I’ve run guest posting (and cross-posting) programs for SaaS, eCommerce, and B2B companies across multiple industries. Although I started out as a nuisance, I’ve learned a few key strategies to pitch articles that won’t get on editors’ nerves.
Why is guest blogging important?
Guest blogging is awesome. You already know that…it’s why you’re reading this!
Just in case anyone needs a reminder, here are some key metrics to help drive the point home.
- 47% of buyers viewed 3-5 pieces of content before engaging with a sales rep (Source)
- Over 40% of revenue is captured by organic traffic (Source)
- Content marketing produces 3x the leads of paid ads (Source)
- Blogs influence consumer purchasing decisions (Source)
Having a blog is vital, and guest posting expands your reach (and by association, trustworthiness). Plus – take a look at those numbers – it helps your bottom line.
Tip: Learn more about how to manage a successful guest post exchange program.
Initial outreach mistakes
Back in 2014, guest posting was the new amazing thing that would give us an edge over our competitors. It was still early enough that not everyone was doing it, and editors you reached out to were healthily intrigued.
Within the next 2 years, guest blogging got big – with good reason. It was such a great way to reach new audiences while providing value, and create a mutually beneficial new partnership with another brand.
That’s when my tactics got annoying. I’m talking; Three email follow-ups, barely any personalization, and once I spelled someone’s name wrong. (I was so sure I double checked!)
1) Multiple follow-ups
Since we tended to get more replies the more we followed up, there were times I went as far as sending four email follow-ups to some editors. The last ones would have rightfully gone straight to their spam folders.
Not only was this annoying those editors who weren’t interested, it hurt our outreach moving forward. Getting marked as spam meant that my work email was more likely to be flagged as spam, even in accounts I hadn’t contacted yet.
I understand editors are busy, so sending one follow-up email is a good practice. By the third email, it’s clear they aren’t interested in your pitch. Besides, it’s awkward saying no, so even if you think the “right” thing would be to send some sort of response, you can’t argue it’s easier to delete that 1 out of 100 new emails.
How do I know this? I’ve sent a “no thank you” response to a few queries. Once, I got two more follow-up emails after saying no. No one has time for that.
2) Not checking their blog first
Before you pitch a guest post to a company, read a few of their blogs and scroll through their recent posts. You should also do a quick search through your inbox for their business name, to see if you’ve collaborated before.
This will help you avoid a few pitfalls;
- Pitching an article to a website that doesn’t have a blog
- Pitching a title or topic that was just covered on their blog
- Pitching an article that’s irrelevant to their audience
- Pitching a guest post to your competitor
- Pitching the same or similar title that they already turned down
Doing some quick research isn’t too difficult, and it makes a huge difference between knowing what you’re talking about and looking like a noob that no editor would want to work with. I’ve been there.
3) Contacting the wrong person
Make sure you’re evaluating the right person to contact, not just the publication. Top publications cover news from different industries, and sending an eCommerce article pitch to the political affairs editor will waste everyone’s time.
Sending your pitch to the wrong person is a one-way ticket to being ignored. So, do your research and contact the right person.
When browsing online publications, make note of the author writing about topics that are of interest to you and your industry.
Most publications will have author pages where you can peruse a journalist’s articles and learn more about them. You may find their own website with a contact page, or social media handles where you can reach out.
Tip: Another way to find relevant contacts is to search the word “best” and your chosen product or topic in Google and swap over to the News tab. Click through some news articles and look at the author byline to see journalists currently writing about your desired topic.
Keep a list of your contacts where you can make note of the topics they write about, publications they have written for, their email address, and any other useful information that will help you craft pitches they love.
How to pitch a guest post without annoying editors
Luckily for you, I’ve made all the mistakes, and am here to share the lessons I’ve learned from annoying all those editors. Here’s what I do today.
1) Provide value first with a round-up post
I don’t do this every time, but if we’re planning a big feature release or heavily pushing a certain topic, I research the industry anyway, so it makes sense to compile what I learn (and the brands I learned about) in a roundup post. Plus, you can’t beat goodwill.
Here’s an example of how this would work.
- If we’re releasing a new feature for remote workers, I’ll research remote work tools online.
- I’ll note the most interesting tools I find, with the best case studies and blogs.
- I’ll write a round-up post of the X top tools for remote workers.
- When I have a draft ready, I’ll reach out to each company featured and share a preview of their section, asking if they’d like any edits.
- If they respond with any edits, I get those implemented and confirm I’ve made the changes.
- The blog goes live.
- I reach out again, sharing the blog post featuring them. In that same email, I mention we released a new feature, provide more information, and make the guest post pitch.
2) Clarify you’ll only be sending one email
No more four-email-follow-ups from me! When I’m doing a round of initial outreach, I don’t send out more than one follow-up email (and sometimes, not even that).
If you’re in a position to make this decision, I recommend only sending the initial email and mentioning something like “Everyone is time-poor, so I’ll only be pitching these this one time, and I won’t bother you again. If I don’t hear back, I understand that things are busy and you aren’t interested. No hard feelings!”
3) Include relevant title pitches
Years ago, I sent out “feeler” emails. No context, no further information, basically just “Are you interested in a guest post?”
Today, no one is going to reply to that. They don’t know who you are, what you sell, or whether you’re a good writer. You need to give them a compelling reason to reply.
Show that you respect their time by including your article pitch in that first introductory email.
Make your subject line “Pitch: [Proposed title]” and include a couple of options that will resonate with their readers. That means a title and paragraph or two describing what your article will be about and why their readers will care.
Tip: If you’re sending out guest post queries to multiple people, and don’t have time to draft up enough unique pitches, include the general topic and draft a rough outline in a quick bullet list.
Do not pitch the exact same article and angle to more than one outlet. If they both say yes, you’ll have a hard time explaining why you can’t deliver while retaining your credibility.
However, if a week has passed without hearing back from someone, you can reuse their article pitch and reasonably explain “we assumed you weren’t interested, and offered this angle to another publication.”
4) Link to samples of your work
Your email should be well-written, but beyond that, so should your other guest posts. Editors don’t want to have an awkward discussion about content quality down the line.
Link to a few samples of your work, and let them know where they can learn more about your business if they’re interested.
How to evaluate the right publications to pitch
Knowing how to craft the perfect guest post pitch is just one part of the story. You also need to know where to pitch your publication. The last thing you want to do is send a pitch to the wrong person, get on their nerves, and waste both their time and yours.
Avoid annoying editors by making sure you’re pitching to the right people and publications. But, how do you find the right publications to pitch to? Easy — you need to do some detective work!
1) Reverse engineer topics
Sending a blanket content pitch to 20 different publications probably isn’t going to win you any bylines. Before you send a pitch email out to anyone, you first need to check it’s relevant.
Make sure you are pitching the best articles to each publication by reverse-engineering the topic. There are a few ways you can do this — you can manually reverse engineer the topics or you can use content tools to help speed up the process!
To manually reverse engineer the popular topics, start by visiting the publication’s website. Take time to absorb their content —- what do they regularly write about? What categories do they have in their navigation menu? I recommend doing this every quarter and keeping an up-to-date table of publishers and relevant topics.
Alternatively, you can use a few tools to automate the job. Keyword research tools, like Semrush or Ahrefs, are a great way to see which topics perform best on your chosen online publication. You can use these keyword research tools to see which keywords each publication ranks for.
This will allow you to find the most covered, and most popular, topics for each publisher. You might even be able to spot some missed opportunities by cross-referencing keywords for similar publishers.
Another tool I like to use is BuzzSumo. Type your desired topic in the Content Analyzer search bar and take a look at which journalists and publications come out on top for that topic. BuzzSumo is a great tool for identifying relevant editors or publications that you may not already have on your list.
2) Look at who is covering your competitors
Do a quick search of your topic in Google to get a list of top ranking articles. Many of these may be your competitors.
Jot down the URLs of those competitors and take a look at what websites send them traffic using tools like Similarweb.
Referral traffic indicates a website is sending plenty of traffic to your competitors, likely through backlinks that also boost their search rankings.
Check each competitors’ top referrers to see if they are affiliated in any way. If not, reach out to them and see if they’d be interested in a blog post exchange with you as well.
3) Look for competitive gaps
Once you have a good idea of which publications you want to partner with and pitch to, start looking at their competition as well.
You’re bound to find topic cross-over between various publications. This topic cross-over is vital for identifying potential content gaps or competitive holes.
Take Practical Ecommerce and Retail Dive — they are both retail-focused publications. Let’s say Practical Ecommerce has a popular article on the “future of retail in a cookieless world.” If Retail Dive isn’t already covering the topic, you could pitch it as an opportunity for them to stay in-step with similar publications.
Use competitive holes to gain an advantage over other writers by offering publishers information that is in high demand. In an interview with CoSchedule, Aaron Orendorff from IconiContent and Shopify shared his approach for pitching competitive holes to publishers. Aaron’s advice is to keep things simple.
Taking Aaron’s advice on board, an outreach email for competitive holes might look something like this:
Hi [editor name],
This article about [the future of retail in a cookieless world](link to article)from [Practical Ecommerce] is doing really well. It’s been shared on [Facebook] almost [800 times]!
I’ve written a piece on this topic and thought it’d be a great fit for your audience.
I’ve previously written for [Shopify, example 2, example 3](links to previous articles) and I’m the [Head of marketing operations] at [company name](link to company website).
Please find the article attached [or linked] for your review. Let me know if you are interested in publishing this, so I can reserve it for you!
That’s it — just a few short sentences, a friendly sign-off and an attachment or link to the article.
Show initiative by keeping an eye out for competitive holes and pitching killer articles on the same topic. When writing the article, think about how you can add exclusive angles or quotes to strengthen the original topic.
You want to make the whole process as frictionless as possible for the editor. You’ve done all the heavy lifting so all they should need to do is hit publish.
4) Find the perfect headline formula
Evaluating the right publication to pitch goes beyond just researching topic alignment. You also need to make sure your email stands out in a sea of generic pitch emails.
If you want your email to be the one editors click on, you need to craft the perfect headline formula. Writing the perfect headline means you need to tailor it to each and every publication. While evaluating the right publications to pitch, set time aside to also evaluate what headlines they prefer.
As you browse publications or pieces written by specific editors, you’ll often notice a pattern in the type of headlines they use. Tailor your headline to each publication and use this as your email subject line to grab attention.
Things to look out for when evaluating the perfect headline for each publication include:
- Numbers and statistics
- Power words and adjectives
- Personal stories
- Combine contrasting topics
- Expert insight
Make note of which headline tactics each publication and editor tends to use. When pitching to these publishers, use your headline research to craft the perfect title.
Keeping track of guest posts and pitches
Pitching guest posts is no easy feat and it can be hard to stay on top of all the pitches you’re sending. Relying on perfectly organized email folders is only going to lead to confusion and plenty of opportunities slipping through the cracks.
Instead of relying on my ability to sift through previously sent emails checking whether or not I’ve had a reply, I now use a guest post and pitches tracker.
You can set up two tables in Notion to track guest post submissions and publications. The first table tracks coverage received, and provides a good overview of successful pitches. The second tracks relevant publications and contacts.
You can duplicate this Notion tracker here.
The coverage table notes:
- Story description
- Press contact
- Link to story
- Publication date
This table provides a quick overview of any pitches that are in progress, including those that have been published. This coverage table makes it really easy to pull out examples of secured coverage for including in future pitches.
I can also use this table to see which content ideas have been pitched but not yet published. If needed, I can easily take the pitched articles and rework them for different publications or refresh them if they’re outdated.
The Contacts/Publications table is my little black book of relevant contacts including freelance journalists, in-house editors, and company writers.
In this table, I include sections for:
- Last contacted
I can add as much, or as little, detail as I want. If they write for several publications, I can easily tag numerous publications in their contact row.
I can also click on their name to update their profile with any relevant or useful information about them. This allows me to send highly personalized pitches to each of my contacts. Building strong relationships can be beneficial for securing coverage so take a genuine interest in getting to know the editor.
Voila — you have a robust guest post and pitches tracker that you can use to strengthen the success of future pitches.
Bonus: Guest post pitch email examples
Lets close things out with a few sample emails I’ve used in the past. Names and brands have been changed for privacy.
Article pitch: X Chrome extensions for busy marketers
Hello, I’m reaching out from [brand](link) because you’ve got a great Google Chrome integration, and we just launched our [exciting new Google Chrome app](link to more information). I was wondering if you’d be open to a guest post from us on how it all works;
- How much time Chrome extensions save users on average
- Value of [whatever your Chrome extension does]
- How to select the right fit for your needs
- Ensuring personal privacy when using online apps
Our launch was covered in [media outlet](link) and more information is available on our website (link to your internal blog).
For examples of our work, check out our guest posts in [publication](link), [publication 2](link), and [publication 3](link).
Let me know if this is an article that interests you and I’d love to get started on it!
P.S. I know we’re all busy, so I won’t waste your time with endless follow-ups. If I don’t hear back, you won’t hear from me again – no hard feelings!
Guest post: The best dog toys for aggressive chewers
[name] here reaching out from [brand](link) with an idea for a guest post collaboration!
I love your line of pet harnesses and accessories and had some content ideas that I thought your audience would love. At [brand], we make [sustainable dog toys that stand the test of time against the most aggressive chewers] and thought your audience would love to read a post about [the best dog toys for aggressive chewers].
I know you’re busy so I’ve attached the article for you to read — and publish if you found it interesting!
You can check out some of the pieces I’ve written for other publications here:
- [relevant article link 1]
- [relevant article link 2]
I’m happy to discuss other content ideas if you have another topic in mind!
Let me know what you think. I can’t wait to hear from you.
P.S. I know we’re all busy, so I won’t waste your time with endless follow-ups. If I don’t hear back, you won’t hear from me again – no hard feelings!
Wrapping up — Craft your guest post pitch strategically to boost your chances of being published
Guest posts are an excellent content strategy for boosting SEO, elevating your business, and making your brand more recognizable. However, you won’t find much success getting published if you don’t know how to craft a great guest post pitch.
Do your research before sending out proposals to make your pitches irresistible to editors. Leverage competitive gaps, create compelling headlines, find the right publications and contacts, and keep track of everything in an organized project management system.
Any other tips from the writers or editors out there? Send them my way @rgo_go.
Published: October 7, 2019
Updated: May 12, 2022