This is the story of how I convinced the former managing editor of this blog to let me write regularly for Shopify and generated thousands of visits to my site—all as a blogging newbie.
What follows is a behind-the-scenes look at how to land high-profile guest posting opportunities. I'm going to give you a step-by-step process, and show you all my secret tricks. While my goal was to promote my new blog, the guest posting tactics discussed are an incredibly effective way to market any business online, including ecommerce sites.
Learn more: How to Start a Blog
Prerequisites for successful guest blogging
Before getting started, it's crucial that you have something of quality online to offer. This could be a blog, an ecommerce business or a site for your consulting services. It doesn't need to be expansive, but it does need to be high-quality material that showcases your writing abilities.
I only had five or so posts published when I started pursuing the Shopify opportunity, but I'd spent up to eight hours on each. If you don't have a track record for content marketing, you need to make up for it with quality work.
Step 1: Find high-profile blogging opportunities
You want to identify guest posting opportunities on sites that:
- Target the specific audience you want to reach.
- Have a significant amount of traffic and/or authority.
If you're familiar with your market, a few opportunities should immediately come to mind. If not, use sites like Technorati and Alltop to find popular blogs in your niche. If you're unsure how popular or authoritative a blog is, use stats from Alexa and Compete to determine approximate traffic levels.
Shopify is a well-known leader in the ecommerce space and its blog was one I'd followed for a while, so it was an obvious opportunity I wanted to pursue.
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Step 2: Identify your target blog owner or editor
I'm pleased to introduce you to my target: Mark Hayes, head of public relations and the guy behind the Shopify blog. You may have noticed his byline on the articles, but do you really know who he is?
I didn't, so I set out to learn as much as I could about him. I did some digging online, followed him on Twitter and started to uncover a portrait of a Canadian pinball fanatic who also writes for Urban Male magazine and has a penchant for long, romantic walks along the Ottawa River.
It may seem a bit creepy, but it's critically important to understand the person you're trying to connect with. The best networkers and marketers in the world are experts at relating to people. You need to be, too.
Step 3: Start promoting their content
The best way to tactfully get noticed by high-profile bloggers is to share and promote their posts. If you're consistent about promoting and sharing their content, they'll eventually start to recognize your name. More importantly, you'll likely start to bank up some goodwill due to the human law of reciprocity: the innate desire we feel to help those who help us.
In the course of promoting Mark's Shopify posts, I shared posts socially, left blog comments and mentioned him on other sites I wrote for. Here's what you need to do to get on a blog owner / editors radar.
Sharing the post on social media
Sharing socially via Facebook or Twitter is the easiest way to help but the least likely to be noticed. A few tips to consider when sharing:
- Make sure to include the author's handle, not just the company handle. This way, the author will be more likely to notice your mention.
- Instead of simply re-sharing the headline as is, add your own insights or title to the piece. This shows that you really DID read it and took the time to write a custom title for your audience.
- Ensure there's a link to your site in your social media profile, so the blogger can easily learn more about you if s/he investigates.
Leaving high-quality comments
Leaving insightful, well-written comments is a great way to connect with a blogger and help him build a dynamic community. Though it's more time-consuming than sharing, commenting is more effective at building a relationship and name recognition, as there's usually less competition for attention.
Quality definitely trumps quantity when it comes to commenting. Loads of people leave short “Great post! Love it” comments; that's not the goal. If you want to get noticed, take the time to leave a quality comment that adds value.
Mention the editor in other posts
Mentioning the blogger in another guest post is a great way to connect and build rapport. Not only will a blogger or editor appreciate the attention, but it also builds your credibility when s/he sees you being featured on other sites.
For example, in a guest post for Practical eCommerce, I listed Shopify as one of the top five blogs to follow online.
Always be genuine
Throughout all this sharing, commenting and promoting, you need to make sure you're being genuine in what you write and promote. Following a long-term plan for building relationships doesn't give you a license to make things up, over-indulge or flatter solely for the purpose of winning attention.
You need to make sure the content you're promoting is high-quality material. Otherwise, your reputation—especially with those who follow you—will suffer.
Step 4: Be patient and personable
It's going to take more than a few tweets and a single comment to get the attention of a well-known writer or blogger. You should plan on following a share/comment/mention strategy for at least four weeks before pitching a post for well-known, selective sites.
A few weeks into your campaign, it's time to transition from a complete stranger to a friendly acquaintance. Twitter is a great platform for this. For example, one of Mark's tweets about the new Shopify pinball table led me to initiate this conversation:
Again, be authentic. Yes, we're trying to build a relationship with the end goal of landing a guest post, but you also need to take a genuine interest in the person. I actually do love pinball, so this was an easy conversation to begin.
As hard as it is, avoid the temptation to pitch your content too soon. Otherwise, you run the chance of ruining all the goodwill you've banked up. I made this mistake when Mark replied to one of my early Tweets promoting his story. Knowing I'd fostered some engagement, I figured I'd try to “pitch” him on covering one of my existing articles.
His response? Dead silence, which is what I should have expected. I had tried to pitch something too early before our relationships had developed. I quickly realized my mistake and fortunately didn't make it again. Instead, I simply focused on continuing to share his quality material on the Shopify blog.
Step 5: How to make your Pitch
After weeks of commenting, sharing and interacting via Twitter, I was surprised when Mark approached me about doing a guest post on the Shopify blog. While I was thrilled at my good luck, you'll almost always need to proactively pitch a guest post.
When pitching a guest post, keep the following 5 tricks in mind:
- Keep the email short and to the point. Long, unsolicited emails rarely get read by busy people.
- Always try to pitch via email. If you don't have the blogger's email, use this trick to find it.
- Lead off with a specific compliment about the blog and/or a recent article to reinforce that you know and appreciate the blogger's work.
- Clearly state that you'd like to guest post for the blog and offer three potential guest post ideas.
- Link to a sample of your writing online and share any applicable credentials.
Step 6: Write an exceptional guest post
Congratulations! You've successfully landed a guest post on a high-profile blog. Now it's time to write an absolutely killer post.
Creating a high-quality post has a number of advantages. It shows the blogger you appreciate his/her audience and significantly increases the likelihood that you'll be invited to do a follow-up post. Plus, the quality of your post will determine how many people click through to YOUR website. With great content, readers will want to learn more about you.
I spent between six and eight hours writing my first Shopify guest post titled “Don't Follow Your Passion: A Smarter Way to Find a Product to Sell.” The result?
It went semi-viral and received more than 200 tweets, 75 likes, 20 comments and resulted in more than 200 new subscribers (not visitors, subscribers) to my blog in a matter of days.
Best of all was the invitation from Mark to become a regular writer – an opportunity to highlight my blog on a monthly basis to Shopify readers. All this because I invested the time to write a high-quality piece after landing the initial post.
Is guest posting worth the effort?
Tweets are one thing and 200 new subscribers is great, but what are the other benefits? Identifying, securing and writing high-profile guest posts like the ones I submit here at Shopify is obviously a lots of work. It takes months of planning to establish a relationship and hours of actual writing time. It's pretty reasonable to wonder if it's worthwhile to invest all this time just to land a guest post or two.
To help answer that question, I'd like to share some actual traffic and conversion statistics from my own blog, eCommerceFuel.
The traffic stats listed below are from the three-month period immediately after the publication of my initial guest post. Over the period shown, I had three guest posts published on the Shopify blog.
Despite having only three guest posts published, traffic from the Shopify blog made up the fourth largest traffic stream to my blog, sending nearly 2,400 visits! Even more important, the Shopify readers were the most engaged, spending significantly more time on my site than direct or Google visitors.
The conversion data was even more impressive. My analytics are set up to track conversions/goals as anyone who subscribes to my blog by downloading my eBook.
Despite being #4 in traffic, Shopify visitors were the second biggest source of subscribers—even beating out visitors from Google! Over three months, those few articles generated more than 550 subscribers.
Being a regular writer for the Shopify blog is great professional experience and helps me build credibility with others. When I'm trying to land an interview, I can let people know I'm a contributing writer for the Shopify blog, along with my other credentials.
Even if the interviewees don't know me, they're likely to know the Shopify brand and its sterling reputation. Most will then assume that if the editors at Shopify let me write for them, I know the ins-and-outs of ecommerce.
You get what you give
So is this high-commitment guest posting strategy a quick-and-easy path to massive traffic and exposure? Definitely not. It takes significant time, effort and commitment to execute correctly.
But if you're willing to invest in your content, promote others and nurture relationships, it's one of the most effective marketing methods available.