A Newbie’s Guide to Guest Posting

When we first start blogging, the idea of guest posting sounds insane. Scrambling to keep up with posting on our own blogs, we can’t imagine writing for other blogs too. Yikes!

Fortunately, things have a way of falling into place and that time eventually arrives for most of us. It arrived for me a couple weeks ago. Rather than feeling like something I should do, guest posting suddenly felt like something I wanted to do. Normally when these things happen I lie down until the urge to be productive passes, but because I know guest posting rocks, I followed through and now have some guest posts scheduled for the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned a lot about the process, so today I’m sharing the tips I picked up in the researching process.

Just in case you’re still not sure guest posting is worth your while, here’s a quick run down of some of the benefits:

  • Quality traffic. Aiming guest posts towards blogs where your prospective readers hang out and adding a link or two to your bio makes it easy for the right people to find your blog.
  • Backlinks. Google smiles at one-way links from quality sites.
  • Increased online presence. Right or wrong, readers think high visibility = high credibility. Guest post on multiple, quality sites, and people will think you’re a real smarty pants.
  • Professional relationships. Positive guest posting experiences build and strengthen relationships between bloggers and lay a foundation for future joint ventures (insert the smell of money here).

To get the most from guest posting, you’ll need to prepare your blog to convert new visitors into subscribers. Here are some things to consider:

  • Content. Most probloggers recommend having at least 10 solid posts on your blog to give visitors a sense of your voice.
  • Appearance. Examine your blog through the eyes of a new visitor. Is it easy to navigate? Do you have an appealing header and a clean layout? Is your ‘About’ page well written? Are subscription buttons and opt-in forms easy to find and use?
  • Ads and affiliate links. Target and tweak these for your new visitors.
  • Internal links. Make sure your fresh posts contain links to older posts to encourage new visitors to explore more of your content.
  • Greetings and landing pages. Some bloggers like using the WP Greet Box Plug-In to prepare special messages for visitors from referring sites. Others recommend using a bio link to send visitors to a specific landing page such as a ‘Start Here’ page, product offer, or a popular post.

When you’re ready to get started, you’ll need to find blogs that are a good fit for your guest posts. Here are some options:

  • Accept invites. This seems obvious, but it’s easy to forget those folks who once said, “Hey, when you’re ready to start guest posting, let me know.”
  • Blogs where you’re an active community member. Most bloggers are open to receiving guest posts from people who support their blogs.
  • Your community members. Spread the word in your newsletter, posts, or comments that you’re looking for guest posting opportunities.
  • Feed reader and email subscriptions. Chances are, many of the blogs you subscribe to are perfect candidates.
  • Search engines. There are a zillion blogs out there, so spend some time Googling and visiting some of them to add to your list of possibilities.
  • Join free or paid forums. Many blogging, marketing, and social networking forums have guest posting threads. There are even forums specifically set up for those who write or host guest posts. Again, Google is your friend when it comes to exploring the options here.

Before you start hurling guest posts out left and right, here are some ways to improve your chances for acceptance:

  • Scope out the guidelines. Many blogs publish guest posting guidelines on their blogs, making it easy to see if they want a pitch (emailed proposal/outline) first or if they prefer the completed post right away.
  • Talk to other guest posters. If there aren’t published guidelines for a blog you’re targeting and you know a blogger who previously guested there, see if they’ll share some tips. Offering them candy might help loosen their lips.
  • Wing it. For every blogger who insists on a pitch first, there’s another one who sees pitches as a massively annoying waste of their time. Adding to the confusion, I talked to bloggers who have had completed posts accepted by those who state in their guidelines a pitch must be sent first. And then there are the bloggers who swear they don’t accept guest posts, yet seem to run one every other week. What it all boils down to is that sometimes you’re just going to have to follow your gut. My philosophy is, “When in doubt, send it out!

When you’re ready to write your post, here are some general guidelines to follow:

  • Study your target blog. Take a quick spin through a couple months’ worth of posts to get a feel for their tone and to avoid duplicating recently published content.
  • Write for the host blog’s readers. Use your own voice but avoid using ‘inside’ terms used on your own blog (i.e., cake-worthy, ditch-licking weasel).
  • Do your best writing. Remember, you’re trying to impress readers with your stunning writing ability and mind-boggling expertise, so write a post that makes readers want more of your sweet stuff.
  • Recheck the guidelines. Always double check any guidelines to ensure proper formatting, compliance with image preferences, etc
  • Maximize your bio. Write your bio in a style that fits the host blog yet shows off your personality. And, always make the most of those links you’re allowed!
  • Stay exclusive. Unless the blogger states otherwise, accepted guest posts are never to be published on your own or other sites.

After the post is published:

  • Promote it. Let your community know when and where you have guest posts published and use your normal promotional methods to spread the word.
  • Interact with readers. Respond to comments in a friendly respectful tone that adds even more value to your post.
  • Write a thank you. Send a short email to the hosting blogger thanking them for the guest posting opportunity. Don’t slobber all over them, but do let them know you hope to work with them again (unless they really were a ditch-licking weasel).
  • Evaluate the experience. No matter how things turned out this time, consider how to make things better next time around. Can you maximize your blog to convert more visitors into subscribers? Write a better bio? Put up better targeted ads?

Most professional bloggers continue to guest post throughout their careers, so if you’re in this for the long-haul, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to perfect your technique. As with everything else in blogging, the best way to learn is to just get out there and do it!

Speaking of which, here are Virgin Blogger Note’s guest posting guidelines :)

Your turn: Have you done any guest posting? Do you recommend it? If you haven’t guest posted, do you plan to?

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42 Responses to A Newbie’s Guide to Guest Posting

  1. Katie Tallo June 14, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    As always Jean, great advice and guidelines. You are so right about getting to know the blog you are guest posting for. Finding that intersection between your blog and theirs is key to serving both blogs and the readers best. I've been lucky enough to guest post early in my blogging experience and it was scary, exhilarating and definitely worked out for my little blog. I think the best part has been the relationships I've ended up forging with the other bloggers. You work together towards this common goal and you feel closer. I feel very lucky to be hosting one of your guest posts in a couple of weeks! Thanks for the continued invaluable resource.

  2. virginbloggernotes June 14, 2010 at 4:00 pm #

    Thanks, Katie. I'm excited about my upcoming post on Momentum Gathering too! I appreciate you pointing out that guest posting can be scary and exhilarating. It's hard to put ourselves 'out there' and challenge ourselves in new ways, but how rewarding it is when everything comes together!

  3. rob white June 14, 2010 at 4:02 pm #

    Great article Jean. You sure offer a wealth of advice. I have not guest posted anywhere yet but plan on doing so soon and will certainly head this advice. What I love about the concept is that is really for the good of all concerned. Whenever we participate in a community in the spirit of harmony and unity we are more able to reap what we sow. So, thanks again for this great contribution!

  4. virginbloggernotes June 14, 2010 at 4:08 pm #

    Thanks Rob. I really enjoy sharing what I learn as I work through the various stages of blogging myself. You're a great writer, so you'll find lots of open doors for your posts and will see good traffic back to your blog. And you're right . . . it really is beneficial for everyone.

  5. Dev | Technshare June 14, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

    Hey Jean,

    Awesome Post as usual. Guest posting is one of the most easiest and effective way to get targeted traffic, backlinks.. etc etc. I have done 3 guest Posts so far and i'm really happy with the results..

    Thanks for sharing this great stuff. Keep it up Jean. Really great Post.


  6. virginbloggernotes June 14, 2010 at 4:55 pm #

    Thanks Dev. Good for you for getting out there and getting started on the guest posting path! You are really doing a great job at promoting your blog.

  7. Angela Artemis June 14, 2010 at 5:32 pm #

    This was excellent. I think you've outdone yourself!
    I'm saving this to print out and reread very thoroughly.

    Thank you!

  8. Scott Barron June 14, 2010 at 5:35 pm #

    Hi Jean,

    I'll be on the lookout for your guest post. I really enjoy when my fellow blogging buddies write guest posts in the blogosphere. I'm able to find some of the places they hang out & meet new people. It's like legalized stalking.

    I've done 1 guest post. I was a nervous wreck. I spent much more time on that 1 post which I later felt guilty for. I felt that I had either abandoned my own blog or neglected it during the process.

    I might try it again in the future if I have a burning desire to say something elsewhere. Our blogging buddy Kiesha kind of scared me when she wrote about guest blogging. Apparently some people write and submit a lot of guest postings and get turned down. Ouch…

  9. Scott Barron June 14, 2010 at 5:49 pm #

    Good grief. I just read your guest posting guidelines! Pretty unusual. Especially #8. You do most of the work! Wow, that's nice of you. I can't remember where I saw it, but I remember a guest post rule that it should be written in HTML as the website owner would not edit or format.

  10. virginbloggernotes June 14, 2010 at 6:57 pm #

    I've seen quite a few of them that want the posts provided in HTML. To each their own, but the less I see HTML, the happier I am.

  11. virginbloggernotes June 14, 2010 at 7:03 pm #

    Legalized stalking–that's a good one :) I get nervous writing the guest posts too because it feels like auditioning. I've known people who have gotten turned down because their post wasn't a good match for the blog at all. Plus, there are some blog owners that don't want to work with a guest poster on improving anything if they have a few grammatical errors.. With good work and proper targeting, most do get accepted though. Thank goodness :)

  12. virginbloggernotes June 14, 2010 at 7:05 pm #

    Thanks, Angela. When I was writing this I thought it looked like so many steps it would scare people away from ever writing a guest post :) But, I figured if I could do it, anyone can!

  13. k0zm0zs0ul June 14, 2010 at 7:08 pm #

    Oooh.. I have a couple posts on guest posting being polished up, so this will make a great one to link to for additional info that I may not have covered! Excellent post Jean, so informative! You're so good at this blogging stuff. 😉


  14. virginbloggernotes June 14, 2010 at 7:13 pm #

    Looking forward to your posts, Cori. they're always delicious. Links are cool . . . they're like cake that's heavy on the frosting, but without the calories. And there I go with food talk again. I'm beginning to sound obsessed.

  15. k0zm0zs0ul June 14, 2010 at 7:16 pm #

    Lol.. only marginally obsessed. And it seems only to be with cake… hmnn…
    mayhap an addiction my friend? :) Mine happens to be brownies, but.. that's
    neither here nor there! 😉

  16. Sally_Neill June 14, 2010 at 8:38 pm #

    Hi Jean, how did you become so wise!!!

    I have never done a guess post, but I can totally see the benefits of it though.

    I can imagine it would be quite nerve wracking, especially if it was a really popular, high traffic site.

    Your tips were great for a newbie blogger like me, and I can't wait to see your guest post(s) I am sure they will prove to be very fruitful for you.

    Remember to let us all know when they are “live”.

    Sally :)

  17. Vince June 14, 2010 at 8:40 pm #

    Hi Jean
    I keep comming back to your great blog, there is always something new and interesting to read. I shall look forward to reading your guest posts.
    I can see where you are comming from regarding auditioning, it can be hard enough to write for you own blog let alone someone elses!!. Finding the right partner is crucial it seems. In a funny kind of way I feel very encouraged by the fact that even experienced bloggers have the same feelings.

  18. Angela Artemis June 14, 2010 at 10:54 pm #

    Hey, I already think you can do anything!

  19. Dia June 14, 2010 at 11:26 pm #

    Very nice post Jean,

    I personally haven't done guest posts yet, but plan on doing some starting in August. Based on the research that I've done, guest posting is one of the best ways to get strong traffic and subscribers. Thanks for sharing Jean :)

  20. Madeleine June 15, 2010 at 1:17 am #

    Jean, What a helpful post. I really liked the organization as well: what to do and when to do it.

    In terms of my guest posting, I had a fairly recent one on Goodlife Zen. The only hard part was writing the post. It was about a very personal matter which I needed to write about.

    In terms of Scott's comment about a guest post being rejected, I had that happen once on a different blog. When I sent out the draft post, I said that the blogger should not hesitate to let me know if it was not a good fit for her blog. And I meant it. She responded that she didn't think it would be of interest to her readers. I personally was not crushed by this and used it on my own blog.

    Note to Scott: I think bloggers may at times play it too safe or not see the big picture in terms of their readers. In other words, a very helpful, important, and well-written post may be rejected for all sorts of reasons. Just remember all those people who told The Beatles and Elvis Presley and many others not to quit their day jobs.

  21. virginbloggernotes June 15, 2010 at 1:19 am #

    Sally, I slipped going down the stairs one winter and knocked my head on three steps. I think that cracked open a little space for knowledge to slip through once in a while :) You'd be a great guest poster anywhere. The day you wrote that RSS feed post on your blog I thought, “Dang, I wish I could talk Sally into writing something like that for here.” Yeah, that's just a little bit of a hint for whenever you have some spare writing time and want to start guest posting with someone who will help you not to be nervous. :) I'll definitely spread the word as my posts go live so you guys can come visit me. I love how we all cheer each other on – it makes life a lot more fun!

  22. virginbloggernotes June 15, 2010 at 1:20 am #

    You'll do great when the time comes, Dia, and you're always welcome to submit a post here when it feels right. It's good to have things planned out like you're doing though. One step at a time!

  23. virginbloggernotes June 15, 2010 at 1:26 am #

    I'm really glad you're part of the group here, Vince. I've written for all kinds of publications, both online and off, over the years but I still get nervous when I send my work someplace new. Heck, I still get nervous putting stuff on here! So, if you feel a little freaked out when you start sending out guest posts, at least you'll know you've got plenty of company :)

  24. virginbloggernotes June 15, 2010 at 1:39 am #

    Thanks Madeline. Having a post on GoodLife Zen is a heck of accomplishment. It's interesting you brought up writing about personal matters because I was thinking that would be a topic worthy of exploring here. Sharing our own stories, hurts, vulnerabilities is important, but knowing what to share/how much can be tough.

    I admire your attitude about rejected posts too. Rejection doesn't necessarily mean anything is wrong with the post at all. More than likely there's a better home and purpose for it!

  25. Brandon Connell June 15, 2010 at 3:21 am #

    I tend to guest post a lot. I have a handful I link to on my sidebar with a couple more about to be published. I also rack up multiple articles for Associated Content and EzineArticles.

  26. virginbloggernotes June 15, 2010 at 3:29 am #

    Yeah, lucky for us we'll be seeing one of those guest posts right here in the morning! Well, not right here in the comment section . . . that would be a bizarre spot to put a guest post :)

  27. Sibyl-alternaview June 15, 2010 at 3:36 am #

    Jean: This is a really helpful post with great information. Thanks for sharing it. There are so many tricks to the trade and it is helpful to have this post because I think you covered everything. Now I just need to put them all to practice. Thanks for the advice.

  28. virginbloggernotes June 15, 2010 at 4:15 am #

    Glad you found the post helpful. There definitely are a lot of things to learn. Seems like that's how it is with everything in blogging. Good thing that most of us like a challenge :)

  29. Kim June 15, 2010 at 6:10 am #

    Hi Jean,
    I love the way you open your posts. First, I think, 'Wow, she's strumming my pain with her fingers…' (okay, please tell me you remember that Roberta Flack song) :) Then, your practical guidelines are just golden. I recently began taking guest posts and the experienced bloggers make it effortless. Similar to Hulbert, I'm trying to line up interviews with creative talent to inspire aspiring artists. They may not be online nearly as much as we are, but they could surely benefit from your guide :) Appreciate your tips!

  30. virginbloggernotes June 15, 2010 at 11:43 am #

    Now I'm going to have 'Killing me Softly' going through my brain all day, Kim. Thanks for that. Haha. Whenever I see an experienced blogger doing something with apparent ease it gives me hope that if the rest of us just hang in there, we'll be naturals too. I learned that in Meltdown Avoidance 101 :) Your interviews sound like they'll be fantastic!

  31. Minimalist Woman June 15, 2010 at 4:21 pm #

    Wonderful guidelines, and I will be referring to them when I feel ready to tackle the guest post world. Gotta get a few more solid posts on my own blogs first, and optimize their inner workings. But I can see where this is all going!

  32. virginbloggernotes June 15, 2010 at 4:37 pm #

    Thanks, Meg. You're a wonderful writer and will create beautiful, helpful guest posts when the time is right. But, as a minimalist woman, you don't want to be putting too many things to do on your agenda at one time :) I think getting the blog ready with your own solid content first is time well spent!

  33. Kaizenvision June 15, 2010 at 6:17 pm #

    WOW Jean, fabulous article! This is great guide – really chuck full of greatness. This one to print out and keep handy!

  34. virginbloggernotes June 15, 2010 at 6:52 pm #

    Hi, Aileen. Wonder if I'll actually put all this stuff into practice? :) Do you ever find that as a writer? We know all the things to do because we research things and test out many things but then we backslide and slip into bad habits. Or maybe that's just me :) Oh well, future post on backsliding bloggers coming up . . . .

  35. Kim June 15, 2010 at 11:00 pm #

    Aww… I appreciate the encouragement Jean. Working on being a 'natural.' 😉

  36. Simon Hay June 15, 2010 at 11:55 pm #

    Great advice, Jean, and I've had success guest posting. It has increased traffic to my site and created work and new opportunities. Talk soon, Simon.

  37. virginbloggernotes June 16, 2010 at 12:04 am #

    Hi Simon, Thanks for stopping in and I'm glad we've connected on Twitter and Facebook too. This road is a whole lot more fun when we travel together. Glad to hear you've had successful experiences with guest posting. That's inspiring!

  38. Tim Brownson June 16, 2010 at 12:37 pm #

    I may just point all the guest post requests I get here from now on because so few people do what you suggest!

    I get a couple of requests per week and few have done any research whatsoever. I even sent one guy a list of requirements that stipulated 'No list posts' and within an hour had a list post back. I turn down over 3/4 and rarely do they offer to rewrite or even get back to me saying thanks for reading.

    Personally I never accept pitches because I feel it's a tacit agreement to run the post, but I can understand why some people do.

    Very good advice.

  39. virginbloggernotes June 16, 2010 at 1:24 pm #

    Thanks for stopping by, Tim. We can all learn a lot from your experiences with prospective guest posters.

    Courtesy, following guidelines, putting forth our best work . . . . these are all basics that will never go out of style. I'm finding more and more people don't want/accept pitches and wonder if they aren't slowly going the way of the dinosaur.

    Thanks for the great input!

  40. James June 21, 2010 at 7:23 pm #

    Guest posting is an important part of any blog, but there is a right way of doing it, which I'll mention in a blog post shortly.

  41. virginbloggernotes June 21, 2010 at 7:58 pm #

    Hey James, thanks for stopping by. I'll look forward to that forthcoming post of yours and picking up some new tips and techniques.

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