A guest posting program is a great way to build relationships, provide value to your brand partners, and increase your audience reach. I’ve coordinated different aspects of guest blog exchanges for a variety of clients, all while maintaining consistent internal blogs.
I began to receive questions on how it’s done after writing a post about it for Hubstaff (download it here), so I decided to address these today. To that end, I’m sharing a few tips and lessons I’ve learned along the way.
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 credible websites, the more trustworthy your domain appears.
However, this is not the intent of a guest posting program. Your end goal is to provide value to relevant audiences.
If your products or services aren’t useful to the people reading your guest post, you’re seen as 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 and brands you’ve worked with before. Look through your collection of business cards from industry events.
- Do an online search for your niche + the 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 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 to link 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
Reaching out is the first step to opening discussions about a guest post exchange. I recommend doing this via email so your target partners can respond in their own time and forward your email to their team to hear their thoughts.
Here are a few tips for reaching out:
- Include their company name in your subject line. One of my favorites has been “[Partner] + [Company] marketing collaboration” since it captures attention immediately.
- Alternatively, you can add a title pitch to your subject line. For this option, I like the format “Guest post pitch for [website]: [Proposed title].”
- Include at least two title pitches in your email so they can make a quick selection instead of spending time playing email tag.
- Share a few hyperlinked samples of your previous work so companies can gauge your writing style.
- Be sure to follow up four to eight 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 a guest post as well as a guest post exchange. Some teams with awesome blogs would appreciate a post 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 a guest post exchange; don’t assume they’ll automatically accept.
Note: I don’t like sending more than one follow-up email to avoid being a nuisance. If you annoy people, you risk being marked as spam, which will inhibit your audience reach.
However, every company is different. A previous client asked me to send out three follow-ups since we typically received replies after the second one.
I noticed responses after the second follow-up (if any) were usually polite variations of “No, please stop emailing.”
Email outreach example
Subject: ILoveDogs + DogSittersUnite collaboration opportunity
My name is Rachel from [DogSittersUnite](hyperlink). I noticed we have 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 two article pitches I crafted.
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 allow your furry family members? 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 younger and naive, 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 taught me that an informative blog comprises a collection of expertise from around the industry, and answers the target audience’s common questions.
This is possible only with a reliable team of writers and content partners. I recommend vetting and amassing an army of freelance writers, in addition to building relationships with regular industry partners for guest posts. If you get a question about a topic you aren’t an expert in, reach out to a partner and ask them to answer it in a guest post.
Keep a record of partners
While managing guest posts for Deliverr, I kept a spreadsheet of everyone who participated in a blog exchange with us. Whenever we had a new feature release we wanted to highlight, I would reach out to these companies for another round of post swaps.
A spreadsheet like this should include the following columns:
- Contact name
- Contact email
- Date of outreach
- Titles pitched
- Title selected
- Link to Gdoc (article draft)
- Date delivered
- Live link
What to look for in freelance writers
As for your army of content SMEs (subject matter experts), 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 in the article?
- Adaptability: Will they adapt to your target blogs’ word counts and content guidelines?
- Accommodation: Are they willing to adopt the project management tool you use to assign work and track deadlines?
4) Be meticulously organized
After you find great writers and work out agreements with target blogs, you need to establish a process to verify quality and ensure deliverables are completed on time.
I recommend using Trello to organize a blog post exchange program. It’s a kanban-style project management tool that allows users to track individual articles throughout their pipeline.
Below are the lists I created in Trello to monitor guest posts and internal articles:
- 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 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% of blogs we take special care to promote
I also have designated labels that tell me if an article is an outgoing guest post, an inbound guest post, or an internal post. I limit one article per 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 create a label for “Paid” articles, and add to it as you send out payments.
5) Build a healthy pipeline
What’s more important: consistency and quality within your own blog, or having great guest posts published on other (relevant) blogs?
Usually, the answer comes down to what your goals are. Do you want to build and own a following on your own channels, or do you get better leads by going out to others’ audiences?
Luckily, if you manage well, you won’t have to choose between the two. Balance your guest posting strategy with your internal content, and you’ll be able to land posts on multiple blogs (including your own) every week.
Here’s what I aim for to build a healthy blog pipeline:
- Two to three freelancers who can write one to two blog posts/week
- Two outgoing guest posts/week
- One internal post/week
- One incoming guest post/week
- Five weeks of two posts/week proofed and scheduled, with an optional third if there’s a feature release or urgent topic that arises
Pro tip: If you use WordPress, download their Editorial Calendar plugin so you’ll have a good overview of what’s scheduled to go live when.
- Start with one niche (ex. landscaping businesses) and compile a list of websites with blogs you’d like to be featured on.
- Look at what each blog covers (as well as the gaps in their content), and create a few custom title pitches.
- 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 two article pitches (title + brief description of what you’d cover).
- If possible, send a hyperlinked example of previous work.
- Make one round of follow-up emails four to eight days later. If they don’t respond to that, they aren’t interested.
- For the companies that take you up on your 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 that 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