Here’s the scoop on guest blogging: Google doesn’t appreciate paid links or content published just so you can “win” a link. However, if your guest post is informative, genuine, and helpful, including a relevant link back to your website is a great way to improve your exposure and relevance.
Is guest blogging a worthy investment?
It no longer results in the skyrocketing SEO as it did before Google started evaluating placed links more thoroughly.
However, guest blogging still affords some pretty sweet rewards:
- Exposure to the blog and brand’s audience (hopefully including promotion on their social media and email list).
- Increased authority and reputation.
- Opportunity to expand or blog just outside your niche.
- Possibility of capturing secondary or tertiary audiences where they live.
10 Keys to Writing Great Guest Blogs
If you’ve determined the blog presents a good opportunity for you, it’s time to create your guest blog. Let’s cover the basics of how to get it done.
Guest Blog Writing Key #1: Read the Guidelines
Quite simply, your guest post has the best chance of being accepted if it conforms to all the guidelines set forth by the editor(s). Ideally, you should read the guidelines before you even pitch. Guidelines usually include rules about:
- Images (including acceptable sources).
- Author biography and headshot.
- How many links you are permitted to include in the post.
- Word count.
- Tone, style, and level of formality.
The editor should also be able to provide you with stellar examples of content published on the blog.
Surprisingly, guidelines are often vague – even when editors are picky. In this case, don’t hesitate to ask questions.
Guest Blog Writing Key #2: Let Your Expertise Shine
Expertise isn’t just about what you know – it’s about what you do with it. Through successes (and failures) in webinar presentations, I’ve learned that audiences respond most sincerely to application and innovation. Anyone can look up how to do something, but knowing how to apply it to a particular problem is especially important. The best content connects the dots and enlightens processes for readers.
You don’t have to give away every detail behind your process or way of thinking, but provide a window into your world.
I speak often about merging the personal and professional brand – something you can do carefully and successfully if you decide it’s the right fit for your business and your life. When I decided to merge my personal and professional Twitter accounts in a “Twitter wedding,” I documented the process and received positive feedback about the transparency of the post.
Depending on your audience, you’ll need to display expertise through a combination of:
- Story (how you did it).
- Data (proof that you did it).
- Example (the final product).
Each guest posting opportunity presents a challenge to find the right balance of story, data, and example, so make sure to communicate with your editor or point of contact to ensure clear expectations.
Guest Blog Writing Key #3: Let It Flow
When it comes to keeping the reader engaged, flow is what makes your post stick. Your entire post should read as though it was written by one person in one sitting (even if took you days to put it together). Each tip or idea should connect to the next, and if it’s a how-to post (like this one), the order of steps should make sense.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Learn the 10 key steps to writing an awesome guest blog post over on @ExpWriters!” quote=”Learn the 10 key steps to writing an awesome guest blog post over on @ExpWriters!”]
Guest Blog Writing Key #4: Apply Search Engine Friendly Structure
Google prefers a certain structure for blog posts. Best practices are as follows:
- Do not use H1 header tags except for the post title – use H2, H3s, and so on to neatly organize your post.
- Use short, clear paragraphs.
- Bullet point for clarity when applicable.
- Number your how-to instructions or recipe steps when appropriate.
This also saves your editor time. If they can copy and paste your formatting, it makes their job much easier.
Guest Blog Writing Key #5: Focus!
While many copywriters are accustomed to writing for “keyword density,” you’ll find a more natural inclusion of a desired keyword occurs if you strive to use a focus keyword. Use your focus keyword in your:
- Post title.
- First paragraph.
- Body copy (a couple of times).
- Meta description. (Note: As a guest blogger, you may not be required to submit a meta description, but it’s a kind gesture and only takes a few minutes.)
If you’re writing for a general keyword, consider using a more specific long-tail keyword as well. For example, this post focuses on “guest blogging” (a very general, high-competition keyword) and “how to write a guest blog” (a specific question or search phrase).
Guest Blog Writing Key #6: Add Appropriate Backlinks
While you want to put a link back to your own site in the piece, don’t forget to link to other authoritative sites, especially those with a high domain authority or Alexa ranking. Chances are you know some reliable resources on your choice topic, and including credited statistics and other citations with links back to those sites will help.
It’s also best practice (and kind) to include an internal link – that is, a link to another blog post or page on the website for which you’re creating the post.
Guest Blog Writing Key #7: Include Images
Editors are used to receiving walls of text. Even properly formatted copy can start to blur together when it’s the tenth piece an editor has seen in a day. When guest bloggers provide visuals, however, it helps their copy stand out and shows they put some extra time into the presentation.
Furthermore, it creates less work for the editor (as long as the images work in their approved format or layout, and come with all necessary permissions).
Ideally, you should have some sort of visual break every 300 words or less. That can mean a custom image, a stock photo, a click-to-tweet, or an embedded audio or video.
Check out these examples from Express Writers CEO Julia McCoy’s piece on creating an unforgettable presence.
Julia employs clear headers, short paragraphs, and a bulleted list to clearly explain her point.
She also breaks up the text by placing facts in a storytelling image and including a “click to tweet,” which also encourages readers to share her advice.
Remember to only include images you have permission to use. Provide a permissions line, credit, and a link to the source if requested or required.
Guest Blog Writing Key #8: Proofread Your Work
Editors will look over your copy before it goes live, but you can prevent embarrassing mistakes and increase your chances of acceptance by proofreading your work or asking someone else to do it for you before you submit. Aside from checking for spelling and grammar, a good edit analyzes flow and also checks all the links.
If you’ve relied on other sources to create your piece, make sure you run it through Copyscape to ensure uniqueness. You don’t want to get rejected for plagiarism because you didn’t reword your cited sources enough.
Guest Blog Writing Key #9: Write with Authority
You are guest blogging on a topic because you’re the resident expert! Avoid phrases like “I think,” or anything that will make the reader doubt your expertise on a given topic. Note how I say in this piece what editors will and will not do – not what they may think about doing. Having been a website editor for so long, I have the authority to offer these tips in a decisive way.
Guest Blog Writing Key #10: Include a Call to Action (CTA)
At the end of your post, tell your reader what they should do. Are there more on-site resources for them? A place where they can learn more about your services?
Your CTA will largely depend upon the tone of the piece and the editorial guidelines. It’s always safe to ask your readers to comment with their thoughts (if the blog has a comment section), as that will drive engagement and please the editor. If you do this, make sure to follow up and respond to the comments on the blog.
What’s Your Niche? It’s Time to Own It
At Express Writers, we’re here to help you say it with authority.