The conventional wisdom when starting a blog is to “get the word out” by guest posting on established higher traffic sites.
It makes sense, right? They’ve already got the readership and eyeballs you’re after, so why not go directly to the source and try and siphon off some of their audience to become your audience.
You can blog on your own no-name site until you’re blue in the face Field-of-Dreams-style, hoping if you build it someone will come, or you can go out and write for sites that already have traffic.
It all sounds great, and that’s why the chorus of blog blog-building experts all recommend guest posting, but there’s a problem.
Guest posting sucks.
It takes a ton of time — and may not be all that effective.
Done right, guest posting has several phases.
- The “research” phase, where you’re identifying which sites might be relevant to the audience you want to attract, and figuring out which of THOSE even accept guest posts.
- The “relationship-building” phase, where you’re commenting, retweeting, liking, etc. current content.
- The “writing” phase, where you spend HOURS creating an epic piece of content worthy of sharing. My best performing guest post took over 10 hours to research, write, edit, and format.
- The “pitch” phase, where you send bloggers your idea or your article in the hopes they like it and post it.
Each of those phases takes time, and in some cases, a lot of it. Which in itself isn’t horrible, because most things worth doing take time, but the worst part is the results from guest posting can be erratic and unpredictable.
If the goal of guest posting is to drive traffic and conversions back to your site, the results can be hit or miss depending entirely on how the host wants to give you attribution for your article.
If they don’t introduce you properly at the top of the article, many readers may not even know it IS a guest post and won’t even think to click back.
Sure, guest posting does still work when done right, but let’s not parade it around like the holy grail of blog marketing strategies.
As with most tactics, there’s an 80/20 rule to be applied. A narrow segment of the guest spots I’ve earned have driven the vast majority of results, but the challenge is you don’t know which sites and posts will perform so you have to spend time casting a wide net.
3 Things You Should Do Instead
1. Do Something Remarkable
Remember Seth Godin’s Purple Cow?
Consider Dollar Shave Club. Did they worry about guest posting to drive traffic? They made a funny video that was cooler than any other razor commercial ever made. Plus they had an innovative way to sell the product with a subscription model that combined with the viral video to be something remarkable that people shared.
In 2012, John Lee Dumas launched a revolutionary 7-day a week podcast. Because no one else had attempted such a thing before, it earned John a lot of attention. Or Pat Flynn sharing his monthly income down to the penny. It was (and still is) a remarkable level of transparency.
See, they all just got mentioned here without having to write a guest post. When you do something remarkable, other people spread your story for you.
This also explains the popularity of Mr. Money Mustache, because well, his story of retiring at 30 is pretty remarkable.
Two of my post popular podcast episodes follow a similar pattern. The first is the story of AnarchoFighter, the Fiverr super-seller who made enough money in his first year on Fiverr to buy a house. Then there’s Ryan Finlay, who earns a full-time living and supports his family of 7 buying and selling items (mostly appliances) on Craigslist. Remarkable, right?
When California lawmakers passed a law forcing out of state retailers to collect California sales tax if they had online affiliates in the state, most big stores like Amazon and Overstock reacted by simply “firing” their California affiliates. At the time, my business was 100% reliant on these relationships, so I literally packed up shop, rented an apartment in Nevada, and set up a new corporation there.
The press was interested in these kinds of unintended consequences of the law, so my story got picked up in the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times.
The traffic spikes I’ve seen from big press exposure almost always exceed the traffic spikes I see from guest posts.
Think of Matt Giovanisci, and his pool care rap video. It’s been viewed nearly 18,000 times, which earned Matt a ton of recognition in the industry and translated into thousands of dollars in ad sales!
Or how Steph Halligan began creating comics about personal finance.
There are ways to be remarkable in any industry.
Do something remarkable, and tell people about it.
2. Guest on Podcasts
Guest-podcasting has several advantages over guest-posting.
First of all, it’s much faster. I’ll gladly trade 30 minutes on an action-packed Skype call with another podcast host rather than write 1000 well-crafted words for their blog.
Second, it’s a higher level of engagement. Podcast listeners just spent 30 minutes with you in their earbuds, instead of 2 minutes and 30 seconds skimming a blog post. When they visit your site it is with intent and purpose. It’s more highly qualified traffic.
Third, there’s an SEO benefit. Most hosts maintain a website where they post their show notes and collect email addresses. Nine times out of ten you’ll get a link from that website without having to write another killer article, which is not a bad trade for half an hour of your time.
And finally, you don’t need to be 100% original. You wouldn’t dream of posting the same article on multiple websites for fear of duplicate content penalties with Google, but you can tell the same story on multiple podcasts.
So how do you land guest spots?
By reaching out to the hosts! Don’t think of this as self-promotional or spammy. Podcast hosts have a content calendar they’ve committed to and NEED high quality guests to keep the show running. The more frequently they publish episodes, the more great guests they need.
As a podcast host, getting quality guest pitches actually makes my life easier because it’s one less spot on the calendar I have to worry about filling. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to go about this, so let me share a couple good examples followed by one bad one.
Here’s a cold email I got from Kimanzi Constable, who now co-hosts Starve the Doubts with Jared Easley.
And here’s one I got from Dan Faggella of CLV Boost:
With both Dan and Kimanzi, I checked out their previous interviews, liked what they had to say, and crafted a show outline that would serve my audience and allow them to share their unique expertise.
The shows both turned out great and I was thankful they reached out to me! (Ironically both shows talk about the incredible power of guest posting.)
Here are some common threads of pitches that get my attention:
- They make a personal connection. If I were to say no to Kimanzi, it would be like saying no to my friend Alex as well.
- They have a compelling (and remarkable) story to tell. I’m not suggesting you die for 6 minutes like Hal Elrod, but it’s certainly a compelling story. (Not to mention terrifying and inspiring!)
- But most importantly, they know about my show, they know about my audience, and they know about me. This is tough to fake.
Now on the flip side, I get my share of bad pitches too, so let me share an example of those.
In this case, the pitch is almost entirely self-promotional. The interviewee, Tony, has his assistant pitching on his behalf. It’s obvious she has no idea what the show is about and is just shotgunning out these cold emails hoping to get a bite.
And while she does at least address her email to “Nick” (that’s a good start!), she doesn’t provide any connection we may have in common (LinkedIn is perfect for this, as are shared Facebook groups), any compelling “hook” for aspiring and part-time entrepreneurs, or any link I can follow to learn more about Tony.
Bonus tip: Once you land the interview, give specific relevant examples during the show of the content on your site, especially your remarkable content (see above), and especially if those pieces of remarkable content have built-in content upgrades where you can capture emails.
Do your homework. Especially if the host doesn’t provide any proposed questions or talking points in advance, it’s on YOU to research their show’s style and steer the conversation in a way that serves their audience.
Side Note: You could consider starting a show of your own. I’ve found it to be a more effective growth channel than blogging.
Side Note: Yes, I’m aware I’m probably setting myself up for a new barrage of pitches. Make ’em good!
3. Help People (Like, 1 Person at a Time)
Remember, the goal of your site is probably NOT to watch your analytics numbers climb, but it’s actually to make money, right?
And I don’t mean “helping people” in the generic sense that by posting useful content you can check the “helping people” box. I mean like reaching out to actual individuals, one-to-one, and doing something that helps them.
Derek Halpern may be the most well-known example of this. When he was starting SocialTriggers, he actually did personal audits of well-known sites on opportunities to improve their conversion. Free of charge.
Once people implemented his free suggestions, AND saw results, they were fans for life and couldn’t help but refer others to Derek and his site.
Another way to look at this is through the lens of your Dream 100 clients.
This concept comes from the book, The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes. The idea is to come up with a list of 100 individuals or companies you’d LOVE to work with, and relentlessly pursue their business until they agree.
Chet argues the best way to do this is to become a conveyor of indispensable value. That could be following a similar strategy to Derek, putting together a personalized industry report, or doing some kind of free training.
Consider how Bryan Harris launched VideoFruit. It was a variation on the Dream 100 strategy, but as a solo entrepreneur looking to build enough income to quit his day job, he needed nowhere near 100 clients. Just a handful would suffice.
So he created individualized product samples, video infographics in this case, to his dream clients like KissMetrics and Hubspot. He gave them away completely free in the hopes of blowing them away with quality and have them begging for more. And it worked.
It’s the same reason Costco gives you free samples; because it works.
- Pinterest pros could proactively create a pin-able graphic and share how to make the most of Pinterest.
- Eagle-eyed editors could mark-up on existing blog post or a chapter of a potential client’s Kindle book and share how these typos are turning off readers.
- Email marketing masters could join an email list and evaluate and suggest improvements for the first 3 autoresponder messages.
The biggest challenge here is identifying a single customer to target at a time, instead of blogging for the masses. Providing massive value upfront to ONE person or company is tough to ignore. This can be applied in virtually any industry and is a proven way to turn prospects into paying customers.
And now that you’re helping people, and they’re seeing positive results and paying you, you have a remarkable story to share on your site and on podcasts, and the cycle continues to spin.
Have you been disappointed with your returns on guest posting?
You’re not alone.
But the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results.
It’s time to change things up and try a few new strategies. Can you apply any or all of these in your business? What’s your next move?
21 thoughts on “Why Guest Blogging Sucks (and 3 Things You Should Do Instead)”
I completely agree! This is the way to connect and lift others! Thanks for the example of pitch emails that work- too many times the pitch is way too much and turns people off.
Business is about relationships. By building quality relationships, you are able to create the life you desire.
Thanks Amy — from what I could see at PM15, you’re the queen of relationships!
Thanks Nick for saving me from hours of fruitless writing for someone else. Really.
I believe that guest posting can be great BUT you have to do it right. Meaning that the website you choose for guest posting must get a lot of traffic and that you can actually include a link strategically. Strategically doesn’t mean that you include a link at the end of your guest post in the bio, nobody see that. But if you can include a link to your website or landing page at the beginning or middle of your guest post then guest posting is useful. But I liked the fact that you point out that there are other options out there :)
Absolutely. Target audience and engagement are much more important than the raw number of readers a site gets.
Thanks Nick! Great post. I believe that guest podcasting is a really good way to go right now in 2015 leading into 2016.
And maybe as long as you have a good lead magnet that the listeners will want to grab, you can lead them back to your own blog with all your posts.
And do less, if any, guest blog posting.
Perhaps Periscoping or Guest Periscoping, if they make that available like Blab, will be effective too in the future.
Thanks for sharing the good example of an outreach email too.
Yes, periscope is definitely the shiny new thing right now! Have you been able to use it effectively yet?
I haven’t effectively used Periscope yet Nick. I am planning on testing a 3x/week Periscope after I launch my book though. It seems to be effective for people building communities and people like Chris Ducker do a good job of driving people back to their websites from it. I think it’s worth testing, especially if you can’t have a Facebook Live (or whatever their streaming feature is called) yet.
I agree, in terms of traffic guest posting really sucks, even guest posting on high traffic blogs. It’s good to hear someone else admit that!
I feel like writing an in-depth post and publishing it on my own blog is a way better traffic generating strategy than guest posting. Especially if you work social media right – that one post you put on your own blog can bring you traffic every single month!
Hey Nick, This information is super-helpful – thanks. Actually seeing the e-mails that worked, (and the one that didn’t), is great. I’ve never seen this described before. Thanks!
There is some great content in this post but I have to disagree with the guest posting comments. I guest posted my way in six weeks to 500 solid opt ins. Sure it takes longer but the results are really good. I’m looking to find related people to do podcasts for right now and will be better able to relate opt-in rate differences between podcasts and guest posts.
Nice work Jesse!
No man thank you. You and about seven other bloggers really helped me decide to make the leap.
Wow this post opened my eyes. This will saves me so much time. I think this could be a great way to engage with other bloggers in the industry.
Btw: Thanks for the email pitch!
You hit the bullseye with this one Nick. Well said on all points. I have found this to be true with our efforts in both of these areas as well. Guest posting takes a ton of time with little return unless you find the right fit. On the other hand when we do guest interviews we have a much bigger impact. We also have our own podcast so listeners will come over to listen in on what we do.
One place we found that has been helpful in finding interviews is http://www.radioguestlist.com/. Not sure if you’ve seen this but we’re having success finding shows to get interviewed on.
Thanks for confirming that resource Tony. A friend just told me about Radio Guest List at lunch yesterday and said he’s been getting quite a few interviews from it. He’s in a different niche though so I wasn’t sure how it worked for other niches. Glad to see it’s working for you and Alisa.
This was such an awesome article. I was looking for guest post opportunities and this made me completely revist my strategy. Thanks so much!
Haha Cass your guest post rocked it though!
Aww, thanks Nick! I guess it’s about targeting blogs that actually have readers that are engaged. So rather than guest blogging for numbers, look at the quality of the blog. Also, it helps if you actually read and like the blog:)
You’re right about guest blogging taking a lot of time. And it also takes a lot of time for the host to edit and parse through all the requests to guest blog on your site as well.
But guest podcasting it’s fun and easy to do. I’ve done a number of them from across genres, most notably with Noah Kagan from AppSumo.
Now to try to figure something remarkable to do. Hmm. One thing I noticed is that the bigger you get, the more conservative you become You get people from everywhere reading or listening and you want to be sensitive to everybody.
Awesome – downloading your chat w/ Noah now! The link if anyone else wants to check it out: