A Marketer’s Guide to Targeting Blogs

Has this situation ever happened to you?

You’ve heard about “the power of good content” over the last few years and you use blogging as a strategy for your business. Your company painstakingly researches and crafts quality posts, addressing things that you’re sure your target market wants to read about. You hit “publish” and then…

… not much happens.

The fact is that in the content world, you need something more than a “build it and they will come” strategy. There are many marketing activities that you can try to bring more visibility to your brand and content, but the one that we’re focusing on here is targeting other blogs with guest posting.

In a crowded online environment, you have to find ways to meet your audience where they’re already spending time, which is why guest posting can be such a valuable strategy. Here’s how it works:

Why try guest blogging?

Guest blogging is when your own content is published on a blog that already has an established audience. This has been proven in many cases to be an effective strategy for building your own following. In fact, Neil Patel argues that it’s the best inbound marketing strategy.

Whether you agree with that bold statement or not, there is plenty of data to back guest blogging as a strategy worth trying. Patel maintains that guest blogging was his best tool for building his QuickSprout audience and those of his other businesses.

In another example, Unbounce grew their business by starting a blog one year prior to having a product to sell. Besides being consistent with putting up good content on their own blog, a big part of their strategy was guest posting on other blogs that had large audiences, such as Moz. This helped to grow their exposure and in turn, they credit their rapid rise in customer base and revenue to their robust content strategy.

Goals of guest blogging

Typically, there are three main goals of guest blogging:

  1. Positioning yourself as an authority and well-known name in the industry
  2. Getting exposure and traffic back to your website
  3. Building backlinks to your website for SEO

Let’s explore those briefly:

Guest blogging can help to boost your credibility on the platform of someone whom people already trust. In the case of Unbounce, the Moz audience already trusted that platform to provide reliable, authoritative content, so they will more readily view guest bloggers as having authority.

Keep in mind that to get published on quality sites, your content will need to be of a high standard. It is just as much about the reputation of the host blog as the writer themselves. When high-quality guest content goes up on their site, everyone wins. The guest blogger boosts their own visibility and authority, the host blog gets fresh content and the audience gets something interesting to discuss.

As a side-effect of exposure on the guest blog, you can draw traffic back to your own website. Gregory Ciotti of Help Scout used guest blogging heavily as a means for exposure. They grew their email list to 36,733 subscribers, a large number of which they attribute to traffic from guest posts. The important thing is that this isn’t just any traffic, it’s targeted traffic. The people who read the post and clicked through are clearly interested in what the writer had to say.

A boost in website traffic can also lead to improvements in your website visibility for search engines, especially if the traffic that you draw back is hanging around to read or take action on your website. The other bonus effect for SEO is that you can build a valuable backlink from a site that has higher authority than your own. Here’s how Moz puts it:

“Through links, engines can not only analyze the popularity of websites and pages based on the number and popularity of pages linking to them, but also metrics like trust, spam, and authority. Trustworthy sites tend to link to other trusted sites, while spammy sites receive very few links from trusted sources.”

Therein lies an important clue to an effective guest blogging strategy – choosing “trusted sources” to post your content. While it’s difficult to determine an exact number, we do know that there are millions of different blogs online, all of varying quality. You could potentially harm your own authority by choosing a lower quality blog.

Building relationships

There is a fourth goal of guest blogging that is certainly worth mentioning, and that’s the opportunity to build relationships. Jeff Goins, a best-selling author and coach for writers speaks of the relationship-building potential of guest posting in the sense of two different aspects:

  • You can build relationships with influential bloggers.

“Bloggers make up a large percentage of conversations happening on the Internet, especially on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. They can be tremendously influential. Which makes them good friends to have.”

Growing relationships with these people can help to boost your own influence on social media, which can result in more traffic to your website.

  • You meet new people in an already-established community. If you consistently add value to the discussion, this can result in growing your own audience.

At Digital Elite, we’ve found that one of the best benefits of blogging has been the opportunity to connect with and meet some amazing people. They have often helped to expand our network, reach, and ultimately, our business.

How to target other blogs

While there are a number of different strategies for leveraging other blogs, one of the most common is guest posting , which is our focus here. You may even be able to repurpose content you’ve already created to use for guest posting.

An important thing to note is that if a blog that you feel would be a good target declines guest posting from you, this isn’t necessarily your last strategy with them. Noah Kagan directly approached bloggers whose readers he thought would enjoy Mint.com and offered them $500 to place a banner ad on their site.

Another important point is that this strategy isn’t for you if you’re not prepared to put time into creating high-quality content:

“One of the reasons why some brands fail at guest blogging is because they don’t understand how to effectively produce the right content.” – Neil Patel.

That being said, let’s look at a few steps necessary for building an effective guest posting strategy:

#1. Have a goal

What are your goals for targeting blogs? We typically suggest that you need strong, quantitative goals so that you have the ability to measure the success of your strategy.

As an example, we usually suggest that companies only post if it will net them at least 100 visitors. If you have goals about getting email signup numbers or other types of conversions, you can create a hypothesis based on your usual conversion rate.

Let’s say your conversion rate is usually around 2%, that would be 2 conversions from those 100 visitors. You can then make calculations of ROI based on the average lifetime value of your customers and the cost of putting together the guest post.

#2. Research your market

There is absolutely no point to guest posting unless you have something that is truly of value to say to your target market. The idea is that you’re not trying to write to everyone – perhaps your post isn’t even for the entire audience of the blog you target. You’re trying to write to a select group of people who have a specific need.

Building your buyer personas can help you with this, along with having a good understanding of the “jobs” they want to get done.

Too many guest posts seem to be of the “me too” variety, including bland listicles that fail to grab attention. What are you going to tell your audience that will be new to them? This is a key point to research.

A popular idea is to talk about a story that is in someway unique to your business, such as a new product launch or a particular individual’s experience (that could be an employee or customer). Another alternative is to use data that is unique to your business and to build a story and unique insight using that data.

#3. Find potential blogs

First of all, you’re going to need some kind of criteria for finding blogs that may be a good fit for your guest post. Briefly, here are some suggestions of what you might look for:

  • Relevance – They have an audience that includes your own target audience.
  • Audience size – You’ll want some kind of criteria for the size of their audience. How will you know? You can use a tool such as Alexa which will pull website traffic statistics for you. Don’t forget to also check out their social media following as this can play a big role. NOTE: Big doesn’t always mean better – a smaller, better targeted audience may yield better results.
  • Tone/branding – You’re looking for something that will be a natural fit with your own tone and branding. For example, Gary Vaynerchuk has a large audience, however his own brand of directness with liberal usage of profanities won’t suit everyone.

Create a spreadsheet including all of the blogs you’ve identified, then prioritise them by relevance for pitching.

#4. Pitch content ideas

Some blogs will have a section explaining what they look for in a guest post and how to pitch them ideas, so start there if you can. A big thing to keep in mind is that the blog owner wants content that will benefit them and engage their audience. How will accepting your pitch be a win/win?

Secondly, make your outreach personal – don’t send any sort of copy/paste message that has been BCC’ed across several blogs. Know who it is you are pitching and address them in a way that is relevant.

Read over their site and note the structure of posts and key messages they like to send. Refer to posts that you’ve read and perhaps even how they helped you. There may be opportunities for you to expand on a common topic or write a follow-up to something they already have that was popular.

Offer the blog multiple story ideas, including bullet-pointed subpoints so that they have the opportunity to suggest what they think is the best option for their audience. Remember to include samples of your published content so that they can check on your ability to produce great content.

#5. Create optimised content

This is another point that many blogs will already have guidelines on – for example, some will allow you to include links back to your own blog within the post, others will not.

Optimised content is about more than just links, it’s about quality and readability. You may have heard of Google’s Matt Cutts coming out a few years ago to say “guest blogging is dead.” What he meant was that the days of low-quality, spammy guest posts that were proliferating for the sake of links are gone. Quality is key.

Optimising your content means:

  • Having something worthwhile to say.
  • Writing it well.
  • Formatting your post for readability (which also makes the blog owner’s life easier).
  • Conducting keyword research and using appropriately in your post.
  • Using links where allowable and appropriate.
  • Including a good author bio for yourself (this may be the only place links back to your site are allowed).

#6. Promote your post

How do you become someone’s favourite guest blogger? Besides your provision of great content, you’ll generate a lot more good will if you take the time and effort to promote the post through your own channels.

There is reciprocity involved and the blog owner will love it if you’re able to send new readers to their site.

Another important note here is to engage with any comments on the post itself and generated through social media. You’re helping the publisher by keeping their audience engaged at the same time as building your own authority in your industry.

#7. Involve your team

Lastly, guest blogging doesn’t have to be a solo effort from a founder or content manager. In fact, it can be a very effective strategy to involve your whole team and create multiple voices around your business.

Salesforce is one of those huge brands that takes guest blogging very seriously. For example, their CEO Marc Benioff guest posts at TechCrunch on the future of cloud computing; their coders guest post at the official Google Code blog; and their MVPs guest post on file management.

Their employees have the freedom to talk about what they are good at and what they enjoy, resulting in plenty of first-hand tutorials and well-established blogger links.

Next steps:

Where can you start to develop your own strategy for targeting blogs? We’ve pulled together and categorised a list of over 100 cyber security blogs that you can access here.

Here are some other related resources, available to our subscribers:

  • Blogger outreach emails (including templates).
  • How to find influential blogs in your niche.
  • How to use Google Analytics to measure the effectiveness of blogger outreach.

Stuart Brameld

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