Social Media Technology

April 14, 2015 at 10:28 am

7 Lessons Learned from Publishing 300 Guest Posts

guest blogging

Over the last three years, I’ve ramped up the amount of content I create. Not only do I blog three times a week on Quick Sprout and a few times a week on my personal blog, but I also write guest posts all over the web.

In fact, currently I publish slightly more than 100 guest posts a year. As of today, I have officially published my 300th guest post.

My experience writing guest posts taught me a lot. And I can tell you that if you want to generate a positive ROI from guest-posting, you can actually do so as long as you learn from my mistakes.

Here’s what I learned from writing 300 guest posts:

Lesson #1: Go after a broad audience

Your blog already attracts a narrow audience. If it doesn’t, you should reconsider the type of content you are publishing. By going too broad on your blog, you’ll end up gaining visitors, but no conversions.

I learned this the hard way by attracting thousands of visitors to my corporate blog who wouldn’t convert into customers.

But going after too narrow an audience with your guest posts is a terrible idea. Why? There usually aren’t a ton of niche places you can go to guest-post. And if you find a handful of them, they probably won’t have the traffic volume you need.

On the flip side, there are a ton of broadly focused blogs that have a subset of readers who will likely be the right audience for you.

For example, my ideal customer is a savvy marketer. When I guest-post on sites like Entrepreneur Magazine, I know the majority of their readers wouldn’t be interested in what I have to offer. However, because they get millions of visitors a month, even if 0.1% of their readers are the right fit, I’m still capturing the attention of new readers who never knew about my business.

referral traffic

If you look at the image above, you’ll notice I have traffic that’s coming from sites like Entrepreneur Magazine and Inc. Although they aren’t driving thousands of visitors a month, the leads that are coming are qualified.

Entrepreneur Magazine generated 12 conversions, and Inc generated 4. That’s not too shabby when you consider that each conversion is worth well over $1,000.

When you are choosing where to guest-post, focus on larger blogs that have a big audience in a similar field to yours. A percentage of these readers will be qualified and will convert into customers.

Lesson #2: You can guest-post on industry blogs, but don’t do it often

I guest-post on blogs such as Search Engine Journal, Marketing Land, and Search Engine Land. Why? Because it is great for branding.

Their readers should ideally be my readers as well, and a side effect of these guest posts is that their readers will eventually find out about my blog. The readers that are interested will come over to my site, and the ones who are not interested won’t.

What this means is that you should consider posting on these blogs to capture new readers, but don’t do it too frequently. I used to post on some of these blogs multiple times a week, but the ROI wasn’t very high because most of their readers already knew about me.

For example, just look at the image below:

industry traffic

As you can see, Search Engine Journal drove over 300 visitors. Put together, Search Engine Journal, Search Engine Land, and a handful of other industry blogs referred over 600 visitors in total to my site.

Can you guess how many conversions I received out of those 600 visitors?

The answer is zero since those visitors were already familiar with my blog and my services.

The ideal frequency for posting on industry blogs is one to three times a month, assuming you are going after the largest blogs in your space.

Lesson #3: List posts convert the best

When guest-posting, focus on list posts. They drive the most signups and revenue, assuming that you include your company within the list.

While some blogs might not be okay with this, the majority of them will be.

A great example of a list post is this one by Leo Widrich of Buffer. Leo interviewed 10 marketers and asked them what their favorite social media tool was. It wasn’t hard for him to find someone who would mention his own company.

If Leo had created a crappy product, no one would want to mention Buffer, but since his product is good, he didn’t have to pressure anyone to mention his company or ask for any favors. It was also great press for the 10 people he interviewed because they got featured on Social Media Today.

So, what did this do for Buffer? Creating list posts of all the top social media tools and posting them around the web on sites like Social Media Today allows Buffer to drive over 100 signups each day.

That’s not too shabby! Just make sure to place your company at the number two spot. Putting yourself at number one is too aggressive, but placing yourself at number three (or any lower) will decrease your signups by over half.

Lesson #4: Use headlines that people would search for

What should you title your guest post? It should be something that readers would want to click on and read.

But it shouldn’t stop there.

You should take into consideration the way people use search engines. For example, Crazy Egg offers a heatmap analytics tool that helps you boost your conversion rate.

If I wrote a post that contained the headline:

7 Ways to Boost Your Conversion Rate with Heatmap Analytics,

I would actually get people to read the article, but I wouldn’t have a guest post that would generate much Google traffic.

On the other hand, if I titled the post:

How to Convert Website Visitors into Customers,

people would end up reading the post, and it would probably rank high on Google.

Why?

Because when people search, they look up problems. Someone is more likely to search for “how to convert visitors into customers” than for “boost conversion rates” or “heatmap analytics.”

Think about both the reader and the searcher when crafting headlines, especially when guest-posting.

Large sites like Entrepreneur Magazine or Huffington Post have so much domain authority that they will rank for almost everything.

That’s why when you Google phrases like “social media tools for small businesses,” you are bound to run into some of Leo’s guest posts.

Lesson #5: It’s a numbers game

At NeilPatel.com, I am currently generating over 20,000 visitors a month in referral traffic. When I drill into the content pieces that are driving the traffic, I see it’s not just one post—it’s the majority of them!

Out of the 300 guest posts, very few make up the majority of the traffic. But it all adds up, bit by bit.

search engine journal traffic

The screenshot above shows that my traffic from Search Engine Journal comes from 17 guest posts over the past 30 days. It’s pretty spread out, other than the latest guest post, which drove a large portion of that traffic.

Over time, you’ll notice that it all evens out. As you continue to guest-post, you’ll find that your posts that are over a year old still drive traffic on a consistent basis. For this reason, you need to aim for quantity—as well as quality!

That’s how Buffer generates over 100 signups a day through guest posts.

Lesson #6: Keep your content simple

Big blogs are picky about the type of content they accept. Here’s what I’ve learned by guest-posting on sites like Huffington Post:

  • Popular blogs like short content – sites like Huffington Post, Entrepreneur Magazine, and Forbes prefer posts under 1,000 words. When you write longer posts, there is a good chance they will be cut down.
  • Keep your articles simple – writing advanced articles will take you a lot longer than writing simple ones. Additionally, since readers of larger sites are sophisticated, by keeping your content simple, you’ll get more social shares and clicks back to your site.
  • Rinse and reuse – you never want to publish duplicate content on other blogs, but you can reuse article concepts. For example, I’ve written about on-page SEO concepts on a lot of blogs. I’ve even written articles on how to pick the right domain name, which is a topic I covered on Quick Sprout years ago. As long as you aren’t publishing duplicate content and are adding new takes on the topic, you can reuse some of  your previous topic ideas. This should help you write more posts in less time.

Lesson #7: Continually find new places to guest-post

While guest-posting on the same popular blog week after week might do wonders for your brand, you’ll eventually notice a diminishing return. The only way to combat this is to keep looking for new places to post your content.

How do you do this?

You should constantly be reaching out to new blogs, offering to write guest posts. All you have to do is follow the tips in the following Quick Sprout articles:

  • How to Get Your Guest Post Published
  • Advanced Guest Posting Strategies
  • How to Pitch Elite Bloggers
  • How to Find the Best Places to Guest Post
  • How to Rock Guest Posting by Learning from These 5 Examples

Conclusion

I’ve published 300 guest posts so far. You probably expect me to continually push forward and publish over 1,000, but there are only so many posts one can publish.

Nonetheless, guest-posting is a great marketing channel that you should consider if you haven’t yet. I’ve been leveraging it for over three years, and it’s done wonders for my personal brand and has helped drive more revenue as well.

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