The Art of the Guest Post

Left and right, entrepreneurs and businesses are using blogs to help build their businesses. From transparency blogs, which follow a journey, to straight up authority resources, people still like to read, and content marketers who can give them something nice to look at and valuable to read will have no problem expanding their reach with a blog.

While there are a number of ways to start gaining initial traction and readership, few are more effective – provided you’re willing to put in the time – than a genuine guest post.

Guest posting doesn’t have the SEO and backlink umph that it used to, but it certainly is still highly effective as a means of leveraging an already established audience or readership to help grow your own.

Unfortunately, the way that many people go about guest posting is, well, just plain awful. They reach out with cold emails, beg, plead, or send half-baked ideas to editors and bloggers that have way too much on their minds to entertain the thought of babysitting someone who isn’t willing to put in the effort. Let’s learn how to overcome that.

Guest posting is about leverage

Leverage is a two-way street, and when you’re guest posting, you have to understand that you need to be able to offer another blog owner enough value that they are willing to give you their readership. Essentially, they’re risking their audience and credibility by letting someone else pen something for them, so they need to be convinced it’s worth their while.

This generally comes down to two factors:

Can you write as well and generate as good of a post as their readership is used to, and is your own audience, who you will be promoting your guest post to, large enough to help garner the blog owner some new owners.

The first is qualitative, and something that some people will just be naturally better at, and to develop with practice will take lots of time and study. The second is much more easily measurable and readily apparent: if you pitch a blog post to someone who gets 10,000 daily readers, and your social media followings are hovering in the 100-200 range, they probably aren’t going to see how putting the time in to partner with you is worthwhile for them, as there isn’t a large potential to gain new readers.

Instead, work on a stepping ladder type approach, in which you work with those who are just a small notch or two above you. If you get an average of 20 shares or so on each of your posts when you write it, look for blogs in the 50-100 per post range, this is a level of engagement that is above your own and is growing, but it’s not excessive and doesn’t indicate someone who is going to ignore you completely.

As you progress with this technique, you will be able to reach out to larger and larger bloggers each time, and before long you yourself just might be one of the big guys.

It’s Okay To Go Back To Your 9 to 5

One of the biggest driving forces between why so many people take up the internet marketing reins is that they want some degree – often complete – of freedom from their dreaded day jobs. The 9 to 5 cycle has left many jaded, especially in a place like the US where traditional allowances for vacation time can be pitiful, and leave many feeling like they simply work to work more, with an all-too-short weekend escape in between.

At first, that freedom will be liberating. Next, probably comes the fear as you realize that online marketing is no walk in the park, and that those who make it, and are able to match let alone exceed the income they made from their “regular” job, are grinding longer hours out every single day than they’ve ever worked in their life.

For some, this means turns out to be too much, and they realize it’s just not a sustainable approach to making a living for them. For others, the extra workload is nothing compared to the freedom it offers, and they never look back. Others yet lie in between, drifting between pure entrepreneurship, consultancy or freelance, and maybe even a part time gig for some guaranteed cash, or with the intent of learning a new skill.

Whatever the case may be, one thing should be said that doesn’t ever get mentioned in IM circles: it’s ok to go back to your day job.

Be it a permanent or temporary move, there are actually a number of reasons you might want to consider some more structured work from time to time.

You can cross-pollinate ideas. Even if your work is similar on both fronts, there are probably deviations in the day to day tasks that you would be conducting on your own and those you do in a more traditional office setting. The great thing about this is that you can take ideas from one line of work and use them to put a new spin on what you’re doing in the other.

Working alone can get lonely. Sometimes, the coworker environment can help to keep you motivated and feeling like you’re working toward a large, common goal. Additionally, it can help to have easy access to the input of others when you’re faced with tough decisions that may fall outside of your area of expertise. Even if you don’t go back to work for a company, you might consider a shared office space in which you can still maintain your freedom of schedule and work direction while opening up a few of the benefits of a more social environment.

It might just prevent you from getting hit with burnout. Many of us who have worked freelance or in an entrepreneurial capacity for a number of years know that it can be easy to slip in directionlessness or boredom when things get too respective or you don’t have a clear vision anymore.

Sometimes, a drop back into 9 to 5 life might just re-energize your entrepreneurial spirit and remind you why you took up the reins in the first place.

Genuine SEO Isn’t Going Away, So You Might As Well Get On Board

Let’s not kid ourselves, the state of SEO 4+ years ago was laughable, a joke, if you will. Google’s own search results were so easily manipulated with “backlink packages” and the like that it was straightforward to a fault to get a new site ranking, even for a competitive keyword, provided you had the money (or the time).

Over the past few years, Google – and other search engines, too! – has wised up and started making it more difficult to game the system. While some lamented the downfall of blackhat, spammy techniques, it was a game that was doomed from the beginning, and an equal number of people recognized the value in Google’s new incarnation.

Right now, the social and link cues that tell Google a page is important and relevant are more closely aligned than ever with the actual relevance and genuine popularity of that page. This has been Google’s goal for years, so it’s no surprised that they’ve worked extremely hard to move this direction as quickly as possible. I’m sure they’re quite happy with themselves, and they should be.

Is there still some way to game the system? I’m sure, but it’s not worth it, because every loophole gets closed, and at a rate that is gaining speed with every single day.

So, if the old kinds of link building aren’t effective, what does work?

Social cues are big.

Social media is the currency of a generation right now, and content that is blowing up with links, likes, shares, and retweets on social media is going to make a blip on Google’s radar.

Google knows that these are often real indicators of people thinking something is valuable and worthwhile, and they’re all about that positive end user experience.

Leverage and squeeze every drop out of your social networks. Repurpose your tweets and posts to help appeal to different people and at different times. Try scheduling posts to go out on social at various times of day, with different images, and try alternating your headline with a quote from within the page itself.

Mobile is king, for now.

While we can’t know exactly what the future holds, one thing is for sure: Google is big on the mobile trend. It’s for good reason, too, seeing that internet usage on phones has skyrocketed over the past few years, meaning that websites who are responsive to various screen sizes and who don’t have a crappy mobile experience are going to be rightfully propped up in the search results.

This trend is also true of tablets, and any new device that comes out and begins to gain popularity.

Don’t stop building links.

Backlinks are still a big deal, but the focus now is on the quality of the links you’re bringing in. When it comes to lone links with suspiciously consistent anchor text, your efforts are going to get ignored at best or earn you a penalized site at worst. Instead, focus on building contextual links through creating products and services so good other people write about you, through stellar guest posting gigs, and by leveraging the press.

How to Promote Your Blog Posts as an Online Marketer: Part 2

So you’ve churn out a stellar blog post. I mean a real whopper, something that will make people say, “wow, I’ve never thought of it like that!” Packed with data, case studies, and references, written with the eloquence of a modern day Shakespeare, your article is going to take the internet by storm, if only it finds a few interested eyeballs.

Hold on there, cowboy or cowgirl, it’s a long road ahead. Not that that’s anything to be afraid of. Once your blog post goes live, here are a few ways you can kickstart its ability to gain some attention.

Email sources. The advantages of citing actual sources and other authorities in a niche are twofold. First, they give your own writing extra authority because anyone can just say something, but once it’s backed up with facts and figures you can show that you’ve done your homework.

The second advantage is that you can actually try and leverage the people and sites you’ve used as sources to help share your article.

If you wrote in an article on top resources for bloggers (please, don’t actually write this article unless you can do something better than the 40,327,811 out there that already exist), you might have mentioned someone’s software that you use on a daily basis.

Once your article goes live, send the company an email and/or tweet at them, letting them know you’re a fan and saying you mentioned them in your latest post. At the end, politely ask that they consider sharing the article with their own audience if they enjoyed it.

Make friends with the big dogs, even when they seem out of reach. Every big content marketer whose blog posts now get 1,000+ shares each week started out where you are. They were grinding when no one paid attention and they recognize the struggle.

If you can offer them some sort of help in their business, if you can consistently network and show them that you ask smart questions in their comment sections, or that the posts of yours that you’re tweeting show that you’re putting in the time and effort and aren’t going anywhere, they’ll notice.

When the time comes, it might just not be too much of a stretch for you to reach out and ask if they might give some super cool thing you’ve written a nudge. That’s pretty cool (so make it happen!).

Of course, you should also be making sure that you give your own channels a mega nudge on your own.

Post to Facebook, schedule several tweets to go out over a few days using tweetdeck, post images to tumblr that link back to your content, take advantage of Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn groups, as these can be deceptively good places to get your content seen by those who would find them relevant.

More sensitive communities, like Reddit and Inbound, can also be great places to share, but will require some more finesse.

Whatever your promotional tactics, keep them constantly evolving, and don’t be afraid of trying something that might not work, because it just might be a gold mine for you.

How to Promote Your Blog Posts as an Online Marketer: Part 1

Content is king, queen, and the whole royal court these days. In fact, the nod given to creating longform, rich content by traditional ad agencies, who themselves have rebranded in droves to ‘media agencies’, should give you some indication as to the way of the online marketing tides right now.

Consistently, brands who embrace the content creation trend rather than throw more money at legacy methods are scoring bigger than their more stubborn counterparts, and that’s because it’s mostly a win/win scenario: Brands who are willing to work consistently build their followings, and consumers get something with a little more thought than a banner ad.

Naturally, the charge on content marketing was led by savvy content marketers long before mega-brands and agencies caught on, but the particulars of its evolution have little relevance today.

For marketers, this can be viewed as a good or a bad thing. On the one hand, you can come up with great ideas that people love and share and put those great ideas down into writing without being a bigtime agency. The bad part, however, is that they’ve got the chance to churn out a lot more content when working in teams.

How do you compete? Well, for one, you should always be striving to do what someone else does better than they have. Because content marketing is a value game, a vast library of past projects and work can be completely obliterated and made obsolete by one game-changing piece that’s so amazing, so legit, that people can’t help but pay attention.

The next step is to make sure that you’re giving every single post the ‘after-care’ it deserves. For independent content marketers, you’ll probably be looking to spend at least as long promoting an article as you do creating, and preferably 2-3 times that amount.

To achieve this, start putting together a promotion list with the different places and ways in which you will share every single post. As a new avenue comes to mind, add it. As you check analytics and find certain methods aren’t actually generating any interest or traffic for you, drop them and try and find something else to replace that method.

Content marketing fits, in many ways, with the concept of growth hacking, which has grown to relevance in the past year or two especially.

Growth hacking is about leveraging creative product and promotion hack that can help to give a business a viral growth factor in which every user you gain recruits at least one other user to the service or customer to the product, which means that a brand’s growth is, at that point, self-perpetuating.

Getting these tactics to culminate in a success story is the stuff of legends, but those who have been successful (like Dropbox, for example) know that the core is testing and tweaking constantly. Content marketing can be an excellent means in driving people into the top of that funnel.

In part 2, we’ll get into a few of the specifics for sharing a blog post once it’s been creative, and how you can even growth hack the reach of your articles, to an extent.