29 Dec 2011

A Quick and Dirty Guide to Your First Guest Post

Via ProBlogger:
You can’t really turn anywhere these days and not hear somebody telling you that in order to grow your blog, you need to guest post.
I know you’ve heard that before, but have you actually done it?
Or are you looking for somebody to tell you how to actually go about creating a guest post content strategy, finding the right blogs to guest post for, approaching that blogger and actually writing that post? If so, then you’ve come to the right place.

Develop your guest writing strategy

Your first step is to create a content strategy. There are a couple of decisions you need to make. Listen: guest posting is not easy work. If you have a full schedule and your own blog to keep up with, you now need to find the time to write posts in addition to your regular guest posts.
There are two common approaches:
  1. Slow and methodical: This is very strategic and targets one, maybe two blogs and dishes out guest posts for them at least once a month. This is a really great way to ease into the habit of guest posting. You’ll stay sane with this method, but results will build up more slowly over time.
  2. Fast and furious: The other method is simply to write as many guest blog posts as you possibly can in a short period of time. The way to make this happen is to blast an announcement to your social media sphere announcing that you’d like to write a guest post for anyone who signs up. You’ll be surprised how many takers you’ll get. People are desperate for content. Next, set aside large chunks of time … like every night of the week from 6pm to 10pm, or devote your entire weekend to it. Then write non-stop. This was The World’s Strongest Librarian’s approach when he wrote 42 blog posts in a seven-week period. It’s one that may make you go nuts, so don’t over commit.
Which approach you choose will determine the quantity and quality of your guest posts, so choose wisely.

Brainstorm for fresh, relevant guest posts

It doesn’t matter which approach you chose above, the following brainstorming ideas will help you come up with ideas for your guest posts.
  • Mind mapping: Mind mapping is the concept of starting with a central idea and then branching out from there into subsets. FreeMind is an open source program that will help you do that. It even allows you to add images and hyperlinks so you can track all your ideas.
  • Time machine: Another creative way to brainstorm unique ideas is to pretend you step into a time machine. From there imagine how someone from the 70’s might solve a particular problem. Or look to the future and make a prediction about how particular problems could be solved.
  • Push the envelope: One of the reasons I like to guest post is because it forces me to push my boundaries of thinking. It’s a great way to see how far you can go with an idea. When you think you found an idea’s limits, take it farther.
  • Role play: You can do this either alone or with a partner. Alone, all you need to do is just put yourself into someone else’s shoes, like a child or client, and try to imagine how they would approach a particular problem. If you have a creative partner, ask him or her to play the devil’s advocate and have a conversation about your topic idea. Take note of all the ideas that pop up.
  • Hot potato: This is a great one to use when you are hanging out with a bunch of friends. This brainstorming technique basically involves someone starting an idea … and then passing it on to the next person. Use a timer and some kind of object to pass around so you can keep track of whose turn it is. This technique is great for getting everyone to pitch an idea.

Build a social media presence

If you choose to go the slow and methodical way, then when it comes to guest posting, it’s helpful if you build your reputation with the blogger you hope to write for before you ask to guest post. The best way to do this is to start following him on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ and interact with him. Here are some other things you must do:
  • Comments: Start to leave thoughtful comments where you are asking questions and engaging with the blogger on his site. But don’t ignore everyone else. Answer questions that other readers leave. Busy bloggers love it when someone comes along and starts answering questions that allows him to not to worry about following up on every comment.
  • Join forums: If there is a forum to join, join that. Subscribe to his email newsletter if he provides one, too. Occasionally it’s a great idea to reply to his or her email newsletter. Do it from your inbox so he or she will see your email signature, which should have your blog address on it. Hopefully they’ll take the time to look at it. I’ve had a few bloggers invite me to write guest posts for them after exchanging emails.
  • Email: At some point you should directly email the blogger. It doesn’t have to be about guest blogging. It could be just to ask a legitimate question. For example, you could compliment them on their writing and then ask where they learned how to write. You want to build that relationship.
Of course, some blogs like problogger.net have guest posting guidelines that you can follow and skip the above process, but most don’t. And don’t think of this as a waste of time just to get the guest posting opportunity. This is really about building long-term relationships, so it helps to do it whether they have a policy or not.

Master the components of a guest post

Is a guest post different than a post you’d publish on your own blog? The answer is yes. See, when you are posting on somebody else’s blog, you need to put your best foot forward. Your hope is that the guest post will generate some subscribers to your own blog, so you better be on top of your game.
Here’s what you need to think about:
  • Links: Bloggers like it when you write a post that has links in it, both internal links and external links. When you create a blog post that links to the blogger’s own content, it shows that you’ve done your homework. And he or she appreciates the external links because that builds his credibility with those bloggers.
  • Advanced blog posts: The jury is still out about whether you share your best stuff or not on guest blogs, but my view is that you write a damn good post no matter what. This means give the host blogger something unique to his sight. This won’t work if you’ve decided to write fast and furiously, because advanced blog posts take time.
  • Create a conversation the audience: Your post must answer some question relevant to the host blogger’s audience … not yours.
  • Demonstrate you are an authority: Don’t be afraid to casually mention the reasons why the audience should listen to you. You won’t be bragging if it’s true and part of the conversation.
  • Hook headlines: Although there is a good chance the host blogger may change your headline, give him or her the best one. Yet, give them three to choose from. And remember, a great headline is unique, useful, ultra-specific and urgent. They’re the four Us. Use them!

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