Blogging has been the foundation of our strategy for some time, but it turns out that our own blog was only the beginning…
We’d never seen numbers like this before.
Watching real-time analytics, it quickly became obvious that April 22nd would easily become one of our biggest traffic days ever.
Within an hour of the post being published, we had 1,000 new unique visitors. That soon turned into 5,000, and then 10,000, and before long, 20,000.
What happened that day?
We published a blog post.
Not on our own blog, but on Buffer’s. And it was doing really well.
Today, that post has been shared online more than 10,000 times, and has cemented guest blogging as a cornerstone of our growth strategy.
The value of guest blogging
For a company that provides help desk software to small businesses—and whose content majors on topics like improving customer service skills or defining good customer support—the value of guest blogging might appear mysterious.
The impact has been tremendous.
These numbers don’t necessarily reflect the overall influence of any of these blogs. A lot of factors go into the success of each post—from the effectiveness of the headline to the relative usefulness of the content to each specific audience, or even what day of the week the post is published.
In any case, guest posting has exposed us to huge new audiences quickly and efficiently.
We have just over 10,000 subscribers to the Groove blog.
In sum, our partners have more than 1 million subscribers.
And reaching those subscribers costs no more than the resources it takes to write a great blog post.
Takeaway: There’s no faster or cheaper way to reach massive audiences than guest blogging. By leveraging existing audiences in a way that delivers value, you create opportunities for exponential growth.
How we come up with guest content ideas
We don’t think about guest content the same way we think about our own posts.
To write guest post pitches that not only get accepted but that turn into great blog posts, you need to think about the publisher’s audience—their own unique interests, goals, and challenges.
To do that, it’s helpful to ask a few questions…
1. Who’s Reading the Blog, and What Do They Care About?
Shopify’s readers tend to be Ecommerce business owners, while Buffer’s audience wants to know how to make the most of their social media and content marketing. KISSmetrics attracts analytics buffs, and OnStartups is, no surprise here, focused on startups.
Good guest posts have nothing to do with the writer, and everything to do with the audience.
2. What Audience Challenge Has the Blog Not Tackled Yet, and Can You Solve It?
If you know the audience’s challenges, it’ll be easier to determine what remains unsolved.
For example, we knew that Buffer’s audience wanted to succeed at content marketing and that Buffer had put out a ton of amazing content around it. But one approach that hadn’t been addressed was how to “set the scene” in blog post intros. It was a topic that we care very deeply about, and that we’re well-qualified to write about, so that’s what we pitched.
3) What Kind of Content Does Well on This Blog?
This isn’t data science; it’s easy to take a cursory look at comment and share counts and get a general feel for the types of content that perform best on a given blog. For a number of blogs, it’ll be “Top 10” lists and slideshows. For others, it’ll be story-driven content, while some find their success in image-heavy posts.
Again, doing just a little bit of research can help inform your pitch and set you up to write the best post possible.
Coming up with great content is the most challenging part of this process, but putting in the hard work of doing research first, and then developing the best post you possibly can, makes the next step — the pitch — a lot easier.
Takeaway: Your potential partner’s blog isn’t the same as your blog, and you should approach it differently. Think about their audience’s unique problems, and solve them in a way that you already know will work.
Pitching Guest Posts
For some posts, we’ve written the entire post and then pitched it.
For others, we’ve floated the concept by the publisher before writing.
But in any case, one thing that has remained constant has been our pitch.
Here’s the script we used (taking our Buffer post as an example).
A few important things to note:
1. Warm Introduction
This is probably the single most important part of this process.
We’ve never pitched a guest blog cold.
We’ve always found a way to make sure that the recipient of the email knows who we are before they get our pitch.
That might mean developing a relationship in their blog comments, having a friend introduce us, or any other way “in” that we can find. For more on this process, see our post on engaging influencers.
2. Put Their Blog First
A subtle but important point: this isn’t just a good post, it’s a good post for their blog.
3. Validate Yourself
If you’ve had guest content published elsewhere, mention that. If not, use any form of validation you can: subscribers, traffic, press mentions. Don’t lie here; if you don’t have anything to share yet, don’t worry about it.
4. Post Teaser
Summarize your post in 2-3 sentences, but make sure that the summary is as juicy as possible. By teasing the content (rather than just attaching it or pasting the entire post), you’re respecting the recipient’s time; now they don’t need to read an entire post to know whether they want it or not.
5. Call to Action
Using the same call to action we used for our influencer outreach strategy, we make a clear ask with a direct question. No “let me know if you want to see it” here.
6. On the Back End
I wish I could say that we have a “bulletproof system” for turning guest post traffic into leads.
But truthfully, we’re not at that stage yet.
In fact, as embarrassing as it is to admit, this week’s Copyblogger post was the first post we’ve built a targeted landing page for.
But in the first couple of days, we’ve had some very promising results, and we’re excited to keep testing and continue to build out our systems as we move forward.
Takeaway: You don’t need sophisticated tracking and funneling systems in place to get started, but you’ll want to build these eventually. Still, we’ve been successful without them until now.
Start Guest Posting Now
If we had known the power that guest posting has two years ago, we would’ve been doing this a lot sooner.
One of the mandates in our 12-month growth strategy is to double down on guest posting.
We’ve got some great partners and some great content lined up.
I’d encourage everyone to do this. It’s easily one of the best and fastest ways to build an audience for your content (and leads for your business).
Your audience is almost certainly different than ours, and the blogs that are best for you are probably different, too.
But using the process and script above, I’m confident that anyone can succeed at growing their business by publishing guest content that’s interesting, valuable and actionable.