3 Myths of Guest Writing for Big Websites … and 6 Tactics for Doing it Well

image of empty stage

You’ve got a book to promote, or a product, or a service — and you need a bigger audience to get it moving out into the world.

Why not borrow one (an audience, that is)?

Guest writing for other websites is a fantastic way to get your name, message, and offer in front of tens of thousands of readers (depending on the size of the site you’re writing for). And the best part? It won’t cost you a penny.

Why aren’t more writers, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders doing it? Why aren’t you doing it?

Because you think you’re not ready. Even though you almost certainly are …

I work with writers every day, and I hear the three “Myths of Guest Blogging” you’ll see below again and again. Let’s dispel them right now, before we get into the good stuff …

Myth #1: “I need to have a well-established blog”

You don’t need to have thousands of readers before you start guest writing for other sites.

Content editors don’t care about the size of your audience: they care about the quality of your writing.

I used to guest post without a blog at all — and not a single editor ever cared. It’s usually a good idea to have a site of your own to send readers back to, but don’t let a small audience be the excuse that keeps you from guest posting.

Myth #2: “I don’t write well enough”

Yes, your guest post needs to be well-written. That doesn’t mean you need a PhD in English Literature, or a glittering résumé.

Pick a single topic. Write a clear, concise, useful post. Then edit it … carefully. You’ll put yourself way ahead of the crowd.

Myth #3: “I have to build up a relationship before pitching a guest post”

Some blogs don’t accept unsolicited guest posts; others are so overwhelmed with submissions that they only use a fraction of the material they receive. It can help if the site owner knows your name — but that’s definitely not a requirement.

Sure, you want to cultivate relationships with editors … and writing a terrific guest post makes a great start. Tweets and blog comments are fine, but they shouldn’t be your primary strategy. Your primary strategy is writing excellent posts.

The Takeaway: To be a successful guest writer for other websites, you don’t need to have a huge audience of your own, you don’t need to be the next Shakespeare, and you don’t need the big blog editors to know your name. All you need to do is write well.

Getting your guest post onto a big blog in your niche means:

  • Extra traffic to your blog
  • More sales of your products
  • The opportunity to add “I’ve written for …” to your résumé or About page

Even if your post gets rejected, you’ll have a fantastic piece of pillar content for your own site.

But to maximize your chances of acceptance, here are 5 steps you need to master:

Step #1: Research your target site carefully

Some bloggers write a guest post, then look for a blog to submit it to.

Often, that means the post won’t be a great fit — and the editor will reject it.

Instead, pick your target blog first. Read at least ten posts, ideally a mix of guest posts and posts by the regular blogger(s). If you’re not finding any guest posts, that’s a sign that you need to pick another blog, at least for now.

  • How long are the posts, particularly the guest posts? Is there a range from long to short? Or do they mostly tend to fall into a fairly narrow range of word counts?
  • What’s the writing style like? Chatty, aggressive, kooky, gentle?
  • What topics have been covered recently? Could you contribute something that’s relevant, but that also fills a gap?
  • Can you figure out what their “bread and butter” topics are — the topics that they’ll always need to find fresh content for?
  • Could you write a compelling, useful follow-up to a recent ultra-popular post?

Look for guest post guidelines, most large blogs have them. Follow any instructions about formatting, images, writing style, linking, and so on.

Step #2: Develop your idea

A strong idea will make the writing easy; a weak idea will just waste your time.

Come up with a list of five possible topics, then pick the best one.

Make sure you can do justice to your idea.

Don’t choose something that sounds amazing if you know you’ll struggle to write it. A simple idea, executed well, is worth far more than a hyped-up but ultimately disappointing post.

Instead of “Everything you need to know about WordPress”, try “7 Essential Tips for WordPress Beginners”.

Step #3: Write your guest post

Set aside time for writing your guest post.

It’s all too easy to keep putting it off for another day. Aim to write when you’re at your best, whether that’s at 7 am or 10 pm.

If you’re struggling to get started, skip the introduction and move straight into the main body of the post.

If you’re still stuck, set a timer for 20 minutes and just write. Don’t worry if it’s horrible, just keep your fingers moving.

Even if you end up scrapping a lot of your material, you’ll find something that’s worth keeping.

Step #4: Edit your post

Few writers produce great first drafts. Editing is your chance to hone your words so they’re as effective and powerful as possible.

Start by editing the post as a whole. Look for unnecessary tangents (sometimes these make good seeds for follow-up posts), badly-ordered information, and vital missing pieces. Fix these before you move on.

Once you’re happy with the shape and flow of the post, focus on the individual sentences and words. Rewrite any clumsy, awkward, or weak sentences. Change any words that hit the wrong note.

Don’t neglect the all-powerful Rule of 24.

Step #5: Add your bio

Sure, it’s exciting to see your name on a big blog — but you’ve got other motives for guest writing too.

If you want to drive traffic to your blog, newsletter, or sales page, you’ll need to make good use of your bio.

It should:

  • Be written in the third person
  • Have a clear call to action
  • Include a link

If you’re linking to your blog, choose a specific post, ideally one that’s related to the guest post. “Click here to learn how to get your blog set up” is a stronger call to action than “Read my blog.”

For some good examples of guest writer bios, scroll through the posts here on Copyblogger.

Step #6: Send it off!

This is the hardest step.

My very first guest post for Copyblogger sat on my hard drive for at least a week before I plucked up the courage to email it in.

Once you’ve edited and polished your post, you have to let it go.

Write that email, take a deep breath, and hit “send.”

A few weeks from now, you could have your writing in front of an audience of tens of thousands of readers.

So write that guest post.

Trust me, you’re ready.

About the Author: Ali Luke is a writer and writing coach. If you’re struggling to get inspired, check out her Twenty-Five Ways to Come Up With Great Ideas for Your Writing.

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Comments

  1. Great to see you guest posting again, Ali. I think fear keeps us from doing a lot of things. Guest posting is one of them. I’m amazed at some of the bloggers that just explode on the scene. You see their posts everywhere. I think it’s because they don’t know that they aren’t supposed to ask bigger blogs to let them guest post. You never know until you ask…

    • Thanks John! It’s lovely to be back on Copyblogger. :-) And I absolutely agree with you that you’ll never know until you ask — I come across lots of great writers who could guest post on pretty much any blog they wanted, if only they had a little more confidence.

      When I first started out with blogging, I pitched my very first guest post to a big blog in my niche, and they took it! Sometimes not knowing the “rules” is a big help, isn’t it?

  2. Great tips here Ali.

    Killing those myths is a HUGE first step. In fact, my blog was only 5 days old and I had ZERO followers when landing my gig on Forbes.

    So see? If I can do it, so can your readers… :-)

    Thanks for sharing Ali… :-)

  3. Guest blogging is one step in my journey I have not tried yet. My “to do” list for this month includes sending out requests for guest blogging. You never know what will happen until you try. Thanks for the great information, Ali!

  4. Great post, while I would always check the links in the author bio, unless the site was real low quality it would not influence the desision to publish a guest post.

  5. You don’t have to be the best writer in the world to write great content! Obviously you need to know how to string two sentences together and have a solid grasp of the English language, but there is no need to pump out Pulitzer winning material every time you sit down to write. Useful information is going to be useful information no matter what.

    • Nick, I absolutely agree that blog posts don’t need to be (and frankly probably shouldn’t be!) Pulitzer prize material. Obviously the quality of your writing matters, and it’s worth investing a bit of time into making your guest posts as good as you can — but a lot of the writers I come across are definitely good enough to be guest writers.

  6. Hi Ali, thanks for your tips. This is really a very encouraging post for me to get started.

  7. I think this offers great clarity on how to approach guest blogging.

    Where I always get stuck at is the selection process. The “which one of the million of blogs out there should you research and write a guest post to submit to” process.

    Given your great experience and success with guest blog posts, could you offer more detail about how to research the kind of blogs that fit the readership you’re trying to attract to your blog via guest blog posts?

    (I think that may just be a great guest post idea to follow up with on this great post ;-)).

    • Thanks Michael! And yeah, I think that question might be a whole post in itself, but I’ll do my best here.

      My perfect blog to guest post on would be one with:
      (a) An exact match for my intended audience (I write for writers of both fiction and non-fiction, aiming at an intermediate level)
      (b) Tons of readers ;-)
      (c) A nice guest posting experience (great editors and readers)

      The way I research blogs is to look at who’s big in my niche: who’s on all the blogrolls? Who gets mentioned a lot on Twitter? Who do my peers rave about?

      Once I’ve got some blogs in mind, I look at things like their number of RSS subscribers, how many Tweets or comments posts tend to get, whether the readers seem like a nice bunch … and, most importantly, whether the blog actually accepts guest posts.

      Copyblogger is actually my #1 blog to guest post on because it hits everything on the list. Although my own blog targets a slightly different audience, there’s plenty of overlap. And other blogs that are similarly a great fit for me include Men with Pens, Write to Done, ProBlogger, The Creative Penn and Daily Writing Tips.

      Hope that helps a bit!

  8. Way to go Ali! One other thing that I don’t think you mentioned is linking your guest posts to other posts within the blog your writing for (like you’ve done here on copyblogger). Astute bloggers know how much better it is for SEO, as well as encouraging readers to spend more time reading. The blog owner will appreciate the extra effort.

    • That is indeed a great way to boost a post’s chances! I can’t take any credit here, I’m ashamed to say — some hard-working soul in the Copyblogger team actually added in the links (I was clearly having a lazy day when I wrote the post…) but when you’re new to a blog, throwing in some links to their other posts is a great way to prove that you’ve done your homework. :-)

  9. Pretty straight post and points that we all know but rarely think of before deciding to guest post. My 3 years of blogging experience says that guest posting is not tough, it is all about mentality. You need to back yourself and write honestly in your own style.

    • Yes, getting into the right mindset is so important. My hope with this post was to encourage people to just give guest writing a go … there’s nothing to lose!

  10. Michael,

    I find the “which one of the million of blogs out there should you research and write a guest post to submit to” to be the easiest part. Start with the blogs you follow anyway since you’re interested in the topics they cover. Comment on posts in those blogs so you form a relationship with the author or editor. My guest blog posts have always been alternatives or additional information to what has already appeared in the blog.

    Comments on blog posts bring at least as much traffic to my site as do search engines.

    • I think this is great advice, Naomi, especially about starting with the blogs that you’re most interested in. Not only is it easier to build up a relationship that way, it’s also a lot easier to write a great guest post, because you’ll have a good idea of the blog’s usual style and approach to their topic.

  11. Beautiful!

    I struggle with my self-confidence in approaching others about guest posting. I tend to diminish my importance and knock myself down a peg or two.

    Guess it’s time to kick that aside and start hitting the road!

    • Thanks Joseph! I know how hard it can be to pluck up the courage to send off a guest post request… but it’s so worthwhile (plus it gets easier over time). Good luck with your guest post pitches!

  12. This was so helpful….and I’m not ready yet ! Some day when it feels right I’ll give this a try. Thanks for the great info.

  13. Ali, that’s it. I’m going to spit-shine my Copyblogger guest post one more time, take a deep breath and send it off to Sonia.

    Sonia, you’ve been warned ;)

    • Hurrah! Go for it, Adam, you’ve got nothing to lose. (My first guest post for Copyblogger sat on my hard drive for at least a week before I sent it off… so I know how it feels. ;-)) Hope to be reading yours here in due course… :-)

  14. Great guest post, Ali! You are walking the talk right there.

    I have a quick question, once you have guest posted on a site for example Copyblogger. How often do you come back to submit guest posts to them again?

    Cheers!

    • I usually leave it at least a month — it depends a bit on the blog! Sometimes several months go by before I come back, but that’s usually because I get busy with other things.

      It’s worth looking at how often other guest posters crop up on the blog, to see what might be a good frequency to aim for. If you only guest post once a year, the editor and readers might not remember who you are — but if you send in posts every two weeks, that’s probably going to be way too much. Around every two months is probably a good fit for most blogs.

  15. One more “secret” to guest posting…

    Follow up in the comments.

    (Everyone should take note Ali has responded to EACH and EVERY comment on this so far.)

    It increases your brand, sparks further conversation and makes you look like a class act.

    • Aw, cheers, Adam! :-) Yes, being present in the comments means a lot, to your readers and to the blog that’s hosting you. It’s a great way to make sure you’re welcomed back with the *next* guest post… :-)

  16. True, you don’t have to have an established blog to write a guest post, but if you want to get the most out of it, you do. What would be the point of writing for other blogs, if your blog doesn’t contain enough content to interest the visitors attracted by your guest post? If you want to retain those visitors, you’ll need a good number of strong posts (perhaps 20 or so) to interest them on the first visit, attract them for a second visit, and hopefully, get them to sign up. Thanks for the insights!

    • What we teach most people is you want some reasonable cornerstone content in place first, then start guest posting to pull traffic in.

      Not everyone needs that, and if you have something in place like a great autoresponder, that can fill in while you’re building out your site content.

      What I took from Ali’s post is that you can’t let having a smallish blog become an excuse.

    • One reason why some people do it is for a portfolio piece (or even a testimonial, if the host blogger is willing to write one). And I’ve used guest posts to promote products (ebooks and ecourses) rather than pointing back to my blog, so it does depend a bit on your goals and marketing plan.

      I agree with you, though, Doug, that if your main goal is to get sign-ups to your blog, you’ll want to have plenty of strong content in place before sending out guest posts.

  17. Great post Ali!

    I’ve been working on ideas for guest posts, and researching sites to approach, and your post and additional insights in the comments couldn’t have been published on a better day! Great to read your thoughts on selecting which sites to approach – I’m off to put it into action :-)

    • Hurrah! Glad the timing worked out well for you, Robert. :-) Hope your site-selection goes smoothly, and best of luck with your guest posts.

  18. Uh-oh. That’s me. “I really want to try guest-posting, but I’m not sure I’m ready.” Well, on second thought, I think I am. Thank you, Ali, for another great motivational *and* instructional post. You have really made this sound doable!

    • Yay! That was just what I was aiming for, Sheila. :-) I took a peek at your blog, and your writing is great (I particularly like your gentle, personal style in the “Something for the children” pieces) — you’re definitely ready to guest post. :-)

  19. Amen on the quality writing. I often get solicited by potential guest bloggers, and have been considering adding some.

    However, when I ask to be directed to their work they go away or don’t reply.

    • Yes, I get a few of those sorts of pitches too, Jeff.

      The good news is that the folks reading this are automatically going to be a cut above most of the (frankly rather lazy) pitches from quick-fix marketers just looking for a backlink. :-)

  20. Guest posting is something I haven’t done yet so I’ll definitely give it a try. I think there is nothing really to lose except maybe a little bit of confidence :). Very informative post Ali.

  21. We can definitely feel intimidated by pitching to big websites, but more often than not they’re a lot more willing to accept guest posts as long as the post is quality and fits their overall site values.

    These are really great tips to keep in mind. I love that you’re encouraging us to write the post first, because so many times do we have a great idea for a post, but after getting the topic approved, we can feel stilted in actually writing it.

    Thanks for this. :)

    • Thanks, Morgan! I find that a lot of sites want to see the post before saying yes or no to a pitch … but you’ve got a great point there about avoiding writers’ block. It can be a mixed blessing to have a great pitch approved, because there’s always the worry you won’t be able to do justice to it in the post itself.

  22. Great and timely post as I just secured a whole bunch of my own guest post assignments. In many cases people will automatically assume that a big site owner wouldn’t be interested in their post but sometimes it is wrong to assume that even without asking.

    I do want to add that it helps if you can clearly define your topic before sending the request as that will increase your chances of success.

    • Well done on getting lots of guest posts lined up, Anshul! And great addition about defining the topic clearly — yes, that’s important (and not just for guest writing — it’s always good practice to pin your topic down before tackling any piece of content or writing any pitch).

  23. Good advice for someone who wants to do guest posts but isn’t sure she can. Thank you!! :D

  24. As always a useful nudge in the right direction Ali

    cheers Carole

  25. Speaking of guest posting–Ali, this is the third article of yours I’ve stumbled upon in the past 24 hours (all of them great). Maybe one tip for those wishing to guest post is to see how a single writer (like you) tailors content to different sites. It seems that you modify your writing style specifically to fit the site where you’re guest posting.

    I wondered–when you write a guest post, do you pitch the topic first or do you write the entire post and submit it?

    • Thanks, Cheryl! And you’re absolutely right, I do tailor my style to the blog I’m writing for. I actually really love the chance to tackle different topics in a slightly different voice from the one I might use on my own blog, Aliventures.

      I usually write the guest post first then submit it. I know of a few bloggers who don’t like that approach, but in general, it seems to go down with editors and saves on back-and-forth time. If I’m toying with different topic possibilities, or getting something lined up ahead of a particular date, I’ll sometimes ask what might work well — I’m doing that for my blog tour plans for April-May…

  26. Hi Ali,

    Great post and great to see you on Copyblogger again! I’ve been guest posting a bit since we met at Blog World and am hoping to do more.

    I agree with you on #2! Make sure you can do justice to your proposed topics. I’ve occassionally found that I have to scale back my ambitious concepts to focus on more fundamental topics that still add a ton of value but that aren’t “epics”. The trick that I use to make sure I can do a post is to at least outline each concept before I submit it and save it on my computer. That way when the post is accepted (sometimes days or weeks later) I can quickly go back to the outline and start writing. No need to re-envision the post twice.

    Thanks again for the great post!

    • Thanks for the comment, Tom! And hey, any time you want a hand with a guest post, you know where to find me. :-)

      I think it’s easy to get a bit over-enthusiastic about guest posts — and while a huge, epic post can be a fantastic win-win-win for you, the host blog, and the readers, it’s not always a realistic possibility. I think that’s a great idea about outlining before sending in pitches. (And I often just go ahead and write the post, like I mentioned in reply to Cheryl above.)

      • Ali, thank you again for the offer. I will take you up on that! Yes, I’ve started to actually write some of my guest posts completely in advance to make sure they hang together well enough to meet my standards (and those of the blog). That saves on that uncomfortable feeling of a looming deadline and a blank page!

        • Agreed! It’s horrid to be up against a deadline without an idea … seems to crush inspiration. And I look forward to reading a post of yours… :-)

  27. Though I agree with #1, it seems like a lot of guest post opportunities do ask for the ability to push your post socially. As someone with very few Twitter followers, I wonder if this impacts my chances…

    • I suspect this depends on the blog in question — you might actually be better off targeting larger blogs, as they’ll already have the social media resources to promote your post themselves. But building up a strong social media presence is helpful in many ways, so you might want to spend a little time on that anyway.

  28. Really good advice here – another excellent blog. Keep it up!

  29. Hi Ali

    Brilliant headline, and excellent advice. I know that if I put my mind to it that I can create great content, so all I need now is the focus to go out and finish a task. It was also refreshing to hear that you complete the first post but allowed it to gather cyber dust before submitting.

    If you ever see my content appear here or other blogs where you guest post it means I’ve taken massive action on this post.

    Andrew

  30. Regarding unsolicited guestposts that are sent to me, I delete these and all follow-up messages without reading them. Effectively, what the person sending the material is really saying is “you’re clearly desperate for content and don’t really care about the quality”. Thus they get deleted with extreme prejudice, with the sender put in my spam list.

    I also don’t accept guests posts linking to commercial organisations. If companies want to promote themselves via my blog then frankly they can pay the going rate – I will occasionally publish sponsored posts but most of the time they’re off-topic for my site anyway. Remember that if you accept guest posts from people seeking to promote products and services they’re getting more out of the transaction than you are – particularly if you have a site that’s full of quality material that ranks well. Make them pay.