Today’s post is from online marketing expert Beth Hayden (@BethJHayden).
When you create a guest post, you write an article specifically for a site that is not your own. Over the past few years, guest blogging has become a powerful (and free) tool in many authors’ book promotion toolboxes.
Jane features a lot of high-quality guest posts on her site—check out these articles to see some recent examples. Jane’s guest bloggers get exposure to her passionate audience of motivated authors, and Jane gets high-quality content for her website that she doesn’t have to create herself. It’s a win/win situation for all parties involved.
This post discusses the benefits of guest blogging, and how to write top-notch guest posts for sites with a passionate, dedicated audience. We’ll also talk about the controversial side of guest blogging, why some authors shun it as a book promotion tactic, and why you shouldn’t turn your nose up at this powerful technique.
The Advantages of Guest Blogging for Authors
The benefits of guest blogging for building your platform and promoting your books can be enormous. Guest blogging can:
- Enhance your reputation as an authority in your field. If you’re trying to get found online and establish yourself as an expert in your field, guest blogging is a great way to do it. When your prospective audience members see you on popular sites—and posting useful and entertaining content—it’s easy for them to view you as a reliable specialist in your niche.
- Introduce you to targeted, passionate communities. As an author, your main job is to get your message out to the right people—the folks who are most likely to be interested in what you’re saying and ready to buy your book. When you publish a guest post on a popular site, a group of highly engaged community members will read your piece—and that can lead to significant increases in your subscriber numbers and sales.
- Increase your sales numbers more directly, because a purchase is only one click away in a guest post. When you are featured in regular media outlets, a prospective book buyer often has to write down your name, then remember to go online, search for your information, and purchase your book. With a guest post, your book page on Amazon is only one click away—your prospective reader can purchase your book quickly and efficiently.
- Help you stand out with influencers and popular bloggers by giving them something of value. Instead of begging influential bloggers for reviews, consider reaching out to them with guest post ideas. By offering popular bloggers a guest post, you’re giving them something valuable (high-quality content) instead of asking for a favor (asking them to review your book). You’re considerably more likely to get a positive response than if you’re just requesting their attention and time. Guest posting also helps you build long-term relationships with influencers, too—which can be helpful for future promotions!
- Be a great list-building technique. If you need to build your list (and let’s face it—all authors do), guest blogging could be your new best friend. It’s a great tool for attracting new subscribers. Traditional publishers love to see authors who already have an established platform, and one of the major things they look at is the size of your mailing list. If a traditional book deal is what you want, using strategic guest blogging to build your list is a good idea.
- Give your book launch a boost. Although guest blogging can be useful anytime, planning a guest posting campaign—also known as a virtual book tour—can help boost your sales during a book launch.
The Guest Blogging Process
Here are the steps you should take to find guest blogging opportunities and write effective guest posts:
1. Find and research potential targets
Look for popular blogs that take guest posts and have a dedicated, passionate audience.
It’s fine to target a blog outside your exact niche, as long as the blog has an audience similar to yours. For instance, it’s okay to target a personal finance blog if your audience hangs out there—even if you’re not promoting a personal finance book.
As you’re looking for sites to write for, try to estimate how much traffic a particular blog gets. Look at the average number of social shares and comments their posts receive—the higher the numbers, the more popular the site is. Focus on sites that have ten or more comments per article, or a high number of social shares on each post.
That said, remember that size isn’t everything. You’re looking for blogs that have a decent-sized audience, who have built trust with their community members. Use your best judgment and don’t rule out all smaller sites, especially if you’re just getting starting with guest blogging.
Next up, examine the site’s previous guest posts, and make sure guest bloggers are allowed to link to their Amazon book pages (or to their own blogs) in their bylines. If the site doesn’t allow you to include a strong call to action—to buy your book or download a free incentive on your site—you should remove that blog from your list of potential targets.
Remember, you are guest blogging for the link and the exposure, so if you can’t link back to your book or your site, writing a guest post for that site will likely be a waste of your time.
When you find a blog you’d like to write for, look for that blog’s guest post guidelines. If the site regularly features guest posts, they will probably have guidelines for writers in a “Write for This Site” or “Write for Me” section of the blog. These guidelines will often spell out exactly what kinds of posts they accept, where to submit topics or posts, and how to increase your chances of submission success.
2. Come up with a few topic ideas (or sample headlines)
Your next step is to come up with a few post ideas. Think of three to five topics you could write about for each blog on your target list.
Make sure the topics are a good fit for the site, and study the content on the blog carefully before you brainstorm ideas.
In your research, find out what previous posts have been popular on the site. Look for past posts with lots of social shares and comments, and consider pitching posts on similar topics.
Don’t pitch the exact same ideas as previous posts, though—especially if the topic has been covered extensively. Find fresh angles on old topics, or answer questions people asked in the comments section.
3. Make your pitch
Email the blogger or use the blog’s contact form to send your three to five proposed blog post topics. Follow the writer’s guidelines during this step, and make sure to submit your ideas using the method they’ve requested.
Tailor your pitch to that specific blog, and always include your topic suggestions—if you don’t, it’s likely your guest post request will go straight into the trash.
Spend time on your pitches, just as you would if you were writing to a journalist or media outlet. Don’t send mass template emails to hundreds of bloggers—craft each email personally, and add details and ideas that are specific to that blog.
4. Write a top-quality post
When your blog post idea gets accepted, craft a top-quality post. Don’t reuse content from your existing blog, and don’t cut corners. The post should be longform (1000+ words) unless otherwise specified by your host.
At the bottom of your post, write your author byline. The byline should be short (eighty words or less) and include a strong call to action. It’s preferable to link directly to your Amazon book page, as long as it makes sense with your blog post topic.
If you don’t want to send people to Amazon (or your book hasn’t been published yet), include a link to a simple landing page on your site where the reader can sign up for a free incentive and join your mailing list.
5. Answer post comments and help promote the piece
When your post is published, answer comments from readers, and help promote the piece by sharing the link on social media and sending it to your email list.
6. Follow up and keep going
If the post does well and brings in lots of book sales or subscribers, follow up and ask for another guest posting opportunity with that blogger. Develop ongoing relationships with high-traffic blogs and become a regular contributor, if possible.
The Biggest Concern About Guest Blogging
At this point, you might be thinking, “Why should I write for free on these sites? Shouldn’t I spend my time working on my ‘real’ writing, instead of writing all these articles and not getting paid?”
I get it. It’s frustrating.
However, as we’ve already discussed, the potential benefits of doing strategic guest posting on popular sites are huge. When you’re selective about where you post, and smart about how you gather leads from your posts, guest posting can often be more effective than any other book promotion tactic out there—and that includes major media attention!
Bottom line: Guest posting works. I look at it this way: I’m okay writing some pieces for free in exchange for higher search engine rankings, hundreds of subscribers, and tons of book sales. The benefits (as we talked about above) make guest blogging the right decision for me.
You have to decide what works for you, and whether you want to include guest blogging in your book promotion strategy—but for me, it’s a no-brainer. Guest blogging is an excellent way to get more subscribers, build your platform and get more book sales. When done strategically, regular guest posting can be your most powerful book promotion tool. So pick some sites, start brainstorming your post ideas, and get ready to go on an exciting ride.
For more on finding the perfect guest blogging targets, check out How Authors Can Find the Best Places to Publish Guest Posts.
Beth Hayden is an author, speaker and online marketing expert who specializes in working with other authors. Click here to get her free report, How Authors Can Find the Best Places to Publish Guest Posts.