I’ll admit our expectations were high when I bought my 8-year-old a Magic Science kit a few years back. We all but ripped the thing out of the packaging in a rush to see for ourselves what “unleashing the wizard within” would look like.
It looked like this: A chalky white mixture of citric acid, baking soda, and water gurgling in a test tube for seconds. Who would have thought we’d need to spend time on the instruction manual, what with the eruption of color-changing froth on the horizon?
Likewise, when it comes to executing guest-blogging strategies on behalf of clients, it can be tempting for marketers to focus on the end results (e.g., website traffic, audience, authority, backlinks) and gloss over what comes before that magical finish.
But this shortsightedness often means marketers aren’t doing the legwork to build exposure and reach with key industry influencers, organizations, and communities.
While there’s no magic formula for developing a winning guest-blogging strategy, it pays to carefully manage the process from start to finish.
Here’s a look at five ways our organization has made client guest-blogging strategies a science (and how you can too):
1. Adopt an ‘it-takes-a-village’ mentality
When it comes to content marketing efforts taken on behalf of clients, I’m of the mind that it takes a village to get a guest blog post placed successfully on a relevant, authoritative industry site. By village, I mean different departments (SEO, content, social, marketing, etc.) collaborating to approach content development from a holistic perspective as opposed to viewing it as an initiative undertaken by one department or function.
Instead of limiting ourselves to a siloed approach that assigns SEOs one task, social media strategists another, and content writers yet another, we pitch in where and how it makes sense for each individual client’s guest-blogging strategies.
Let’s say a client has the goal of positioning its brand as a well-known name in an industry. To help get to this level, our social and SEO teams might collaborate to identify target publications and relevant industry sites with which to pitch a guest-post idea.
Here’s a look at a few of the tools we’ve used to identify guest-blogging prospects:
- Klout score: Klout is a social media influencer tool that assigns a rating (1-100) based on the popularity of a brand or person. While its ranking algorithms remain somewhat elusive (Klout reportedly uses a whopping 400 factors to assign social influencers a score), Klout can be useful as a quick reference for filtering prospects. For one of our clients who is active on social media, we set up a threshold of targeting prospects with a minimum Klout score of 25.
- Domain Authority: As with Klout, Moz’s Domain Authority assigns a score on a 100-point scale that predicts how well a website will rank on search engines. While these kinds of high-level metrics should be taken with a grain of salt, Domain Authority can give an idea of how authoritative or important a website might be. For example, a site with a lower authority score might still be worth targeting if it’s regularly pushing content relevant to a client’s target audience.
- BuzzSumo: From a prospecting perspective, it can be helpful to see who is sharing guest blog posts that have been published. With BuzzSumo, you can type in a keyword phrase and see the top blogs for that phrase, along with who has shared the post.
This screenshot shows the results for the keyword “B2B marketing.” To streamline results, filter by content type. (This example shows guest blogs and articles, but you can search for infographics, interviews, etc.) By clicking on “View Sharers,” you can view a selection of users who have shared the post on Twitter.
Our content team then reaches out to the identified targeted publication or industry websites, pitches topic ideas, creates the content, and works through the necessary approvals (client and industry site) to schedule the post for publication.
Key takeaway: Collaboration is critical to an effective guest-blogging strategy. As Cory Collins outlined in this Search Engine Watch article on complementary marketing, “The more we work together, the better we all do.”
2. Develop a process
What’s a guest-blogging strategy without a process? A lot more work than it needs to be.
Of course, there’s no singular, definitive how-to guide on effective guest blogging (although both Moz and Kissmetrics have put together some nice resources). What’s important in your process is to determine what makes the most sense for your clients, develop a process (or more than one, depending on the client’s needs), then execute that process until you know it like the back of your hand.
Let’s take a look at an example:
Our client in the manufacturing space had the goal of increasing its website visibility and getting some exposure in the industry by placing guest articles on third-party sites. Our process for growing its audience via social media and relevant industry sites looked something like this:
- Prospect: Beyond using the previously mentioned prospecting tools, we have worked with the client to identify priority sites to target for guest-blog placement. As a distributor of manufacturing solutions, the client had strong relationships with industry leaders and manufacturing companies, so we were able to leverage those relationships for additional opportunities.
- Pitch and outreach: After identifying industry targets (e.g., publications, manufacturers, and industry partners), we gathered relevant contact information to make our pitch. To do this, we used the BuzzStream BuzzMarker, a quick way to collect and store contact information without having to leave the source site. To save additional time, we created outreach email templates (shown below) in BuzzStream, which allowed us to catalog prospecting communications (messages sent, % of replies, etc.).
- Communicate: Once initial contact had been made, we arranged a call with the appropriate contact at the organization (i.e., blog coordinator or marketing manager), explained further the guest-blogging initiative, and proposed a few blog topics we thought might be a good fit for that particular site’s audience. This allowed us to get a better sense of the site’s target buyer and hear directly from the source about the types of topics that would resonate best with their readers.
- Create content and promote: Typically, these calls ended with an approved topic, which our content team used to build the guest post (including one to two relevant, useful links from the client, as well as any applicable links from the host site) and subsequently worked through the approval/scheduling process to get the post published. In the event a call did not end with an approved topic, our team would work with the site or publication to determine another angle.
Scheduling the post’s promotion via different social platforms allowed us to not only drive exposure and visibility on behalf of our client but also identify additional prospects based on who was sharing the post.
Key takeaway: As with any process, the deeper you get into it, the more refined it becomes. The key is to develop a robust and systematic approach that keeps everyone involved in the process organized and on task.
3. Cultivate relationships
Recently, during a quarterly meeting, a client’s vice president of sales mentioned that he wanted to make it a priority to develop a relationship with a well-known publication in his industry. Getting content placed on this particular publication’s site, which publishes a quarterly magazine, weekly newsletter, and blog, would not only expose our client to hundreds of other companies in the space, but also help him make professional connections within this business community.
Having worked with this particular trade publication to publish guest-blog content, we were able to leverage our relationship to build another connection. The benefits of this were twofold: 1) Both clients had access to a renowned member of their community, and 2) We expanded our publisher network to help us build exposure for both clients.
Contributing an initial post on behalf of each client also allowed us to set up regular, ongoing guest-blog submissions and deepen the relationship.
We’ve recently contributed a post to the publication’s upcoming quarterly journal for one client. For our other client, whose vice president of sales originally made working the publication a top priority, we interviewed the publication’s president and posted it on our client’s website.
Key takeaway: Copyblogger’s Sonia Simone reinforces the benefits of developing a healthy network of publishers to grow a blog audience: “Writing one post for a blog is nice, but writing multiple times for the same blog will bring in much greater rewards. Create a relationship with the blogs you write for, and contribute as regularly as you can.”
4. Kill your darlings
As a writer, I get a kick out of the phrase, “Kill your darlings.” (It’s most commonly attributed to William Faulkner, but sometimes to other writers as varied as Allen Ginsberg, Eudora Welty, Anton Chekhov, and even Stephen King). Back when I was in grad school, everyone tossed it around as a means to suggest that the best writing is born out of a ruthless editor’s pen: Slash your most precious sentences and you get to the real meat of your writing.
For guest blogging (and content creation in general), the same logic applies. Only when you’ve detached from the actual language can you realize the big picture – content that carries a degree of finesse and appeals to the blog’s target audience.
For guest blogging in particular, this requires familiarizing yourself with the host blog’s content. Start by answering these questions:
- What are the focus topics?
- What’s the blog style and tone?
- What topics have other guest bloggers covered and how did their language align with other posts?
When pitching guest-blogging opportunities on behalf of clients, our team makes a point of reviewing the blog’s technical elements and reading through recent/relevant posts to get a sense of the type of content that’s published. Doing so allows us to eliminate irrelevant language (i.e., kill our darlings) and provide a high-quality piece of content that caters to a particular blog audience.
Key takeaway: Creating a guest post for a specific industry publication or website requires you to think like the host’s intended audience. Some of the most effective ways include reading through previous blog posts or using sites like BuzzSumo to discover the content most frequently shared by the blog’s audience.
5. Think inside the box
We’re all guilty of using business clichés, but “think outside the box” has to be one of my least favorite. With 70% of marketers saying they’re creating more content than they did a year ago, aren’t we all in the business of approaching problems in a new, creative way to cut through the online noise?
Instead of saying our team is thinking outside the box, I like to think we’re thinking inside the box. That is, we’re going back to the basics of guest blogging to see what tactics or strategies can be revisited (or may have been overlooked) to get our clients exposure in their respective industries.
One such strategy is event marketing. In many of our clients’ industries, digital marketing is still considered an emerging channel, whereas traditional marketing is a trusted channel for brand awareness, engagement, lead generation, customer acquisition/retention, etc. Content Marketing Institute research, in fact, shows 66% of manufacturers still use in-person events to drive their content marketing efforts.
To connect with manufacturers and distributors on behalf of several of our clients, our team attended the largest supply chain trade show expo in North America in March. During the show, we conducted a series of content interviews with targeted manufacturers/distribution centers and industry publications, with the goal of creating curated content assets on our client sites that would drive traffic and exposure, and potentially lead to guest-blogging opportunities.
Key takeaway: Just because a marketing tactic has been in existence for some time doesn’t mean it’s not effective or relevant for today’s content efforts. To shore up additional guest-blogging opportunities on behalf of clients, you can always try approaching older strategies from a new angle – you might be surprised by what you discover.
While the Magic Wizard kit may have been a failed science experiment, it’s worth noting that getting any process (wizarding or otherwise) down to a science requires patience and persistence.
The same holds true for the guest-blogging strategies that marketers take on behalf of their clients. From collaboration to process and content creation to relationship-building, what really matters is putting in the time and effort to get your strategy where you need it to be. By getting the right team in place to identify and execute goals, you’re bound to see your clients’ audience grow and your program expand to reach new and different influencers in the industry.
How has your organization gotten client guest blogging down to a science? Do you agree with the points referenced above? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments section below.
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Cover image by Viktor Hanacek, picjumbo, via pixabay.com