Everyone has been going on the “just create great content” kick lately, when referring to growing your online presence. While this is great advice, for a brand spanking new website, it’s just not that easy. Great content is completely worthless if there’s no one there to see it.
One way to do it is through reverse guest posting. Basically, instead of blogging on other sites (which you should do as well), you get other sites to guest blog on yours.
How does that help me grow my presence?
The basic concept is simple. When someone guest posts on your blog, they’re going to promote the article. Their followers will see the article, their followers will comment on the article, their followers will share the article. It’s a way to instantly tap into a community you previously had no reach in.
Who do I ask?
This is fairly straight forward, especially if you have experience guest blogging yourself. You want to ask mid level, industry relevant, social bloggers. What I mean by mid level, is someone popular, but not overwhelmingly so. For example, in marketing you can’t just ask Seth Godin to guest post (and believe me I’ve tried); however, the CEO of an up-and-coming agency? Sure!
You want to find a balance between their social following and industry relevance. The more niche specific you go, the less followers you’ll reach. At the same time, those people will have more interest. More importantly, your contacts should be bloggers. These guys will already have a social following, they’ll already have a community, and their fans connections are more likely to share their work.
This also allows you to ask if they have any peers that would be interested in guest blogging as well.
How do I find them?
There are a few ways to go about this, but if you’re new to outreach I would suggest using Followerwonk. Basically, this allows you to search through peoples twitter bios so you can pinpoint specific interests.
Here’s a quick example using biking as the niche. First I did a search for “bicycle blog” with Followerwonk’s bio search.
Right off the bat, the second result seems pretty ideal. He’s a bicycle blogger with a nice following and has sent several tweets.
A quick look at his twitter profile shows that he actively tweets to his followers and is a genuine twitter user. It also provides a link to his blog where you can see that he blogs often and hasn’t abandoned it.
This is a perfect target and I found them in two minutes. Using this method you can build out a list of potential contacts and start doing some outreach.
How do I ask?
This is the hardest part, especially for your first few guest posts. I recommend writing a handful of posts to show the blog is active. You’ll have a hard time finding respected bloggers to write on a blog that has no legitimate posts. If the blog is active, you’re chances of success are much higher.
Secondly, when you’re doing outreach, I recommend starting with a question about their blog. Look through their posts and something you can relate to or something you can carry on a conversation about. Something specific that shows you actually read their blog. This will help you build a foundation and a starting relationship. Here’s an example:
My name’s Peter. I was reading your post about commuting on your bike and you mentioned you were using a speedometer. Is there a specific brand you’d recommend? I don’t have a whole lot of knowledge about bike speedometers, but I’ve been interested in getting one for some time. Any info would be greatly appreciated!
This will give you a much higher chance of getting a response and that’s one of the most important aspects of doing outreach. If you get that first response, your chances of success increase ten fold.
This doesn’t mean you immediately ask them for a guest post right after. Use your time to start these small conversations with lots of bloggers at once. After the conversation is over, give it a week and reach back out.
Thanks for your help on figuring out a quick route for commuting last week. It’s saved me a ton of time. I wanted to ask if you’d be interested in writing a post for our shop’s blog. We sell bicycle parts and while we don’t have a huge following, we’re eager to get it off the ground. Any help would be greatly appreciated and I’d be happy to compensate you for your time.
This is where you have to be real. Don’t oversell your company, don’t write a huge pitch, don’t act like you’re doing them a favor. Act like you’re asking your neighbor to write on your personal blog. I wrote a post about outreach a while back if you’re looking for more examples.
Also, people have different opinions about offering compensation. For the first handful of posts, it helps to offer $100-$200 for a post. Remember, they’re helping you. At this point, you’re not able to offer a whole lot back. Once you get the first few posts rolling, you won’t have to offer compensation. You’ll be able to reach out to people within their community and grow a small guest posting network. Your network’s peers will be happy to post on an associated blog.
How do I manage my outreach?
This is going to be different for everyone. I recommend you try lots of different things and find what you’re comfortable with. Don’t do something, because there’s some SEO celebrity that preaches about it.
One thing I will recommend is making sure you try and keep track of as many details as you can: the date you sent out your original email, the post you commented about, their email address, their first name, the email you contacted them from, their dogs name (I’m not joking. If you find a personal queue, write it down). This will keep your conversations natural, even when you’re talking to lots of people at once. It’s easy to mix people up and having detailed notes will help you manage your correspondence.
I personally do most of this through spreadsheets, because I’m
detail oriented anal. However, I don’t recommend my method. It’s just comfortable for me and I’m trying to break out of the habit.
If you’re new to large scale outreach or looking for something more user friendly, I suggest taking a look at Buzzstream. They have a decent prospecting tool:
They do a good job of extracting as much contact info as they can, like emails, social profiles, etc. They also allow you to quickly mark prospects as good or bad, which is nice for weeding out irrelevant stragglers. They even pull in RSS data allowing you to quickly read through post information without leaving the tool.
The most helpful part, however, is the ability to sort and manage your contacts. You can organize different prospect lists, email them directly from the tool, create templates to save time with outreach, add notes about your prospects, and see your previous correspondences through different channels.
If you want want a more detailed overview of Buzzstream’s features, I recommend checking out Paddy Moogan’s post about using Buzzstream for outreach, because I’m really not doing it as much justice as it deserves.
On a side note, you should also reach back out to people with a follow up email if you haven’t heard back from them in a week or so. A great tool for this is Boomerang. Basically you can set up alerts to remind you to reach out to people if you haven’t gotten a response within a specified amount of time.
What do I do after the post launches?
After all the correspondence is complete and you have a guest post, you want to make sure it gets promoted properly. I don’t mean tweet it and post it on Facebook. If you’re a brand spanking new site, your follower count will be low. Primarily you want to make sure your social sharing icons are perfect.
- Make sure you have social buttons that are easily visible. People expect your buttons to be at the top, bottom, or side of your posts. Don’t expect people to tweet a post just because it’s “that good”. People are remarkably lazy and may not share it if there’s no button.
- Dont oversaturate your buttons. Just because people expect them at the top, bottom, and side, doesn’t mean they need to be at all three. The last thing you want to do is distract people from the content itself. Test out different variations and see what works best.
- Use counters. For whatever reason, having buttons that count the amount of shares, helps. If you have the resources, do a test and see what performs better. If not, use icons with counters as a default as they typically outperform.
- Don’t push too many social networks. Promote what you’re good at. Don’t promote Pinterest just, because you think it’s the thing to do. Focus on the networks you have a foothold in. The ones that make sense and the ones you’re comfortable working with. Having too many options can actually push people away from sharing
- Test all your buttons. DO IT!
- Make sure you reference your own handle when people tweet your post. For example, “via @twitterhandle” at the end of your tweet. I’ve heard that using “RT @twitterhandle” at the beginning of posts performs better, but I personally find this annoying. It would be worth testing if you have the resources
- Don’t forget about email and RSS. Make sure you have some sort of email subscription set up, as these can be difficult to grow out. Also, make sure people have easy access to your RSS feed and make sure it works. It’s shocking how many sites lose out on readers, because the feed is either hidden or broken altogether.
You also need to be adamant about checking your comments and making sure they’re going through properly. For a new blog, comments can get stuck in a pending status until a user is approved for the first time. You should also check your spam filters, as they’re not 100% accurate.
If you notice comments going through and the original author isn’t responding, don’t be afraid to notify them. If they’re not used to guest posting, they may not consider the fact that they may not receive email notifications.
Lastly, you want to make sure your guest author is getting full credit. Make sure you have a bio from them with their avatar image and social profiles. Set them up with a Google author tag if you can. You’ll get a lot more respect from them if you go through the effort and possibly a link back from their Google+ profile.
Don’t be a ghost, join the conversation.
Keep track of the mentions you’re getting online and respond when appropriate. Even a simple “Thanks for sharing!” goes a long way. Remember, you’re new to the community and you need to show you want to be a part of it.
The easiest way to be active about this is through twitter. Especially with Tweetdeck, as it allows you to set columns for different searches. Here’s an example, where I have a column for the websites name, the name of the blog post, the blogs twitter handle, and the authors handle:
Out of these four columns, these were the tweets that have response potential:
So the last column was a dud, but the first three columns are all filled with people you could possibly respond to. This is a good way to start building up your twitter follower count and also just build some social relationships.
This gives you an idea of how well you can stalk your guest post and become a part of it. Yes, communicating on twitter can be a little awkward if you’re new to it, but it’s something you need to get over. There’s no need to be shy, being awkward is better than being invisible.
Return the Favor
This may sound like a task, but it’s a benefit. If someone guest posts on your site, they’re not going to shun the idea of you guest posting on theirs. This is a good way to reinforce your notoriety with their followers and show you’re not a “one hit wonder”. There’s a good chance they saw your blog when reading that persons prior article (on your site), so now they see you writing on theirs as well. It shows you’re active and a “real” person.
Just like before, you want to make sure you’re proactive about mentions on twitter and comments on the post. A post on another site requires just as much effort from you as a post on your own site.
This is the basic idea of how you can squeeze your way into a new community and become a part of it. One thing I didn’t mention that should be noted, is you should feel out the community that makes sense for both your company as well as your personality. There is no point in chasing a community that better suits your company if you’re not comfortable socializing with them. You either need to get comfortable or find a group that makes sense for your companies persona (you).