“Well, honey, when a topic and a writer love each other very much …”
Many bloggers dream of being featured on the front page of Reddit and StumbleUpon, of having their blog posts go viral and ending up with tens of thousands of readers. It can happen – it does happen, but successful blogs don’t happen overnight. Getting your blog noticed takes both effort and persistence. And even a great deal of hard work won’t guarantee you your 10,000 readers. But your work will mean that you build your subscriber base from where it would otherwise be.
So what makes a successful blog? Well, let’s start with your writing. You probably have something to say, or why start a blog? Say it well, in the way that only you can. It’s best if you bring your own expertise and perspective to your writing. There is a lot of information available on the internet these days, and you don’t want to just be repeating things that have already been said. Read the work of bloggers you really admire, and notice what works and what doesn’t. Think about who your potential audience might be, and what you can offer them.
Your post should be well-written, and enjoyable to read. Check for spelling and grammatical errors. When you publish your post, make sure you’re proud of what you’re putting out there.
Now for the marketing. First off, let’s do a little SEO. There’s a lot of bad SEO out there: paragraphs littered with obvious keywords and phrases. No one reading your blog should instantly know what phrases you’re targeting. You need to think through what keywords and phrases people might search that are relevant to your topic. Use tools like Google Keyword Tool to find popular keywords relevant to your blog. Use these keywords: once in your header, once early in your text (first paragraph if possible), perhaps in a photo caption … but again, keep it simple and natural. Go for quality writing first; keywords are a secondary concern.
Now that your post is up, it’s time to announce it to the world. Social media will help you here, as will having prominent “Subscribe” and “Share” buttons on your blog. Utilize your existing contacts, and move outward. For a quick overview of your social media options, see “Social Media for Cat Bloggers Explained.” You may also consider guest blogging to increase your exposure and reach a wider audience. (It will also give you a link back to your blog, which boosts your search engine results). If you can get your blog noticed by a social media influencer, well, they’re called influencers for a reason. They’ll drive more traffic to your blog, and if you’re very lucky, your blog may even end up on the front page of Delicious. Which means more traffic, more links, higher listing in search engine results … and these effects multiply.
It’s a cycle. The more readers you get, the more new people you’re likely to draw in. Sometimes this can happen very suddenly, when it does happen. But don’t expect to hit top search rankings overnight. Do what you love doing, do it well, and enjoy the journey.
Writer’s Block. You probably know it well, if you’ve been writing long. It lurks in the back of your mind, always out of sight … but you know it’s there. You know it’s there because for two weeks you’ve been telling yourself it’s time to get started with guest blogging. You’ve been following a couple great bloggers for months, and you really want to pitch some ideas to them. But day after day, you sit in front of your computer screen and stare helplessly at the blank page.
Okay. It happens to the best of us. Even the most famous writers sometimes find themselves stymied. The important thing is to work through it. You can beat Writer’s Block. Anyone can. All it takes is resolution and hard work. Here’s a handy infographic with some tips and tricks that may help you, courtesy of Copyblogger and Blueglass. While not all its suggestions are applicable to guest blogging, it should be enough to get you started.
Call in the Calvary!
No man is an island, so why try to be? You can use other people’s ideas to help get you going on your writing. Soliciting ideas from readers can work particularly well, because they’ll often be excited when you take their suggestions. They’ll feel more deeply involved with your blog, and they’ll know you care about what they think. Make sure you let them know when you publish your guest blog, so they get to read it.
Note: “use other people’s ideas” does not mean plagiarize someone else’s blog. If you get an idea from someone else, give them credit – and build on it with your own thoughts and ideas. Don’t “spin” someone else’s blog post and market it as your own. It will make you no friends in the long run.
Write What You Already Know
Maybe you think MacBooks are a rip-off but Apple’s marketing campaign is brilliant. Or Trader Joes just stopped carrying enchilada sauce and you don’t know how you can go on without it. Think about the things that have gotten you going lately: news you’ve seen that you felt a connection to, or products you’ve tried that you like or hate.
Can’t think of anything? Try your own experiences, both good and bad. Let your readers inside your head. Blog about Writer’s Block, if that’s all you can think of.
Come Up With A Fun Title
A catchy title is sometimes half the battle. If you title your post, “What Superman Would Have to Say About Car Repair” you’ll probably start generating ideas pretty fast.
Get Out There
Life inspires art; art inspires life. Get out there and live. Do something fun. Plan a time to write, and a time to play. Both are important.
Just Do It: It’s More Than A Nike Slogan
With luck, one or more of these ideas will resound with you.
The most important thing, though, is to make yourself sit down and write. Even if you’re not inspired. Even if your writing seems to fall flat. Because at the end of the day, at least you’ll have something on the page, and at least that’s a step in the right direction.
Whether you are looking for blogs to publish your guest posts, or considering publishing a guest post that will link to another blog, you want to consider the quality of the other blog. So how do you decide what makes a “quality” blog?
Everyone has their own criteria for determining blog quality, but here are a few things you might want to consider:
- First, what is your impression of the look and feel of the site? Is it attractively designed, or is it loaded with trashy ads?
- You can do a whois check to learn a bit about when the domain name was originally registered, where it is hosted, who owns it, etc. Of course, if the registration is private you won’t get much info, but you can search at http://whois.com
- Is the blog established? How long has it been in existence? Are there a lot of posts, or just a few?
- When was the blog last updated? Has it been months, or are there posts dated in the last few days or weeks?
- Are the posts well-written? Do they have a bunch of scraped, spun garbage, or are the posts coherent and written with proper grammar, spelling and punctuation?
- What about PageRank? PageRank really doesn’t mean much these days, and it can be faked. If you care about PageRank, consider downloading a PR checker to verify the site’s PR. Or use a site such as http://www.validrank.info/
- There are several toolbars you can install in your browser to get more information about the sites you visit. Choose one that will tell you what you want to know about the sites you visit.
Ultimately, quality is in the eye of the beholder. Do you like the site? Will you be comfortable linking to them or giving your content to them? Then work with them. If not, don’t.
So you’ve decided to be a guest blogger. Whether you just want to write a couple guest blogs on one site or you want to establish long-term working relationships with a number of bloggers, it’s important to make a good impression, from your first inquiry to the final product.
(Klick the image to enlarge!)
(Klick the image to enlarge!)
Here are some typical guest blogger mistakes and how to avoid them:
We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Research
Where you want your blog posts to appear? If your answer is “anywhere” or “I don’t really care,” slow down, cowboy; you’re nowhere near ready to start sending those e-mails.
Do your research. Use keywords to find blogs that might be a good fit for your writing. Make a short list of your favorites. Don’t just read a post or two and then pitch your idea. Read enough to really have a good idea of the nature of the blog. Understand what makes this blogger different from the others you are pitching to. Take notes and keep records.
Also, check if you have any connections to the blogger. A personal connection can be a great way to get your foot in the door.
I’ll Decide What To Write Once I Get the Gig
You must have at least one idea ready before you write your pitch. Now that you’ve read your target blog: who are its readers? What topics have already been covered? What’s the feel of the blog? Casual or formal? Technical or conversational? Where can you fit in?
Flubbing The Pitch
If you start with “Dear Sir” or “To Whom It May Concern” or “Dear Blog Manager,” you might as well just toss your pitch in the trash folder and save yourself the trouble. Why should a blogger waste their time with someone who hasn’t even bothered to look up their name?
Like any pitch for writing, your note should be short and to the point. Do not wax elegant for paragraphs about the blogger’s prowess. This isn’t to say you can’t tell them you like and respect their work, but be specific (what do you like about their blog? Why?) and keep it relevant (how does your writing fit in?). In other words, this isn’t the place for a fangirl scream.
Finally, show them what you have to offer. “You’re blog is so awesome and I really would be so happy if you let me write a post and get some links in cuz I need linx bad” is not going to win you any friends. Make sure your spelling and grammar are 100% correct, and tailor the pitch to what you can offer the blogger. Include your blog idea and attach writing samples; just 2-3 of your best. Don’t even bring up links – save that for later.
Poor Execution and Delivery
Don’t get sloppy just because you’re in the home stretch. Write on the topic you’ve discussed, following all guidelines you’re given. Do your best work, keeping true to the style of the blog. Check other guest posts for byline format, links, and formatting; ask if you have questions. Finally, send your entry in on time, give yourself a congratulatory pat on the back, and start working on your next pitch.
What is a Guest Blog?
You may have heard a lot of talk lately about “guest blogging” as a marketing tool or a way to gain readership. So what is it? Simple, really. You write a blog post, and offer it to someone else to post on their site (with a byline and a link).
Why Write a Guest Blog?
Why give away your content for free? Well, there are several advantages to be had. First, you’re going to get exposure to the readership of the site you are guest blogging for. You’ll include a link back to your site; if readers like what they see, you’ll find you’ve gathered a new following. Also, that link is helpful for boosting your site’s search engine ranking.
In researching other bloggers and finding people with common interests, you have the chance to become part of a greater community. You may discover new favorite bloggers this way – and also make contacts who can help you with your own blog. In addition, you’ll likely get to research new topics and improve your ability to tailor content to various sites. That’s a useful skill to have. Finally, as you increase your exposure, you will also likely increase your reputation in your field.
Guest Blogging Do’s
- DO use keyword searches to find sites that are relevant to your topic, where your blogs would fit in well.
- DO keep organized and compile a list of your favorite bloggers who accept guest posts. Follow their blog, and read the guest posts as well. See if you can get a feel for their style and what they look for in guest bloggers.
- DO use connections when you have them. Use friend’s connections too.
- DO address the blogger by name when you contact her.
- DO include at least one idea for a guest blog in your pitch.
- DO follow all guidelines you are given for guest blogs. That includes meeting deadlines.
- DO check for proper spelling and grammar on every bit of communication you send out, as well as your finished blog post.
Guest Blogging Don’ts
- DON’T go charging in blind. Have a strategy. There are lots of “how to” resources out there for getting started with guest blogging. Use them.
- DON’T pitch to blogs that have nothing to do with your content. If you blog about circus animals, don’t pitch to a technology blog.
- DON’T send your pitch to the same blogger five times. He’ll probably notice.
- DON’T forget your research. Nothing says sloppy like pitching a blog title which the blogger used just last month.
- DON’T litter your guest blog with links to every one of your 20 social media pages. Pick the most important.
- DON’T slack off once you get the gig. If you do all the work to get a guest blog slot with your favorite blogger, you owe it to yourself to provide her with the best writing you have to offer. Good writing will draw in readers and often leads to further opportunities.