The story of the “great” blogger with “great” content but no traffic is a common one. Your excuse may be that you’re blogging as a hobby, maintaining an online journal just for fun, or not in it for the money.
But who are you kidding? Be honest with yourself—if you wanted to journal and didn’t care about having an audience, it would have been easier to write in a diary or Word doc.
So, you want traffic, right? Even if you aren’t blogging with the intention of building a million-dollar blog, it’s nice to have your ideas, words, and hard work appreciated.
The unfortunate thing is that this idea of “content is king” has got you believing that, if you write amazing content, the traffic will somehow find you and because of this, you’ve been producing a post or two a day for the last 6 to 12 months. While you haven’t wasted your time, this strategy is incomplete.
Whether or not you run your blog like a business, you need to strategize like a business. Focusing on your “product” with no investment in marketing is like a business sourcing materials, manufacturing 100,000 widgets, storing the inventory in a warehouse, and then wondering why the customers haven’t been buying the product.
Not all is lost, however. You have tons of great blog posts already published and now you need to find the right bloggers or audience to share it with.
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Link Building Strategies: Guest Blogging And Outreach Marketing
Unless you’re already recognized as an authority or have thousands of readers a day, a passive form of content marketing isn’t going to work. Instead, your link building campaign must take two forms—guest blogging and outreach marketing.
For purposes of link building in this article, let me define guest blogging and outreach marketing:
- Guest blogging is contributing a blog post to a publication.
- Outreach marketing is requesting that a blogger link to your content from an existing or upcoming post.
Any effective link building campaign should, at the minimum, incorporate a combination of these two tactics.
But how do you decide where to leverage each one?
Guest blogging should be reserved for highly-relevant, powerful authority sites. This is because, as an individual blogger or one part of a small team, you don’t have the resources (time, energy, money, opportunity cost, etc.) to contribute to every single guest posting opportunity. You have to pick and choose where your resources will yield the greatest results.
The obvious example is that you would make a concerted effort to contribute to the CoSchedule Blog, whereas a smaller, lesser-known blog might get a pitch to be included in next month’s roundup.
Finding guest blogging opportunities.
To evaluate a blog, you must find relevant ones. This is really the easiest task of all because whose job is it to return relevant blogs? Google’s!
However, you need to be specific. If your blog is about “personal finance”, you wouldn’t try to reach out to CNN, Yahoo Finance, Wall Street Journal, or Bloomberg, which happen to be some of the top results for that keyword search.
Instead, pick a related, niche topic such as “how to become financially independent” and open up every website in the first 300 results (maybe not all at once).
Just remember that, as you work through this guide, it will benefit you to repeat the following process multiple times with different keywords to find the greatest number of bloggers to contact.
To determine if a website is worth guest blogging, don’t bother with the standard PageRank and domain authority (DA) metrics. PageRank hasn’t been updated since December 2013 and doesn’t seem to have the weight it once did in Google’s algorithm. Furthermore, as a third-party metric developed by Moz, DA is easily manipulated.
For example, I’ve come across dozens of penalized sites with high domain authority, and I view penalized sites as essentially useless for SEO purposes. If Google penalizes a site and takes away its traffic, it is effectively stripping the strength of that domain, so why get a link from one? Beware of link sellers and SEO’s selling links on crappy high DA sites.
Ultimately, the best indication of a blog’s strength is the amount of traffic Google sends to it via organic rankings, making SEMrush my favorite SEO tool. Just enter the blog you are interested in contributing to, choose “Positions” under the “Organic Research” tab on the left, and click on “All time” in the “Organic keywords” section.
If you find a level or upward trend, the blog is trusted by Google. Here’s a blog that ranks for nearly 10,000 keywords and is one you would likely be interested in earning a link from:
Note that this blog has been around for at least 4 years and enjoyed gradual growth until recently exploding with traffic. That’s the kind of blog you should want to be featured on.
However, if this blog only had a 6-month history, now that might be a red flag indicating black hat SEO. And while you may get a temporary boost in rankings by guest posting on a site like that, it might be short-lived and thus a waste of your time because the goal is to build a strong, sustainable, long-term business model even if it takes more time and energy.
An example of a blog to avoid may have a chart like this:
As you can see, this blog was hit by a penalty in late 2011 and has slowly been losing its keyword rankings.
Not all penalized domains will demonstrate an obvious trend like this one, but anytime you see a huge drop in traffic and no recovery, the blog is in decline. This doesn’t necessarily make it unworthy of contributing to, assuming the traffic hasn’t finally reached 0; it just means it isn’t a priority right now. Save it for a lull period when you want to tie up loose ends.
Guest blog vs. outreach: How to decide?
Once you’ve decided a blog is worth reaching out to, you must determine your approach. There aren’t strict rules for pitching a specific blog; it really depends on a number of factors, such as:
- How many keywords is the domain ranking for?
- How relevant is the blog to my target audience?
- Is there a “Guest Post”, “Contributor Guidelines”, or “Write For Us” page? If so, how demanding are the guidelines?
- Does the author link out often? If so, are the links dofollow?
- How commercial does the site look?
For me, a domain needs to rank for at least 300 keywords or have a large, loyal following (subscribers or social media) to be worth investing hours writing content. The bigger the blog, the more time you should invest in making your contribution absolutely memorable because eventually, your portfolio of work will be your future credentials in email pitches.
On the other hand, if a blog is weak, you’re better off pitching the blogger on giving you a quick link by asking them to check out your content. Here is a template of the email pitch I use:
To make this feasible, the page you ask them to check out and possibly link to must be impeccable. Your content has to be extremely unique and insightful, your graphics need to be beautiful and vibrant, or you need to find some way to make a strong emotional connection with the blogger.
The page must offer exceptional value to the blogger’s readers to convince him/her to share your resource; otherwise, you are wasting your time.
Choosing the right content to promote.
I’ve never been a prolific blogger. In fact, I probably don’t build “blogs” the way traditional bloggers do because I don’t develop content on a daily or even weekly basis.
Since I create and grow so many websites, I focus on writing content where it makes strategic sense. There isn’t an exact formula for that, but I’ll use my latest project as an example.
After 5 years of being a full-time Internet marketer and SEO expert, I finally thought it was time for me to start sharing my Internet marketing and SEO knowledge. I created StartABlog123.com to teach beginners how to start a blog.
Given that the competition in the all-encompassing “blogging” niche is intense, it was important that I make my content stand out. This meant comprehensive non-commercial content, useful guides and resources, custom images, infographics, etc.
For instance, I noticed a lot of solo bloggers discussing burn out, not knowing what to write about anymore, and linking to other resources that helped blog owners come up with new ideas. Knowing there was a “market” for this type of content, so I created the “Ultimate List of Blog Post Ideas”.
Now lists of blog post ideas already exist, but none of them break them up into the types of content (how-tos, checklists, top 10 lists, interviews, podcasts, etc.) and then provide 5 examples of actual ideas for each. The post ended up being nearly 3,000 words.
Fortunately, after all that work, it was a hit. I even got a Tweet from Ann Smarty:
— Ann Smarty (@seosmarty) February 5, 2015
Knowing I had created something bloggers might consider special, I searched for “blog post ideas” in Google, skipped the first 30 results, and started approaching bloggers with the email pitch above. Since then, my traffic has nearly doubled!
Market Your Content
There are many bloggers who pour their heart and soul into their writing and have absolutely amazing ideas, analyses, and content. You may be one of them. Sadly, your work may not be getting the appreciation it deserves, and that’s because you haven’t spent the time to let readers know you exist.
That can all change with an effective marketing strategy.
You can get to 100,000 visits a month with 100 posts or 10,000 posts. Frankly, I prefer the former. The only difference is how much time you invest in marketing your content.