Many business owners are passionate about their product or service, but assume they lack the expertise in the online marketing sphere to gain visibility and website traffic. This is a common challenge faced by many of today’s businesses and entrepreneurs.
But in reality, you don’t need to be an SEO professional or online marketing expert to succeed with your online marketing initiative. In fact, if you have the skills to start a business, you already likely have all the skills necessary to exponentially increase your website traffic while building your brand equity for the future.
The secret to success in the online marketing world, and the solution for business owners struggling to generate website traffic, is to establish your brand (and yourself) as a credible authority within your niche, and the best tactic for doing so is called guest blogging.
Guest blogging has become the darling of the SEO industry, but that doesn’t mean that only SEO professionals can do it. In fact, in the competitive world of online marketing, it’s necessary for business owners to do, or risk being burned by the competitors who are.
This article is meant for business owners who want an easy-to-follow, understandable guide to building their business online through guest blogging.
It’s important to note that guest blogging is not the only tactic business owners should pursue. Online marketing is a diverse and rapidly-changing field that currently consists of tactics including (but not limited to):
With the exception of paid search and paid ads, all the other tactics intertwine and affect each other. For instance, a strong social media marketing campaign will positively affect your organic search rankings, improving your SEO. And a strong content marketing campaign will provide fuel for social media marketing and SEO campaigns.
While paid search and ad campaigns can yield great ROI in the right situations, they usually amount to short-term gains with little or no long-term impact. A good SEO campaign, on the other hand, is like building equity in your business that lasts for the long haul. It’s similar to the difference between buying a house and building equity vs. just paying rent.
So, why do I so strongly advocate guest blogging? Because a properly-executed guest blogging campaign yields the strongest and safest ROI while simultaneously supporting your SEO, social media, and content marketing efforts. It builds the most valuable, long-term equity in your business, and, most importantly, requires nothing more than a computer and an Internet connection to execute. This means there are no excuses; if you’re reading this, you already have everything necessary to start a guest blogging campaign and grow your business online.
Don’t have time? Hire staff and assign them some of your duties to take things off your plate. Trust me, this is an initiative you should be making time for.
There are many benefits of guest blogging:
Here’s the breakdown on each of the benefits.
Builds and improves Author Rank: Author Rank is how Google calculates the credibility of the author of a particular page, affecting how well that page ranks in search. Credible, authoritative, trusted authors receive “bonus points” in the rankings for articles they write related to their niches of expertise. I believe Author Rank will grow significantly in importance in the ranking algorithm over the next few years.
Creates links to your website: Inbound links have the heaviest weight of all the ranking factors in Google and Bing. Inbound links are considered much like “votes” by one website for another. Links from more credible, trusted websites will be treated as more important votes, so it’s best to spend your efforts focusing on getting inbound links from authoritative publishers.
Aligns your brand with industry leaders: Aligning your business name and website with brands that Google already ranks at the top in search engines is the best way to become a part of Google’s inner trust circle. This results in higher rankings for your website, driving more traffic, leads, and sales.
Builds your personal brand: After a while, if you publish enough great content that your readers love, you’ll start to become an authority in your niche. Once you become a niche authority, this opens the doors for many more opportunities, such as:
Generates leads and traffic: Give advice or solutions to problems, and you’ll come to be recognized as a trustworthy source for further help, resulting in leads and sales.
Creates social signals: Social signals include Tweets, Facebook Likes, LinkedIn shares, Google +1’s, and more. Together, social signals represent a quality signal to search engines, because pages that are shared and discussed more often in social media channels are usually higher-quality. They are growing fast in importance as one of Google’s many ranking factors, so it’s important to get lots of social activity associated with your brand in order to stand above the rest in search engine rankings.
Step 1: Start by ensuring that your social media profiles are complete and optimized. Be sure to set up your Facebook page, Google+ profile, Twitter account, and LinkedIn profile. Additionally, be sure to include links to your social channels on your website (usually in the upper right corner) and link to your website from your social channels.
Step 2: Write ten high-quality, in-depth, totally amazing (yes, AMAZING) articles related to your industry, then publish them on your website. I recommend publishing them as blog posts rather than static pages. Writing anything less than amazing articles won’t help you, and may actually hurt you; your goal here is to impress editors of large websites, so show them what sort of value you’re capable of providing.
Additionally, longer content tends to rank better in search results; aim for a minimum of 1,000 words per article you write. For more information about how to optimize an article for SEO, see “10 Steps to SEO-Optimizing Your Blog Articles.”
Here are 8 ways to get new ideas for articles to write:
Step 3: Now, it’s time to identify and contact authority publishers in your industry. If you have industry connections, contact them. Peruse your LinkedIn profile for other folks who could help as well.
If you’re technically savvy, refer to my post “How to Find Guest Blogging Opportunities” which outlines a step-by-step process for quickly identifying publishers in your industry by using a software tool.
For non-technical folks, start by making a list of keywords for your business or industry. For example, if you’re in the business of selling raw dog food, then your keywords might be “raw dog food,” “natural dog food,” raw food for dogs,” etc. Your goal is to figure out what queries your target market would use to search for the product or service you offer in Google. For a walkthrough on how to figure out what keyword(s) you should focus on, see The Definitive Guide to Using Google’s Keyword Planner Tool for Keyword Research and How to Identify Long-tail Keywords for Your SEO Campaign.
Next, visit Google and search for your first keyword. Go through each of the top ten pages or so, and keep track of any websites on which you’d love to get exposure. Great choices will include websites that are well-known, get lots of shares and tweets on their articles, have a lot of traffic, and get a lot of user comments.
Step 4: After you’ve gathered a list of publishers which would make good candidates for outreach, gather their contact information. Usually, it’s easy to find an editor’s email address on the website, but you may need to use a contact form to get in touch with someone. LinkedIn or Twitter are good sources for finding editor’s contact information, too.
Record the publishers you have contacted in a spreadsheet in order to keep your efforts organized.
Here’s a sample email template you can use:
Hi [editor name or website],
My name is [your name], and I currently write for [website A, website B, website C].
I’m a business owner and passionate about [your industry]. I’m trying to meet new people, and build a name for myself as a thought leader in the [your industry] community. I would be honored to have the opportunity to contribute to [website]. My goal is establish my name as an expert in the industry while giving positively to the community.
Would you please let me know if you’d be open to having me write for [website]?
Samples of my writing:
As you send outreach emails, I highly recommend using Boomerang for Gmail, which is a Gmail plugin that will automatically remind you if you don’t receive a response after a certain amount of time. This is a tool I simply can’t recommend highly enough.
Step 5: As you get responses, agree on acceptable article titles and formats. Then write and send the articles to the editors. Remember to have your Boomerang remind you after a few days if you don’t hear back. You don’t want your articles to go to waste if emails slip through the cracks!
Step 6: Every time one of your articles gets published, share it via Facebook, Twitter, and any other applicable social channel, then be sure to say “thank you” to the editor. Then, in a spreadsheet, record the URL of the published article. Whenever you write a new article, refer back to this spreadsheet and see if you can link to other articles you’ve written. This will help those articles get more visibility, further building your brand.
Step 7: Continue identifying and contacting more publishers with article pitches. As you contribute to more websites, you’ll find it even easier to get on board with new ones. As you grow your relationships with certain publishers, you may request or be offered a regular contributor column (ie, one contribution per week).
Step 8: Keep another spreadsheet that tracks how long it’s been since you last contributed to each publisher. Every time an article goes live, be sure to update that spreadsheet. If it’s been over a month since the last time you contributed to any specific publisher, reach back out with a new offer to write. This will help to grow your relationship with that publisher, opening the doors for more frequent guest blogging.
Here are some handy Google Doc formulas for tracking how long it’s been since your last post:
Column A: Publisher Name
Column B: Last Post – set the date that your last post at this publisher was published
Column C: Days Since Last Post – =TODAY()-B2
Some days, you are juggling a lot and are probably less inclined to put top-notch effort into work. On these days, remembering why it’s vital to enact high standards for your guest blogging actually helps you achieve these standards.
All that results in more money and success for you. It’s worth the work and effort. There will certainly be days when you wonder why you even bother, especially if you’re new to guest blogging. High-quality guest blogging marketing requires ongoing commitment and a plan.
Before you begin guest blogging, figure out what you hope to accomplish. For example, a lot of guest blogging is about trying to sell something or someone (for example, a book, a company, a political stance). Identify your audience and demographic. List the attributes you want to get across about the entity you’re marketing. Find or take relevant photos (pictures certainly can liven up a blog post). List the various angles and approaches you can take in various posts. You don’t want to repeat the same old information in each of your guest blog posts.
You may already have a long list of blogs you want to guest write for. That’s great, but first ensure that these blogs fit your needs.
What if you don’t already have a long list of blogs? No problem. Google is your friend. Run searches with your industry keyword or keywords plus phrases such as “guest post” or “guest blogging.” For example, if you sell a certain car widget, you would type “certain car widget” + guest post.” Some variations on the phrase “guest post” are “guest blogging,” “guest posting,” “guest blog” and “guest blogger.” Broaden your search with more-inclusive keywords if need be.
Use a spreadsheet or document of some sort to track blogs you’re interested in guesting for. Include the URL and other information you deem important, such as number of blog subscribers and contact email of the person who handles guest bloggers. Once you start the actual guest posting, keep a second spreadsheet with the URLs of your posts and other relevant information. If you find particular success with a certain blog, don’t be shy about asking to guest post there again once a few months or a year have passed.
You increase your chances of posting at better-quality blogs if your requests are professional and considerate. Also, when you write your request to a blogger, include the benefits to him or her. What’s in it for the blogger? If you don’t yet have many credentials behind your name, it becomes even more important to suggest a guest post topic that complements the blog and possibly rounds out its coverage. Present your fresh angle to a certain topic, credentials and links to your blog, work products or projects you’ve done. If you’ve guest blogged elsewhere, provide links to these articles as well so potential hosts get an idea of what you’ve accomplished for other sites.
If you run your own blog, your guest posts need to be as thoroughly researched and as good, or better, than the posts on your blog. You should have a long list of fresh angles for your guest posts; add to that list as needed. Write in an engaging manner: use stories and humor if possible/appropriate, avoid passive voice and don’t use fancy words when simpler ones are available. Encourage comments and interaction on your post by concluding with a paragraph that goes something like: “Do you have other ideas for ways to use X product? Share your tips in the comments below.”
What if you don’t think you can write well, although you have the content knowledge for guest blogs? That’s okay. Use a ghostwriter or freelancer, but make sure you budget for one in your planning stage. You could even contact a nearby college or university and see about setting up an unpaid guest blogging internship for a journalism, communications or English major.
Fortunately, there are other link building strategies that can help you drive traffic to your website. These strategies focus on not only getting inbound links, but also promoting your business and building the credibility of your brand, products, and services.
1. Repurpose Existing Content
If you’re like many other companies, you may already have a wealth of content available on your website; you can leverage it to attract inbound links. Survey your existing content, such as blog posts or free resources like e-books and white papers, and promote them via your social media channels. Monthly newsletters or email campaigns work great as well.
Next, repurpose your content. If you’ve got some great blog posts in text format, think about how you could convey the information via other media like images or video. Can you turn the blog post into an infographic? Can you create a video which demonstrates a walk-through of whatever was discussed in the blog article? How about a PDF or Powerpoint slide presentation?
Once you’ve got a plan for how to repurpose your content via other media types, begin to syndicate it through appropriate channels. If you created an infographic, submit it to as many infographic aggregator websites as you can find (Visual.ly is a great place to start). If you created a video, submit it to Youtube. And if you created a PDF or a Powerpoint slide deck, submit it to SlideShare. Your goal should be to extend the reach of your content in order to get it in front of the people that will benefit from it. When people find good content, they love to link to it.
2. Get Active in Social Media
While most social media links are nofollow, it still helps to promote your content via Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, Google+, and more. Social media channels are indexed by search engines, so your content can still be found by users performing searches within Google. Futhermore, promoting your content via social media channels helps get it in front of a wider audience, increasing the likelihood it’ll be found and shared (and linked to) by other bloggers, writers, authors, and webmasters.
When sharing content on Google+ by using the “add link” feature on a status instead of simply posting the URL in the text field, Google makes the link a dofollow.
Pinterest is a great social media platform for e-commerce sites to market their products, as long as the products are visually appealing. Each product image should directly link to the product page in order to make it easy to purchase the item.
3. Host Contests & Offer Badges
As part of your social media marketing strategy, host contests, trivias, and other engaging activities that give your audience a chance to connect with your brand. This will foster brand loyalty and lead to word-of-mouth referrals, while also leading to inbound links as bloggers talk about the cool swag they won from one of your contests.
You can also allow winners to display badges on their websites for various reasons. For example, I recently had a post I wrote on Search Engine Journal that was one of the top 10 most-visited posts for that month. SEJ offered me a badge to display on my website as a result, which I proudly did. This badge linked back to SEJ, so they got their link and I got to proudly display a nice accomplishment.
4. Create Link-worthy Content (Linkbait)
Post content on your website that can by described by one or more of the following adjectives, and it will be more likely to attract links:
If your content evokes emotion from the reader, they’re much more likely to take action. This action could be writing a response in which they link to you, or simply tweeting the article to their followers. Either way, you get social media buzz and/or inbound links.
This very article is intended to be linkbait; can you tell which of the adjectives I’m going for? I want this article to be useful. So if you found it useful, please do link back to it!
Linkbait isn’t limited to text; infographics are a fantastic way to attract inbound links, as they are easily syndicated and picked up by other bloggers. Every time it’s picked up, it should include a link back to you. Be sure to configure your embed code properly to ensure this happens.
Most importantly, don’t forget to update your blog regularly. One or two infographics isn’t going to cut it; you need a consistent flow of content to establish credibility, authority, recognition, and inbound links.
5. Get Listed with Professional Organization Websites
If your company belongs to any local professional organizations, such as the city chamber of commerce, Toastmasters, or networking groups, many have membership directories that include the member’s company information and website URL.
Besides a link back to your website, these entries also give you the opportunity to share more about your business, products, and services.
6. Get Listed in Directories
Getting listed in directories is a link building strategy that’s been around for a long time. While it doesn’t hold as much weight as it used to, it is still worth submitting your company’s website to local and niche directories. Not only will this result in inbound links, but it’ll also boost your local search rankings.
Local business directories are usually available for major metropolitan areas, some even down to the specific niche, like contracting or clothing stores. GetListed.org and Yext.com are two tools that make it easy to see whether your business is listed in the major directories, and take action to get listed if your business isn’t.
7. Sponsor Events and Fundraisers
Depending on how involved your company is in the community, there may be opportunities for getting inbound links when sponsoring a non-profit fundraiser, local event, or regular business networking event. If your company is involved with or sponsoring any type of event, make sure your company’s logo and website URL are linked on the organization or event’s website. Many organizations list this as a benefit of sponsorship, so take advantage.
Other websites that also list companies regularly (or on a permanent basis, depending on the relationship), are sites that take sponsors. Many popular bloggers offer a monthly round-up of advertisers, with links to their websites. This is in addition to their banner ad that is displayed on the site. In many cases, working directly with the blogger or website owner can yield a better deal and more exposure than trying to start a banner ad campaign on Google Adwords, especially if the website is in your company’s industry.
8. Participate in Forums Q&A Websites
These are also classic link building strategies. When done correctly, they can yield links back to your company’s website, while also providing a helpful service and gaining more exposure for your brand.
Q&A websites include Yahoo Answers, Quora, Answers.com, and more. When it comes to forum participation, you can either regularly monitor niche message boards and forums or use a discussion search engine like Omgili or Boardreader to find threads in which your brand, niche, product, or service is being discussed.
By searching for keywords related to products and services, you can find threads to comment on. For instance, if a contractor searched for “granite countertops” they could find threads on customers needing help or looking to purchase new countertops. This results in an opportunity to offer a company blog post link that answers the poster’s question.
boardtalker screenshot taken 4/10/2013
Posters can include their company URL in their profile or post signature, but may also link to a specific page on their website if it directly relates to the question or discussion in general. Because so many forums and message boards are filled with individuals spamming readers about their business, be sure to remain professional and only plug your website when it benefits the original poster and other readers of the site.
Absolutely; in fact, it’s exactly what Google and Bing have said they want you to do, according to this article:
“[Duane Forrester] suggested contacting an authority site in your space to see if they would publish a guest article that you write particularly for them. If the authority site finds your content valuable enough to publish, that’s a completely different situation from article hubs that allow anyone to publish anything.”
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide on building your business through guest blogging. I strongly believe it’s the most valuable tactic business owners can (and should) be using to build a sustainable online business for the long haul, while growing traffic and sales. Did this guide help you? Are you going to give it a try? Leave a comment and tell me your thoughts!