Writing guest posts for blogs and websites can be a great way to build connections both with fellow writers or potential readers. Guest posts can help you get a “foot in the door” with members of your target audience who you wouldn’t normally reach through your own blog or social media channels. These posts and articles can also help stretch your writing skills and build your credibility if you’re trying to “break into” a new genre or niche. These days, with so much publishing happening online and with blogs gaining respect as sources of information and news, writing guest posts isn’t just a fun thing to do, it’s the smart thing to do.
Before you start pitching guest posts at every blog under the sun, you need to consider what your goals are because they will influence your entire guest post process. Do you want to promote a blog you just started? If so then your strategy will be very different from a writer who has just published a book and wants to get noticed on the book blog circuit. Or what if you don’t have a blog, or you’re just starting out and have no idea whether you should even write guest posts at all? Don’t worry, we’ve got a guest post strategy for you too.
This article outlines the five most common strategies writers have for doing guest posts and it can help you jump-start the process of finding these opportunities. In upcoming articles, we’ll get into more of the details about the who, what and how in next few weeks. First and foremost, you need to identify your purpose or strategy for writing guest posts–your WHY–because every step after that will be based on this initial decision.
Strategy #1: Promoting a Blog or Website
One of the best ways to get more people to visit your site is to write guest posts for other sites. It’s a win-win. The site that’s hosting your post gets free content that you write exclusively for them. You get exposure and if you include your blog’s link in the article (in your bio at the end of the post is a simple and classy way to do this), you’ll probably see a nice spike in traffic as well. Just avoid a few key pitfalls and this strategy can be a great way build credibility in the blogosphere and gain some new loyal fans at your site.
The main place where guest bloggers tend to slip up is in pitching articles to websites before doing their due diligence. You need to do your homework, get to know the site where you’re pitching a guest post and the topics you pitch must be relevant to that site. Even if your area of expertise isn’t directly related to a given website, you can find creative angles for your topic that can be relevant to that site. You can even take the same basic idea and spin out articles for several websites in completely different niches just by looking at your topic from the perspective of different audiences.
Strategy #2: Reaching a New Audience
Related to Strategy #1, this strategy is all about what to do when you want to break out of a blogging rut and add a new group of people to your band of followers. In this case, think about sites that don’t directly connect to your area of expertise, but are peripherally related. For instance, at DIY MFA the obvious strategy is to write guest articles for other writing blogs. To expand beyond this niche, though, I also sometimes write for other publications that are related to writing or books or publishing, but are not quite as obvious. For instance, I might pitch a “Read with Purpose” type of article to a book blog. Book blogs tend to focus on book reviews and connecting with readers, so this type of post would allow me to broaden the DIY MFA audience while still drawing on my areas of expertise.
Strategy #3: Promoting Your New Book
The best strategy I’ve seen from writers who promote their books through guest posts is by writing articles on topics related to the book without actually promoting the book itself. Suppose you’ve written a historical YA novel about a teen growing up in the Civil War. Why not use some of that research you did for the book and turn it into a guest article or two about different aspects of the time period. Do you write scifi thrillers? What about doing an article for a pop science website, comparing the scifi elements you used in your book to the actual science behind these concepts. Keep in mind that when you pitch articles in order to promote your book, you’ll want to focus on sites that will do one of two things for you:
- Connect you with potential readers. Ideally if you write a guest article, you want it to be for a website that will reach your ideal reader. Think about who your ideal reader is, what blogs he or she might read, and then figure out an article that will bridge the gap between the focus of that site and your expertise.
- Build your credibility as a writer or expert on your topic. Some websites might not be the go-to site for your ideal reader, but if a website is well-respected, having an article on that site can be valuable nonetheless. The more you build your credibility as a writer and expert, the more doors will open for you down the road, both with promoting your book and also building your career in general.
Strategy #4: For Writers Who Don’t Blog
Just because you don’t have a blog doesn’t mean you can’t write guest posts for other blogs. Maybe you want to get more potential readers to your author website. Or maybe you have a book that just launched (see Strategy #3). The key here is to consider your call-to-action. What is that one action you want the people who read your article to take? If you have a blog, that CTA is a no-brainer: you want them to see your link at the end of the article and click over to your blog. But just because you don’t have a blog doesn’t mean you don’t have a CTA. Other ideas for a call-to-action:
- Following you on Facebook, Twitter or other social media. Just beware about peppering your bio with too many links. Too many choices between possible actions means people end up doing nothing altogether. Choose one and include a link so people can follow with one click.
- Checking out your Amazon or GoodReads author page. Again, keep the CTA to one choice and make it easy for readers to complete the action.
- Tweeting or sharing your article. One technique that I don’t use nearly enough on DIY MFA but really should is to include a “tweet-able” in the text. Have an interesting quote or message in your article? Add a tweetable link, like from clicktotweet.com and it will look something like this:
Don’t think guest posting is for you? Think again.
Strategy #5: Stretching Your Writing Muscle
If you’re new to writing or new to the blogosphere, the idea of writing posts or articles for other websites can be terrifying. Believe me, I know. I’ve been there. But the truth is that writing guest posts can be a great way to help you become a stronger writer. When you write for yourself, it’s easy to let yourself get a little lazy and let a few details slide. (I myself have been guilty of many a typo from time to time.)
When you write an article for someone else–be it a blog or website or print publication–you have to bring your A-game. By pushing yourself to do guest posts for other websites, you’ll strengthen those writing chops and you’ll learn to look at your preferred topic through the lens of different audiences. Not to mention that by working with bloggers, pitching post ideas and making requested edits, you’ll be practicing skills that will serve you throughout your writing career.
Don’t fret if you’re just starting out. You don’t need to pitch to heavy-hitter websites right out of the gate. In fact, some of the best blogger-friends I’ve made over the years are with bloggers who were at the same stage of writing as I was and we would swap posts, hosting each other on our sites. Sort of like being in the same graduating class in school, there’s a certain camaraderie of growing your writing careers side-by-side. This is a great way to forge relationships and collaborations with other writers, and you can meet some great people to boot!
As I announced on Tuesday, we have a new Web Editor at DIY MFA. Bess and I are working on putting together guest article submission guidelines for this site but we still haven’t nailed down all the details. For the time being DIY MFA will be closed to unsolicited submissions.
But fret not, over the next few weeks, we’ll be posting a few more articles on navigating the guest post process: from developing a pitch to crafting an excellent article. Our hope is that when we open up submissions, you’ll have all the information you need to write something fantastic. Hint: The skills you’ll learn here aren’t just relevant for writing articles at DIY MFA, but most of these concepts also apply when writing for most blogs and even print publications.