How to Use Guest Posts in Content Marketing

How to Use Guest Posts in Content Marketing

Somewhere in that murky area between blog posts and informational articles is a form of content marketing known as the guest post. As a web surfer, you have been exposed to countless guest posts whether you know it or not. They are now as prolific as blog posts and informational articles, with the only difference being where they appear.

The main strength of guest posts is that they can essentially be whatever you want them to be. The weakness, if there is one, lies in the sites that publish them. In other words, sites accepting guest posts from other authors sometimes have rigid requirements in terms of what they will and will not accept.

What are Guest Posts?

Guest posting came about in the early 2000s as a result of website owners wanting to fill up their sites with relevant content without having to constantly write their own material. Why would they want to do that? Remember, regular updates are looked at favourably by the major search engines.

Imagine that you run a suite of a dozen websites covering various and wide-ranging topics. Most of your revenue from those sites comes from advertising, so you are really keen on the quality and volume of your content. The problem is that there is not enough time in the day to keep each of the sites fresh. The solution is to offer guest posting opportunities.

A guest post is an article written by an author to be published on another site completely disassociated with his/her own. The article can be informational in nature. It can be based on a recent news item or a particular topic requested by the site that will publish it.

The general understanding for guest posts is that they should not be written as blogs. Remember that blogs are informal and personal; guest posts should be more formal and informational in nature.

The one exception to this rule would be a guest post written to accommodate some unusual need of the host. For example, a host site might be looking for something a bit more lighthearted. Ownership might prefer to take a humorous or sarcastic approach to something. Their posts may have important information in them, but they are written informally in order to take advantage of the humour factor.

What is the Purpose of Guest Posts?

The purpose of a guest post depends on the perspective of both the writer and website owner. The website owner solicits guest posts in order to fill the site with fresh content. His or her primary purposes are to drive traffic and generate sales, clicks on advertisements, email sign-ups, etc. From the website owner’s perspective, guest posting is all about SEO results.

As such, website owners can be very picky about the guest posts they publish. This is the reason it is always a good idea to read guest posting guidelines before offering to write an article for a particular site. Otherwise, it can look bad to make the offer and then either back out or present an article that does not meet the website’s requirements.

As a writer, your primary purpose for guest posting is to generate traffic for your own website. The idea is to create relevant, fresh, SEO-rich content that will draw people to your article. Then, using backlinks and an author bio, encourage those readers to go to your website to learn more about you and what you do.

In light of that, there are some things to pay attention to from the SEO side of things:

  • Keywords and Phrases – The keywords and phrases you choose for a guest post should be relevant to both your business and the general topic of the website you are posting to. Remember that you want the same users who read your original post to follow a link back to your site.
  • Backlinks – Backlinks are like gold in the guest posting realm. In most cases, host sites will only allow one or two backlinks per guest post at maximum. You should make sure those links point to high-quality pages that will entice visitors to stay. Even if you have to create special landing pages, make sure you are linking to quality material.
  • Quality – Content being king is a rule that applies to guest posting as much as any other form of content creation. Do not skip on quality just because you are a guest contributor, otherwise you may find a website prevents you from future posting due to poor quality.
  • Topic Selection – Almost every guest posting scenario limits writers to certain topics relevant to the host site. So your topic selection should be limited to those topics but only as they relate to your own business. If you cannot make a reasonable connection between your business and a host site, don’t waste your time posting on that particular site.

Though your primary purpose with guest posting is to drive traffic back to your site, there are some tertiary benefits that come from quality writing. First among them is boosting your online reputation. Whenever your name or company is associated with quality writing, it creates a positive image in the minds of readers. That is always a good thing.

Another tertiary benefit is increased authority within your industry. Let’s say you write a guest post that lays out the case for doing something in your industry in a specific way. A strong case combined with articulate writing can establish the kind of authority that will lead paying customers right to your door.

Lastly, regular guest posting can help you create and maintain relationships with other like-minded organisations. Such relationships can be mutually beneficial over many years. In short, you can never have too many connections when you are trying to grow a business.

What Style Should I Write Guest Posts In?

Determining the style for a guest post is not as hard as determining the style for advertising and marketing copy, but it is a close second. The fact of the matter is that there is no right or wrong way to write a guest post. Style depends on the point you are trying to get across, the amount of space you have to make that point, and the general requirements of the host site.

When you are ready to begin writing guest posts, the first thing you need to do is choose a few sites and read their guest posting requirements. Make sure you thoroughly understand those requirements before you decide whether to write for them or not. Below is a sampling of some of the more common requirements you are likely to run into:

  • Length between 1000 and 2,000 words
  • One backlink and two outbound links
  • Paragraphs separated by subheadings
  • Bulleted lists where appropriate
  • Sources provided for any cited material
  • Short bio to be posted along with the article.

This list is by no means conclusive. There is also no guarantee that any host site will include all these requirements, if any at all. You will understand what I mean the more you seek out guest posting opportunities.

Host Site Tone

Understanding the requirements of a host site is just the start of determining your style. Next, you should pay attention to the tone of the site in general. You can read the ‘About’ section to learn more about the organisation behind the site. You can read other guest posts to get a good idea of how they are structured and styled. The better you understand the tone of the host site, the better you will understand the style you need to use for your own writing.

The general rule – and this is very general – is that guest posts should be informational in nature. For example, if your company were involved in DNA testing, you might write a guest post explaining the basics of how such testing can be used to determine ancestry. Remember that you want readers to follow a backlink to your site in order to learn more about the DNA testing service you offer.

Other things to consider about style are as follows:

  • Simple English – Remember the simple English principal when writing guest posts. Don’t use long, strung out sentences or complicated vocabulary words. Whatever you do, avoid industry jargon at all costs.
  • Your Knowledge – When guest posting, make sure you know what you are writing about. Nothing is more damaging for your reputation than writing ignorantly and/or making things up to fill in space. If you don’t know what you’re writing about, do some research first.
  • Your Presentation – Your writing should present clear and concise ideas that flow together in a logical progression. This can be difficult if a host site is expecting 2,000 words on the topic that lends itself better to 1000 words. Nonetheless, avoid filler. Present clear ideas concisely.

Your Tone

You should understand the importance of the tone of any host sites you plan to guest post to. Your writing tone should reflect the host site, otherwise your post could be rejected straightaway. Also, do not be afraid of the tone of the host site even if it does not match how you normally communicate. Embrace it as a new writing challenge.

Writing for a website that offers information on controversial topics is your chance to inject your understanding into the conversation, backed up by cited reference material. Writing for a site that is more of a self-help environment invites you to offer helpful information that could be important to someone else. The point here is that guest posting goes beyond just SEO to give you an opportunity to expand your writing horizons. Take advantage of it.

Guest posting is a unique form of content creation in several different ways. It is an opportunity to produce content that other website owners will use in exchange for free advertising for you. It is also an opportunity to contribute to conversations going on across the internet. If you can learn to write high-quality guest posts and find high-ranking sites to post them to, guest posting could mean a significant boost to your own site’s traffic.

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