On my Facebook page last week, I asked what small business owners struggle with when it comes to copywriting, and ‘how to write a guest blog’ was one of the topics that came up.
Why write a guest blog?
Guest blogs have a number of benefits for you as the guest blog writer, as well as the host of the blog (and let’s not forget the blog readers too!).
The benefits for you, the guest blogger
To get the most from writing a guest blog, you should always try to write for a blog with a similar target audience or ideal customer to you. If you specialise in wedding planning, for example, it makes sense to team up with a company that sells bridal wear or a venue that hosts wedding receptions. Similarly, if your ideal customers are parents with pre-school children, you could look for guest blogging opportunities through businesses selling baby clothes or baby swimming classes.
Writing a guest blog will expose your business to a new readership and, if written well, will help build your reputation as an expert in your field.
Guest blogging does have some merit in terms of creating high quality backlinks to your website (which is great for SEO) but link-building shouldn’t be your only goal. Instead, I would always recommend that you focus on the reader, on adding value to their experience and giving them content that is relevant.
The benefits to the blog host
For the host of the blog, having you write a guest post will bring new traffic into their website thanks to cross promotion, and let them give their readers new content from a fresh perspective. It also means they can take a break and still keep the blog ticking over.
So, what does every guest blogger need to do to be great? Here are my top ten tips:
1. Do your research
Occasionally, a blog host will ask you to write about a specific topic for your guest post. More likely though, they’ll ask you to pitch an idea (or ideas) to write about. It’s crucial that you do your research.
- Who reads the blog?
- What do they care about?
- What do they want to read about?
- How can your knowledge be used to give a fresh perspective?
- What posts get the most traffic or comments?
- What voice or style does the blogger write in?
Once you understand who you’re writing for, it’s much easier to come up with content that they’ll love.
2. Look for gaps you can fill
When you write a guest blog for another company, the chances are that both businesses share some common ground, i.e. you both provide wedding-related services, but that you each have a unique perspective. If you see a gap within the blog’s niche that could be filled by your individual skills and experience, look for ways to fill it.
3. Be yourself
I say this with some caution. While I think it’s important to maintain your unique voice and style, you also need to be respectful of the culture of the blog for which you’re writing. If you regularly swear or use lots of short, snappy writing in your own blog, you may just need to tone things down a bit if you’re guest blogging for a company that is more reserved in its written style. Of course, if you share the same ideal customers, you’re unlikely to face this issue. Just remember to ask whether there are any unwritten rules of which you should be aware.
4. Set high standards
This should go without saying but I’ll say it just in case! When you’re writing a guest blog, make sure that you do it to the same high standard as you would your own blog. Check your spelling and grammar, and be clear about your focus and key message. Make the writing scannable, meet a need and tell readers what they need to know without over-egging the pudding.
5. Take time with your title
Titles are important for making a great first impression. As I’ve mentioned before, eight out of ten people will read your title, only two out of ten will read the rest of the article. Knowing this, it’s worth spending some time on creating an attention-grabbing title. Remember too that titles are important for SEO – try to ensure that your title incorporates the focus keyword of your blog.
6. Add links with value
It is perfectly acceptable to include links in your blog post that point to articles on your own blog but ONLY if they add value to the content of your guest post. If, for example, you know you’ve written a previous article that explains a concept you’ve mentioned in more detail, then link to it, but don’t scatter links for the sake of self-promotion.
7. Sell yourself…
As part of your agreement to write a guest blog, you should negotiate a byline that attributes the article to you and links to your website. Ideally, a short paragraph at the end of the article is better. In this, just include a biographical sentence or two about your business and credentials with a link to your website and social media pages.
8. …but avoid tacky self promotion
Anecdotes and stories of your personal experience can add value to a guest blog post – after all, people buy people and look for an emotional connection – but adding lots of self-promotional links and references for the sake of it can come across as tacky. Avoid saying things like, “As an industry-leader, we offer…” A guest blog is not the appropriate place to write an advertorial. If you concentrate on adding value and showing that you know your stuff, this will be a much more powerful advert for your business.
9. Be practical
As a rule, most bloggers will accept your guest blog as a Word document but check to make sure. Don’t use fancy formatting – make things as simple for the recipient to use your blog as possible. It is helpful if you are able to provide suitable images that tie in with your article – just make sure that you have the right to use the images commercially on a blog. If you’ve been given a deadline for submitting your blog post, make sure that you stick to it because messing up someone else’s blogging schedule is a bad idea.
10. Promote it
As a guest blogger, you have the potential to get in front of a new audience but this is a two-way street. A company will usually only allow you to feature on their blog if they feel it could drive new traffic to their website too. Show your appreciation of this opportunity by promoting your guest blog through all your usual social media channels and linking to it in your e-newsletter. This is another chance to build your reputation as an expert – pin it on Pinterest, feature it on LinkedIn, post it on Google+, take quotes from it for four or five different Tweets, and use key points from your article as inspiration for your Facebook status. It’s perfectly acceptable to do ‘In case you missed it’ posts to relink to the article later in the month.
Guest blogging can be great fun and open all sorts of doors to new opportunities, so enjoy it! Why not ask the host blogger to write a guest blog for you too or, if they have several sites, ask them if you can contribute a different guest blog to one of their other sites?
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