FINDING THE RIGHT BLOG PARTNER
So you’ve decided to initiate a content building campaign, wrote a few posts, and now have set out in search of links to send back towards your site. You’ve found a few blogs and sent out offers to write for them. And now you’re waiting for a response—and waiting, and waiting…
Why won’t anyone accept your guest blog posts? Your own blog posts are solid, well-written and informative, so why isn’t anyone responding to your offers?
The number one reason that guest post offers are met with deaf ears is that they’re sent to the wrong blogs. When content building, the most important work starts before you even begin writing. Your chances of being accepted are all about the prospects you’ve staked out: getting posted is all about finding the right site. So how does one stake out good potential partners?
Start by searching for relevant topics and niches: look for sites that cover topics related to your own, where your expertise will fit within their niche. This is not as simple as it sounds. It’s often true that you don’t want a site that covers topics identical to your own—after all, they’re likely your competitors. For example, if I work for a company that sells cheap self-storage units (disclaimer: I do) any other blogs on self-storage that I might want to write for are probably supporting commercial sites that compete with my own. Not only is the blog’s curator likely to turn my offers down, but I probably don’t want my writing to be hosted there—for the benefit of a competitor—in the first place.
So instead you should be looking for topics and industries related to your own, but separated by a degree or two. Think like a consumer: what products or services are used in tandem with your own? What might a consumer also be looking for when they’re searching for your product or service? In my own line of work writing for a blog dedicated to the self-storage industry, I’ve been able to branch out into blogs that cover Houston moving companies, real estate, home renovation blogs, and yes, even blogs about writing—none of which are competing for internet turf with my own, but who cover services often used in conjunction with my own. Remember, though, not to cast too-wide a net: if I try to write for a blog that covers movies and entertainment, I’m likely not going to get an answer back. If you’re still having trouble brainstorming a list of related-but-non-competitive industries, look at some of your direct competitor’s blogs and see who posts on their site—that might give you a few ideas of what you’re looking for.
Getting your guest post hosted on topic-relevant blogs may also pay off in SEO terms. Google is currently working on devaluing the importance of anchor text (text to which the link is attached), and instead focusing on what it calls the “niche/content relevancy of content sites.’ Therefore scoring quality links from relevant sites may pay off doubly in SEO terms in the future.
Finally, finding a topic-relevant blog is important in a more traditional marketing sense. Remember that while you probably initiated your link building project for purposes of boosting your site’s rank in search results, there are other ways to drive traffic to sites, such as linking to something users might be looking for. Indeed, this is the whole point of links in the first place, and the very reason Google factors them into its algorithm. If I am a user looking through a blog about real estate, it’s very likely that I’ll soon need to hire a moving company. If I see that this moving company has written a guest post for this real estate blog, I very well may follow the link back to their site, and they might just get my business in the future.
Search for relevant blogs: use “inurl:_______” or Google Blogs: once you’ve decided upon a few target topics, don’t waste your time endlessly searching the internet for potential game. There are a lot of blogs out there and sifting through them all can suck away your time. Of course, if you’re a bit of a savvy searcher you’ll use advanced search parameters like quotations (“real estate blogs”) and search by that exact text. But my two favorite methods are ‘inurl:’ and Google Blogs. An ‘inurl:’ search will bring back only sites with the following words in their url. Since blogs are usually included as part of a subdomain or subfolder of a main site, this allows you to search with laser-like specificity. For example, “inurl:blog+realestate” will only bring back sites with the terms ‘blog’ and ‘real estate’ in their urls, which allows you to skip past all the junk.
Another method is, when you’re doing a Google search, look over on the left-hand sidebar and click ‘More.’ That will open up more options, one of which is ‘Blogs.’ Searching by blog this way will limit the type of sites in the results to blogs, but it won’t necessarily bring back blogs devoted to that topic. That’s because Blog Search employs time as a prominent factor in its algorithm—the more recent the post, the higher it will be in results. So if a news blog—not your target—writes a story about real estate, that might show higher than a blog actually dedicated to real estate. One thing Blog Search is good for is finding sites that might host your topic: a search for “moving company” might bring back a home renovation blog that’s hosted a piece on moving companies, making them a prime prospect on your list.
Search within their site to see if they’ve made mention of your topic: once you’ve found a potential blog, make sure they’re willing to branch out a bit into your topical expertise—many blogs are very narrowly-focused and won’t expand beyond that focus. So use the search term “site:______ ______” (“ex: site:thewritersforhire.com social media”) to search within that blog. This helps in two ways. First, if you see that they’ve hosted content directly related to your niche, then there’s a good chance they’ll do so again. Secondly, it will allow you to make sure you aren’t writing about a specific topic they already have. For example, if you’re a moving company trying to post on a real estate company’s blog, search their site for words like ‘movers’ ‘moving’ and ‘moving company.’ If you find that they do have matching content—and, even better, that content is a guest post—then they’re more likely to accept your piece. Just make sure that your post about moving is different from one they’re already hosting—so if the guest piece they have is titled ‘Finding the Right Moving Company,’ you’ll have to come up with something slightly different, such as ‘5 ways to prepare for your move.’
Make sure they are open to guest posts: Many sites won’t mention that they are open to guest blogs, and sifting through all of their pages of content to find a guest post can waste your time (in fact, while you’re at it, go mention somewhere on your blog—the content page is a good place—that you’re open to accepting guest posts. That way, when other link-building bloggers come to your site, they’ll be more likely to request to write for you—which you can quickly turn into a blog exchange. Always remember, link building works best when you build relationships, so create as many possibilities for those to blossom as you can). So instead of digging around everywhere, use Google to search their site (just like you did when searching them for content: use “site:thewritersforhire.com guest post”).
Extra hint: Once you do find some guest posts, follow those guest posts back to their original blogs. Bloggers who write guest posts are more likely to accept them themselves. It might even be true that you’ll find a network of blogs that exchange posts with each other within a topical sphere. For example, you might find that a real estate blog, a moving service blog, a self-storage blog and home renovation blog that all trade back and forth. If your service is somewhat-related—say, you sell tools or home improvement supplies or furniture—you may be able to get in with this group. If so, that would reap huge rewards.
Finally, check out that blog’s authority: If you’re a brand-new blog, or one with a smaller audience and a lower page authority, it’s highly unlikely that established blogs with large audiences will host your content—because linking to your blog will do these big fish few favors. It’s important that you stick to fish your own size, with similarly-sized audiences and rankings on Google results pages (of course, you can always go after smaller sites, but remember that links from these sites won’t do your site as much good in SEO terms as a link from a more authoritative site). You should be able to intuit an approximation of their authority from a quick glance-over (look at comments, page ranking, etc.). A more direct way to determine authority is to download SEOmoz’s MozBar. The MozBar delivers one of the closest approximations to Google’s search criteria possible; essentially, a high MozBar rank should mean that Google will also value your site as an authority. We suggest ignoring anyone with a Moz rank no more than 10 higher than your own—in our experience, such sites will probably ignore or decline your requests.
Now you’re ready to go—get out there and build some links!
Brian Shreckengast is a writer at SelfStorageDeals.com, the price-focused search engine for finding cheap self-storage units.