The Ontolo Guide to Link Building with Guest Posts
By: Ben Wills |

Howdy, folks! We're releasing a guide today that's written and designed like many more to come. Next week, we'll also be releasing a heavily-expanded version of this and will be calling it The Complete Guide to Link Building with Guest Posts. We will publish it as a PDF, accompanied by a worksheet/spreadsheet or two to help you through the process. When all is said and done, expect about 5,000 − 10,000 words of pure strategy and tactics for link building with guest posts.

The best part?

It's free.

Let's get on with the program, shall we?

It's no secret that guest posting is one of the most popular - and successful - methods of link building today. Because it's a method that utilizes (ideally) great content, it's one of the few link building methods that search engines, including Google, encourage. For this reason, it's a low-risk, high reward opportunity.

Let's look at some other benefits of link building with guest posts:

  • Building relationships with other bloggers/publishers/companies. (From here on out, I'll refer to any of these as Publishers).
  • Gaining exposure to those Publisher's readers and subscribers.
  • Because the Publisher holds a responsibility to their readers, they must only publish content the readers care about. For this reason, this is interpreted by readers as a trust signal or "vote" for your expertise and credibility.
  • You write the copy. You get to decide how to position your brand and messaging.

In short, guest posting expands the reach of your messaging, allows you to build new and valuable relationships, and allows you to design the messaging around your brand. Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

The Process: Link Building with Guest Posts

In this post, we'll go through the five tactical steps of guest posting:

  1. Brainstorming the Topic
  2. Crafting Your Title
  3. Writing Your Post
  4. Discovering Relevant and Valuable Sites to Pitch
  5. Pitching Your Guest Post

In the guide coming out next week, we'll expand on all of these five steps, but we'll add three steps that are more strategic in nature:

  1. Promoting Your Posts After it's Published
  2. Managing the Complete Process of Guest Posting
  3. Designing a Guest Posting Strategy that Builds Links and Relationships

Brainstorming the Topic

Depending on your creative process, how much experience you have writing, your last meal, the current moon phase, who had the most votes on American Idol last night, brainstorming and deciding on a topic can be a real challenge. Fortunately, there are some tricks you can apply to get started quickly.

The easiest way that I've found to get started is to write out a list of all of the ideas I have. I'll start by combining some common article formats with topics that are important to my industry. In this post, for example, I've combined the article format of a "guide" with "guest posting."

Here are a few other article formats you can use to get started. Next week, I'll be releasing a list of over 150 common article formats that I've been collecting and categorizing over the past six years. As you read through this list, combine them with various topics that are relevant to your market. If you're an SEO, combine them with things like "keyword research," "higher rankings," "link building," "website architecture," etc.

  • Guides
    • How to Do X.
    • Setting Up X.
    • Choosing the Best X.
  • Tips
    • Advice About...
    • Recommendations for...
    • Top X Ys...
  • Interviews
    • The History of ...
    • How X Got Started.
    • How X is Handling Y.
  • Reviews
    • The Best ...
    • The Worst ...
    • The Best X for Y Uses.
  • Reports
    • X Study.
    • Research About X.
    • X White Paper.

Four more fantastic resources for brainstorming content topics:

In the guide coming out next week, you'll also have information on:

  • Using the Ontolo Phrase Occurrence Analysis Tool to discover successful content topics in your market.
  • Analyzing Backlink counts to find the most *linked* content in your market.
  • Types of Link Bait and How to Craft it.

Crafting the Title

If you read Todd Malicoat's The Link Baiting Playbook: Hooks Revisited post I linked to above, you should have some good ideas for content that can easily lead to titles that will hook your readers.

The objective of your title is to create enough interest and desire that the reader wants to click through and read your post. The catch here is that different kinds of language will resonate with different markets. I'm not sure I'd push something titled "The Top 10 Ways You Never Thought to Use Embalming Fluid," but "The Top 10 Ways You Never Thought to Use Duct Tape" might go over quite well in a number of markets.

Consider your market. Think with their listening. Put yourself in their place and write from the place of their needs, be it anything from entertainment or surprise to highly-useful information. What words does your market use that are unique to it? Is there slang or jargon you can incorporate to better relate?

Once you've got the hook portion of your title fairly well crafted, bring in some SEO elements. Look at the competition for various keywords you might use. Sometimes you're going to want to target keywords with low search volume, while other times you'll want to get that big huge guide you wrote posted on the most valuable site you can...and you'll want bring out the big guns in terms of keywords there.

Here's how I used that process with this guide. This post is: "The Guide to Link Building with Guest Posts." I had a few different ways I could have written that title. There are three parts: Guide, Link Building, Guest Posts. Each of those pieces should be researched. I chose "Guide" because this is a lead-in for a much more in-depth guide which will become "The Complete Guide." But what about "link building" and "guest posts?" It seems obvious to choose those phrases...or does it?

Before the final version, I actually ran through several variations and combinations of words. For "guest posts," I had originally considered "guest posting." So I did a search for "guest posting guide" and noticed the relevance of the results weren't quite what I was looking for. But I noticed another way people were talking about this process: "guest blogging." I did some searches and "guest blogging" had about 25% more searches, so I settled on that. My originally-drafted title was "A Beginner's Guide to Guest Blogging."

But something wasn't quite right about that, either. As link builders, we think of it as "guest posting." Bloggers think about it as "guest blogging." Then I had an idea, searched, and saw that "guest posts" had almost twice as many results, the content in the results was much more in line with what I was aiming for with this post and I went with that.

After considering variations of "link building" or "building links" and trying out some other combinations, I decided on what you see above as the final title.

Other useful links about crafting captivating guest post titles:

Writing the Post

Guh. Writing the blog post. Writer's block, getting a couplefew hours to actually sit down, uninterrupted, and write (it's 5:52am as I'm running through a final edit)....writing can sometimes be the most difficult thing to coordinate. You can find prospects in your spare time here and there. But to write, and to write well, you really need that stretch of focused time. Once you've set aside that time, here are some ideas on how to get the ideas flowing quickly through your fingers and into your computer.

One thing that I've found from working with dozens of writers over the years is that everyone has different writing styles. The most beneficial thing you can do is get out of your own way of how you think you "should" write and simply allow yourself to write how you "do" write. Here are some common writing styles I've discovered along the way. If one stands out to you, try it on and run with it.

Styles of Content Creation Processes:

  • Stream of Consciousness. Just sit and write whatever comes up, however it comes up, and as soon as it comes up. Sometimes, you'll just be done. Others, you might need a hefty dose of editing.
  • Outline, then Expand. This is how I write most often (and how I've written this post). Once the topic is decided, I start listing out all of the parts of the idea, subparts, etc. Once I've got a rough outline, I expand on individual parts and go from there.
  • Research, Aggregate Key Points, Expand and Organize. This is a scavengeresque process that can be *really* useful when you've hit writer's block. Thoroughly research your topic, then simply jot down (or copy and paste) ideas that stick out to you here and there. Once they're aggregated, expand those points with your opinion, reorganize it and, bam, you're done.
  • Create a Counter to Another Post. Similar to the post above, find a post where you can present a counterpoint. Use another person's thinking to catalyze your own.

And then....theres Writer's Block. Copywriter's kryptonite. All writers deal with writer's block at some point. If you're still running into challenges after the above, here's one of the most common recommendations you'll find:

     Write. Just write. About anything. Any topic. Whatever's in your head.

     For 5 minutes.

If you're not in the groove after five minutes. Stop. Go do something else for a while. It's probably not time to write yet.

Other useful links for working through writer's block (or just learning to get writing quickly):

Discovering Relevant and Valuable Sites to Pitch

You figured out what to write about. You've got a snazzy, captivating title that's discovered how to harness the gravitational pull of the sun. Your readers will be reading. Your content rings like a bell and sings like a mockingbird in the spring.

Now...who wants to publish it?

If you want to quickly find willing publishers, head over to My Blog Guest right now, register, and start connecting up with Publishers. There simply isn't a better network for guest publishing.

If you want (or need) to do your own research, blog directories can be a great place to start. Check out the Technorati Blog Directory, drill down into your market and go from there.

There's another strategy we've used to get guest posts placed on sites that lead to visibility and links from sites like Time.com. Here's the process:

  1. Go to the Ontolo Link Building Query Generator.
  2. Add in up to 5 targeted keywords that are relevant to your article.
  3. Check the box in the "Asset Types" section labeled "Content for Placement."
  4. Click the "Generate Queries" button at the top of the form.

At this point, you'll have 50 queries per keyword you entered to use on Google for finding guests that have already been published in your market.

Now. Why try and find guest posts that are similar to yours that have already been published? Two reasons:

  1. If a site has already published a guest post that's similar to yours, they're quite likely to publish yours if you ask. This relates to the Commitment and Consistency principle in Robert Cialdini's classic book called Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
  2. Research the backlinks to guest posts that are similar to yours. Someone who linked to a previous guest post on that topic might be more interested in your own, unique content for their own site.

Once you've generated the queries above, start digging around in the search results. You might be surprised at what you'll discover.

Other useful links to help you discover guest posting opportunities:

Pitching Your Guest Post

You're finally here. The moment it all comes together. The moment where it all counts.

The pitch.

Pitching guest post ideas can be intimidating. Rejection, criticism...it's a good time for thick skin. Many "good" link request campaigns might get a link in 1 out of 20 emails sent to people you don't already know. Guest posting is different. 1 out of 5 to people you don't already know is definitely achievable.

That is, if you pitch it the right way.

When it comes down to it, all Publishers want to be pitched differently. At the end of this section are a few links to posts that some bloggers have made which clearly outline how they wish to be pitched. Before you pitch someone, look for a post like this on their site. Publishers who get pitched a lot will do this. If you don't follow their request guidelines, your chances of getting published are significantly less likely.

As a general rule, you'll have a much better response if you have the following things lined up:

  • Your post is already written.
  • You pitch multiple posts at the same time. (and ask which they would prefer to place.)
  • You add a one sentence or, at the most, two sentences that say something unique about the post.
  • You address it personally and send it to the editor's/blogger's/whoever's email address directly.
  • Show samples of your work (links) that you've published before.

There will always be publishers who want it differently than that, but we've found the above tips to yield significantly higher results.

In the complete guide coming out next week, we'll also share with you a key strategy that not only increases your conversion rates *dramatically*, but also leads to creating much stronger, long-term relationships that can be leveraged repeatedly.

Here are some other useful links for pitching your posts to Publishers:

That wraps up this intro guide. It looks like it's about 2,500 words, which seems about right as a Beginner's Guide to link building with Guest Posts. Keep an eye out next week for the full report, additional worksheets and complete guide!

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