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How to Score the Guest Posts That Will Get Your Freelance Blog Noticed

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Read Time: 8 min
This post is part of a series called Launch and Grow Your Freelance Blog.
12 Ways to Keep Prospects Hooked on Your Freelance Blog
10 Ways to Promote Your Freelance Blog to Get Clients' Attention

Is your blog a lonely place? Often, freelancers start a blog about the type of work they do, in hopes of attracting clients with their posts.

But nothing happens.

The reason is usually that your tiny startup blog doesn't have much traffic. Search engines don't rank it highly and aren't sending you many readers off of searches for the key terms you're using in hopes of catching prospects' attention.

You're on page 57 of the Google search for "freelance designer," and nobody comes.

You can solve this problem, get higher rankings in search and attract more visitors who are prospects by guest posting on more popular blogs.

The bigger, the better.

Why Guest Posting Isn't Easy

It can be tough to get guest posts on some of the top blogs. These days Copyblogger and Problogger are both "invitation only" for guest posts.

Kikolani recently closed to guest posts. I have changed my own policy and now only take pitches from students in two specific training courses.

But there are plenty of well-read blogs out there that still accept guest posts -- and if you know what you're doing, you can break into the big blogs even if you're a brand-new blogger.

Why You Should Try to Guest Post Anyway

Yes, it's a little bit of work to learn the guest-posting ropes. But trust me, it is well worth it. I know several freelance writers who get the majority of their client leads from their guest posts on popular blogs.

That guest appearance doesn't just get you some new traffic and help you on search with a nice backlink -- it impresses the heck out of your prospects. You'll be a superstar in their eyes.

You clearly know what you're doing -- after all, you were on that popular blog your prospect loves.

How can you line up some high-profile guest posts? Here is my 7-step guide:

1. Choose Your Targets

The common mistake bloggers make when seeking guest posts is to pitch blogs they personally enjoy reading. While it can be fun to guest post on those popular blogs, it may not get you any clients.

To get client traffic to your blog, you need to discover what blogs your prospects read. You can find out by asking existing clients, or by posting the question as a blog post to your readers, such as, "What are the best blogs for small business owners to read?" and let your current blog readers give you some ideas.

Once you have a list, use Alexa, Google Toolbar's PageRank feature, or the online tool of your choice to discover which of the blogs has the biggest audience and which the smallest.

There are two possible strategies to pursue when choosing which blogs to pitch first:

  1. If you feel insecure about your guest posting abilities, start with guest posts on smaller blogs. If you have any friends who blog, you might put up a post or two on their blog, even if it doesn't directly relate to your niche, just for practice.

    When I first got started guest posting, I actually wrote weekly guest posts for a friend's freelance writing blog for a whole year to improve my chops and get a feel for writing for a different audience than my own. As you gain confidence, gradually pitch larger blogs until you're gunning for the biggest sites on your list.

  2. If you feel confident, start at the top. If you're getting positive feedback on your own posts and feel you understand the audience of a big blog, start with your prime targets. After all, they're the ones that have the most potential to get you noticed by prospects.

2. Study the Blog

This is where most guest bloggers fail. They have some topic in their heads that they feel they'd like to guest post on, and pitch that.

These posts are your road map to developing an idea that will appeal to this blog’s owner.

Instead, take the time to figure out what topic would be popular and garner many comments for that blog. To see what's popular, check the "most popular posts" list, and look for "best of" or "top 10" type posts that are round-ups of hit posts on the blog. You can also just Google the site name and see which posts rise to the top on search.

Next, study these best posts like you're cramming for a college exam. These posts are your road map to developing an idea that will appeal to this blog's owner.

While you're studying those topics, be sure to study the headlines, too. Every blog has its own style of headlines, and you'll want yours to conform to their approach.

Also take a hard look at the writing style of the blog. Is it all bulleted how-to lists? Long sections with bold subheads? Look at the structure the blog likes to use for blog posts so you can cast your pitch in the right format.

3. Connect with the Owner

Rather than sending a pitch in cold, try to first build a relationship with the blogger you hope to pitch. Of course, if you know anyone who could introduce you to the blogger, by all means ask for that introduction.

Barring that, follow them on Twitter and retweet some of their posts with added positive feedback. Leave thoughtful, helpful comments on their blog posts.

If possible, meet them in person, if you have a chance to hit a conference. If they do live events, attend and comment in chat during the event.

Sometimes, big bloggers will ask their audiences for help with something -- a survey, a question they want answered, a technical problem. Be sure to jump in and help.

If you can put your name in front of a big blogger a few times before you pitch, it will help break the ice.

4. Read the Guidelines

Your ability to carefully follow the guidelines about what and how to submit your idea will win you big points.

Most big blogs that accept guest posts have writer's guidelines posted on them somewhere (and if they're hiding, try using Google to turn them up). Did that headline say to read them? I meant build a little home shrine and then worship them.

As someone who accepts guest posts for my own blog, I can tell you only a tiny percentage of prospective guesters to my site follow my guidelines.

For instance, I require a headline and outline and won't read or publish pre-written posts. So what do most bloggers send me? Prewritten posts!

Your ability to carefully follow the guidelines about what and how to submit your idea will win you big points.

5. Choose Your Topic

The first guest post you write for a big blog is important. It needs to be highly successful and get a lot of comments and social shares, so that prospects will be impressed with your ability to connect with your audience, and the blog owner will invite you to post again.

I don't discuss this much, but my first guest post for Copyblogger was actually thrown in the trash. My editor Jon Morrow and I agreed that the topic wasn't a perfect fit and wasn't likely to make a splash and get me noticed on the site.

So I started over and developed a better post idea with Jon's direction...and it ended up in Best of Copyblogger 2010. I put in a ton of writing time, but it was worth it, as appearing on Copyblogger gave me high visibility and led to numerous opportunities.

6. Don't Plagiarize -- Even Yourself

At this point, you're ready to write. You're either writing on an approved assignment from your target blog, or their guidelines call for you to go ahead and submit your post.

Your guest post for a top blog isn’t the time to find something online, give it a slight rewrite, and then turn it in as your own work.

The temptation many new bloggers have when contemplating guest posting is to try to find a shortcut around putting in the writing time required to produce a quality post worthy of publication on a top site. Kikolani's Kristi Hines said one reason she pulled the plug on guest posts was she discovered people were sending her posts that had already appeared elsewhere!

I shouldn't have to say this, but don't ever do that.

Your guest post for a top blog isn't the time to find something online, give it a slight rewrite, and then turn it in as your own work. Taking a post from your own blog and recasting it a hair also doesn't fly.

Big blogs expect completely unique guest posts -- and not just that, but high-value posts. Think about how you can get the most useful information into your guest post for that big blog's target audience. Then, deliver it.

7. Write the Heck Out of It

You need to bring your "A" game when you write for top blogs.

I probably invested an 8-hour day in writing each of my first guest posts for big blogs, and it was worth every minute to establish myself as someone with the skill to write for blogs of that caliber.

Many freelancers want to stint on writing for guest posts because they are usually unpaid. But don't think of guest posting as giving that site a freebie -- think of this as a marketing activity that has the power to transform your freelance business.

If you get a chance to do a high-profile guest post, make the most of it.

Have you tried guest posts? Leave a comment and let us know how you got your posts into bigger blogs.

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