July 5, 2016
6 Vital Steps to Securing Earned Content Coverage
This is a special guest blog post from Lucy Alexander from Hubspot’s Sydney office. If you find Lucy’s post interesting or helpful, please feel free to ‘tip’ her with a share on your preferred social network. Thanks and enjoy!
Guest blogging is one of the best ways to build awareness around your brand, whether it’s your business or your personal brand. But when you’ve never posted content somewhere else, where do you start? How do you earn coverage?
Here’s the secret to getting published somewhere other than your own site: you must create engaging, value-adding content. You’ll battle resistance at every step of the process if you’re just using guest blogging to promote yourself or your product.
Put yourself in the shoes of the content manager at an industry-leading blog. It’s your job to run an amazing blog. You have a huge readership that trusts you to deliver valuable, original content. You have absolutely no incentive to publish someone else’s lack-lustre content since you’re going to lose readers if they feel like they’ve subscribed to spam.
Keep that golden content secret in mind throughout the process, and the road to getting published will be much smoother.
1. Find the right place to publish
Let’s say you’re a healthy cooking expert working for a food startup. You have plenty of expertise to share, and maybe a couple of favourite recipes that you’ve invented.
To locate blogs that offer guest blogging opportunities, perform a Google search with the term ‘healthy cooking’ followed by ‘write for us,’ ‘submissions,’ ‘submit content,’ or a similar term in quotation marks.
With 626,000 results, you could spend hours skimming blogs to find the best fits. To save yourself time, choose more specific keywords (for example, if you’re a vegan, you might search for vegan recipes “write for us”).
When you’re evaluating various blogs, be sure to figure out if the site has an active readership and if that readership significantly overlaps with your intended audience. If you’re a vegan chef, don’t waste your time blogging on a popular blog for meat-lovers. Even though the site might have high traffic, its audience won’t be very interested in meat alternatives. Even if your recipes are delicious, you wouldn’t be appealing to the right crowd.
However, the audience for other vegan blogs is probably the same as your own audience. If you’re able to get your content on those blogs, you’ll capitalise on a totally new network of people who would also love your articles and recipes.
One other criteria worth considering is the blog owner’s social media activity. If he or she regularly posts on Twitter, Instagram, and other channels, you can usually assume that he or she will promote your content to readers.
2. Spend time sifting through content
Once you identify blogs with an audience worth writing for, you’ll want to spend some time perusing the existing content on the blog. Here are a few things to scan for:
Tone – Does the blog take a casual, personal approach to writing style, or a more formal and professional tone?
Level of audience knowledge – Are the posts mainly at the introductory level, or is the blog’s subject matter more granular, reflecting an expert knowledge level?
Average length – How long are most posts? Are guest posts typically longer or shorter? (Keep in mind that many sites have length requirements in their guest posting guidelines.)
Typical guest writer profile – Are the guest writers on the blog typically VP-level or above? Are they bloggers by profession? Are they content specialists?
Content gaps – Are there any topic gaps in their content that you could help them fill? Could you add a fresh angle to a topic that they’ve already covered?
Investing time in reading and researching now will better prepare you for approaching the blog or influencer, and it’ll be much easier to write a post for them should you get the go-ahead. The more personalised the outreach, the more likely you are to get your foot in the door. It’s flattering and it shows that you aren’t blindly reaching out. Likewise, if you can match the tone, typical length, and depth of their existing content, they’ll be more likely to select your article. You’ll show them you’re serious about getting published on their blog.
3. Look at their guest blogging guidelines
Some publications with have guidelines for guest writers. The guidelines will often tell you what information you need to submit and where you need to submit it. If you make an avoidable mistake during the outreach phase, you’re almost guaranteeing yourself a rejection.
For example, if the guest blogging guidelines specifically say that guest bloggers should send in a concise, bulleted proposal before sending in a draft, the blog manager will probably be annoyed if you send in a full draft. She’s probably going to ignore your post no matter how well-written it is.
Guest blogging guidelines generally specify length, so whether you’re submitting a full post or just suggesting a topic, be sure that you aren’t biting off more than you can chew in your allotted space.
However, don’t be discouraged if there aren’t any guest posting guidelines — that doesn’t mean a blog or publication won’t consider publishing your work. It’s still worth reaching out to the right person with a strong pitch to see if they’re interested (see points 5 and 6).
4. Brainstorm potential topics
In this stage, you should aim to strike a balance between serving the blog’s needs and contributing in a space where you have expertise. Ideally, you should propose several topics you feel very comfortable with that would fill a content gap on their blog — but that’s easier said than done, especially if you’re relatively new to blogging or are reaching out to large, well-known publications.
Challenge yourself and think outside the box. What perspective does your position give you on new industry trends or behaviours outside your own department? Can you share the results of an experiment you or your company has done, or some new data you’ve collected, for example?
Search on the blog you’re reaching out to for the general keyword you want to write about. If they publish frequently, there’s a good chance that they’ll have an old post on the topic that you could offer to update or add your perspective on. Be careful not to regurgitate an article that already exists on their blog — you’ll risk seeming as though you didn’t do any research at all.
You will probably have to do at least a bit of research while you write, regardless of the topic. Conducting that research before you outline your article will give you a much better handle on the topic as well as the content that already exists.
Compile a list of ideas and whittle it down until you have ideas that you feel you can confidently pitch.
5. Find the right recipient
Guest blogging guidelines usually contain a generic email to which you can send submissions — but if at all possible, locate the contact information of the content manager or editor at the publication.
Calling someone by name immediately makes the submission seem more genuine and shows that you’ve dedicated time to personalising the email. (Plus, there’s isn’t anything more awkward than opening with, “Hi there” or “To whom it may concern”.)
Perform a quick LinkedIn search to discover whether you have any shared connections who can introduce you via email. A personal connection goes a long way when you’re an editor faced with dozens of random entries from eager guest blogging hopefuls.
6. Put your best foot forward when you reach out
Always put yourself in the shoes of the publication’s editor when you’re drafting up a proposal. Imagine having an inbox full of enquiries, pitches and submissions. You probably have to skim topic ideas or submitted articles quickly.
How will you differentiate yourself as a guest blogger and show that your submission is worth a look?
First off, review the submission guidelines once again. Provide all of the information the rules request. Second, keep it concise. Remember: there are probably dozens if not hundreds of emails in the submission inbox. There’s no better turn-off than a long email. Establish intent early on to avoid wasting their time.
You’ll also want to position your job description in the best way possible. This doesn’t mean you should lie about yourself or your company; instead, highlight the aspects of your job description that align best with their typical guest blogger.
For example, if you’re a marketing manager on a one-person team, you probably wear many hats, from email marketing manager to content creator to event planner. But if you see that most of the contributors to the guest blog are writers or content specialists, it’s worth drawing attention to the content creation portion of your job. On the other hand, if most guest posts come from CEOs or VPs, it may be a good idea to ghost-write for your boss (with their permission, of course). Though you won’t get a personal byline, you’ll probably have a better chance of your post being accepted.
Make sure that your email is as professional as possible. There should be no grammar errors — keep in mind that you’re asking to write for their blog! To demonstrate your credibility, link them to a few examples of your writing (ideally other guest blogging spots you’ve had on websites they’ll recognise) so they can get a feel for your style.
It’s also worth linking to your social media profiles in your email signature, especially if you or your company has a large following. You can use HubSpot’s email signature generator to add your social media profiles into every email you send without cluttering the copy.
Getting published on another site is an amazing way to expand your company’s network, grow brand awareness, earn links and build your personal writing resumé, so don’t slack off during the researching and outreach phases. The more you can personalise your outreach, the better chance you’ll have of securing earned coverage.
If you send out a well-researched proposal and follow the given guidelines closely, you’ll be well on your way to earning coverage for your content on another publication.
Remember! If you found Lucy’s post interesting or helpful, please feel free to ‘tip’ her with a share on your preferred social network. Thanks!
About the Author
Lucy Alexander works on HubSpot’s APAC marketing team out of the company’s Sydney office. Her primary responsibilities include creating content for Asia-Pacific audiences and spreading the word about the inbound methodology in the region.