Founder & CEO, Keynote Speaker, Entrepreneur, Recipient of Comparably’s Best CEO ’17
August 6th, 2015
Wouldn’t it be nice to get your brand in front of thousands (or even millions) of readers without having to pay a cent?
The good news is, you can.
Many business are under the impression that being featured on major publications either costs money or you have to be an amazing writer. While some publications will allow you to pay for sponsored posts, and being a great writer certainly helps, the truth is you can get featured without either of those prerequisites -- if you know what you’re doing.
This article is going to walk you through the process step-by-step, but for those who have never considered this strategy for inbound marketing, let’s take a look at why you should even be interested in contributing to major publications in the first place.
If you just want to know the steps, feel free to skip ahead.
Why You Should Contribute to Major Publications
Contributing to major media outlets, or “guest-blogging” as it’s commonly referred to, is one of the quickest and most effective methods for getting more eyeballs on your brand and establishing it as an expert.
When you submit a guest post to a major site, there are several benefits. The first, and most obvious one, is that you get to reach a new (and hopefully large) audience of people that you wouldn’t normally get to.
Another benefit is social proof. If Entrepreneur publishes an article of yours, they are vouching for you in a way. They’re saying to their audience that you and your content meets their standards.
(Whenever you see that “featured in” section on a company’s website it sounds like all of these major media outlets are raving about their brand. And sometimes that is indeed the case, but more often than not that means that they contributed to those publications in some way -- usually with a guest post.)
In addition to the extra brand exposure and validation, you also get very powerful SEO-boosting referral links.
Believe it or not, all links are NOT created equal. Google highly favors links from major publications and author links, which is exactly what you’ll receive by guest-blogging.
Still not convinced? Check out how this SaaS startup used guest-blogging to go from five daily signups to 25 a day, in just six months. And here are eight more examples of how well-known brands have used guest posting as part of their inbound marketing strategy.
Where You Should Be Contributing
Your guest-blogging campaign should be focused on two primary areas: major publications such as Huffington Post, Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, etc and major blogs or news sites in your niche. This is where you’re going to get the most bang for your buck.
Think Outside of the Box
The majority of tech companies can create content suited for sites like Huffington Post, because they feature a wide range of topics but try to think creatively about where your persona is spending their time online.
As a tech company you aren’t limited only to writing for tech sites. For example, does your company create fitness-related apps? There’s a good chance that your persona reads Mind Body Green, a major health and fitness blog. Zero-ing in on more niche publications like this will help you reach more qualified, interested audiences.
Scope Out the Competition
Another thing you can do is look into what your competitors and other companies in your space are doing. Check out the websites they’ve been “featured in” and go through their Twitter feed to see if they’re sharing posts that they’ve had published on major websites.
Compile a list of all the major websites that are relevant to your brand and that your persona might read. You’ll want to keep this list handy for when you begin reaching out to influencers and editors to keep yourself organized.
Note:Once you’ve made your rounds with all of the major sites you can consider submitting a guest post to more medium-sized blogs that have an active and engaged audience. The results from these websites can be very hit-or-miss, but regardless you will be expanding your reach and establishing valuable industry connections.
How to Land a Guest Post
Because guest-blogging has received so much positive attention, it’s become more competitive than ever to land a post on major publications. However, the good news is we know how to make it significantly easier.
The first thing I recommend is creating a spreadsheet to organize everything. List out all of the websites that you’d like to contribute to in one column. Then create additional columns for a contact name (the editor or blog owner), a URL to their “submit a guest post” or similar page, an email address for the contact if you have it, and a column for notes about recent communication with them.
Alright, so you know where you want to contribute and you’ve got yourself organized. Now the real work begins.
Step #1: Do Your Research Before Pitching Anyone
Websites like Huffington Post get thousands of pitches every single day. They don’t have time to answer a bunch of questions and hold your hand through the process. You have to come prepared or your pitch will just get ignored.
So how are you going to stand out? -- By making it easy for them to say yes.
That starts with thorough research.
Start out by browsing their website to get an idea of the topics they feature. This should help you get a feel for which section is most relevant to your brand and the content that you are going to contribute.
Then you want to spend some time studying the posts that perform the best. You can identify these by looking for those that have the most social shares or the most comments. This is going to take some time, but it’s a necessary part of the process.
Find about 3-5 articles that are relevant to your brand and have performed the highest on their platform. Make note of all the similarities you can identify.
What’s the average word count? What kind of style and tone are they written in? Are there any common themes in the overall message? What structural features do they share?
Once you’ve identified the similar characteristics, you’ll use that information to build the foundation for your article.
Yes, it’s tedious and that’s exactly why most people skip this part and their articles don’t get accepted.
Next, look for a link near the bottom (or do a search) that says something like “submit” or “contribute” to see what their requirements are. As an example, here is the page for Entrepreneur that you’re looking for
Some websites want you to submit a completed article and others will only want you to pitch an idea and brief summary. Specific guidelines vary, so make sure you know what they want before you write your article.
Step #2: Write an Amazing Article
We’re going to assume that they want the full article first. If not, skip ahead to step three and then come back to this afterwards.
If you want to get published in the big leagues, you have to bring your A-game. Generic fluff isn’t going to cut it.
Believe it or not, this is the easiest part of the process because you did your homework. (Your middle school math teacher was right all along!)
You’ve already got a template for a highly-engaging article based on your research and when the editor sees your submission they will most likely recognize that.
Most websites are not going to let you promote yourself or your brand very heavily, or at all. However, there are subtle ways to promote your brand. For example, share a problem that you overcame when you first launched and how others can solve this -- and you know, mention a few details about your business in the process. Most editors will let this slide.
You don’t have to be a great writer to contribute to major publications, but you need to understand how to write good content. Your top priority is providing value to the reader. Help them solve a problem, answer a question, make them laugh, make them cry, or all of the above.
Give them a reason to click the link in your author bio.
Step #3: Send the Perfect Pitch
This is the part that most people fear -- pitching your content to an influencer or editor.
No one likes rejection and if you don’t have much writing experience you might be feeling vulnerable about sharing your article with an editor of a major publication. This is completely normal and it’s nothing to worry about.
The first thing you want to keep in mind is that editors are very busy. That’s why you should keep your pitch as brief as possible.
There’s no need to go on and on about how much you love their site. They already assume you do and they don’t care. Get to the point.
Make it as easy as possible for them to say yes. Give a brief intro, provide examples of your writing, and include the finished article in the body of the email. Not a rough draft, but the final draft that is ready to be published right now. Then include your bio for them to use and attach an image to go along with your author bio.
Just to make things even easier for you, I’ve included a template that a member of our team has successfully used, for you to use for yourself.
Hello [editor name],
My name is [first and last name]. I’m the [position] at/of [your company] and I have written an article that I think the readers at [name of publication] will love. It’s [number of words] long and pasted below, along with my bio and picture. Here are a few samples of my writing:
[Two to three sentences that tell your story, provide a link to your website or a landing page, and links to the social media that you are most active on. This is what they’ll publish along with your article, so give it some thought and look at other author bios on their website.]
[The actual content should be pasted in the email, unless they specify that they want an attachment. However, most editors hate attachments and will ignore them. In some cases they will want the HTML of the formatted article pasted into the email, but that’s not as common.]
Thank you for your time and I look forward to hearing back from you!
[Your first name]
Step #4: Follow-Up
This is where you really start to build a relationship with major publications and it’s exactly where most others fail.
Once your article is published you should keep an eye on it for about a week and respond to comments. Also, be sure to help out with promoting the article by sharing on your social media and with your subscribers.
Editors notice these little things and appreciate when you take care of their readers. This makes them want even more content from you in the future.
Remember, being a contributor on a major website is more than just getting traffic and links. It’s about building relationships with influencers and their audiences. If you take care of them, they’ll be more inclined to take care of you.
It’s a very rewarding cycle to those who take the time to do it right.