When it comes to launching a new brand online, finding the right exposure can be a challenge. Nowadays, there’s more competition on the internet than ever before – in fact, more than 140,000 new websites launch every day, and more than two million blog posts are published a day, so you’ll need to work hard if you want to capture people’s attention.

Of course, paying for advertising and sponsorship is a great way of helping your new website gain some traction, but if you’re on a limited budget or have no budget at all, something like that won’t be possible. That’s why small business owners should, alongside investing in their own content marketing strategy, consider guest blogging on third-party websites to boost organic traffic, build backlinks and increase brand awareness. Here’s how.

Decide whether you should guest blog

Before you reach out to bloggers about contributing to their websites, you should first decide whether it’s the right strategy for your business. You may think that, by writing a piece of content and submitting it to a third party website, you’ll receive endless traffic back to your website and you’ll make money from your post. But the chances of that happening, even on some of the world’s biggest contributor-friendly publishers, are slim.

At best, guest blogging can give you a high authority backlink to your website, put your name and brand in the face of potential customers and give you an opportunity to share wisdom with the blog’s readership. At worst, your blog will be read by nobody and the link you included in your content will be no-followed, meaning no backlink to help your website climb search engine results pages. Unless you’re prepared for and are comfortable with the latter of those options happening, then guest blogging is not for you.

It’s also important to mention that guest blogging isn’t a one-time thing. Of course, landing a contextual link back from a high authority website will help your website’s SEO, but to feel the benefits of a guest blogging strategy, you need to contribute to other websites regularly and consistently. Blogging on a bunch of sites to give your site an initial boost could actually prove damaging to your website – a ‘slow and steady’ approach is the most effective.

Determine what you want out of guest blogging

It’s easy to be blind sighted by the fact you’ve been offered a guest blogging opportunity on one of your favourite websites, but it’s important that you determine what you want out of your guest blogging strategy. If it is purely to increase brand awareness, then make sure you have the opportunity to mention your products and services in your content – or at least in the guest author box that’s most commonly used in guest blogging posts.

If you want to receive a backlink for each of your guest blogs, then your strategy will be significantly different to what it would be if you’re just looking to build your profile and get your name out there. For the former, you’ll need to work harder because convincing webmasters to accept your guest posts isn’t always easy – especially now that many know they can charge for such luxury. Knowing what you want from your strategy is important.

Another factor to take into consideration is the links you’ll be building. Even if your ultimate aim isn’t to achieve more backlinks to your website (that’s a good strategy to have), you will most likely be asked to link back to your website at the end of your post. Knowing which keywords to use and which pages to link to are important here – sticking to your homepage and using a branded keyword (such as your brand or product name) is the best option.

Finally, you should be willing to be honest with bloggers and publishers about the reasons why you want to blog on their website. Of course, flattering them with a great guest blog pitch is the best way, but being straightforward and blunt about what you want from them in return is the best way to deal with guest blogging. The worst that they can do is say no.

Research authority websites in your industry

Now that you’ve decided why you want to start guest blogging, you’ll need to begin researching authority websites in your niche or industry. When you’re in the beginning stages of the guest blogging process, it’s easy to accept any and every blogging opportunity, but you should be selective if you want to save yourself time, money and enjoy the maximum return on your guest blogging investment. Simply blogging on every website you come across won’t grant you the same benefits as being strategic and intelligent with your article topic selections and chosen linked keywords.

Google, of course, is a great starting point for your guest blogging strategy. Simply type in the name of your industry followed by guest blogs to see who’s offering to publish such content, and you’ll likely be presented with hundreds of potential websites that you could reach out to. Another great way is to use a backlinks checker tool on some of your biggest competitors’ websites, and look for opportunities based on where they acquired backlinks. It’s a cheeky way to do guest blogging, but it can save you time and help you rank.

Once you’ve found a couple of websites that you’d like to guest blog on, make sure you read through their guest blogging guidelines if they have any, and check out other guest blogs on their website so you can get a feel for what they’re looking for. If you have time, interacting with the blog on social media and in their comments section can also be beneficial – some websites only accept guest blog pitches from valued members of their communities.

Before you go any further and submit an application to write for their website, do some more research. Use SEO tools to find out the website’s domain authority, and check out their social media platforms to make sure they have an active, engaged audience. There’s little point in blogging for a website that’s inactive or that nobody visits. One final check to make, too, is the quality of existing content on the website. If the website is packed with thin content, or it has too many contributions from guests, reconsider whether it’s the right place for you. Guest blogging on a dodgy website could land you a penalty from Google.

Pitch a guest blog to a website

Now for the interesting part. Before we delve right into pitching a guest blog, let’s spell it out to you. You’re asking for free promotion from a blogger who probably knows nothing about you. Yes, you’ll be providing them with high-quality content, but they’ve got to take the time to respond to your emails, edit your copy and promote it on their website. Don’t think that you’re doing the blogger a favour by writing content for them, and don’t assume that you’ll automatically be accepted just because you’re willing to work for free. Oh, and one more thing: there’s quite a strong chance that the webmaster will ignore your guest blogging submission, or they simply don’t want to feature you on their website. They might also ask for payment in return for a guest blog – and that’s never something you should do.

If you’ve found a high-quality website that’s accepting guest blogs, then it’s time to make your pitch. Remember: before you do, you should check out their website, read contributor guidelines and familiarise yourself with what they’ve been doing. You don’t want to be caught out by not doing your research, and it only takes a couple of minutes to check. Here are a couple more rules that you’ll need to follow when sending your email.

  • Personalise – a one-size-fits-all approach is transparent
  • Make your email about them – talk about their website and content
  • Don’t waffle on – people are busy, so keep your message short and sweet
  • Send your email from a professional email account – no @hotmail.com allowed

Send your email via your mailbox instead of a contact form if possible, as you’ll be sure that it’s sent and you’ll know when they respond. Choose a simple subject, like ‘Guest blogging on X website’, and keep your email short and sweet. The below template is just a basic guide – you should aim to personalise each of your emails to increase your chances of getting a response. Keeping a record of who you have emailed and when is also a sensible idea – sending the same webmaster a guest blogging pitch three times doesn’t look professional and will damage your chances of securing a guest blogging placement, even if your content is great.

Hi [name],

I hope you don’t mind me reaching out to you like this, but I saw your recent post on [subject matter], and I had an idea for a follow-up post that would talk about [subject]. I’ve been working in the [industry] industry for a number of years now, and I’d love to contribute a piece of content if that’s something that would interest you?

Thanks for reading, and keep up the great work. I look forward to hearing from you.

[Name, website, email address, telephone number].

Whether or not you decide to follow-up your email in a week’s time is up to you. While you don’t want to overwhelm a blogger with emails, sometimes they’re busy and don’t always get a chance to respond. A gentle push is totally fine, but don’t overdo it. One follow-up email is where you should leave it – after that, accept defeat and move on to the next site.

As for when you should send your email, opt for a Tuesday morning. CoSchedule’s data suggests that Tuesday is the day you’re most likely to get a response, while a mid-morning time of 10 am or 11 am will stand you the biggest chances of your email being seen by your blogger.

As a bonus, you could check out this list of sites that accept guest bloggers.

Write the post – and include a link back to your website

If you’ve received a response from your blogger and they’re happy for you to contribute a piece of content to the website, then it’s time to start writing. Some digital marketers write bulk posts in advance that they can send off when guest blog opportunities arise, but sitting down and writing content for each individual guest blog is the best way to ensure you’re delivering something that will speak to their audience and keep the blogger happy.

Make sure that you stick to the guest blogging guidelines at all times – if you don’t, there’s a strong chance that your blogger won’t publish your content, or that they’ll ask for several amends before they’re happy with it. You should also aim to include a link or two back to their website in your post, as internal linking is important for search engine rankings. Finally, when you’re happy with your post, consider adding a link back to your website (and choose a relevant keyword that you’re trying to rank for), and also write an ‘about the author’ paragraph that the blogger can use when they upload your content to their website.

As soon as you’re finished, send your completed content to your blogger in a Word document, and, if required, include any HTML code for images and links to make their lives easier. Give them time to review your post and publish it – if you don’t hear back in a couple of weeks, give them a gentle reminder and ask if there’s anything you can do to help.

You should, then, have your first guest blog published on another website and now it’s time to monitor engagement and help boost its chances of success.

Monitor engagement and give it a boost

Just as you would with any content you produce for your own blog, it’s important to monitor engagement on your guest blog – at least for the first week or two. Respond to any comment, thank people on social media who share your content and be around to answer any questions people may have about what you’ve written. This is the perfect opportunity for positioning yourself as an authority figure in your industry, and a chance for you to convert some of your guest blog’s fans into readers of your own blog and content.

If you want to boost your blog’s chances of success, then you should also take part in some light promotion. While we’re not suggesting that you pay to promote a third-party website, you should share your new blog post on social media and tell your email subscribers about it, too. Not only does it put more eyeballs on the content you’ve written (and potentially give you more clicks back through to your website), but it shows the webmaster that you’re grateful for the opportunity to write on their website, and open you up to guest blogs on other websites. A single successful guest blog post can open doors to countless other opportunities, so keep your eyes open and be ready for your next move.

Track your guest blog’s progress over time

The first few weeks of your new blog post are likely to be the most fruitful, but if you’ve created a piece that’s gone down well on social media or is evergreen, then you’ll likely enjoy comments, social media shares and traffic back to your website for a long time to come. Make sure you keep an eye on the post – add it to your favourites and keep a Word document or Google Sheets spreadsheet to record your guest blogging process. Also be sure to keep a copy of the original blog on your computer or cloud drive – if, for any reason, the blog is removed from the website or the website disappears, you’ll be able to use your blog on your own website or for another guest blogging opportunity. It’s simple.

Summary: guest blogging for small businesses

This step-by-step guide to guest blogging should send you on your way to success, but it’s only the beginning of your journey. Sourcing the right guest blogging opportunities and writing engaging, high-quality content with contextual links is perhaps the biggest challenge you’re likely to face, but by creating content on a regular basis and always keeping an eye out for new opportunities, you’ll be able to create high-quality backlinks and land placements on websites that will put your brand in front of potential customers. Good luck.