If you’re already creating content for your own business, why would you want to seek out guest posting opportunities for other sites? Well, because guest posting is a creative and important strategy for growing your own blog readership and community.
Guest posting builds relationships, it’s great for search engines, it introduces you to a whole new audience, it associates you with other influencers, it helps build email lists, and the backlinks…oh, the backlinks you’ll get that will make Google so very happy. But you can’t just go into it willy nilly. It takes some research and time to create the perfect pitch that will have influencers interested and anxious to post your content to their sites.
Rich: Guest posting since 2009, her posts have been seen on places like Adweek, Venturebeat, byRegina.com, and many others. She’s on a mission to help agents of change, just like you, grow their email lists by getting their guest posts published. She does this by creating posts, guest posts, and online courses fueled by so much tea she might create a worldwide shortage. Please welcome Sana Choudary.
Sana: Hi Rich.
Rich: Sana, I’m glad to have you on the show.
Sana: I’m very glad to be here. I love your podcast and all the great work you do. And I’m honored and appreciative of the fact that you had me on, so thank you.
Rich: My pleasure. Let’s jump in! My first question is, how did you get started with guest posting, how did this become a thing for you?
Sana: So my background is working in tech and games, and I grew an incubator very, very quickly from something that no one had heard of, to sort of being the most well-known incubator in the space of games in a period of about 2 years. And at the same time, we also had an events arm of that, which made a quarter of a million dollars in revenue.
And a lot of how I did that was actually by guest posting at different sites which were well known in that industry and that space, and attracting both the individuals who were our customers, as well as stakeholders through that. So that’s how I actually got started with guest posting and that’s why I’ve been doing it since 2009, before I guess even the word existed.
Rich: How did you first start thinking, “Oh, maybe if I published things at other places I’ll get visibility, I’ll get email sign ups, I’ll get some SEO.” Like, did you know this in advance or what were you thinking when you first started doing this?
Sana: When I first started doing it it was more like, there’s an audience that these other sites have that I want to reach. I want them to know about my ideas, what I’m working on, and as a result of that have those guys then come into my business. And that’s initially what the idea was. And the SEO, the link throughs and the subscribers wasn’t something that I had thought of very much. It was simply trying to reach an audience and what’s the best way to do it when you’re a small business sand starting off and don’t have an advertising budget. And that’s actually as a thought leader, and the best way to reach those guys would then be on the sites they’re already reading.
Rich: That makes a lot of sense. Now how do you describe guest posting and I sit the same thing as guest blogging?
Sana: That’s a great question, Rich. I actually don’t think guest posting is the same as guest blogging. Now a lot of people think it is, and that comes from the fact that guest blogging was synonymous with link building in the world of SEO for as long as it was.
But guest posting simply means posting at any site, any social network, any curated community which runs a platform by another influencer and speaking to their audience with it.
So a guest post could be you writing something on a curated Facebook group. It could also be appearing on a podcast like this one. And then of course there’s the guest blogging element, and it’s also promotion on an influencer’s email list, that would also be guest posting.
Rich: So guest posting is more of an umbrella term, and guest blogging more specific underneath that term. Am I correct?
Sana: Yes, for sure.
Rich: So just for a second on the guest posting thing, because before we talked this was brand new to me. I belong to a number of Facebook groups, so would you consider it guest posting if I just went to one of these things and publish something, or is there a little bit more to it that makes it from “contributing” to “guest posting”?
Sana: So if you just went and you published something without having a conversation with the owner of that community without actually having some sort of understanding how they would push or promote your post, that’s more like just a contribution, it’s not necessarily a guest post.
But if you basically did a couple of contributions, got a sense of what the demand and questions and problems that community has, and then pitch to the owner of that community saying, “Hey, I want to do this proper series, I’d love for you to actually promote it as a series especially for your group.” Then really the amount of promotion that curated community does for you is what then makes it more than a contribution and more in line with what I think of as a guest post.
Rich: That’s definitely helpful. Why have you fallen in love with guest posting – and I think I know the answer – but I’d love to hear it from you?
Sana: My goal for myself as well as everyone I work with, is actually to help them grow their email list. And in terms of organic, non-paid methods, guest posting is one of the finest methods I’ve found simply because at the right community with the right post, your guest post is seen as an endorsement by that influencer. So the people who like to interact with guest posts join your mail list and come to where they eventually become your customers and are a lot more warmer and engaged because they know you as that thought leader that was endorsed by an influencer. So the door to where it’s then coming to you becomes part of your warm audience and eventually becomes your buyers is a much more seamless process, and also people engage a lot more and become some of your best fans an your biggest buyers. .
Rich: Ok, so it sounds great. But kind of walk though it right now. So let’s say that I decided I wanted to get into guest posting. How do I even start, where do I find these guest posting opportunities, or is that even the first right step?
Sana: Yeah, it’s the first right step. So within that I would break it down a little further, So the first thing before you go out and look for guest posting opportunities is picking one clear goal. Are you guest posting for credibility, or are you guest posting to build your email list.
Now the types of articles you would write as well as the types of sites you would choose would be different based on which one you pick. What a lot of people do is they try to do everything at once and that means it’s posting without as much ROI. So if you are unsure what to pick, typically I would say start with list building first. So pick list building as the first clear goal.
And then after that what you would do is then zero in on the demographic you want to reach in your first round of guest posting. So one of our mutual friends, Mike, has a business where he writes a lot about remodeling, especially bathroom remodeling. So Mike was getting started with guest posting and at this stage I would tell him to get clear on which demographic he wants to reach. Obviously it’s homeowners, but what type of homeowners. Is it homeowners with kids, is it homeowners with kids under 18. The tighter the demo you pick, the easier it becomes to choose the right kinds of sites for guest posting.
So if he did pick homeowners with kids under 18, the question becomes then what kinds of sites are those people reading. And they might not be the remodeling sites that you otherwise think of, it might be a completely different set of sites, and the articles you would then write would be completely different as well. So that would be the second step is finding who that demographic is that you want to reach, and making it as specific as possible.
And then the third thing I would do is then say, ok, all these sites that actually speak to that demo that actually help me with my goal of list building, how engaged are these sites. There’s a lot of media and news sites out there and a lot of celebrity influencer sites, but those are the types of places where people might read, get entertained, and not take action. Now if your focus is list building, you really want to make sure the sites that you are guest posting at have an engaged audience that is passionate about and anything and everything the influencer talks about and is likely to take action.
Now there are a couple signs of that. I would then spend some time looking at sites like similar web and seeing is there is a high percentage of traffic from things like non-search sources, how much of their traffic comes from email and direct. And that typically is a really good sign that this is an engaged audience that takes action on whatever they rea on the site.
So you need those first three steps to getting started and finding the right guest posting opportunities. And from there it’s really a matter of crafting the right kind of pitch for where the audience is on those sites.
Rich: We’re going to pick a goal – and that’s basically credibility or email list – I’d probably throw in SEO, but we’ll let that go for now. Get clear on your demographic, be as narrow as possible on who you want to reach, and then ultimately find these sites where people are more engaged. Is this just a matter of – in this case, Mike – doing searches that he thinks people might do who are his demographic? Like, how do you start that process of finding those websites?
Sana: So when you’re clear on what that demographic is, you would search terms that people in that demographic may be searching for. If they’re very focused on that identity – for example – of a homeowner with kids under 18, that’s what he would search for. So it would be based on his understanding of the people he’s trying to reach, what are they most likely to be looking for or reading. Would it be around their problem, would it be around their identity, or something else?
So that’s a bit of a combination of types of things you would search, and we play around until we get to the point where we have enough sites that seem to have high engagement and seem to have people who are actually interacting with the site and the author and doing things on site.
Rich: Are their online resources that when we figure out our demographic that will point us to some of those initial first websites, or is it more about just getting ahead of our ideal demographic?
Sana: Once you figure out your demographic it’s really a matter of searching possible terms. Now there’s things that can make that job easier. So if you have conversations with your audience you can pull out keywords from that and then use them for searching on sites like Buzzsumo or whatnot.
If you don’t have these at all, you’re completely brand new just starting out in business and you don’t know that audience, you would use forums or other online curated communities to figure out what language they’re using.
Typically I find most people are not so much stuck with search, it’s more being too married to how they describe their audience. For example I’ve had students that are trying to reach introverted entrepreneurs. So that may be a lot of what they’re searching, but in the world of introverted entrepreneurs, not everyone uses that label. They might actually have other problems but not be typing in the words “introverted entrepreneurs” when they’re looking at problems in terms of sales, in terms of energy management.
So it’s not so much a difficulty of coming up with the terms that I see people struggling with, it’s more of just simply not thinking of other ways the audience might be describing themselves or their problem.
Rich: Ok, so we now have this Excel spreadsheet, perhaps, of websites and podcasts that we’re going to target. What are the next steps, what do we do next?
Sana: So the next step – and this kind of goes into what I think of the 2 mistakes where people usually go wrong – they have these sites and they know who their audience is. Now let me come up with guest post ideas that are going to reach as many people as possible. Part of it comes from a fear of not wanting their expertise to be pigeonholed, and part of it comes from wanting to get the biggest bang for your buck.
So when that happens, what folks do is they write really broad ideas that end up not serving any one small segment of the audience very well. Sometimes they even get guest posts accepted and published and they don’t end up giving them the list build returns that they might want to do. So what I would do instead of that is get very clear on these particular people, what are some of the problems that keep them up at night and how can I come up with a simple solution for where they’re at that they can actually get through the guest post. So that kind of goes into the second mistake people have, they give their audience way more than their audience can chew. It’s like giving a PhD math problem to a third grader. They want to help people so much that they kind of throw the book and the encyclopedia at them.
So then the second step would be coming up with a very clear solution that works for them where people are at. And once you have those two, from there it becomes easier to now build enough of an interaction and relationship with the influencer and start communicating with them and sending them the pitch.
So that is what I would basically say, spend some time getting clear on the problem and getting clear how the guest post would help them. And then how you can execute the ideas in the guest post to something like a lead magnet.
Rich: So I see where this is definitely feasible in a Facebook or a LinkedIn group or some other type of forum where there’s more conversation going back and forth. It seems trickier if we’re looking for a guest blogging opportunity or a guest on a podcast opportunity where there’s not necessarily that audience engaging like they would maybe in a more social platform-type setting. Any thoughts on that or suggestions on how to approach that?
Sana: Yeah. So actually I think a lot of that comes from maybe getting a little too specific, and tight, and married to wanting to see results from the blog itself. If I take the example of Mike, he could write a most helpful remodeling tips post, but that is not speaking to a specific problem of a specific audience. But if he takes the time to think through a specific audience like his homeowners with kids under 18, the problems he would know simply from being in business would be very different and a lot more specific.
So I think some of this having a hard time with coming up with what’s that audience’s problem comes from being a little bit too married to what’s the audience of that blog like, that if you actually spend some time without even looking at the blog and thinking through within my large world of audiences what are the different types of demographics and problems. I know what they are ,working with them for so many years. It would be a lot easier to then draw into a tighter problem that you can help solve.
Now the second question you asked is on the blog itself, how do I know that this blog’s audience has that problem. This is where there’s a little hack I use that I look at the most popular post on that particular blog and then I look up at the comments not only on that blog but anywhere on the internet about that blog. And once I have a sense of the particular comments that people had about this blog post, that usually point the way to a specific problem that blog’s audience has. So it’s fairly easy to do both with blogs and sites, as well as curated communities. It’s just a question of taking the time to get a little bit narrower on what are the problems a specific audience has, and we have signs that this audience hangs out on that site.
Rich: Ok. Well that certainly answers it. It sounds like there’s just a lot of research going, which I’m sure a lot of people were like, “This sounded like a great idea until I realized how much work it is.” You must hear that occasionally. What do you say to people when they just say this seems like more work than it’s worth?
Sana: The people who are typically saying that, their issue is not so much with the work guest posting takes. Because this is the type of work you should be doing with any content marketing you’re doing. But the people who are saying that are typically, I’d be surprised if any other of their marketing – even their paid marketing – is working. In this world of so much information out there, the more you think about how you can best serve your audience, the more you’re going to win.
So this is the work you should be doing with any content marketing you do at all, whether you’re guest posting or not. The feeling that this is a lot of work just comes from not taking the time to answer some of these questions, and the questions themselves are easy. It’s literally just three questions, you just have to sit down and plan around it. And I bet if you’ve been in business for a couple of years, you already have a lot of the answers, it’s just that you may not have pulled them out of your brain and thought them through a little bit and then said this is how I need to think about now going out to other sites and guest posting.
So those questions I’ve kind of put into a quick little workbook and companion guide for your listeners, which we can share in the show notes, and I can give you the link at the end. But essentially it’s just three questions that you should be thinking about anyways to do your content marketing. And when you’re thinking about them and doing guest posting, you’re going to get a lot more returns on your guest post.
Rich: Ok, so we’ve done our research and it sounds like we kind of know how we should pitch. How exactly are you pitching to people that’s getting such great response rates?
Sana: I’d say I get about 4 out of every 5 pitches that I do get accepted.
Rich: Which is interestingly the same number of dentists that say you should chew sugar-free gum if you’re going to chew gum.
Sana: That’s awesome. So the reason I’d say my pitches get accepted is because I’ve taken the time to do this kind of work. When I’m going to any particular site and saying, “Hey, can I guest post with you? These are the ideas I have and this is how I think it’s going to help your audience”, I’ve done the effort, I’ve taken the time to get clear on the problem, the audience, and the solution I’m providing to them. No one else who’s pitching to them is usually doing this.
So I’ve actually been published on sites that in 3-4 years have maybe only done a handful of guest posts, and then they just find it too overwhelming to manage guest posting because they get a lot of bad pitches. Haven’t this kind of process, having a clear value for their audience and your audience, and creating a win/win allows you to then get that higher pitch rate.
Rich: I’ll be honest, I get probably 2-3 pitches a day, and those are the ones that actually make it through the various spam filters between whatever they’re trying to pitch me. And I would say 99% of them at this point I don’t even look at just because I’ve almost come to fear the phrase “guest post”.
So tell me how you would break through to me, if you decided that you wanted to pitch to me, what are some of the things that you would do to kind of break through that barrier that I’ve put up?
Sana: So I was going to say when you first started speaking that I bet if you actually had someone who came to you with a very cool idea that you knew served your audience, you’d get excited and you would read it. So that’s really the thinking that someone like me would need to have if I’m pitching to you. It’s like, alright, what has he covered before. Rich tends to focus on lead generation and businesses with all of his podcasts, what are some of the previous podcasts he’s had around this. So I know you had one on guest blogging, I know you’ve had quite a few on building your network, influencer marketing and actually how do you think about different types of influencers. So that gives me a sense of what the lay of the land is, these are the possible topics you’ve covered, what is it you haven’t covered.
So from my world it would be you’ve talked a lot about all these different types of lead generation methods, a to about Pinterest marketing, and Facebook ads, but you actually haven’t talked about guest posting. At least not guest posting the way I talk about it. So that would give me a sense of these are the types of things I should pitch to Rich.
Bu then there’s another thing that needs to happen before that. You may not know who I am from anywhere. So getting a warm introduction and interacting with your content, getting known to you by the people that you know and trust already. Those are some of the things I would do up front to kind of get your attention first. And then from there I would pitch something that would really fit in with what you’re trying to do with this podcast.
Rich: I think that’s pretty sound advice because recently I just had somebody on the show that pitched to me something we had never covered before, but definitely falls under the whole idea of digital marketing and lead generation. And I would almost say that if you had come to me – because I actually did chase you down – on behalf of Mike.
Sana: That’s the power of guest posting the right way. Influencers ask you to come and appear on their podcast.
Rich: Yeah, absolutely. I would think that it’s one thing to say, “I’ve written for Mike Stelzner, and Chris Brogan, and Mari Smith”, I think it would be even better if you could ever get those influencers to send a note on your behalf saying you should really talk to Sana because she’s brilliant. Because of course that would come with such more emphasis. Obviously that’s an ask you have to do, but just trying to increase your chances of conversions I think that might be a good way to leverage that as well.
Sana: So if that’s possible, folks should definitely go for it. And if it’s not, other guest posts actually kind of build up over time. So the fact that I had guest posted other places kind of builds up enough of the credibility that you’re then a little more open to hear what I have to say next. Which would be a pitch on a topic that you haven’t covered, or that you have covered but not from the angle I usually cover.
Rich: That makes a lot of sense, too. Now you talk a lot about building your email list, so I kind of wanted to finish on this. Obviously longtime listeners of The Agents of Change podcast knows that everything I talk about comes down to building your list. So what are some specific tactics that you use in your guest posts to build your own list, and how might we employ those?
Sana: So I would actually say there’s three things I do in every single guest post. First is that I always call out the ideal audience I want within that intro section. So depending on the length of the guest post, if it’s a longer guide I might say this guide is this long, it would help you if you fit in any of these pedigrees. And then I would bullet that out. And it won’t help you if you fit into any of these categories. So by that I’m alienating the people who are not my ideal audience. I do some version of this in every single guest post I write, and that allows me to actually reach the subset of the influencer’s audience who I actually want as opposed to everyone else who’s never going to be an ideal customer for me.
So if I’m writing on a site where a lot of people may be reading it for guest posting SEO – and that’s not something I help with – I make sure that initial intro section makes it clear to those who are reading for SEO that this is not going to help you. So that’s the first thing I do.
The second thing I do is actually integrate social proof within the body of the post itself. So this can come from telling stories of my students, my clients, and can come from talking about results and light and dark type of stories that are like, “I had this difficult moment and X,Y,and Z, and then i had these other beautiful results.” So that’s the second thing I do. And that allows it to organically be building this message in their mind of why I am the person they should be working with. All within the body of the guest post.
And the final thing, and this is what I think a lot of people miss doing is having a really strong lead magnet at the end that helps people execute on the ideas they’ve actually read about in the guest post. So those three things together allow me to attract my ideal audience from the guest post and get those people onto my email list and get some great subscriber numbers and ROI for every guest post.
Rich: That’s a very intelligent, well thought out formula. So that’s pretty cool, I’m definitely going to try using that myself. Sana, this has been great. A lot of good ideas, I took a lot of notes. I know this is only audio so you can’t see, but I did.
Rich: So I know that you have something that you wanted to share with the audience, so I’d love you to share that link with us, we’ll also have it in the show notes. And I’d also love you to tell us where we can check you out online.
Sana: So I have a little workbook with the three questions that people need to ask themselves before they start guest posting. It is on http://bit.ly/gpagents. And this workbook is going to allow folks to hit the ground running and get a sense of a lot of the things that we talked about in this podcast and actually work on them and just plan out what they want to be doing in the next few months around guest posting. So they can learn the mistake,s they can laser focus on their goals and find the best and right opportunities for them to reach.
And then in terms of looking for me online, you can find me at sanachoudary.com. I’m also around on Twitter and Facebook, as well as on Pinterest where I’ve been curating a lot of great guest posting content recently. So if you want to read other things that I think make sense around guest posting around the web, that’s where you would look that up. Thanks so much Rich for having me, this has been fun, it’s been great talking about guest posting with someone who is in this world of lead generation and thinking about this stuff a lot. So it’s been fun, thank you for having me.
Rich: Sana, it’s been a pleasure and come back anytime. Thanks again,
Sana: Thank you. Take care.
Sana Choudary has grown her and her client’s audiences by knowing how to craft the perfect pitch and have their guest posts featured on numerous blogs and websites. It is her mission to teach the art of crafting those perfect posts, and she’s even created an online course designed to do just that. Learn more of her tested tips and advice by checking out her website, her blog, and follow her on Twitter and Facebook,. She has also created a workbook to help you get started!
Rich Brooks is the President of flyte new media, a web design & digital marketing agency in Portland, Maine. He knows a thing or two about helping businesses grow by reaching their ideal customers, and to prove that, he puts on a yearly conference to inspire small businesses to achieve big success. You can also head on over to Twitter to check him out, and he just added “author” to his resume with his brand new book!