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
1) 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 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.
- Do an online search for your niche + the key phrase “guest post” or “guest post guidelines.”
- Check out this resource of 5,000+ sites that accept guest posts.
In a previous version of this article, I also recommended: Pay attention to their domain authority. Look for blogs that have a higher DA than yours, or a score of 20 and above.
However, today (in 2019) it’s more useful to find blogs that have a relevant audience to yours. Domain authority isn’t everything, and relationships should not be decided based on it.
Pro tip: Don’t mention your brand directly in any article you submit. Instead, try linking to a relevant article from your own blog, and keep the introduction (with a link) in your author bio.
2) 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.
- You could also include a title pitch in your subject line. For this option, I like the format “Guest post pitch for [website]: [Proposed title]“
- Include at least 2 title pitches in your email, so they can make a quick selection instead of spending more time playing email tag.
- Share a few hyperlinked samples of your previous work, so they can gauge writing style.
- Don’t forget to follow-up 4-8 days later. When you do, reply to your first email and keep the “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.
Note: I don’t like sending more than 1 follow-up email. If you start to annoy people, you risk being marked as spam, which will affect your ability to reach your audience in the future.
However, every company is different. At a previous client, I was asked to send out 3 follow-ups, since we typically got replies after the 2nd one.
I noticed replies after the 2nd follow-up (if any) were usually polite versions of “no, please stop emailing.”
Email outreach template
Subject: ILoveDogs + DogSittersUnite collaboration opportunity
My name is Rachel from [DogSittersUnite](hyperlink). I noticed we have fairly similar audiences, so I’m reaching out to see if you’re interested in doing a guest post exchange.
After taking a look at your blog, here are 2 article pitches I came up with.
Best dog-friendly hikes in the Willamette Valley
We all know the Willamette Valley is home to some of the most beautiful hikes in the world, but which ones can you take your furry family members on? This article will rank the top dog-friendly hiking trails, including distance, location, and scenery.
[Short description of what the article would cover]
Did either of those stand out to you? We’re also open to requests!
Below are links to previous guest posts we wrote to give you an idea of our voice and writing style:
- [Title] | [Publication]
- [Title] | [Publication]
- [Title] | [Publication]
Looking forward to hearing from you.
3) Amass 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.
While managing guest posting for Deliverr, I kept a spreadsheet of everyone we did a blog exchange with and would reach out regularly for another round whenever we had a new feature release we wanted to focus on.
The columns of a spreadsheet like this should include;
- Contact name
- Contact email
- Date of outreach
- Titles pitched
- Title selected
- Link to Gdoc (article draft)
- Date delivered
- Live link
As for your army of content SMEs, 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. 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.
4) 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.
5) 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 aim for to build a healthy blog pipeline.
- 2-3 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.
- Start with 1 niche (ie. landscaping businesses) and compile a list of websites with blogs you’d like to appear on.
- Look at each blog, what they cover (and gaps in their content) and create a few title pitches custom to them.
- Reach out with a short email asking to write a guest post
- Keep your email short, but introduce yourself and provide links if they’d like to learn more.
- Include at least 2 full article pitches (title + brief description of what you’d cover).
- If possible, send a hyperlinked example of previous work.
- Make 1 round of follow-ups 4-8 days later. If they don’t respond to that one, they aren’t interested.
- For the companies that take you up on the offer, get your articles into production and give them an estimated delivery date
- Use Trello to keep track of your articles. It’s a free kanban-style project management board and makes writer management much easier.
What are your tips for managing guest post exchanges? Share them with me on Twitter!
Published April 2017
Edited September 2019