Most guest post advice recommends building relationships with editors or bloggers (sometimes they’re the same person) before pitching them. No shortcuts.
Send lines like:
“I’ve been a fan of your blog even before you had thoughts of creating it!” (Doesn’t matter they obviously can’t read minds.)
“I’ve been following your blog for the past 10 years.” (Doesn’t matter they’re 10 years old.)
“You may have seen my name in the comments section of your blog.” (Doesn’t matter they left only “great post” as a comment on your blog once in the past year.)
Ok, so it’s a bit exaggerated, but you get the point.
Some recommend following the editor on social media, commenting on their posts, sharing it, and sending them emails. They swear by it.
Does it work? Sure, it does.
But some people think it’s the only way to write for popular blogs.
So they blame their failure to land guest posts on popular blogs on partiality. Favoritism. Prejudice. And any word that portrays the editor’s bias.
Is that true? Do editors really look forward to discarding your pitch simply because they don’t know you?
To answer those questions, let’s consider…
How to guest blog for any blog/publication
Follow guidelines when pitching
Some websites have guidelines for guest posts. For example, this is HubSpot’s.
Following guidelines means:
Sending your pitch to the appropriate editor
This is especially true for publications that have different editors for different sections of their site. This is an example from MarketingProfs.
Pitching the right ideas to a website
Don’t pitch a post on “100 Reasons Why Dogs Cry” to HubSpot, because it’s not a pet blog, although I’m sure that topic would make a great post. But only on an appropriate blog.
Following their desired word count
If a publication only accepts 800-word posts, you’re wasting your time and theirs by sending a 1000-word post.
Using the required formatting procedures
Sending guest posts in HTML is pretty cool and you’d probably think you’re doing the receiving blog some good, but if the guidelines say share a link via Google Docs, please share a link via Google Docs. And follow other formatting rules too.
Several people get on popular websites in this manner. I don’t have numbers, but it’s an easy way to write for websites that accept guest posts. Just read guidelines and pitch accordingly.
Don’t follow the guidelines when pitching
That isn’t just contrary to the guidelines of the blog, it’s contrary to advice on guest post pitch templates out there!
Other blogs claim not to accept guest posts, but you see guest posts published there weekly. While some blogs strictly use invitation-only writers (I’m still not entirely convinced myself but more on that later), the guest posts you see on some of them are the product of successful pitches.
Take Problogger for example. This is their “write for us” page.
They “do not accept any unsolicited submissions or pitches.” When I did my first guest post for them in 2016, those words were still present on that page.
How do people get in? Or more importantly, how did I get “in?” First, they’re right–some writers are chosen to write for the blog.
Others break the rules. They’re not the editors’ favorite yet. But they search for the email address of the editor and send pitches anyway.
I know because I’ve written for Problogger, and all I had to do was:
- Write a relevant post
- Find the email address of the editor
- Send a pitch email with my completed post
Don’t go out of your way to break guest blogging guidelines just for the fun of it. You’ll fail terribly!
I can say it worked for me because:
- The pitches were relevant
- It’s written to the right person
- The accompanying post was well-written
My post was so good it wasn’t just the most popular post on Problogger in January 2016, but it also gave me the chance to write a follow-up post!
He took it further by even designing the layout of the post. Of course, Sophie was impressed.
If a website says they no longer accept guest posts, but you keep seeing guest posts on their blog? Find the email address of an editor and send a hypnotic pitch.
If possible, send a complete post, so they see, not just your writing ability, but your development of the idea. If it’s good enough, I doubt they’ll say “no, we don’t accept guest posts.”
In other words, if you want to break guest blogging guidelines, just recall a simple principle: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”
Then again, there are no guarantees. But there are no guarantees following guidelines will get you published either.
Build relationships with editors
Remember commenting on posts, following editor/blog on social media, subscribing to their email list, and probably sending a “thank you” email for a post? Yup. This is it.
This is the part you’ll find in most templates. Often called the “warm-up” before asking for a guest post.
It’s just the way you’ve read in other blog posts, so I won’t rehash what you know already.
When Bryan Harris sent a cold email pitch to Hubspot and claimed to be a fan of Hubspot (see below) he’d never guess the recipient would look up his contact record.
But the editor had other thoughts. She says (bold is mine):
“He had been reading and interacting with HubSpot content for almost two years. How do I know? I’m a creep, and I looked up his contact record in HubSpot. I could see he wasn’t some random stranger out to get backlinks.”
Not everyone is creepy, but if you’re going to send editors emails, please don’t imply what isn’t there. It may help, like Bryan’s case shows, but you don’t need to say you’re a “huge fan” to get your pitch accepted.
If you’ll still tow the “huge fan” line, be sure to have proof. Have you:
- Commented on the blog—not just “great post” comments, but added to the discussion?
- Shared their posts on social media or subscribed to their newsletter long enough to know they publish new posts on Tuesdays and not Fridays like you planned to send in your pitch?
The best bloggers are voracious readers. They’ve read the same parts of pitching etiquette you’ve read, too.
Keri Morgret sums it up well with this comment on Moz:
“I may be one of the few that has the view of don’t worry about starting up a relationship with me. I’m a marketer, I can tell when you’re suddenly following me on Twitter, commenting on what I write, sending me a LinkedIn request, etc. Give me good content (and cupcakes), but don’t try to be my BFF suddenly overnight. It’s easy to spot, we’ve all read the same playbooks.”Keri Morgret, former content manager at Inbound.org
And there are other editors like Keri out there too. They won’t mind if they know you or have seen your name elsewhere, as long as you give them great content.
Building relationships may increase your chances of getting your pitch accepted, especially on sites that do strictly-on-invitation guest posts.
Notice I said “increases your chances,” because an editor won’t accept a terrible idea from you simply because they know you.
I can only imagine how difficult it may be for editors to turn down guest posts from people they know.
Don’t make your acquaintance with editors an affliction for them. Make it a relief.
Some sites that previously accepted unsolicited guest posts still leave the published guidelines online. Here are Copyblogger’s guidelines:
It lets you know what the folks at Copyblogger wanted before they stopped reviewing and accepting unsolicited guest posts on their blog.
What if you can’t readily find guidelines on any page on the blog? A quick search on Google can help. For example, this, for Outbrain:
You know the best part of building relationships for guest posting? Read on.
There are several ways to get this invitation:
An editor sees your post on another reputable blog and decides to invite you to contribute on their blog too
As a good example, Barry Feldman’s prolific guest blogging gives him many invitations to write for other blogs, and sometimes he’s paid to do it. Adam Connell of Blogging Wizard wrote for Smart Blogger because Jon Morrow saw his post on Problogger, liked it, and invited him to write for Smart Blogger.
An editor notices your meaningful interaction on their posts, in the form of comments, shares, etc., and asks you to write for their blog
Kevin Duncan wrote for Smart Blogger in this way too. In fact, he also wrote a whole guide about blog comments.
The possibilities are endless. A post on your own site can also go viral and you’ll get an invitation to contribute on other sites. The thing is, you don’t choose who invites you to write for their blog–that’s not in your power.
But you can choose how well you write your guest posts. You can choose to build relationships with editors of your favorite blogs. You can choose proactivity—actively pitching editors accepting guest posts.
Nobody is entitled to attention.
When you’re not getting attention from an editor you admire, then you’ve probably not done something remarkable enough to seize their attention. Or you’ve not given it enough time.
Like Keri’s quote earlier says, don’t expect to be an editor’s BFF overnight. It may take time; otherwise, an invitation to write for a popular blog is a dandy.
You’ve probably seen this line or a variation of it on some websites:
“This post originally appeared on [insert website here] but has been republished here with permission.”
That means the post you’re reading was syndicated.
Typically, you can achieve this in three ways:
Write a remarkable post on your blog, an editor notices, and asks for permission to republish it on their site
For example, Melissa Fenton wrote a post on her tiny blog—it was even a dot-blogspot domain name then. After some promotion and 500,000 shares later, she woke up one morning to an email from an editor who wanted to publish the article on HuffPost. Melissa got a blogger account with HuffPost and they republished her article—all from one viral post on her free website!
Write a great guest post on a blog often syndicated by media publications and the latter may republish it
As an example, all of Aja Frost’s articles on Entrepreneur are syndicated from her posts on the Buffer blog.
From experience, a guest post on Jeff Bullas’ blog can get you on Business 2 Community. Here’s my guest post on Jeff Bullas’ blog:
And the syndicated version:
Pitch a post you’ve written on your site to publications that permit syndication
Sarah Peterson had great success with this and writes a guide about it here. You can find scores of other examples on the internet. That’s proof that it works.
You may get fortunate, and an editor from a reputable publication notices a viral post on your blog and decides to republish it on their site.
I’m not saying it cannot happen, but you may have higher chances of winning the lottery.
Again, the other two methods have no guarantees, but I’m all for proactivity.
The editor’s dilemma
“No matter how organized an editor is, a big part of the job is actually just managing chaos with poise. Some weeks, I scramble for content. Other times, I can barely keep up with the email flowing into my inbox.”Tara Clapper, former editor at SEMrush
I know this to be true. Sometimes the waiting period is two or more months and other times it is two days, for the same site. Another time, you may not get a reply because the editor is so busy with a backlog of other posts.
So you can interact with editors, send the perfect guest post pitch, and still not get in. Don’t take it personally. Most editors do not want to reject guest posts, especially when they have quotas to meet.
Consider the following:
The Washington Post’s editorial staff publishes about 500 articles per day. That’s over one post every three minutes.
Do you really think they’re hovering their cursors over the “Delete” icon while reading a pitch? Then think again.
Some editors do weekly or monthly writing for their websites. Some do just editing.
A shortage of great pitches means that to meet their quotas, they have to either: find writers or do the writing themselves.
For some, the latter may involve scrambling for content. Sometimes.
You see, sending great ideas and great pitches don’t just help you, they help editors too.
Should you build relationships with editors before pitching them?
It took me over 2,000 words to say it, but I guess you probably figured out an answer yourself…
No. You don’t need to build relationships with editors before pitching them.
But editors have their preferences, and you have higher chances of writing for a site, or at least getting a reply if you simply follow guest post guidelines on their website.
That said, it’s not wrong to build relationships with editors before pitching them. It has its advantages.
Telling an editor “I’ve been a fan of your site for over two years” actually puts pressure on you to pitch something relevant to the site to prove how well you know them.
And an editor will not drop their standard just because you’ve tweeted their posts a few times. Or commented on their posts. Or followed them on all social networks.
Just remember, relationship or no relationship, you need to:
- Pitch relevant ideas to the site
- Write a mind-blowing post when the editor accepts your pitch
Otherwise, all that talk of knowing or not knowing an editor won’t count.