can save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

  • Read the Content: I always take time to scroll through the blog posts to see what kind of articles are being posted (this will also help me when I start writing) and to read a few of the articles. I check for proper grammar and natural language. If the content sounds like a hodgepodge of synonyms and poorly matched phrases it could be the product of spun content. Google’s web crawlers can tell this and you’re better off staying away from a site that features spun and/or duplicate content.
  • Check Outbound Links: I always check other posts, especially guest posts, on the site and see where they’re linking to. If they’re linking to sites that are relevant and of high quality then I can be confident that the site is serious. But if they’re linking to low quality sites that deal in the three Ps (porn, pills, and poker) then you may want to stay away.
  • Recent Posts: Sadly, there are many sites that have been left to their own devices and are no longer updated. They might be very relevant with great content and a solid linking history, but if they haven’t posted a new entry in the last six months (I’m pretty generous when it comes to time, three months might be a better rule of thumb) I won’t waste my time trying to outreach to a dead site.

Making Initial Contact

If the site passes your smell test then it is time to move on to contacting the blog owner. Every site is different, but if they have a guest posting or write for us page try to follow the guidelines as close as possible. In this case, I followed the application process. I was confident that my application and writing samples would be up to snuff which was why I was a bit put off when I didn’t hear back after about a month. Rather than resubmitting the application, I followed up using the contact page and explained that I hadn’t heard back after my application, and that I was eager be featured on Main Street ROI.

Not long after my follow up, I heard back from Pete who thanked me for my application and for following up. Since then I’ve had to follow up some more to keep the ball rolling, and had an article rejected (this is my second attempt). All in all, I started my initial application for a guest post here on February 5th (it is now April 22nd as I write this) which goes to show that guest posting for quality links can be a time intensive ordeal.

More Outreach Tips

Because it can take so long, many link builders like to use stock emails so they can submit posts quickly and efficiently, and many do not follow up if they don’t hear back. I urge you to go against this trend. Make each email original and write like a human being; stock emails come across as impersonal and can sound like a bad infomercial rather than a genuine attempt at communication. If you don’t hear back, follow up! I follow up at least three times before I call it quits, and even then I’m trying to get the editors’ attention in other ways by making good blog comments, tweeting their articles, circling them on Google Plus, and other means. Any way you can get your name popping up on the editor’s computer screen increases the chance that they’ll get back to your emails and guest post submissions. Even if the answer is no, getting a response is always better than never hearing back.

Writing the Article

While the article content is the most important aspects of getting a guest post, I’m not going to go on and on about how to write good content. Rather, here are a few tips to make sure you’re staying on track with a guest post.

  • Write What You Know: I was recently reminded of this in my correspondence with Pete. The first article I submitted was on local SEO and utilizing Google Plus and it was rejected. While I know the basics behind both local SEO and Google Plus, I am not an expert on combining the two and this came across in the article. Pete let me down nicely, and gave me another shot at a subject I am much more comfortable with – guest blogging for back links. Writing about what you know ensures that your content will be strong and more likely to be accepted.
  • Offer Something New: Do not offer up a topic to an editor that has already been covered on their site. Take the time to look through their recent entries, and even do a search on their site before coming up with an article pitch. If I’m pitching my idea to an editor rather than writing the article first, I’ll offer two or three unique ideas that are relevant to both of us and give them an option to choose from.
  • Format Correctly: Every editor has their own guidelines on how you submit an article to them, but I always try to keep the article formatted as I imagine the finished product should look. For blog posts, this means breaking up the article into smaller paragraphs as often as you can and utilizing subheadings and bullet points to make the articles easy to scan by readers.
  • Don’t Write a Sales Pitch: Typically, you do not want to focus your guest posts on your own products or services. This is nothing better than an advertisement and more often than not you’ll be rejected, or asked to pay in order to have the post go live. To avoid this, do not promote yourself and follow the guidelines for linking. If you have a concern about linking, just ask. It’s better to be upfront rather than trying to sneak something by an editor.
  • Write Well: If you can’t write well, and you know it, don’t waste your time and the editors by trying. This may sound harsh, but the content simply needs to be strong. There are many a freelance writer willing and able to write strong content for you if you do not have the time or means to do so.

Believe what you will, but guest posting does work. I’ve seeing rankings for competitive keywords jump to page one after only a handful of high quality guest posts were published. Guest posting in the online marketing niche has also helped to build my name as a professional link builder which makes it easier to get posts on high quality sites such as this one. It may be time and energy intensive, but so is everything worth doing.

About The Author

Thomas McMahon is a writer and link builder for Page One Power, a link building company based out of Boise, Idaho.