Link building is a large part of every website’s development. It’s almost impossible to rank without acquiring backlinks to fuel the credibility of your content. Whether you own a local business or an online shop, backlinks are essential for building authority and outranking your competition.
Guest posting has emerged as one of the most popular methods of link building currently used by link builders and just about every quality SEO firm. The fact is that you’re able to get incredible results in ranking from the link you build. Just ask Adam Enfroy who attributes the explosive success of his website from his high authority guest posting experiment.
It’s a fact that guest posting can lead to the acquisition of high-quality backlinks. What more could you ask for in regard to acquiring a quality backlink? It doesn’t get much better than an editorial link to your site within a highly relevant piece of content.
Despite the potential success guest posting has in a marketing plan, the truth is it’s becoming more difficult to accomplish at scale. Most websites require minimum word counts, making it difficult to write a mass amount of articles. It’s not like every article needs to be a persuasive essay, but even if you only needed 50-100 links, at 1500 word minimums it’s going to take a long time to prospect and submit.
Another unfortunate truth is that there are increasingly more websites that only offer nofollow links. This means fewer options for improving your domain authority.
Yet another downside is that more sites are now asking for money to post your content. Not only is that risky business if that site is penalized, but it’s a risk that will cost you money to take.
In order to make this method of link building truly effective, a system is required that allows you and your content to stand out from the masses. Here are some proven tips on how to use guest posting as an effective link building method.
Keywords, keywords, keywords…
Link building is not something that should be taken lightly. Just because you have the most links or the best links won’t necessarily make your website outrank your competition. Your link profile should be built to optimize your pages for your target keywords.
Anchor text strategy
Using the wrong anchor text in your link building will work against your ranking. If you’re not careful about how many times you use optimized anchor text links, you might start moving your site away from the first page of search results.
There’s no exact formula for how to optimize a website using backlinks. There are, however, general rules of thumb and best practices.
For example, if you have an exact match domain, you can easily over-optimize your site with too many exact match anchor text links. Your anchor text strategy should err on the cautious side and include a good mix of anchor text.
Create a general outline for how you plan to optimize your pages regarding your anchor text links. Research the keywords that have similar intent and have them on your list to use. This way you can adjust your ratios according to how your website responds.
How to find guest posting prospects
Decide on the topic of the content you’re going to pitch your prospects. This will help to identify websites that are the best fit for your content. You want your guest post to be as closely related to the page you’re trying to rank so create content ideas that will help you in this department.
In order to get the best link prospects, you’ll need to cast a wide net and then filter out the sites that don’t quite meet your standards. Here are three strategies for identifying link prospects:
Use a search operative to generate a list of sites
A search operative is a command that tells Google to look for specific keywords in specific places. Use Google to search for websites that have published pages specifically offering guest posting opportunities.
Most sites that are accepting guest posts will use the phrase “Write for us” as the page title or in the URL.
Use these operatives inurl and intitle to list sites related to your keyword topic that accept guest posts:
[your keyword] + intitle:write for us
[your keyword] + inurl:write for us
If your keyword topic were about gardening, you would use:
Gardening + inurl:write for us
This would produce the following SERP:
You now have a few pages of results that you can sort through to find domains that meet your criteria. Build your list on a spreadsheet with the link prospect details (name, URL, contact email, domain authority, etc).
Work from an established list of websites
Another simple way to add a whole lot of domains to your list of prospects is to go through published lists of guest posting sites. There are plenty of websites that have published a list of sites that accept guest posts.
You can find hundreds of potential prospects by sorting through these lists. For example, search Google for gardening sites that accept guest posts, and you’ll get a search result like this:
Go through these sites and add the lists that apply to your keyword topic.
Spy on your competition
It’s a common practice by many SEOs to run a backlink report on the competing sites that currently rank for a target keyword. If the sites are ranking on the first page, they must have some valuable backlinks you can take advantage of as well right?
You can use many different analytic tools, but for this example, we’ll use SEMRush because they offer a free version of their tool (although the reporting on the free version is not as extensive).
From the dashboard, go to backlink analysis, type in the URL of your competitor to get an overview of their backlink profile.
Now you can see for yourself what links they’re using to achieve a first-page ranking. Export the results to a spreadsheet where you can filter out the websites that won’t help you and add the ones that look good to your list.
How to qualify a website as a good link prospect
As mentioned earlier, it’s necessary to exercise caution when linking from websites. It’s not just the anchor text that can get you in trouble, but also the quality of a website that will affect your link building efforts.
What is a quality link?
Quality links are those that positively affect your search visibility. There is more to a quality link than just metrics. In order for a link to be considered high quality, it should come from a reputable website that has a flow of traffic consisting of a similar audience.
Your link prospects should be websites whose visitors would be interested in your content. The first priority of link building is to build links from sites that would benefit your business, even if search engines didn’t exist. This perspective makes traffic the only important metric-and it’s not just the volume but also the types of visitors that are visiting the prospective website.
Having said all that, there is value in linking from a high-authority website. It’s just a plain fact that a link from a domain with a high authority rating is worth a few links from websites with lower authority ratings.
Target domains with a minimum level of domain authority to filter out link prospects and create a higher impact in your link building efforts. You’ll need to determine your own threshold for minimum domain authority based on the overall backlink quality of your top-ranking competitors.
Qualify domains directly from Google search results
One of the most widely accepted forms of measuring domain authority is by using Moz’s proprietary metric, Domain Authority (DA). In order to instantly qualify websites from the search results, install Mozbar to see the domain authority, page authority, number of links on the ranking page as well as the spam score.
The minimum level of DA will depend on the volume of guest posts you’re planning as well the quality of links you need to rank your page.
As a general rule of thumb, aim to post on websites that have achieved a minimum DA of 30 as they are more likely to have established credibility in their niche.
Confirm a minimum amount of traffic
The volume of traffic that a website has can also be a good indicator of the overall quality of a website. There are many sites that have low DA, but they drive a lot of traffic.
Use SEMRush to confirm the traffic a website receives. You can find this information directly from the domain overview. Simply enter the URL into the dashboard and look for the organic traffic value.
Plan your outreach strategies
Reaching out to editors and website owners requires a systematic approach in order to get the best results. There are three options for writing your pitch; mass email, bespoke email and custom template email.
Mass email strategy
A mass email strategy is based on the fact that if you blast enough businesses with your pitch, you’ll get the desired number of responses. While this may be true, it’s not the best way to build relationships or get high response rates.
In fact, the current trend for guest posting suggests that the number of prospects that accept free guest posts (or even respond to guest post requests) is diminishing. By mass emailing prospects, your pitch is more than likely to get disregarded and deleted.
Keep in mind that editors (especially on popular sites) get requests for guest posts all the time. If you have a generic email, you end up blending in with all the other requests and your response rate suffers accordingly.
An example of a bespoke email is where you’ve taken the time to elaborate on creating value with an article you’re pitching your prospect. To do this, you have to read articles on their blog in order to reference how your article will fit into their content strategy.
Get a feel for what they’ve recently published, the titles they use and make sure you’re not pitching an article that’s similar to anything they already have. The number one reason a guest post pitch is declined (according to website owners) is that the person pitching didn’t take the time to read their blog.
A bespoke email means you’re personalizing your pitch to compliment the site’s blog. This type of email should be reserved for high authority sites where you need to stand out from the masses.
Custom template email
The best form of outreach is one that allows you to reach out to a high number of websites in the least amount of time. A custom template email allows you to add a few lines to personalize your pitch, while still using the same template portions to save you time.
Anatomy of a good guest post pitch
A good pitch will immediately communicate to an editor that you’re not spamming, get them interested in what you’re offering and establish your credibility. Use the following tips on how to structure your pitch for the highest response rate.
Be direct in your subject line
Most site owners say a clever subject line isn’t that important for getting them to read a guest post proposal. In fact, most prefer that the person pitching be direct and upfront about their pitch.
Simply stating “Guest post proposal” in the subject line is enough to get your email opened.
Personalize your email at every opportunity
One of the first goals in your pitch is to separate yourself from the masses and show them you’re not spamming their site. You can accomplish this by using their first name, referencing their blog and stating the reason why you want to write for their blog.
Read the guest posting guidelines and a few articles on their site so your email is natural, sincere and personalized. You should even skim the last few months of article titles in their blog.
Include an outline
Include an outline of the article you’re pitching to get the highest response rate. This immediately gives the prospect a glimpse of what they’re getting. If you have a well-researched outline, it makes your proposal infinitely more appealing and shows you’ve given the topic some thought.
List four or five alternative title options
Your outline won’t be the right fit for every website, but it doesn’t mean you’ve lost the opportunity to guest post. List four or five more title options in your proposal to cast a larger net in capturing the interest of your prospect.
Put some effort into making your titles catchy, unique and descriptive. If the editor isn’t sold on the topic of the outlined article, they might be interested in seeing an outline on some of the other topics that you can write about.
Always link to previously published work
Nothing proves credibility like previously published articles. Showcase your best work on sites that have the most authority and are related to the content you’re pitching.
If you don’t have an article published yet, link to your own blog. Choose a well-written blog post that’s relevant to your pitch and include the link in your email as a writing sample.
Editors want to see that you have writing experience and can produce a good piece of content so they’re not wasting their time, or yours.
If someone takes the time to respond to your pitch, be courteous and professional in your correspondence. The smallest subtleties can go a long way, helping you build rapport and character.
Even though an editor may not agree to publish your content this time around, there may be more opportunities to work together in the future. Don’t count anyone out just because they’re not giving what you want when you want it.
Keep accurate and updated notes
It may sound basic, but keeping accurate data on your guest posting efforts can lead to higher acceptance rates with fewer efforts. Record the domains, contacts and dates you submitted a pitch or an article and any relevant notes on the site.
As you get responses you can eliminate websites from your list. Mark the sites you’ve published so you can submit again if you need links for a new project.
Make notes on sites that may have stopped accepting guest posts or are only accepting sponsored posts.
Always send a follow-up email
Follow up with the websites that never responded. Sending a second and third outreach email can literally double your acceptance rates. Not every website owner is eager to read every guest post submission they receive.
In fact, most will have forgotten about you after reading your first email. Sending a reminder will put you back on the map and will definitely land you some additional opportunities.
Partner up with active authors
You can make one guest post count for two, three or even four guest posts by partnering up with active authors. Come to an agreement with those that are publishing on websites similar to your own, to include a link to their site, if they include a link to yours.
This coalition can help make your guest posting efforts extremely efficient when there is more than just yourself linking to your site.
Think about it.
For every link you send to another author you work with, you’ll get one back. If you work with five authors and include five links in one article that’s worth five links from five different domains coming back to you.
Set up a shared Google docs spreadsheet to keep track of the links that each of you has contributed. Some people will carry their weight very well, while others might be complete duds. It’s still worth the effort in finding a good team that will multiply your efforts.
Measure and track your success
Stay aware of the results of your link building. It’s important to know what websites are good for yours and which ones aren’t. It helps to fine-tune your link building skills by monitoring how your website reacts to the different links you point to it.
Pay special attention to your anchor text ratios. There are some websites where your content may be syndicated across a large number of sites. This can throw your planning way off and you’ll need to adjust accordingly in your future guest posts.
As an established method of building links, guest posting remains one of the top methods used today for building authority and improving search visibility by just about every SEO firm and professional link builder. If you’ve read this far this guide has more than enough information to get you started on a highly successful link building campaign. Happy prospecting.
Christian Carere is an SEO consultant and a regular contributor to the digital marketing community. Christian is the founder of Digital Ducats Inc., an SEO company in Toronto specializing in organic traffic generation.