There are a few reasons you want to position yourself as a thought leader within your industry.
Perhaps you’re trying to build your personal brand as an expert, or maybe it’s a strategy to improve traffic to your site and your business overall.
Whatever your reasons, it’s not a process that is particularly speedy, and it is one that takes work.
One of the best ways to get your voice out there and showcase your expertise is by guesting blogging.
The idea is that you write for other publications which provide a platform for you to flaunt what you know.
These days it’s not guaranteed that you’ll gain a backlink to your site since guest blogging for SEO was essentially outlawed, but there’s a good chance you will be given a link to your site and social profiles in your author bio, which will improve traffic to the listed links.
So, without further ado, let’s have a look at the steps you should be taking for guest writing success.
1. Get Started Building Your Portfolio
Long before you approach editors with a view to getting published on their site, you will need to build your own portfolio and social media accounts, according to Neil Patel. You should have your own blog, where you can publish your writing as well as social accounts to distribute your content.
You can choose a free online blogging platform such as WordPress or Blogger, or you can add a blog section to your existing site if you sell products or services or have an online portfolio.
Research titles within your industry, paying attention to which ones do well and how much engagement they receive.
Consider how you can create titles and posts that contain original ideas and industry insight.
Pay attention to formatting in order to improve readability. For example, use images, bullet points and headings (H2, H3, etc.) throughout the post to make it easier to digest.
Consider how the title will solve a problem for your audience. How-to articles and list posts are often very popular as these promise solutions almost immediately.
Think about what call to action (CTA) you will include at the bottom of the post to prompt discussion, drive action and engagement.
Find high profile blogs which you can link out to in order to add more value to the reader and to get noticed by editors.
2. Don’t Forget About Social Media.
Social media is going to be key in both distributing your content and getting it and you noticed.
As such, choose the social networks, where your audience hangs out online. Popular networks include Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and Google Plus. If your blog is very visual you should also include Pinterest or Instagram.
Once you’ve done this, you will need to put in a decent amount of work to increase your following.
I see a lot of people buying followers from sites that promise to give you 100,000 followers for five dollars.
Do not do this!
It is easy to be found out, and the followers that you purchase are extremely unlikely to engage with or content or provide any real value to you.
The best social followings are obtained organically and by targeting people in your niche.
Personal Tip: I’ve found that personal social media accounts gain much more engagement than business ones.
3. Research Your Target Sites.
Once you’ve populated your blog with great posts, published a few to LinkedIn and expanded your social media following, you should begin researching the publications, where you want to contribute.
You may want to aim for the top tier blogs, such as Forbes or Huffington Post, but these can be very difficult to gain entry into when you’re just beginning. Therefore aim for less well-known sites when starting out.
According to Lewis DVorkin, chief product officer for Forbes, the site uses a mix of professional journalists and industry experts, who are all investigated by our editors and teammembers.
“We look at their experience. We look at their credentials and what they’ve done, and we turn many people away,” he said in an interview.
So unless you’ve made a big splash, it’s unlikely that you’ll have the chance to write for sites such as Forbes initially.
Instead, you should look for specific blogs within your industry such as SitePoint, which allows you to showcase your expertise through articles and tutorials.
You can find these in the design space by searching for the following terms:
Write for us + design (you can change the final word in different searches, e.g. Web design, web development, mobile development, UX design, etc.)
Contributor guidelines + your industry keyword
Submission guidelines + your industry keyword
Guest post + your industry keyword
Submit content + your industry keyword
The above is not an exhaustive list of the search terms that you should employ, but you get the idea. You may also use sites, such as AllTop, to find well-known, niche blogs to contribute to.
4. Research Sites’ Format and Editors.
Some websites simply provide a form where you can submit content, but most require an initial email with a few ideas and brief synopses of articles you want to contribute.
Research who the editor is for the section you wish to write for, and address them properly in the pitch email.
Editors receive a boatload of contribution requests so if you address the editor incorrectly, it’s highly unlikely you’ll ever publish on their site as long as their editor.
To editors, this lack of attention to detail, shows that you aren’t willing to put even the most minimal effort into researching the appropriate person; therefore, it is highly unlikely you will produce a well-researched and well-written piece.
Utilize sitemaps, Google and do everything that you can to find out the name of the appropriate editor and information about the publication.
Additionally, research the type of titles that do well on the site, and the format in which they write.
Most offer submission guidelines so read these through them thoroughly and ensure that you follow them.
5. Present Your Ideas.
First off, keep your introductory email short and concise.
Include a few story ideas along with a brief (two to three sentence maximum) synopsis and links to your portfolio or writing samples.
Structure your email in such a way that it is obvious to the editor that you’ve read the posts on the site and you understand what the editor wants. Here’s a good example of a successful pitch email.
Hi [Insert Editor First Name]!
My name is [First Name Last Name – hyperLink to your website or LinkedIn]. I have written for publications and blogs across the U.S., and my advice has been featured in publications, such as X, Y and Z.
I want to write an article for [Publication Name].
My proposed title is: [Title].
[Include a short intro to the story]
Links to my previous writing:
Look forward to writing for you!
[First Name] =)
It’s important that you don’t write too much because a busy editor is highly unlikely to read it if it is.
Editors often have to get through a minimum of 10 to 20 or more requests per day; therefore, one that is quickly digestible is more likely to be responded to.
6. Write the Post.
Once you’ve been accepted, it’s time to write your post.
If the editor doesn’t offer a deadline date then email back to give her an expected delivery date so she can organize her calendar accordingly.
When it comes to the writing process itself, study the guidelines and stick to them rigidly.
Your post should offer fresh ideas and actionable advice that will provide a lot of key takeaways to readers.
It should be well-researched with external links to supporting information, and it should contain images or video, if available. Make sure to ask if you are required to include images or if they will worry about those details.
If you are required to source images, then it is vital graphics are being used under the Creative Commons’ license.
Some sites that allow you to search for Creative Commons’ images still require permission for you to use them so check licensing carefully.
Alyssa Gregory published a comprehensive list of free stock image sites, which you can check out here.
Include screenshots if you’re creating a tutorial to demonstrate techniques.
Keep paragraphs and sentences short and concise. They should be two to three sentences long max.
Use bullet points
Utilize appropriate images
Ensure that there’s white space in between paragraphs
Check spelling and grammar thoroughly. Use tools such as Grammarly for spelling and HemingwayApp to point out overly long sentences and paragraphs and/or overuse of the passive voice.
Once you’re happy with the post, submit it to the editor and wait for feedback. Be patient, and don’t email again the very next day. The editor will get to it when she can.
If you don’t hear anything after a couple of weeks, then send a short mail asking for an update.
If the editor gets back to you requesting edits, carry these out as soon as you can, and resubmit.
7. Promote it.
Once the post is live, share it on social media and keep an eye out for comments.
Editors will be much more inclined to let you submit another post if you get involved in the community and answer any comments that are left on the post.
Encourage engagement on social media by creating “Tweetables” that persuade your followers to click through, read it and share.
For example, this post “Tweetables” might read:
How To Get Published: The Ultimate Guide – Tell us how you’ve gotten published in the article’s comments.
Do you make these email mistakes? It may be the reason editors aren’t publishing your content.
By including a CTA, you’re encouraging your audience to get involved as well as prompting others to read.
Get creative here, and it will ridiculously boost your post’s engagement.
Use scheduling software, such as Buffer, to share the post on social when you’re not around to drive even more engagement. But also ensure that you’re combing through replies and thanking people for sharing, liking and commenting.
8. Rinse and Repeat.
Once your first post is out there, your site’s traffic will gradually increase. Remember though, it’s not an overnight process, and you will have to consistently publish more posts before you can begin to call yourself a thought leader or influencer.
If you consistently put the work in, ensuring you also get involved in discussion on various forums then you will see results.
Keep in mind, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Get yourself out there as much as possible, by commenting on industry blogs and/or the following places:
Industry Discussion Groups on LinkedIn
Google Plus communities
Facebook industry groups
Clearly articulate to yourself the reason(s) you want to become an industry thought leader, and define your goals and objectives early on.
It takes a lot of work. There are no shortcuts.
If you want to grow quickly, then you need to remain very active online, and engage daily with your audience.
Once you get your name out there, editors will come to you, and that’s when things really start to get fun.
Where have you been published? Where do you want to be published? Tell us in the comments below, and we’ll see if we can provide you with any tips or solutions.
Kerry is a prolific technology writer, covering a range of subjects from design & development, SEO & social, to corporate tech & gadgets. Co-author of SitePoint’s Jump Start HTML5, Kerry also heads up digital content agency markITwrite and is an all-round geek.
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