Guest Blogging 101 (Or How to Grow Your Audience by Giving Away Your Best Material)

Growing community and conversation around your brand is no easy feat; it requires dedication, focused effort and time. In addition to creating a platform that’s easy to navigate and top-notch content that drives engagement, you must constantly promote yourself to raise awareness and bring fresh eyes to your material. As counter-intuitive as it might sound, when you’re in the process of trying to grow a fledgling handful of followers into a thriving community of dedicated readers, one of the best ways to do so is by giving away your best posts. Why? Because in building relationships with bloggers who have already developed a community of followers whose interests overlap with your area of expertise, you can gain exposure to new readers who will then hopefully take an interest in hearing more of what you have to say. As a blogger myself, I've done this firsthand through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and strategic guest blogging opportunities. Though a bit intimidating at first, reaching out to bloggers I admire who cover similar topics has yielded valuable guest blogging opportunities that have helped me to steadily increase my reach and gain new readers for my own blog. Based on that experience, here are five secrets to success in scoring great guest blogging gigs that will help you grow your audience:

1. Know your niche.

What topics do you cover? How often do you post? What are your visitor stats? Who is your ideal reader? You need to have a strong grasp of these things so you can identify the right bloggers to connect with whose audience will most closely align with your own. It’s also important to make sure that somewhere on your site – whether it’s in the sidebar of your blog or on your about page – you have an introduction that’s crafted to quickly and succinctly orient new readers to your community. Focus on the reader’s interests by briefly explaining who you are, what topics you cover and what qualifies you as an authority in your niche. Point them to your most popular posts and invite them to subscribe to your content. And don’t forget to include a way for them to get in touch with you to pave the way for conversion from causal reader to paying customer.

2. Do your research.

You don't want to connect with just anybody out there with their own platform; you want to be strategic with the relationships you build. As a creator of content, you likely read quite a few blogs yourself. What are they? Do they cover similar topics? Is their demographic the same as yours in any way? It may be helpful to make a spreadsheet with these details, along with contact information to make your life a little easier when it comes time to reach out.

3. Become a prolific commenter.

By commenting, I mean both on your own blog in response to comments from your readers and also on blogs that you regularly read and follow. The blogging world is all about connection, community and driving conversation. If you stay silent, you’ll cut yourself off from opportunities to cultivate a more deeply engaged reader base. Although it may be impossible or impractical to reply to every single comment on every single blog post you write, you should make a habit of checking the comments section and replying to readers directly. Better yet, see if your platform has a tool that will alert you by email whenever you receive a new comment so that you can reply quickly and boost the chances of keeping the conversation going. When commenting on another author’s blog post, be sure to leave a thoughtful response. Avoid generic feedback like, “great post,” and opt instead for noting what what you found uniquely insightful or inspiring about the post, asking a question that provokes further debate and discussion or even answering a question the writer might have posed within the post itself. By doing so, you not only contribute in meaningful way to their community, but you also encourage them to check out your own blog as well.

4. Make a pitch.

Once you’ve acclimated to interacting with other bloggers and have a strong grasp of blogs that are aligned with your own blog’s niche, it’s time to reach out and make a pitch. By now, you should be very familiar with the content on the blogs you’ll be pitching to—what topics they cover, what they’ve written about recently, who runs the blog, etc. Not sure where to go from there? Here are some suggestions for crafting your message:
  • Employ a tone that’s personal and friendly while keeping your request brief (no more than two paragraphs).
  • Reference some of their recent posts so they can see that you are a real follower of theirs and you’re not just sending out the same pitch en masse to anybody with a blog.
  • Provide links to your blog, portfolio and social media profiles to help them get a feel for your expertise, writing abilities and point of view.
  • Be specific about what you’d like to write about, whether it’s a certain topic where you have expert advice to give or a series they’re doing where you can offer valuable insight.
  • Follow up if you don’t hear back, allowing a week or so to make sure they’ve had time to review and process your request.

5. Become a contributor.

If you happen to have a little extra time on your hands, becoming a regular contributor on a high-traffic blog is a sure-fire way to connect with new readers who otherwise may not have found you. In addition to building your portfolio and legitimizing your expertise, being a contributor ensures major publicity for your content and exposure on a much broader level. Although developing an organic following will take some time, defining your blog’s niche, finding similar blogs to strategically connect with, engaging in the blog community through comments, pitching ideas to bloggers and contributing to high-traffic sites on a regular basis will help you develop valuable connections that will lure new readers to your blog. And when you feed these readers a steady diet of insightful, conversation-provoking content, you’ll find they’ll not only become a regular fixture in the burgeoning community that’s developing around your content and your brand, but that they’ll also become your allies in recruiting new members by sharing your great stuff within their own circles.