This guide is a massive resource outlining an A-To-Z walkthrough on how to do outreach and use guest blogging for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) backlinking. If you’re a blogger needing to start your very first backlinking campaign, or you’re looking to explain backlinking, outreach, blogging, and SEO to team members, then this is the resource for you.
Simply follow my easy steps and you will soon be championing a winning backlinking campaign. In addition to talking about high level strategies, this guide will be explaining the step-by-step actions you need to take to run and manage your backlinking and guest blogging campaign.
Who Am I?
But who am I to dare write this massive guide? Is it just some regurgitated content I have compiled off other online resources? Well, I am Felix Abur. I’ve been writing online content for different brands based all over the world for close to 15 years.
My expertise in guest blogging and outreach stems from the way I have always offered my services. I have mostly worked as a ghost blogger, writing blog posts for brands and publishing in their name, not mine. As my skills and expertise grew, most of these brands hired me not just as a freelance ghost-writer but as part of their SEO strategy teams and outreach teams.
It has often been my responsibility to find host websites to publish my client’s content. It was up to me to contact the publisher, pitch them my ideas, create the content, and ensure the backlink was properly placed.
It is against this backdrop of experience that I now present this guide for those new to backlinking and guest blogging. You don’t have to guess your next steps or work haphazardly. This guide is sure to lead you to a winning rinse-and-repeat system that you can customize for all your future campaigns.
This guide covers:
- How to set up an outreach campaign
- How to pitch ideas to publisher (host) sites
- How to mutually benefit your website and your host·
- How to manage and promote your link building campaigns
So, what is outreach and backlinking and why is it important for SEO? What does blogging have to do with any of this?
Outreach, also referred to as blogger outreach, is reaching out to other brands to accept and publish your blog post on their site. Guest blogging is creating blog content that will be published on a website that doesn’t belong to you. A guest blog post can potentially provide you with more online exposure and increase your audience size.
Guest blogging works to provide opportunities to link back to your site. This increases your digital footprint and makes it easier for readers to find you from multiple sources. Link building also enables search engine web crawlers to get more context on what your site is all about.
For example, if your website receives lots of backlinks under the anchor text of ‘corporate productivity coach’, then Google will assume your website offers content, tools, and services to help corporate staff and managers increase their productivity.
Within your published blog post, you will insert a URL link that links back to a landing page on your own website. The more backlinks you have, the more visitors you can potentially get.
Additionally, the more backlinks you have for a given keyword, the higher Google and other search engines rank you for that particular keyword. High rankings mean more search traffic, which is the whole point of Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Let’s be clear. Low-quality or spammy backlinks will get you in trouble with Google and other search engines. Nonetheless, guest posting is still an effective and valuable technique to:
- Increase your online footprint
- Gain valuable backlinks
- Improve your site’s SEO
- Rank your site and important pages
- Improve your authority and subject matter expertise
- Attracting new audiences to your website
- Build symbiotic relationships with other industry leaders
- Increase your email subscribers
This guide will focus on guest blogging as a link building tool for improving SEO. I will take you through the entire process from knowing which blogs to approach, how to approach them, what blogs to write, and how to pick your anchor texts. Let’s start with first finding blogs worth placing backlinks.
A decade ago, you could rank higher by placing random links all over the internet. Today, Google and other search engines use complex algorithms to judge the quality of your backlinks and rank your website accordingly. Link prospecting is the process of finding high-quality contextual link opportunities, preferably do-follow links.
Prospecting can be done through methods such as scraping a Search Engine Results Pages (SERP) for relevant keywords, searching through online directories, and looking through high DA blogs. The goal is to find blogs that can potentially improve your rankings and drive new traffic. You also want to find the best performing content types for your keyword.
My quickest way to prospect for high DA blogs in my niche is SERP-scraping. There are many different tools to help with SERP scraping, but I normally prefer to do it manually. This is because I normally can write only a few guest-posts at a time. I want to qualify my prospects as narrowly as I can. I also want to personalize each pitch with as much relevance as possible to increase my chances of getting published and building a lasting relationship.
When SERP scraping, my process looks like this:
1. Open a spreadsheet for recording all prospects. I’ll include:
- Name of website
- Site URL
- Traffic sources and traffic numbers
2. Open Google search page (or another search engine) and search for my target keyword. For example, I may want to rank for “copywriting for eCommerce websites”. So, I’ll search for that phrase or something related.
3. My Google settings are set to display 100 results per page. So, from the first page I will open in a new tab any sites that look like possible prospects.
4. In my spreadsheet, I won’t list any sites that may be competitors. I’ll ignore any site offering inbound marketing, content marketing, blogging, or copywriting services.
5. For the non-competitor sites, I’ll list down their details in my spreadsheet, ready for link qualification.
6. For competing websites, I may run another spreadsheet for running competitor research. This helps me identify their link building strategies and possible targets for my link building campaign.
SERP Scraping Automation Tools
Manual SERP scraping is only ideal if you’re looking at a few websites. If you’re prospecting on a large scale, then search engines might penalize you for scraping. To mask your scraping efforts and make the process faster, you can use SERP scraping tools such as:
• Browser add-ons like Mozbar
• Browser extensions like Oscraper
• Proxies or VPNs to mask your IP address
Reverse Engineer Competitor Strategies
Another popular method of link prospecting is to find out who your competitors are linking to, then approach similar publishers for links to your site. A popular tool is ahrefs’ site explorer tool. This tool allows you to have a deep-dive analysis of the backlink profile of any website.
Apart from targeting your competitor’s host publishers, the tool allows you to identify other possible host sites that your competitors are yet to link with. A great alternative to ahrefs is BuzzSumo.
Once you have found possible sites, the next step is to qualify them as relevant and potential publishers. The main purpose of link qualification is to find sites that are most likely to link back to your site.
Prioritize websites which promise a fast response and run a linking strategy that aligns with your SEO goals. Some of the qualities to look for include:
- Site relevancy: Is the publisher site’s niche and content closely related to yours?
- Dofollow or nofollow links: For effective link building, you’ll prefer dofollow links over nofollow links.
- Traffic: You want a site that already attracts a high number of new and return visitors. You may also consider a site with low but rapidly growing traffic numbers.
- Guest posts: Do they have a policy on whether they accept guest posts? Do they charge a fee for links? Do they pay writers for content?
- Inbound links: You want to link to a site that has high quality inbound links pointing to their blog posts and web pages.
- Outbound links: You want a site that links to other sites reservedly without overdoing it. Also, the existing outbound links should ideally not be linking to your competitors’ content.
- Authority: You want your website to have links from sites with high domain authority and run by subject matter experts.
- Contact information: Are the names, email addresses, phone numbers, and social handles of the website owners available?
Another easy way to find guest posting opportunities is to look for articles that list sites that accept guest posts. However, most of the sites listed in such lists often receive too many submissions. Hence, their acceptance rate is low and the competition too high. It might take you too much time and effort to get published.
Another option for finding guest post opportunities is to search for sites that publicly display their acceptance of guest bloggers. Some search terms to use include:
- “Add guest post”
- “Become a contributor”
- “Become a guest blogger”
- “Become a guest writer”
- “Become an author”
- “Contribute to our site”
- “Guest post by”
- “Guest post guidelines”
- “Now accepting guest posts”
- “Submission guidelines”
- “This guest post is from”
- “This guest post was written”
- “This is a guest article”
- “This is a guest post by”
- “Want to write for”
- “Write for us”
Outreach is the process of finding guest blogging opportunities and convincing the host website to publish your post.
The success of your link building strategy will highly depend on your ability to effectively outreach. No matter how spectacular your guest blogs are or how great you are at link prospecting, a poor outreach strategy can end up in low-quality links and low SERP rankings.
For bloggers, the easiest and most practical way to reach publishers is via email. It may seem simple enough. You just send emails to prospective publishers and they reply, happy to publish your valuable content on their website. However, it’s rarely that simple.
To increase your success rate at effective outreach, here are some steps you need to follow:
Reach Out to Decision Maker
In most cases, reaching out directly to the decision maker can greatly increase your chances of getting published. The decision maker is also likely to make faster decisions and offer the most up-to-date guidelines.
Write a Personalized Outreach Email
Whenever you’re pitching guest post ideas to publishers, avoid the temptation of sending the same template email to all publishers. You want to come off as a human being seeking a healthy partnership with another human being. Your email needs to look and read like you’re talking to the publisher face to face. Some simple rules for personalizing email pitches include:
- Use the contact’s first name: Using the surname may be too formal and the middle name could just be awkward. A generic greeting like ‘Hi’ without a name could be too impersonal.
- Use correct titles where necessary: For example, be wary of using Ms. and Mrs. incorrectly. Dr. and Prof. are also often confused.
- Mention their brand name: If there’s a recent news mention of the brand that ties in with your guest post’s content, mention it.
- Talk about the contact: Do you know something publicly shared about the contact? Maybe a recent award or personal achievement? Maybe they had a new daughter or adopted a pet? Mention that without sounding like a creepy stalker. Avoid details that only close friends should be privy to.
- Mention mutual benefits: Summarize what the publisher stands to gain from your guest post. You should also briefly mention what your brand seeks to achieve with this content.
Once you have qualified a prospective publisher and identified the decision-maker’s contact details, the next step is to pitch your idea. A well-presented idea is half the job of getting published. You want to use the principle of AIDA i.e. You want to elicit their Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.
If you present a well-thought out outline it makes the work of the publisher easier. You’ve won their attention and interest, and have now created in them a desire which could drive them to action.
It shows you did your homework if your ideas align with the publisher’s content goals. You have to answer the all-important question – What’s In It For Me (WIIFM)? When pitching your idea, it’s important to:
- Understand the publisher’s content goals: Are they looking for specific topics? What type of audience is their main target?
- Understand the target audience: What benefits are they seeking from the publisher website? What interests would they have with your brand, complementary to what they are seeking from the publisher site?
- Competing Keywords: What keywords work for you without competing with the publisher’s keywords?
- Internal linking: Which of the publisher’s other blog posts provide additional value to your post? You need to link to at least one of your publisher’s earlier posts.
- Show additional value: For instance, can you get an interview with a leading authority to add to your blog post? Or maybe you can add unique media content such as photos, videos, and illustrations.
- Demonstrate promotional capability: Can you effectively promote your guest post to a wide audience? The publisher would likely love a guest post that attracts more visitors to their site rather than one who only takes away their visitors via your dofollow link.
- Describe your landing page: What page are you linking to? Many publishers frown upon using referral links or linking to sales pages and multi-level marketing schemes.
- Match publisher tone: Does your tone match the overall tone of your publisher’s blog?
- Beat their competition: Are you bringing something unique that can help your host floor their competitors? For example, my content clients are mostly corporate coaches and self-improvement podcasters. For their content needs, I strive to present ideas which their fellow coaches haven’t articulated very well.
You have done your outreach and sent what you thought was an irresistible pitch. However, a few days down the line still no response even as you keep refreshing your email inbox.
First, you need to accept that no one else is working with your timeline. They have their own way of doing things and work on their own schedule.
Also, recognize that a delay doesn’t necessarily mean a rejection. Maybe they loved your pitch so much they are running it through the whole organization in awe, before they gather themselves and send you a befitting acceptance email. Well, it can happen that way, can’t it?
It may also be that your pitch contained a mistake such as:
- You got the name of your contact or publisher brand name wrong.
- You sent to the wrong email address. For example, firstname.lastname@example.org rather than email@example.com
- You used poor grammar or syntax. Maybe it was just one unfortunate misspelling.
- Your pitch lacked solid research.
- Off-tone language. Maybe you used some offensive words or you were too formal for a brand that targets a younger, more informal crowd.
- You mentioned a competitor.
- Your message didn’t resonate with the brand’s ideals or their vision of their target audience.
No matter the reason for not getting a response, it’s okay for you to follow up after a reasonable amount of time. It is acceptable to send your first follow-up after a week of silence. You can send a second follow-up on the second and third week. After the third follow-up, it’s time to move on and pursue other guest posting opportunities elsewhere.
Before sending a follow-up email, reread your initial pitch and try to identify any mistakes you may have committed. Check that you used the correct email address. In your follow-up, you may send a copy to another member of the publishing company. Maybe your primary contact is on vacation or doesn’t check their email regularly.
With each follow-up, be concise but also provide an outline of your proposed guest post. Don’t just ask the recipient to refer to the past email.
Decide What To Link To
Your landing page is the most important element on your website when link building. While most of your other efforts are focused on creating valuable content on someone else’s website, the inbound link directs visitors to your chosen landing page.
Ideally, you should have already chosen your landing page even before starting the outreach campaign. Nonetheless, I have chosen to put this section here so it’s closer to the sections on how to create your guest post. Here are some questions I usually ask myself before deciding on where to direct inbound links:
- Am I heavily promoting a particular product or creating awareness about a recent achievement? Then I’ll link to my pages mentioning the product or news pages and blog posts mentioning my new achievement.
- Does the target website have content? If not, then I’ll probably link to the home page. If yes, then I’ll choose anything but the home page. This is because most home pages lack Calls-To-Action. Visitors won’t know why they were directed there and this will result in high bounce rates.
- If I have content, do I have a high value blog post, such as a pillar blog post or Skyscraper content? Then that’s what I will link to.
- If I have no pillar content or several to choose from, then do I have a particular blog post that is part of an ongoing marketing campaign? For example, do is it part of a blog series promoting my latest service additions? Then I’ll link to that.
- If none of my pillar content is promoting a recent service addition, does any of them contain broken links? Then it could earn some fresh SEO juice if I add some new inbound links.
- Is the publisher charging me to publish my guest post? Then I’ll probably link to one of my earlier posts which may not be as well-researched as my most current posts. However, this depends on the authority of the linking site and how much I’m paying for the link. The more I’m paying, the lower the page rank of my landing page.
Decide What Kind of Guest Post to Publish
There are many different types of blog posts you can write for the publisher site. It all depends on:
The Kind of Posts the Publisher Needs
Does the publisher need a skyscraper blog post or a 300-word brand story? A skyscraper post is normally data-driven high value content which you’ll likely only want to link to a high value page on your website. If the target of your backlinking campaign is an old blog post with broken links, then you’ll probably prefer to simply post a quick guest post.
Additionally, you only want to publish pillar content on someone else’s site if the rewards are very high. For example, if you’re promoting a new service and want to spread news of your unique value proposition.
How Much Time Do You Have?
In most cases, you want to produce quality content but not spend so much time posting content on someone else’s website. Even for a high DA website, you want to post a link that quickly sends their readers to your website.
However, the higher the authority of the website the more likely you’ll spend considerable time working on the blog post. You may have to compete with other guest bloggers offering high quality research, better graphics, and more interesting stories.
How Much Effort Are You Willing to Put In?
Sometimes even low-ranking websites make you go through hoops to publish on their website. They want difficult-to-obtain data, they may take you through several revisions, or they may request high quality graphics which need special expertise.
For example, I had a site that wanted all guest bloggers to add an infographic with every post submission. It took a lot of time and effort but was worth it. In some cases, the effort isn’t worth the perceived value of the backlink.
The Kind of Visibility You Expect from The Publisher Website
If I expect to draw lots of eager readers from the publisher blog, then I’ll put in extra effort to polish my guest post. It’s not even something I do consciously.
I have come to notice that when writing for a very promising site, I will take time writing, hire editors to go through my post, engage a graphic designer for graphics that pop, and even consult an SEO expert on what to expect with my keywords.
These kinds of posts I will reserve for high DA websites and fast-growing websites. I may also make the extra effort for websites owned by personal friends, regardless of their domain authority. It makes sense that such links will then direct to my most valuable resources.
How Much You’re Paying to Publish a Guest Post
Quite often nowadays, blogs that accept guest posts charge a fee. It’s not fair and Google frowns on paid links, but it’s a very common practice.
On the other hand, you understand that when a publisher grows their website, they don’t want to freely give you SEO juice. It took them lots of time, effort, resources, research, and trial and error before they could get to where they are. Some compensation seems in order.
So, if I’m paying a high price for the privilege of posting on their website, I want to get as much value as possible. I’ll want to insert multiple links and will link to some of my sluggish pages. Even my images and illustrations will have links to my website.
My reasoning is that I’ll be spending more time and resources promoting my guest post, so it better bears more fruit than free guest posts. The only exception is if the publisher site has a very high Domain Authority (DA). Then my anchor texts will link to my top performing pages.
How Much You’re Being Paid to Write the Guest Post
My favorite publishers are those who allow me to guest post under my own name (or my client’s name) and pay me for it. I pull out all the stops for such publications.
For this publisher, I will write whatever type of content I feel goes for the price paid. At a highly discounted rate. They want three revisions, I’ll do it. They want social media promotion, I’m game.
This kind of guest post I’ll link to my best pages and resources. I’ll mention the post for a long time to come and link to it from other websites. I feel like I owe the publisher a lifetime of commitment.
Be careful though, promoting a guest post that links to your site and promoting your landing page several times together may signal to Google that you’re running a link farm or a Private Blog Network (PBN). This will get your website penalized and de-ranked. The publisher website may suffer the same fate too.
6 Ways to Promote a Guest Post
One mistake I used to make was to publish and forget my guest posts. I felt it was the duty of the publishing site to promote all content on their website. I was wrong.
But how do you promote a guest post? Is it different to promoting your blog posts posted on your website? Well, yes and no. You use much the same tactics with a few tweaks and additions. Some ways to promote your guest blog post include:
1. Spread The Word in Your Writer Portfolio
As an inbound marketer and a freelance writer, one way I promote all my posts is by sharing them in my portfolio. Any time I’m looking for new work I’ll include a few of my regular blog posts and a few of my guest blog posts. Some guest blog posts that I’m exceptionally fond of will feature in almost every pitch deck I create for a potential client.
2. Backlink to the Guest Post
Yes, create backlinks linking to your guest post from other sites. For example, a few days after publishing on a host site, I will write a similar article and post it on Medium. The Medium post will include a link to the guest post even if I don’t link to my website.
Remember I don’t want too much double-promotion because Google may flag it as PBN. I will also not link to the guest post from my website.
3. Share on Social Media
Probably the one method I do immediately after my guest post is published is sharing it on social media. I’ll share content on Google Business Profile (Formerly known as Google My Business), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Pinterest.
The shared content will always include links to the guest post and if I can get away with it I’ll add a link to my target landing page.
My post promotions on social media will almost always include an enticing image and a short comment on what the guest post is all about. I’ll often tag people on the publisher team, but only with their permission.
My social promotion will not be limited to my business page. I will post and tag my personal profile where necessary and submit posts to groups and online communities for approval.
For some posts, I will pay for social media ads. These include Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit.
4. Send to Your Email Lists
Each time I publish anything, whether on my website or on a third-party website, I will share it with my email lists. These are lists of subscribers who have expressed a wish to follow my writing.
Every month I’ll also do a recap of what I have published under my name in that month. Most times it’s just 3 to 5 blog posts. Sometimes it goes up to 8 articles in the same month.
Take care not to overwhelm your subscribers with too many emails though. Once they start sending your emails to spam, it will make your outreach efforts more difficult. This is because email subscribers will increasingly start sending your emails to spam.
5. Submit to Round-Up Posts
Do you know any bloggers who are writing round-up posts? For example, have you seen a blogger who frequently writes blogs with titles such as “10 of The Best Inbound Marketing Blogs This Month”? Such bloggers are usually open to including your high-quality submission in their round-up.
However, keep an open mind as some may want some form of payment to include your content in their round-up. What works for me is coming to them with a cross-promotional approach. Basically, I’m telling them if they add me to their list, I’ll spread the word to my clients who may be willing to negotiate for an inclusion. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
6. Shoutout from Influencers
Do you know any industry leaders who enjoy a wide following? When we hear the word ‘influencer’ most people have images of Kardashian-type celebrities endorsing a brand. For many brands, an influencer is simply someone with a passion for topics such as yours and who has a dedicated following.
A brief mention by the influencer, sharing your guest post’s URL, or an interview with one can lead to an endorsement of your content. An influencer can be the shortcut you need to bring in more visitors to your landing page.
If the influencer is charging a fee, you can share costs with the host website. After all, the content being shared is on their site even though it bears your name.
Track Your Guest Blog Performance
Choose a regular schedule to check on the performance of your guest posts and backlinks. I usually prefer to do my audits the first weekend of every month. It’s a time when I’m usually free of the pressure of bills and I have just completed the previous month’s client work.
When reviewing my guest blog post performance, I want to know:
- That all my guest posts are still live, especially the ones I paid for.
- That all my links are still there, under the correct anchor texts
- Whether my guest posts earned any comments and backlinks from other bloggers.
- Whether the post got any mentions or reviews.
- Whether the guest post featured in any podcast discussions or YouTube videos.
- Whether the guest post got any links by third parties on social media channels.
This is the kind of information I use to show my team, my clients, and publishers of the host site how the backlinking campaign is performing so far. The information provides opportunities to re-strategize for the next month.
As your campaign progresses, you will have several guest posts on different blogs linking to the same web page. The monthly audit will give you a pretty good idea what types of content does well for your kind of campaign.
You may also be able to tell which types of promotion worked best and which ones failed. Working with multiple publishers will also equip you with new knowledge and strategies. You will keep improving your skills in:
The Future of Guest Blogging and Backlinking
Getting lots of high-quality backlinks remains one of the best ways to enhance your SEO. Backlinks improve your site’s Domain Authority (DA), tell search engine crawlers what your site is all about (context), and help your content rank higher on Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs).
While it is possible to earn backlinks organically, it’s very difficult in an overcrowded internet to create blog posts that people will generously want to share on their websites and social platforms. Thus, guest blogging is the best option for anyone trying to establish authority, increase their web presence, and rank their website higher.
Guest blogging also opens your site up for new audiences, new relationships with other industry players, and high-placed influencers. For these reasons, I believe guest blogging and backlinking will continue to play a major role in search engine optimization.
Nonetheless, guest blogging is a long and involving process. While the payoff can be worthwhile, it takes some time before you can see the results. For that reason, it’s always a good idea to engage an experienced professional to guide you through the step-by-step processes of prospecting, qualifying, pitching, and promotion. Follow my comprehensive guest-blogging and backlinking guide for smooth sailing in your next campaign. And if you need extra help, get in touch via email on firstname.lastname@example.org.