A guest posting program is a great way to build relationships, provide value to your brand partners, and increase your reach. I’ve coordinated guest blog exchanges in varying degrees for different clients while maintaining consistent internal blogs.
I began getting questions about how it’s done after writing a post on it for Hubstaff (download it here), and have continued to get questions until today. To that end, I’m sharing a few tips and lessons I’ve learned along the way below.
Keys to successful guest blog exchanges
You need to do it for the right reasons
Guest blogging is great for capturing external backlinks to help with SEO. The more backlinks you have from authoritative websites, the more trusted and relevant your domain is seen as.
However, this is not the end game for a guest post program. Your end goal is to provide value to relevant audiences.
If your products or services aren’t useful for the people reading your guest post, you’re spam. If you’re only after a link, quality blog readers will see through the tactic in a heartbeat.
Here are a few ways to find great partners for a blog exchange.
- Start with your existing network. Reach out to your integration partners, brands you’ve worked with before, and look through your collection of business cards from industry events.
- Pay attention to their domain authority. Look for blogs that have a higher DA than yours, or a score of 20 and above.
Pro tip: Don’t mention your brand in your guest post. Instead, try linking to a relevant article from your own blog, or leave the introduction to your author bio.
You need to know how to craft an email
The first step to starting a discussion for a guest post exchange is to reach out. I recommend doing this via email, since your target partners can respond in their own time and forward your email to the rest of their team to get thoughts.
Here are a few tips for reaching out.
- Include their company name in your subject. One of my favorites has been “[Partner] + [Company] marketing collaboration” since it captures attention immediately.
- Don’t forget to follow-up, and when you do, add a “Re:” in your subject line.
- If it’s in line with your efforts, offer both a guest post as well as a guest post exchange. Some teams with awesome blogs are would appreciate a blog from you, but don’t have time to write one in return.
- Don’t move too quickly. In your first email, ask if they would be interested in doing a guest post exchange, don’t assume they’re already in.
Email outreach template
Subject: ILoveDogs + DogSittersUnite collaboration opportunity
My name is Rachel from DogSittersUnite. I found your blog and noticed we have fairly similar audiences, so I’m reaching out to see if you’re interested in doing a guest blog exchange.
Let me know, and I can send you some title pitches and a little more information about DogSittersUnite.
You need writers and partners
Once upon a time, when I was young and foolish, I thought I could handle a professional blog on my own. Since then, I’ve learned that a great blog has a number of people behind it, including writers, editors, individual contributors, and project managers.
Working with the Skubana blog has taught me that an informative, useful blog is a collection of expertise from around the industry, and answers common questions that our target audience has.
This is possible only with a reliable team of writers and content partners. I recommend vetting and amassing an army of freelance writers to work with, in addition to building up relationships with regular industry partners for guest posts.
Here’s what to look for when hiring freelance writers.
- Talent: can they do the research and deliver impeccable work?
- Professionalism: will they quit in the middle of a job? Are they willing to sign an NDA?
- Time management: do they meet their deadlines and ask questions well in advance?
- Responsiveness: do they leave you in the dark about where they are on the article?
- Adaptability: will they adapt to your target blogs’ word count and content guidelines?
- Accommodating: are they willing to use the project management tool you use to assign work and track deadlines?
Pro tip: Answer questions you get on your blog. E-commerce expert Chad Rubin is always open to questions about selling online, and he answers many of them on the Skubana blog. If you get a question on a topic you aren’t an expert on, reach out to a partner and ask them to answer it in a guest post.
You need to be meticulously organized
When you find great writers, work out agreements with target blogs, and are ready to get down to business, you need to have a set process in place for quality assurance and to make sure deliverables get where they’re needed on time.
I recommend using Trello to organize a blog post exchange program. It’s a kanban-style project management tool that allows me to track each individual article through our pipeline.
Here are the lists I create in Trello to monitor guest posts & internal articles. I also have designated labels to tell me if an article is an outgoing guest post, an inbound guest post, or an internal post.
- Idea bank: titles and questions
- Being written: assigned to a freelancer or being written by partners
- For review: internal articles and incoming guest posts ready for my edits
- Sent: outgoing guest posts that we’ve sent to partners
- Scheduled: prepped and ready on our blog
- Published: published on our blog
- Externally published: published on others’ blogs
- Amplified: the top 10% blogs that we take special care to share out
I limit one article to one card, assign it to a writer, set a due date, and file it in the appropriate list.
Pro tip: If your writers prefer to bill after every article, you can keep track of freelancer payments using Trello as well. Just add a label for “paid” articles, and add it as you send out payments.
You need to build out a healthy pipeline
What’s more important: consistency and quality within your own blog, or getting great guest posts published on other [relevant] blogs?
I can’t get you a definitive answer on that, but thankfully there are marketing communities that are happy to chime in. I asked the question on Inbound.org, and you can read some answers here.
However, if you manage things well, you won’t have to choose between the two. Balance your guest posting strategy with your own internal content and you’ll be able to get posts out on multiple blogs (including your own) every week.
Here’s what I am for to build a healthy blog pipeline.
- At least 3 freelancers who can write 1-2 blog posts/week.
- 2 outgoing guest posts/week.
- 1 internal post/week.
- 1 incoming guest post/week.
- 5 weeks of 2 posts/week proofed and scheduled, with an option of publishing a 3rd post if there’s a feature release or urgent topic that comes up.
Pro tip: If you run on WordPress, download their Editorial Calendar plugin so you can get a good overview of what’s scheduled to go live when.
Common mistakes and what to avoid
1. Treating it like an email newsletter
Even if it might save time, avoid mass-sending a guest post query as if you’re sending out an email newsletter. If your recipients see an “unsubscribe” option, it’s a clear indication you sent out the same email to multiple people.
There are other tools that will allow you to send out multiple emails as if you’re sending them one-by-one, but I recommend taking the time to put together each one. Go through their blog, look at their website, and find a common point of interest before sending each email.
Sending one email at a time is good for personalization and double-checking your pitch (to make sure it’s relevant). If you really want to make sure the emails go out in batches, try writing them all out, then scheduling them with an email scheduling tool.
2. Not looking at their past blogs before reaching out
I’ve had a few people reach out to ask if I was interested in a blog post exchange. In one instance, after agreeing to a title and sending some simple guidelines, she mentioned she didn’t have enough time to do an article as in-depth as I wanted.
All of the other guest posts on my blog are similar length and quality, with multiple sources and actionable tips. If she had done a quick glance at my blog beforehand, it would have saved us both time.
3. Sending too many emails
It’s hard to find the right balance between giving up too soon and annoying someone (and getting marked as spam). One email isn’t enough, we’re all busy and everyone’s inboxes are cluttered. It’s too easy to overlook an email outreach (with no prior context), or say you’ll get back to it later then forget.
My rule of thumb is to send one follow-up a week or so after the initial outreach. I know some marketers who send up to 3 and get results, so it’ll come down to how well you know your target audience. If someone hasn’t replied after 3 emails, you’ve probably been marked as spam.
4. Getting aggressive
I’ve had someone send me the same email 3x within the span of a few hours, wanting an immediate response. That’s not only annoying, it’s unprofessional. Guest blog exchanges are meant to be beneficial to both parties, so if the other party says that they aren’t into it, there’s no need to get aggressive.
5. Trying to find loopholes
SEO loopholes will come back to bite you. In the early days, some websites stuffed keywords in every webpage by using white paragraphs of text that were just repetitions of a single keyword. After the Google Penguin update, over-optimized anchor text was eventually penalized.
As search engines continue to optimize their algorithms, the importance of relevancy and authority for your backlinks will become increasingly vital.
What are your tips for managing guest post exchanges? Share them with me in the comments!