What Is Guest Blogging? Explained!

This article explains what is guest blogging and why it’s such a popular marketing strategy for bloggers and writers.

Do you want to share your writing with the world? Or perhaps you want to attract more website traffic to your blog? Or would you like a way of getting to know the owners and writers behind bigger websites?

When I started blogging years ago, I faced these problems. Guest blogging helps me solve them. Essentially, it involves writing articles for free or a nominal fee on bigger or more popular related websites.

For a few years, I wrote hundreds of guest posts for blogs and bigger websites like Copyblogger, Forbes, Lifehacker and Fast Company.

In this blog post, I will explain why writing guest posts is an important activity for writers who want to spread their ideas further and build an audience for their work.

What is guest blogging

Why Guest Blog?

Guest blogging is a great way of building an audience for yourself or your website by writing articles for other top publications and websites.

1. Attract The Right Kind of Readers

Guest blogging is a form of content marketing in that you’re giving away a piece of your work for free to attract the right kind of readers.

If you perform your job as a guest blogger, some of the bigger website’s audience will:

  • Visit your website or landing page
  • Join your email list
  • Read your work and
  • Become one of your readers

In short, start an email list using a tool like ConvertKit (read our ConvertKit review). Then, build it up by writing quality guest posts for other websites in your niche.

2. Build Up Your Domain Authority

When you write a guest post blog post another website, you can include a backlink to your website in the article or in your byline.

Even if the clickthrough rate is low from your guest post, building up backlinks naturally will improve your website’s domain authority in Google search engine results. This, in turn, will make it easier for your posts to rank.

It’ll take some time and many links to achieve results with this SEO strategy, but it pays off over the long-term. If you stuff an article with unnatural or sleazy inbound links an editor will probably take them out.

3. Build Your Personal Brand

Writing for a bigger website is a great personal branding exercise. A blogging mentor once said writing his website was like warming up for the Rolling Stones. In terms of website traffic, he was right.

You can also refer to articles on smaller websites when pitching bigger websites. Consider them as a type of writing portfolio that helps you up the food chain.

Plus, when readers of authoritative websites read your work, they’re more likely to trust your fresh content and even buy your books or courses.

4. Establish Profitable Relationships With Top Bloggers

What is guest blogging
Form a relationship with other bloggers

Writing quality guest blog posts for larger websites in your niche will help you build relationships with other bloggers. Do this a few times, and they’ll probably share your work on social media or link to your posts in the future.

Once you build up some website traffic and a loyal email list, they may invite you to promote their latest courses or products as an affiliate. Business owners online love collaborating with other business owners on big launches.

How to Guest Blog

An effective guest blogging strategy starts with the pitch and ends with a thank you once the post is live.

1. Research Your Audience

Spend five to ten minutes identifying your target audience.

  • Who are they?
  • What blogs or websites do they read?
  • What content do you they like?
  • How can I contribute something valuable?

An app like Buzzsumo can help with this research process. It can also help you find guest blogging opportunities. Alternatively, Google “[site name] + “guest blogging guidelines”.

This search operator will help you determine if a website editor wants to hear from potential guest authors.

Basically, combine your expertise with the style, tone and ideal content format of a relevant website in your niche.

If you need more info on guest posting, check out this list of 700+ sites to write for.

2. Craft a Great Headline

The headline is the most important part of any article or blog post. On the other hand, ignoring the headline is a common writing mistake.

It’s the first thing your readers see, and if it’s written well, your headline will convince readers to click on a link to your article.

When you’re pitching an editor, include a strong headline following the blog’s style in question. Often this is enough to convince an editor to accept or at least query a post idea.

You can write a strong headline by studying headlines of the five most popular blog posts on the site you’re pitching.

Alternatively, Brian Clark of Copyblogger recommends making your writing life easier by studying the covers of popular magazines like Cosmo and then emulating what they do.

These headline writers are highly paid professional that you can learn from for free.

Here’s how this works:

  • Type Cosmo into Google image search
  • Write down 5-10 headlines
  • Adapt each headline idea around your topic

Using this trick, I used the headline 7 Sex Myths Busted! and turned it into 8 Guest Post Myths Posted!

3. Read the Guest Posting Guidelines

The guest post guidelines differ from site to site, and wow betide the writer who ignores them. They may ask you to do things like:

  • Hit a target word count
  • Include an image for your post
  • Link to other articles or influencers in your post
  • Write a linking post on your website
  • Email an editor rather than the site owner (more on this in a moment)

One site I pitched hid a ‘password’ in the middle of their guest posting guidelines and asked that serious writers (i.e. the ones who read the guidelines) include this password in their initial email.

You can typically find the writing guidelines on the About page, the contact page or on another dedicated page on the site in question.

4. Include 2-3 Ideas In Your Pitch

If you include one idea, your chances of getting published depend solely on the merits of your single idea.

If you include two ideas, your editor has a dilemma.

If you include three ideas, your editor has options.

You don’t need to go into great detail for each idea (and a time-strapped editor with a thousand emails to read won’t thank you for a 1,000-word email), but give your editor more than what they’re expecting from a guest author.

5. Build a Relationship With The Blog Owner

I sometimes comment on popular posts on the sites I want to write for multiple times before making a pitch.

Commenting on the popular and new blog posts might help you develop a relationship with the site owner or the editor in question.

I preferred sharing posts using Twitter and tagging the site owner or editor with a positive comment. Twitter notifies them that I shared their posts.

This notification makes it easier for me to build a relationship with the site in question (who doesn’t like their content being shared?) and then get a response to my pitch.

Another guest blogging tactic is to link to various posts on the target website on your blog. This tactic is more successful if you are targeting mid-level rather than top-level lots.

The former may not have that many links (and will notice yours) whereas the latter will have thousands.

6. Use the Editor’s First Name

In How to Win Friends and Influence People, ― Dale Carnegie writes:

“Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

Most larger websites employ a full-time editor who manages the content on behalf of the site owner.

As a writer, it’s your job to find out the name of this editor.

Whatever you do, don’t start your email by saying ‘hi’ and then move into your pitch. This will make your email sound cold and impersonal.

The guest posting guidelines of most sites often include the names of the editors in question.

Alternatively, if you’re stuck, address the site owner by name.

7. Write a Great Post

What is guest blogging
Write something that readers will find interesting

I was a professional journalist for several years and editors like working with writers to meet deadlines.

If your guest post pitch is accepted, it’s good practice to either ask your editor for a deadline or submit a completed post within one to two weeks.

Make life easier on yourself by writing a rough draft of your article before pitching the editor in question. This way you can rework your draft before submitting it. I recommend using a good writing app and also the Pomodoro technique to focus.

Break your guest post down into smaller milestones i.e. outline, first draft, final draft.

After writing your post, check it for common grammar mistakes using a good grammar checker and submit to your editor.

But what if your post is rejected and you wrote it already?

You can still rework the idea for another website, or if that fails, you can use the post on your blog. The big secret about guest blogging is that you can recycle the same content many times, by mixing up the order, headlines and content format.

8. Follow Up

The owners and editors of popular websites are busy people with even busier inboxes.

If they don’t respond to your initial guest post pitch or submission immediately, don’t take it personally.

Instead, wait seven days after you make your pitch, send a follow-up email politely asking if they received your submission.

A week is long enough to avoid harassing the editor but not so long that they forget about you.

In the majority of cases, the editor will respond to the follow-up submission. Four of five of my pitches received a response after I took this approach.

If they don’t, you can try again in one week or take your idea to another website.

The web is a big place.

9. Promote Your Post Once Live

Professional writers are always thinking about the next job; you should too.

After writing a guest post for a popular, website, responded to commenters and anyone who shared it.

If you’ve time, read the bios of those who share your posts on Twitter. If these people have a relationship with a site you want to write for, contact them immediately with a new guest post idea.

You will be fresh in their mind, and they will be receptive to your ideas for their site.

A few days after your post is published, send the editor a short email thanking them for the opportunity. This way, you can keep the door open for future submissions. Better yet, send in your next idea.

Even if you decide not to write for them again, this will leave a positive impression with the editor. That’s the hallmark of a professional writer.

What Is Guest Blogging? The Final Word

Writing guest posts is a long-term game for forward-looking writers.

Yes, it takes some time to get started if you haven’t written a guest post before.

However, after you’ve written several guest posts, the editors of larger and more popular websites will become more receptive to your ideas because you have a body of work, which you can point to.

Plus you can use your old posts to build your credibility as a writer with your expanding audience on your blog.

Now, go give your best work away for free.

What is Guest Blogging? FAQs

How do you become a guest blogger?

Pick a publication related to your niche. Search the website for guest posting guidelines. Then, email the editor or website owner a short, concise pitch with three potential headlines. Use their first name and avoid pre-canned templates.

How do you become a guest blogger?

The writer provides a website a piece of content for free or for a nominal fee. In return, the website links back to the author and also exposes the author’s work to their audience.

What is the difference between blogging and guest posting?

You can blog on your website or on someone else’s website. Typically, guest posting is more about the publication’s readers than the author, however.

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17 thoughts on “What Is Guest Blogging? Explained!”

  1. Interesting read. Just getting started myself with trying to get this thing called freelance writing off the ground, and I knew going in I’d have to do some things for free to get a base of work. It’s nice to hear those efforts justified by a veteran!

    1. Guest blogging is a great way of getting quality editorial feedback about your work and building relationships with editors and with new readers.

  2. Enjoyed reading your post. Lots of practical information on top of what Jon Morrow & Co teaches. I’ve got ways to go with my guest blogging and list building. Your post is welcome encouragement.

  3. Bryan,

    Good post from a different angle! I know many freelance writers who don’t read the guest posting guidelines and then wonder why never heard back from the editor.

    I like the idea about using Cosmo headlines to generate some titles for your posts! I gotta steal that!

    1. Any high-end magazine works e.g. FHM, Esquire. Another method is to look at the headlines Buzzfeed use. They A/B test theirs extensively.

  4. Hi, Bryan,

    Loved this post! #7 is so true – I had a new gmail filter on my email and if a guest blogger hadn’t sent me a follow-up email, I would have never seen (and published) her post.

    Thanks,
    Sue

  5. Love this.

    But the thing about giving an editor options is that you need to make sure that each of the three ideas is singular.

    In other words, some people make the mistake of including 3 ideas that are in and of themselves 3 ideas. So you should have clarity in your headline and make sure it really is just one idea.

    1. Interesting point. I’ve tried both approaches. Some editors like alternative headlines and a singular idea where as other editors like multiple ideas. Generally, it boils down to several back and forth emails before the post is agreed on (for me at least).

  6. Theodore Nwangene

    Great post as always Bryan,
    Guest posting is still and will always be the best ways to get more eyes on your blog if done very well and i agree with all the points you made here.

    They all made lots of sense to me. I will go download the swipe file immediately :).

    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Guest posting is a great strategy and one I continue to use to this today. It’s ideal for writers who want to grow their audience and get editorial feedback.

  7. Great post Peter! I recently started guest posting and knew about some of the sites that you mentioned, but not all of them so this was really helpful. Thanks for putting in the time and energy to put this list together!

  8. Hy Bryan. I have been contributing my works on few famous magazines. Just now started my own blog. I’m having trouble making my blog look user-friendly. Any tips that I can find on your blog to make it flowable.
    Regards,
    Roxy Chan

  9. This is a really well-written article and everything is properly explained. Thank you for sharing this great list of rental business ideas. Waiting for more such posts!

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