A Deep Dive Into How We’re Winning at Guest Posting (300+ Great Posts Published!)
Blog: The Process Street Blog
If Shakespeare offered to write a guest post for TechCrunch, I highly doubt he’d be declined.
Similarly, if Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Fitzgerald — or any other great writer — wanted to post on the blog of Atlassian, Buffer, or Unbounce, these sites wouldn’t exactly say no, would they?
That’s because they’re the lucky few who became internationally-renowned as stellar writers. The hard part wouldn’t be pitching and writing for these incredible, modern-day sites and blogs; it’d be resurrecting themselves so they could write in the first place.
How do you get your business’ writers — who are all incredible in their own right but don’t have the reputation of the above (yet) — published by other sites? How can you add authority, improve targeted traffic, increase qualified leads, and secure backlinks with guest posting? What needs to be done?
That’s exactly what you’re about to learn.
At Process Street, we’ve been guest posting for sites like TechCrunch, HubSpot, G2, TheNextWeb, AppSumo, and hundreds of others for years. Our offsite efforts make up a fundamental part of our content marketing machine, and have since helped us achieve a high domain rating, clinch the #1 spot for our most useful keywords, and get lots of juicy backlinks, too.
If you want to learn how we did it — and how you can, as well — just read through the following sections:
- What is guest posting?
- The business benefits of guest posting
- Process Street’s guest post journey (and how we systemized efforts)
- 4 essential guest blogging tips for writers and marketers
“Brevity is the soul of wit”, Shakespeare once said.
So without more ado, let’s get started!
What is guest posting?
Guest posting (also known as guest blogging and/or guest contributing) is the act of writing blog posts for sites and blogs that you don’t own. The aim behind guest posting is to increase the reach of your business, the amount of traffic your business’ site receives, get backlinks from other high DR and DA sites to yours, and further establish your business as an authority within its subject area(s).
It’s a two-way relationship that ultimately benefits everyone involved.
- The writer and the business they’re working for reap the above rewards regarding reach, traffic, backlinks, and authority. This is the ‘payment’, as it were, for carefully crafting the content in the first place.
- The site taking the post gets to add ‘free’ content into their content calendar, which is most likely written from a different angle or perspective that their in-house writers may not have been able to bring to the table themselves.
Generally, guest posting is seen by countless organizations as a worthwhile endeavor — especially if they’re content marketing-focused.
However, there is a school of thought that believes guest posting is a waste of time. SocialMediaExaminer debunked this as a short-sighted view that doesn’t take into account the long-term, long-lasting benefits of offsite guest posting:
“Why would I spend so much time arranging, discussing, and writing a post to get just one or two links from the very bottom of my article?”
Those who think guest posting is done for link-building — and measure the guest posting campaign by the number of links — completely don’t get it. There’s so much more to it, which you’ll miss if you focus on links.” – Ann Smarty, Busting the Top 3 Guest Blogging Myths
Basically, while a major focus for many businesses is getting backlinks to their most important pages, there’s more to guest posting than that.
To boot, it also depends on what it is you want to get out of guest posting. See all those CEOs, CMOs, CFOs, CTOs — or any other title acronym that begins with C and ends in O — writing on Entrepreneur or Forbes?
They’re guest posting.
While they could have a link or two to their business’ site in there, their main aim is to build up authority, influence, and recognition. Their aims may be different from say a newly-built SaaS startup that wants to get ranking on Google for its target keywords as soon as possible, and will leverage guest posting to do so.
Guest posting, then, is a flexible means to achieve your marketing goals. And it’s damn effective, too.
The business benefits of guest posting
While putting in thought, time, effort, and money into your business’ blog is a necessity, your overall content marketing strategy is nothing without dedicating resources to offsite guest posting.
This isn’t hyperbole — it’s true!
By ramping up guest posting efforts, you’ll be able to conquer the following:
- Link building.
- Thought leadership.
- Brand awareness.
Google is the all-knowing, all-seeing eye of the web. And if it understands that other (especially trusted, high DR/DA) sites are putting links to your site or site’s content, it recognizes that it must be worthwhile stuff, helping it rise to the top of Google’s front pages. By getting guest posts published, you’re naturally link building and improving search engine rankings without any blackhat trickery!
Just as Ann Smarty and I pointed out earlier, it’s not all about links and link building. To be an expert in a particular area — from aerobics to automation — then guest posting is an undisputed requirement. After all, it’s by seeing names regularly occur in differing ahead-of-the-curve publications and blogs that readers start to associate those names with expertise. Being recognized as an expert, though, comes with time. It’s by no means a quick win, but the game-changing victories never are. (If you’re going down this route, you’ll want to write guest posts under the name of the CEO or somebody else who’s the face of your business.)
While the thought leadership path may not be for every business, you’d be hard-pressed to find a business that doesn’t want to increase the number of people aware of its brand. Having your team — either under their own names or their CEO’s name — write guest posts is a tried-and-tested method of increasing brand awareness. As an example, let’s say you’re a startup in the property space, making renting affordable homes owned by agreeable landlords much easier. By writing guest posts and talking about your business somewhere — even if it’s just in the writers’ bio — it’ll significantly contribute to people discovering and becoming aware of your business’ brand, and in an unobtrusive way, too.
For people to actually read the content you put out — and especially if the site in question isn’t a high DR/DA site — you’ll want to create keyword-optimized posts. Now, why would this be in your favor, you ask? Because you’re helping them rank on a certain keyword, but the content has been written by you or somebody in your team, meaning that if it does rank well, you’ll be getting a major slice of that pie. And let’s say you’ve written a similar post on your own blog with the same keyword — you’re covering both bases that way!
You’ll be making a ton of friends along the way when guest posting. After working successfully with an editor or somebody else in a related content marketing position, those connections can be forged into business relationships and partnerships. As an example, imagine you wrote a keyword-orientated guest post for an industry-recognized blog that the editor loved. Why only write for them once — why not contribute to their blog on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis? And why not ask if they want to submit content for your site’s home blog? You win. They win. Everyone wins. And this is only one instance of how partnerships made through guest posting efforts can be leveraged.
Traffic is what helps keep both businesses and blogs running. And guest posting is a great source of getting traffic to flow in, whether links are embedded in your post or not (although it certainly does help)! If your guest posts don’t meander or waffle and, instead, provide how-tos, guidance, advice, and other useful information, then expect that to see the number of traffic you’re getting to rise. And rise. And rise.
Hopefully, by now, you can see how advantageous guest posting can be — even if it can feel a little long-winded and time-consuming at points. The positives more than make up for the negatives in this instance though. Which, luckily, I can say with complete authority.
Process Street’s guest post journey (and how we systemized efforts)
If you aren’t aware of who we are or what we do at Process Street, watch the introductory video below first. By watching it, the upcoming story will make a lot more sense!
And if that caught your interest, here’s how our product is helping real-world teams across the globe!
Now, let’s get on with the story at hand.
From humble beginnings…
Once upon a time in 2015, we were a scrappy startup with only one person on the content team: Ben Brandall.
Before we got our content marketing machine truly up and running, our guest posting efforts were undocumented, unsystematized, and undeveloped. Ben B was doing what he could, when he could, and with the little resources we had at the time.
Ben B was posting on the sites he’d read regularly to establish his own authority, and then, by proxy, Process Street’s. It was through Ben B’s constant relationship-building, post-pitching, and blog-commenting tactics that he did build up his own prestige by guest blogging, getting bylines in places like TechCrunch where he wrote about what UX designers can learn from 1990s Japanese video games, and InVision’s blog where he wrote about using Norman doors for design.
The focus was a lot broader than it was on our blog — posts to do with video games, operating systems from the 90s, Karl Marx — but it was what Ben needed to do to get work published in such well-known, respected publications. Although there wasn’t a lot of content output, getting backlinks from these sites was impressive — and especially for a new startup without any kind of documented process to follow.
Shortly after, Ben Mulholland joined the content marketing team — Process Street’s second content writer. After being onboarded, Ben M was tasked to do the same thing as Ben B; spread his name around the internet, like digital peanut butter, so people would be interested in him and want more, thereby driving traffic to Process Street. Ben M secured similarly-impressive bylines in places like ChargeBee and Usability Geek.
But it was when Adam H — who’s now Process Street’s content lead (check out his Substack!) — joined, that our first official guest posting project got underway and our first iteration of the guest posting process took shape.
To launching our first guest posting campaign…
At the time, we’d just created our employee onboarding template pack. The blog post and the templates themselves were hitting incredibly useful, super-aligned keywords and longtails. To ensure we ranked #1 for these keywords, we utilized guest posting… to the absolute max.
Ben B’s process for this project, then, looked a little like this:
- Task Ben M with creating a whopping 10,000-20,000 word master Google Doc that’d help the writers write guest posts (it included potential post titles, post headers, quotes, statistics, relevant links, and much, much more).
- Use BuzzSumo to find out all the sites already writing about and focused on employee onboarding, then gather the contact details of these sites.
- Write a quick-fire pitch email to 50-100~ sites at a time with a list of potential titles they could choose from.
- When a post title gets accepted, assign a writer to write that post and make sure they pull from the master Google Doc as necessary.
- Quick-fire pitch another 50-100~ sites with a list of new potential titles (by swapping out the taken titles).
- Rinse and repeat the quick-fire pitches and the swapping of taken titles.
Over 100 offsite guest posts in around 6 months.
It was a far cry from how things had been done previously, when we prioritized individually interesting, quirky posts over keyword-optimized posts that were fired from all canons. That’s not to say it was better or worse — it was different.
The main thing is the project worked. (A large reason for its success was probably how personal the quick-fire mass pitch emails sounded, even though they were sent to hundreds of people at a time.)
Go on, give “employee onboarding” a quick Google search and see for yourself.
To systemizing thanks to Airtable, Process Street, and other SaaS products…
During our first guest posting campaign on employee onboarding, a low-key guest posting process was built.
While it was fairly bare-bones, it focused on the editing side of things — checking spelling, grammar, readability, scannability, that it had no plagiarised content, and that the guest post in question linked back to at least one piece of Process Street’s content related to employee onboarding.
It wasn’t until further guest posting campaigns were being prepared — such as one on remote work, one on business process management, and another on integrations with Zapier — that a proper system for documenting, managing, and tracking our offsite guest post efforts was made.
Because it was completely necessary to stop us from running around like headless chickens.
And let me tell you, the system was far more involved than just a couple of quick tasks in a checklist, especially as, at the time, we’d dedicated ourselves to mass outreach.
In terms of the guest posting checklist — known as the Guest Post Production (GPP) checklist — its steps involved:
- Adding post details
- Refining keyword research
- Creating a post outline
- Getting peer feedback on outline & keyword
- Once the post had been written, fixing text formatting errors
- Checking for filler words
- Reading for evergreen language
- Linking to related products
- Citing text sources
- Citing image sources
- Adding Process Street links
- Using subheadings
- Running spellcheck
- Making sure it’s easy to read
- Submitting the post for review
- Sending the post off
- Iterating until accepted
- Confirming the post’s details (such as its live link)
This checklist is what the writers worked through when writing a guest post. But behind the scenes, there was a massive system in place where Gmail was hooked up with Airtable via Zapier, Airtable was hooked up with Process Street, and vice versa.
In terms of flow, it looked a little like this:
- Ben B tracks each site he’s mass pitched to in Airtable as a record
- Ben B then labels an accepted guest post pitch as ‘guest post’ in Gmail
- Zapier then spawns a Guest Post Production checklist — with Zapier automatically populating the checklist title with the sender’s email, and a form field that contains the full email thread — for writers to work through
- The record automatically updates from being an “Idea” to “Start” when the checklist has been spawned
- The writer then begins to work through the checklist’s steps, completing the blank form fields and assigning themselves as the guest post author
- Once the writer has had team feedback on their guest post outline and keyword and checks off those tasks, Zapier updates the relevant Airtable record
- When the post is sent and the associated step has been ticked off in Process Street, the Airtable record is then once again updated with the right status (“Sent”).
Basically, Ben B utilized automation where possible to take the admin (and boy, is there a lot of admin!) out of documenting, managing, and tracking our guest posting efforts.
While the new system — which was a stark departure from how things had been done previously — took some getting used to, it became pivotal in helping us retain control over our mammoth guest posting outreach and all the guest posts we were crafting.
But then, in 2018, Ben B moved on from Process Street.
To stumbling after Ben B’s departure…
When Ben B left, Ben M took over and focused on our offsite efforts.
However, Ben M didn’t have the email connections that Ben B had nor the sheer number of relationships with editors, writers, and managers from outside companies. Neither did he know the processes and systems to the degree that Ben B did.
To boot, Ben M also had to write onsite guest posts, review and publish work by other writers, on top of a myriad of other small but time-consuming tasks. He didn’t have the mental bandwidth to do everything at a high quality. Needless to say, our guest posting output took a downward turn.
But it was when Farah Tash later joined the team as a marketing coordinator that the momentum picked up again, as she took ownership of communications and relationship management. Ben M then had the time to upgrade our system, particularly when it came to finding a ton of leads that we could mass pitch to.
His addition to our guest posting system included:
- Going into BuzzSumo and finding topics related to the campaigns we wanted to run
- Finding and noting down a massive list of companies in BuzzSumo
- Forwarding that company list to our content promotion team who would vet the list and then paste the details (names, emails, and so on) of relevant contacts
- Having all those contact details automatically pushed through to Close where they’re tagged to be used in a specific upcoming campaign
- Sending out 100~ emails every Tuesday and Thursday to the contacts that were pushed into Close.
Ben M built on the foundations Ben B provided, further integrating with tools like Close (who are fans of Process Street themselves) to help with sending out mass emails and managing the communications and relationships with those contacts.
Here’s a transparent example of what kind of results our mass pitching campaigns achieved.
In a 2019 follow-up campaign — where we’d follow-up again with sites that previously hadn’t responded to a pitch — we sent emails to 646 people, had a 64% open rate, and 19% response rate. Of course, those responses don’t 100% include acceptances; some people declined, while others declined after a bit of a back-and-forth. But it goes to show that people were pretty responsive, and we acquired a plethora of guest posting opportunities from this follow-up campaign alone.
But as Ben M started to transition to a different content role in Process Street, we began to slow down mass pitching a little and pick up individual, independent pitching and posting again.
To where we are in 2020 and beyond — winning with a mixed model approach!
During this transition, things got lost in the cracks. Perhaps that’s to be expected when the composition of a small team changes, and when the internal processes and systems are changing, too.
Admittedly, there were companies we secured a guest posting slot in their schedule for, but we never got round to writing or even finishing a blog post for them. Additionally, our writers stopped using the Guest Post Production checklist as it didn’t properly cover the process when they were pitching guest posts themselves and making their own connections.
We lost a lot of valuable opportunities.
But as we geared toward a mixed model for guest posting — where we’d still make use of email scraping and mass pitch emails, but also focus on individual, independent pitching and posting again — we changed the processes and systems to reflect these operational changes.
Most notably, I created an Independent Guest Post Production checklist template that helped writers think of a unique, actionable, and interesting post, and then get out there and pitch it to the relevant people.
I also went into the GPP template and amended it, adding more of a focus on the review stage, as we had an issue with independent posts going out without sufficient checks from a reviewer and without the links we wanted. I also made the GPP relevant for guest posts we got through mass pitching (i.e. predetermined titles) and also independent pitching (i.e. the title the writer came up with themselves). This naturally led to writers using the GPP for all their guest posts again, which meant we were no longer losing posts, negotiations, or efforts in the void!
Going forward, we’ll be doing our best to capitalize on the best of both worlds with our mixed model.
From a writers’ standpoint, it gives our team more agency, more freedom to write about the topics that are close to their heart, while also still writing our bread and butter guest posts — posts on BPM, remote work, checklists, and the like. And from a more managerial perspective, it means all bases are adequately covered.
So that’s how we’ve done it, how we’re doing it, and how we’ll continue doing it in the future.
To thank you for wading this far through the post, here’s some essential tips and tricks straight from the horse’s mouth.
4 essential guest blogging tips for writers and marketers
Guest posting is often perceived as an incredibly scary, tricky, and cumbersome process. And that, like Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars films, it takes years upon years to become a master and wield the force properly.
But while becoming a brilliant J̶e̶d̶i̶ guest poster may take a little time, it needn’t be so daunting.
In fact, here are a handful of crucial tips I’ve learned myself after years of pitching to publications, working with editors and their vision for my pieces, and securing numerous guest posts for the likes of The New Statesman, Insider, G2, Atlassian, the Content Marketing Institute, and many more. It’s also what I’ve learned while taking a more active role in writing, editing, and managing Process Street’s offsite guest posts.
These tried-and-tested tips will help you get to grips with guest posting much faster, all while making the process far less daunting.
Ready to become the modern-day Shakespeare of guest posting?
Guest blogging tip #1: Build connections via social media (particularly Twitter)
In the beginning, you’ll be chomping at the bit to establish connections and relationships with the right people: Editors, writers, content leads, managers, and VPs — the people who can get you an in and help you place a guest post (or guest posts) on their site’s blog.
Use social media, and especially Twitter.
It’s a friendly approach where those connections can be built naturally, quickly, and in a more human way overall.
As Ben Brandall said in his post How I Started Guest Posting with TechCrunch for Prowly:
“Form a list of 20 blogs or websites you like to read which you think you have a good chance of getting published on. This was my first step, and it helped me focus my attention well. It also made sure that I knew the sites I was going to contact and could submit content tailored to them.
Begin to like, share, retweet, and comment on the posts these sites put out. If you engage with the article with a long-form comment where you’re constructively adding to the discussion, you’ll catch the attention of the writer or editor. Hopefully, you can strike up a conversation with them about the topic in the comments. This will make the original writer feel like their work is valued.
My next step is to follow them on Twitter and engage them there. I would attempt to naturally build a friendship with them. This close connection beats cold emailing in my eyes as the value of the relationship is already greater.” — Ben Brandall, How I Started Guest Posting with TechCrunch
And as I explained in my post How to Pitch (and Write for) the Swankiest Sites on the Web for Compose.ly:
“When you’re cold pitching via email, the pitch you’ve taken care and consideration to write is just another in an endless sea of pitches from strangers. And when an editor is trawling through cold pitch emails, ruthlessness is necessary—which may result in your pitch unfairly getting the chop.
When pitching via social media, however, you’re putting a face to both a name and a pitch. In other words, you’re showing the editor there’s a person with an online presence and some kind of following, which will inevitably work in your favor. Pitching via social media, in a way, makes the whole process more human. Because there is a face to a name and a pitch, editors are more likely to respond—and faster, too—even if it’s just to politely turn down the idea.
In terms of hard numbers, I pitched 10 pieces over Twitter alone in the last year, either as a Direct Message or a tweet sent to an editor. Out of those 10, I got eight responses and eight acceptances. Those eight acceptances led to long-form work being published, on top of enabling me to forge new connections with cream-of-the-crop editors who have since repeatedly accepted my work.” — Thom James Carter, How to Pitch (and Write for) the Swankiest Sites on the Web
Need I say more?
Guest blogging tip #2: Adhere to each blog’s pitching and submission guidelines
On one hand, I shouldn’t have to say this.
But on the other, I understand the frenzy that takes place where you set an internal OKR to get a certain number of guest posts out each week, month, or quarter. In an attempt to meet that OKR and make sure your output is enough, it can lead to silly mistakes. Skipping the rules. Skimming over guidelines and not taking them all in.
When it comes to guest posting, however, adhering to pitching and/or submission guidelines stipulated by a site, publication, or blog is an absolute must.
So stick to them.
That piece I wrote Compose.ly? In their pitch guidelines, they ask people to write the word “dinosaur” somewhere in their email to prove they’ve followed their guidelines.
The process optimization guest post I did for G2? I had to ensure it was over 2,500 words, otherwise they wouldn’t take the draft.
By not following instructions, there’s no faster way to get your pitch or the post itself turned down.
Guest blogging tip #3: Try to make correspondence feel personalized
Editors, writers, and managers — pretty much everyone, really — don’t like to feel they’ve been sent the same email as thousands of others. And this is particularly true when it comes to guest posting correspondence.
Sure, it’s easier when you’re reaching out individually to people, as the correspondence there will be inherently personalized. But when you’ve got a whole list you want to send a pitch email blast to, it’s slightly tougher.
The good news, though, is that it is possible to make mass email templates sound personalized.
Here’s the pitch email template I suggest using when pitching a ton of folk at once:
“Hi there [editor’s name],
I’m [your name], a writer based in [your location]. I’ve written for [publication title 1], [publication title 2], [publication title 3], [publication title 4], [publication title 5], and more. I also work as a [job title] at [company name].
I’ve been a big fan of your blog for a while now, and I’d really like to write a valuable, informative post for your site’s audience. (Seeing as I’m an avid reader myself, I think I’ve got a solid grasp on what’ll go down well.)
Here are some titles I’m raring to write:
[post title 1]
[post title 2]
[post title 3]
[post title 4]
[post title 5]
[post title 6]
[post title 7]
[post title 8]
[post title 9]
[post title 10]
Do any of these sound like something you’d be interested in?
Thanks for your time,
Alternatively, Backlinko’s Brian Dean has written some great, personalized-feeling email templates in his guest post guide. Just adapt the templates to how you see fit.
Guest blogging tip #4: Document and track your guest posting efforts
Brilliantly-written guest posts disappearing into the ether.
Confirmed guest posting slots lost.
Relationships broken-down due to us not fulfilling our end of the bargain.
As you’ve already found out from our guest posting journey, letting the ball slip when it comes to your guest posting efforts can have massive ramifications on what you’re trying to achieve. Not only can it slow everything down, but it can fundamentally harm your projects and campaigns, too.
Ensure you don’t fall into the same trap in the future by documenting and tracking everything you’re doing when it comes to guest posts. Especially when working remotely. Especially when team members will chop and change. Especially as internal systems shift.
This means continually using the likes of:
While I’d advocate for using more aligned tools with proper capabilities, even using Excel or Word is better than nothing at all.
There you have it.
You’ve received a crash course in all-things guest posting. With everything you’ve learned, I’d say you and your team are now ready to become the modern-day Shakespeares of guest posting!
Here’s to ensuring your guest posting efforts prevail and that they don’t become a comedy of errors.
Want extra help with guest posting? Or want to know more about our own guest posting efforts? Leave your questions below and I’ll be sure to respond ASAP.