You’ve heard the beating of the drum for years now, no doubt. Content is King. Content Must Be High Quality. Quality is better than quantity. Over and over, it’s beaten into you, and you may have internalized it, or maybe not.
With guest posting, I always consider quality to be even more important than in your home blog. In your home blog, if you write a post that’s a little sub-par, who cares? You can try again tomorrow, or next week. A mediocre post is still a post, and if it attracts even one person, that’s good enough. With a guest post, on the other hand, you only get one attempt. If that attempt isn’t good enough, you’re not likely to be offered a second.
Quality comes into play every step of the guest posting process, so I’m going to go over them all and talk about specifically where quality is important.
Part One: The Target Site
Quality in the site you’re targeting is incredibly important, and it’s probably the second most ignored part of guest post quality all around. What does quality mean, though? How can you tell if a site is quality or not? Even if you’ve been part of your niche for years, there are likely a lot of high quality businesses in the niche that you’ve never heard of. You can’t spend all day reading blogs, after all.
A target site is a high quality site if:
- It’s not part of a PBN.
- It’s filled with generally high quality content.
- It’s within your industry or a related industry.
- It seems to have an active and engaged audience.
- It doesn’t have extant Google penalties.
One common mistake marketers make is scraping as large a list of possible guest posting targets as they can, and then shooting off as many pitches as possible just to take the “shotgun” approach. It makes sense if you don’t care about quality, of course. Even if only one out of a thousand sites picks you up, that’s better than nothing, so just keep on shooting out pitches until you get some returns.
That is, of course, ignoring quality, which you should never do. Quality is too important. Yes, it takes a lot more time to filter through every site, send out a high quality pitch, and write a top-tier article for every site, but it takes your returns from 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 10. It’s more effort individually, but with a much, much greater rate of return.
So how can you verify that a site is high quality?
The first thing you should do is learn how to find sites of moderately high quality in the first place. This post should give you some good resources for finding and categorizing sites.
The basic answer is to use a combination of broad scraping techniques, narrow searches, and intuition. Find sites and, if they don’t look very good at first glance, just discard it. There are more than enough sites out there that you won’t run out for a long time, and once you do, those other sites will still be around.
Filtering your list of sites is the tricky part. Here’s what I do.
- Search for the author or authors on social media. Good blogs have authors who have a social presence, and they will likely be posting links to their content on their feeds. If they don’t have social profiles or those social profiles don’t mention the site, it can be a red flag. Be aware that some scam sites scrape author information as well, so they can attribute content to authors that don’t actually write for them.
- Google some random passages from some of their content. This will help you tell if the content is scraped. If you see exact copies of the content elsewhere, check to see if it’s quoted or syndicated, and if not, it might be stolen. Usually, you can tell which is the primary source fairly easily.
- Do a Google site search to check to see if the site is indexed. A simple site:domain.com search will show you the site; look to see if the number of results roughly matches what you think it should, and look to see if specific pages you’ve found aren’t indexed.
- Run a scan of a site to check its Domain Authority. The Moz Link Explorer will give you a lot of data that can indicate the quality level of a site. You can also run backlink checks through other services. Be aware that some tools may have monthly query limits without buying an account, so consider buying a month and running a massed series of checks all at once.
- Look for typical indicators of quality. Does the site have an About page? Does it have user testimonials or reviews? Is it covered in shitty ads, or laced with out of place affiliate links? Does it look like someone bought it from someone else and immediately converted it into a thin affiliate site, back-dating content and adding in nothing of value?
- Give it a read and see if it feels bad. Sometimes your gut instinct will warn you away from a site when the outward metrics seem fine. You’ll refine this sense the more you dig in.
If a site passes all of these checks, and is still within your niche or industry, it’s worth adding to the list. Remember: if the site you’re getting published on sucks, your mention is worthless, your link is basically worthless, and you get nothing out of the exchange.
Part Two: The Pitch
If the quality of a site is the second most neglected aspect of quality, the quality of the pitch is the first. Good marketers consider quality over quantity with guest post pitches, while bad marketers shoot out hundreds or thousands of template-based pitches without a care in the world.
I get it! I really do. Writing pitches, particularly customized pitches, is hard! It’s very time consuming to do the research necessary for good pitches, and it feels bad when they’re ignored or rejected. Still, it’s way better than yet another template-based spam pitch editors get in the mail by the hundreds every day.
I’ve linked this post numerous times, as it’s our resource for creating a high quality pitch. It’s not the only resource, however, so here are two more: Guest Post Tracker’s guide to the perfect pitch and PointVisible’s interview with 80+ editors on what makes a pitch great. General consensus, as you might expect, is not actually that difficult.
- Include simple personalization. Refer to the editor by name, not “to whom it may concern” or “dear editor.” Mention something they’ve published recently that you liked, with a tangible reason why.
- Keep your pitch short. Remember that no editor is going to read more than a tweet or two’s worth of text, so make use of limited space to keep your pitch front and center.
- If you have a personal connection with the editor, highlight it. Did you go to the same school? Did they cite you in a post? Did you meet at a trade show? Let them know who you are.
- Include plenty of contact information in case the editor wants to do some more research into who you are before responding. Social links, website links, even a phone number can be worthwhile to have in your signature.
- Follow any submission guidelines the site publishes. If they want a pitch, don’t send a full pre-written post. If they want a pre-written post, don’t send a pitch. Make sure you demonstrate that you’re paying attention.
- Provide a couple examples of previous posts you have written, for your site and others. The best content up front, please!
You also want to pitch something appropriate for the site. Make sure it’s a piece of content covering a topic that isn’t already covered in detail on their site. It should also be something that fits the intersection between their topics and your expertise. After all, why would they want you to write about it if you’re not an expert?
There’s nothing wrong with using a template, so long as you customize the template. Just don’t send the same thing out to hundreds of different editors with no changes but the name and the link of some post on their site you “liked”. Remember, if your pitch sucks, it’s just going to get ignored and you’ll have spent all the effort leading up to it for nothing.
Part Three: The Post
Once you’ve talked to an editor and nailed down a pitch they’re willing to publish, you still have to actually write the dang thing. Well, or pay a writer to ghostwrite it for you, though that can have negative return on investment if you aren’t getting enough out of the exchange.
How do you ensure that the post you write is of the highest possible quality? It’s one thing to write a high quality piece of content, but you still need to make it fit in with the rest of the content on the site.
My first recommendation is to spend some time reading and studying the recent content published on your target site. You want to look at specific elements of their prose. Are they writing in first person or third person? Are they formal or informal? Do they joke around and use memes, or are they more old-school casual? How long are the typical posts? Do they include links, and if so, to what kind of content?
The second thing you should do is look for any contributor guidelines the site publishes. If they publish mostly 2,000-word posts on their blog, but they say their guest posts should be no more than 1,500, don’t write something longer than 1,500. Again, it’s a matter of paying attention. If the editor says they want it to be longer, then you can write it longer.
Ideally, you’ve already gotten a topic approved that is of interest to their audience and simultaneously something you’re very knowledgeable in. It’s even better if you can bring personal data into it, with a case study or personal experience that lends legitimacy to the content.
Make sure you have a flow to your post. You don’t need to go all-in on a narrative structure, but there should be a logical progression from introduction to A to B to C to conclusion.
Make appropriate use of various blog formatting tricks. Use your bolds, your italics, and your bullet points in appropriate places. Break up your content with subheadings in reasonable places. Keep your paragraphs short for maximum user attention.
Add images and links where appropriate. If the site guidelines say no images, don’t add images, but make sure there are logical places for them in your text. If certain images, like screenshots, are necessary to the piece, include them anyway. The same goes for links. Don’t just mindlessly link to your own site, though; link to authoritative sites for citations and further reading. Make your post part of a wider canon of quality content.
Finally, of course, proof-read everything. I recommend reading it aloud, as goofy as that sounds; you can catch a lot of typos and strange grammatical errors by reading aloud. It also doesn’t hurt to run the whole thing through a tool like Grammarly to catch mistakes you might not even realize are mistakes.
Only once you’re assured of a piece of high quality content should you send it over. Remember, if your content sucks, it’ll either be rejected or it’ll be ignored by readers, and fail to serve your purposes either way.