Going big in guest posting requires careful planning at every stage, from viability analysis and prospect discovery on down to effective content design. This article advises on the end stage of a guest publishing cycle: outreach for placement.
Note: this is outreach advice for campaigns in which all the content is written prior to placement. Some guest posters get content ideas approved by the publisher prior to actually writing. Getting publisher buy-in is fantastic and is much faster at the outreach stage. However, it slows the overall process and isn't advisable at larger scale, especially when client approval of content is required.
Tracking the Outreach Phase's "Moving Parts"
Outreach has many "moving parts" and a great deal to track in order to remain effective, efficient, and protective of the brand. Before digging into specific advice, here are several core elements to track in your campaign (these items also happen to make good columns for a spreadsheet).
- List of outreach prospects: At the beginning of any campaign I prospect and project on 10 percent conversions, but usually get around 30 percent. If you have 10 posts, expect to need 100 different guest placement prospects.
- Specific niche focus: Vital so that you can be sure you're pitching the right "flavor" of article to the appropriate blogger within a topic area (e.g., while email and SEO are two marketing methods, you shouldn't pitch your email marketing tips article to the SEO blog).
- Prospect contact info +/or contact URL.
- Anchor text/promotional link target.
- Notes: Any tips or guidance to help your outreacher when they're neck deep in the inbox and convoluted spreadsheet you sent them.
- List of completed content titles: This is your master list of guest content inventory. This is what you're selling with your outreach emails.
- Specific niche focus of piece: This will help you pitch the right titles to the right publishers.
- Content "status" for individual articles: I use "written," "in consideration," "pending" and "placed." Written needs promotion; in consideration means a publisher expressed interest and has it in their inbox; pending means they said yes but haven't published; and placed means it's live on their site.
- Domain of prospective publisher: Replace with final published URL.
- Date of initial contact: I use this for tracking which sites I've already outreached to.
Outreach: What's Templatable, What's Not
There are continual template/no template debates that go on in link outreach. In my experience the more work you do in targeted prospecting and content design the more templated your outreach can be. That's because you've done your homework and lined up the needs of your publishers with what you're pitching. This ensures obvious benefit to the publisher.
I have not yet gotten good with spreadsheets for templating – primarily I use a single notepad and make alterations there. I do suffer from occasionally sending slightly "off" emails with non sequiturs.
Here's what you will need to have unique, per email you send.
- Establish initial rapport in first sentence: Don't overdo it though – they are publishers and very busy. Plus you're offering them free content. It's not like you're begging for a link or anything. Primarily you're establishing how you identify with the target audience. For example, "I'm, a busy mom of multiples who somehow finds time for freelance writing!"
- Prove you read their guest submission requirements: Assuming guest publishing requirements exist – and about 20 percent of the time they do – poke around and make sure what you're sending in fits.
- 2-3 titles you're pitching: I keep this number small. I don't like to give the sense that my email is part of a large, well-oiled campaign. Also, having fewer choices can make for a speedier response time.
- Benefits of pitched pieces to publisher's audience: Usually the title of the piece needs to make the benefit clear, however it never hurts to explain a bit about who the article helps and how it helps them.
These are things you can reuse quite a bit. I do often find myself altering core aspects of templates as I go along, for clarity, readability and believability. Also, omit needless words.
- Who you are, who you're with, why you're writing: Keep it cordial, brief, and easily-alterable (this is your first sentence, which you will tailor per-site).
- Relevant accolades that could help them say yes more quickly: Are you/is your writer/your brand known for anything laudable? Mention it!
- 2-3 most-notable prior publications: This helps demonstrate that you/your alias has content that others consider publishable. Also, publishers can read your previous work.
- # of tweets/shares/+s/links received by your guest publications: This can be a deal-sealer if you can throw around some high numbers.
- How you will promote it once the post is up (tweet, share, link to it, email newsletter, etc.).
- Your eagerness to make any changes they require: Demonstrate that you're willing to work with them and make sure your content is a good fit for their audience.
P.S. The Piggyback Pitch
You've done all that prospecting and you may as well piggyback another request or two into your outreach. Here are a few thoughts on an "oh, and by the way" section of your outreach emails.
- New high-utility content you're promoting for their roundups, for their Twitter followers, etc.: Pitch your infographics, widgets, videos, new articles, etc.
- Ask if they accept items for contests/giveaways: Many sites conduct giveaways to their readers. Do you have anything to offer?
- Ask if they will answer interview/survey questions.
Outreach Execution Advice
The best advice I can give you on outreach execution is to just dive in there and do it. That's the best way to learn.
- Send 10-20 emails and wait 1-2 days: It takes a while for publishers to respond. Plus you're pitching unique content and don't want to over-promise a piece.
- Pitch titles, don't send or pitch pieces as complete: Give the publishers the sense that you're writing pieces "on the fly." This will help reduce suspicion that you're pitching already-published content.
- Have "placed" folders on your hard drive so you don't double publish: Oops! You sent two people the same content and they both published it? D'oh! When a piece gets placed move it or delete it so you never, ever attach it to another email and send it.
- Spreadsheet doubles as a reporting sheet + prospect approval sheet: Use your spreadsheet for project management and client reporting and input. Centralize!
- Published-piece tracking + contact info helps you build a master sheet for repurposing down the road: One of the biggest values you're building for your organization is a list of sites you can go back to with new content that supports new initiatives (and targets new keywords). Guest posts work great as off-site satellites promoting a flagship piece of content on your site.
Photo credit: LOLren