The Ninja Guide to Getting 20 Guest Posts in 2 Months
Have you done a large guest posting campaign? How did it go?
For the last two months I’ve been on an absolute guest posting rampage, trying to promote my new blogger outreach software – Ninja Outreach.
In fact, I’ve had 20 guest posts published in the last two months, and I have another dozen or so in the queue.
Guest posting is one of those strategies you hear about quite often. It’s usually one of the top things bloggers recommend to generate traffic.
But does it really work?
To be honest, few bloggers and businesses are really doing enough posts to know one way or another.
So, we’re going to do our best to answer that question (and more), in this guest posting case study. Here’s what’s on tap:
- Guest posting – should I bother
- How to find and reach out to blogs
- Developing a process for guest posting
- How to write all these articles
- An indepth look at the results
Guest Posting - Should I Bother?
I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum of this. Sometimes you write an article and despite hours of hard work – receive very little traffic and conversions.
And then you read a case study from some well known blogger talking about how they generated over 800 subscribers with one guest post.
What did I do wrong?
The fact is, like most marketing channels, it can be hit or miss.
But there’s still a lot of reasons to give it an honest shot, here’s why:
Reason #1: It’s A Proven Model
The fact is guest posting can work. Consider these brief case studies:
Buffer – Leo Widrich, Co-Founder of Buffer, wrote over 150 guest posts, which lead to over 100k sign ups and put their social app on the map!
Groove – Although they just started heavily content marketing last year, they are having a ton of success as seen by their article, How We’ve Reached More Than 1 Million People By Guest Blogging.
QuickSprout – Neil Patel, one of the greatest content marketers of our time, has written highly about the long term benefits of guest posting:
“It really is a numbers game. When I first started guest-posting, I was hoping for great results, but my efforts drove little to no signups. I also didn’t see any improvement with my branding. If you continue posting for a year, you’ll notice that business will start rolling in because the content you published six months ago will start ranking really well in the search engines.” Neil Patel
“It really is a numbers game. When I first started guest-posting, I was hoping for great results, but my efforts drove little to no signups. I also didn’t see any improvement with my branding. If you continue posting for a year, you’ll notice that business will start rolling in because the content you published six months ago will start ranking really well in the search engines.”
In short, there is a lot of evidence in favor of guest posting from people and businesses I trust.
Reason #2: It’s A Bootstrapper’s Dream
If you’re building a business on any sort of budget (like I am), guest posting is an excellent marketing channel.
Yes, it takes time, and time should not be undervalued.
But there are points in our life where I feel like time is not the most valuable commodity, and bootstrapping a startup is one of them.
I can write a guest post in 45 minutes. Add 15 minutes for the communication and promotion, and in one hour I’ve guaranteed myself a spot in front of hundreds if not thousands of people.
I can’t think of too many other channels where I can get this sort of payoff for $0 investment.
Traffic Is Just The Start
A lot of people look at guest posting as a way to get traffic, and I think this opinion is wrong.
The fact is, outside of really heavily trafficked blogs – most guest posts don’t initially send heaps of traffic.
But that can be OK.
For one thing, there is long term traffic from having the article up on the blogger’s website indefinitely. It can continue to send traffic for months and years (compare that to say, paid advertising, or even social media).
But more than that, guest posting is about branding and networking. It’s about associating your relatively unknown brand with a brand of higher prominence, and it’s hard to put a dollar value on that.
So, hopefully this part has at least added some validity to guest posting as a viable marketing strategy.
How To Find Blogs For Guest Posts
There’s a lot of ways you can find guest posting opportunities. It’s really not that hard, and again, it can be done for cheap. For example:
- Start With Blogs You Know – Do you know right off the bat anyone who accepts guest posts? Maybe you read a guest post on someone else’s blog.
- Website Search Bar – When you’re on someone’s website, head over to the search and type in “guest post” to see what comes up.
- Guest Post Guidelines – Can you find any “Write For Us” or “Guest Posts” in the navigation menu?
- Retrace The Steps Of Another Blogger – Search something like “Guest posts by Pat Flynn” and see what comes up.
- Be On The Look Out For “As Seen On” – Many bloggers write where they have been featured in their sidebar.
Without a doubt, you can find some guest posts through these methods.
The problem is it doesn’t really scale very well. Finding dozens of opportunities would take many hours of work.
Luckily, here are two tools from Ninja Outreach (one free), that will help you out.
Ninja Outreach Lite - Free Chrome Extension
We just released a 100% free chrome extension that is pretty neat and works wonders for guest posting.
Once it’s installed, all you have to do is click the ninja icon in your browser, and it will populate with a ton of information about the blogger, including whether or not they have guest post guidelines visible or published guest posts.
There’s a ton of other information as well, such as traffic estimates, SEO, and social data to help you make an informed decision.
But there is one drawback – you have to be on the website to get the results.
This is where Ninja Outreach premium comes in handy, which is what we’ve been using to find hundreds of blogs in our niche that accept guest posts.
How does it work?
The short answer is you simply type in a keyword like Internet Marketing Guest Posts, and it will populate with related content on the web, including the domain, article, and contact information, and a ton of other SEO and social data for your browsing.
Here’s a video of it in action:
So now you have a variety of options to choose from, which will allow you to find dozens of bloggers in your niche who accept guest posts.
How To Effectively Outreach To Bloggers
For our marketing we have been contacting hundreds of bloggers, so it pays to have a well written outreach template.
Here’s two we’ve been using:
Template #1: Uber Personalized
Here’s the email I first sent to Sean, which landed me a guest post on his awesome business blog.
Why This Rocked:
- Personalized his name and defined our relationship.
- Included clear CTA to guest post (on a separate line so it would stand out).
- Showcased in-depth research, stating the exact articles I know his audience likes
- Explained the value to his audience
It’s a lot of work to write such a personalized template, but if you have a blog in mind you really feel would make for a great guest post, you should definitely put in this level of effort.
Template #2: Heavy Authority And Incentive
This template, which my partner Mark has been using, converts at over 20% and serves as an “all-arounder” for lots of occasions.
Why This Rocked:
- Used a reasonable degree of personalization, given the fact that it is cold outreach.
- Built authority through referencing some of my best guest posts.
- Offered an incentive to say yes (giveaway and lifetime licenses).
Admittedly, we’ve been using the second approach a lot more because it is difficult to scale such a personal approach in template 1 – but both are winners in my opinion.
Building A Scaleable Process
Now that you’re prepared to find and contact bloggers – you should build a process to scale your efforts.
Because trust me, it gets confusing real fast:
I recommend putting together an excel document. Have one tab specifically for outreach with the following columns:
- Contact Info
- Template (if you’re split testing)
- Sent (Y/N)
Additionally, you’re going to need another tab to keep track of positive replies.
For this I recommend the following columns:
- Proposed Guest Post Title
- Notes And Guidelines
For status, you’re going to have the following stages:
- Accepted (need to submit title)
- Title submitted (waiting reply)
- Title approved (waiting post)
- Post submitted (waiting approval)
- Post approved (waiting publish)
- Post published (yay!)
See how this gets confusing?
I like to group posts together by their status and color code them, so I can quickly see what stage we’re at, what needs to be written, and who needs to be followed up with.
Additionally, I keep a Guest Posting folder in Google Docs.
In this folder I have subfolders for Drafts (my stockpile), Submitted Posts, and Write Guidelines, as well as some other documents related to the marketing effort.
Keeping Up With The Articles
Here’s the thing about guest posting – it’s a lot of writing. I’m usually writing thousands of words daily.
And the little known fact is that many times you write a guest post and it will sit in the queue for weeks, sometimes months!
In fact, outside of the 20 articles that have been published, we have another 25 sitting in various stages of the guest posting lifecycle.
Its fair to say you have to write almost 1.5 – 2 guest posts for every one that gets published.
Writing that many articles is tough. Even just coming up with that many topics is tough.
Although this is a process that is best left to the individual, I will share my approach for coming up with dozens of ideas in a reasonable amount of time:
It goes like this:
Come up with a tier 1 topic for your niche. For example, in the startup niche this could be partners, marketing, or customer service.
Next come up with a tier 2 topic. This is basically a slightly niched down version of your tier 1. For customer service this might be channels.
Give it a twist! These are usually some adjectives or adverbs that are what is going to make it unique, like virtual, first time, or interesting.
Lastly, turn it into a title and give it some potential headlines.
Here’s what it looks like altogether.
Using this process, I can sit down in 20 minutes and come up with dozens of topic ideas in my niche. I draw from this repository every time we get an acceptance.
As for writing all of these posts – it can be tiresome to say the least.
But the more you write, the more content you have at your disposal to grab from, and, within reason, you can mix and match parts of articles to create an entirely new and unique article (just vary the words).
This works very well at scale, after you’ve written a dozen or so.
Results - And What I’d Have Done Differently
So, has all of this been worth it (and what could we have done differently)?
Although the ultimate goal is conversions, I’ll be honest in saying that I don’t have specifics around that data because our conversion tracking accidentally got removed during the last few weeks.
Starting with what I do have, let’s look at the referral traffic from domains, on which I’ve guest posted:
The above shows our traffic and the yellow line is what came from guest posts.
Not that impressive, huh?
In fact, guest posting only accounts for about 8% of all sessions.
But we also know that not everyone clicks the link in the post. Sometimes people go to the website directly through the browser, or maybe they come around a few days later when they see it somewhere else like on social media.
Let’s consider the overall traffic direction of the blog.
Well, that looks a lot better, albeit confounded by potentially other marketing efforts.
But back to the original point as to whether or not it is worth it – direct traffic from guest posts is a very narrow minded approach, isn’t it?
For starters, this has been part of just our overall outreach efforts. At times when we didn’t do a guest post we instead got a product review or a link on someone’s resource page, all of which are contributing to the overall traffic growth we are seeing.
Here is the traffic from product reviews:
Again, not that much, just another 4%.
Our organic traffic seems to be going out consistent with this time period:
Lastly, we’ve created many free accounts for bloggers, who are using and promoting the product going forward. Being able to give away a product for free has helped us build dozens of relationships with influencers in our space. This is probably the most valuable thing of all.
Are we happy with the results we’ve received so far? So – so, there’s definitely room for improvement:
The top two things we need to do are:
- Target More Influential Bloggers – It really is an 80/20 rule in terms of who sends you the traffic. After you’ve build up a reputation, it’s probably better to focus on a really personal approach to a few key websites.
- Offer An Incentive – I’ve seen this referred to as the expanded guest post, but it’s really offering an incentive to the audience to convince them to opt in. This is the tactic that was used in the article I referenced earlier about getting 800 opt ins from one guest post.
So maybe guest posting as a sole strategy is not the great – but if we look at it in the broader sense as merely an outreach campaign, things start to look a bit better.
David Schneider is the Content Director at NinjaOutreach an all in one Influencer Outreach software for marketers. He blogs about business at SelfMadeBusinessman. You can also find him on twitter @ninjaoutreach