You dream about building links purely on the awesomeness of your website. And maybe you've earned some. I have, and it feels great to be recognized. But let's be honest-- not every website can bring something new and special to the marketplace that's going to earn purely organic recognition.
SEOs crave natural links that are voluntarily given. Yet for all the talk of how quality content begets links, they rarely build themselves at a rate that actually impacts a site's search result placement. And that's especially true if the target site serves a highly competitive niche. Millions of perfectly good businesses have difficulty differentiating themselves online and earning some of the exposure that larger marketing budgets always seem to monopolize. Here's how to gain links and greater exposure by being a proactive publisher.
1. Get to know the linkable people in your niche.
Spend some time meeting and interacting with your prospective hosts before you ever pitch them. Even though cheap link building services still blast guest posting requests because someone won't stop paying them, there is no site worth your content that'll ever respond to a cold, robotic pitch. Every experienced white hat SEO has helped sites outrank competitors with just a tiny fraction of their links. That happens by focusing on authoritative sites that really matter to the business, and getting to know the folks behind them. You know, like networking in the "real" world, only with blog comments, social media interactions and personal emails.
2. Fit your content ideas to their site's focus, tone and audience.
No one cares what you're selling. It doesn't matter. All that matters is whether you can provide value for that site's audience in an authentic way. Naturally, you'll create content from your own area of expertise, but it shouldn't be about your products or services. And when you create an article, infographic, SlideShare or video before you choose a site for it, you're much less likely to find a great placement. Obviously, whether another site will want to link to your YouTube video shouldn't stop you from producing it, and having a large stable of content makes it easier to audition as a credible contributor. However, creating content that is purpose-built for the target site will almost always get a better reception.
3. Use the calendar to predict future content needs.
Timely content is great. Advance content is divine. A seed vendor could offer content on when the last frost is expected in certain areas a month or two ahead of time. A business consultant could provide a roundup of upcoming business events. See, guest blogging and content marketing aren't just about coming up with ideas that you hope readers might enjoy, but rather, delivering actionable content you know they'll need, before they need it. Now that's a great way to make host sites look good. Of course, the post you share may simply be a small recap of a more complete resource hosted on your own site. So work on your new ideas with future events in mind.
4. Produce series for ready-made follow ups.
Once you get going, see whether you can stretch an article into two, three or more posts. Sometimes, the content comes easier that way, rather than grasping for brand new topics. A high quality series comes pre-packaged with value for the host, and showcases your value for an audience that likely contains prospective clients for you. If you can't manage a series, a recurring contributor role on a popular site is just as good. Content in the right places can earn significant referral traffic.
5. Pitch with content in hand, or examples to discuss.
Site owners have been pitched so much spam and for so long now that some don't even entertain guest post requests anymore. Reaching out to bloggers (or other related sites that happen to have blogs) requires you to come with your content ready. Unless you or your site's brand has the street cred to get a guest spot from a simple ask, you'd best show your prospective host exactly what you think they might like to publish. If you've been present in their online orbit, the pitch won't be cold anyway, but simply asking for a guest spot communicates no value proposition. Pointing to related works can also help to guide a discussion in asking the host what he or she could really use.
6. Be open to publishing other types of content.
Some sites owners will ignore a guest blogging request, but happily publish a sponsored post. That's not necessarily a bad thing. Targeted sponsored posts may not be an immediate boon to SEO, but if they send worthwhile traffic, so what? Over time, I've earned many organic links, social media mentions and great relationships from site owners that began with nothing more than a sponsored post. If you go into it assuming you need one type of content and link, you're needlessly restricting your options. You might offer to record a podcast or to interview the site owner for your own site.
You can always get what you want, so long as you focus on giving others what they want first. Being a proactive publisher puts you in control of constructing a durable online presence that other site owners will happily help you build.
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Mike Sobol is a Co-Founder of Guest Blog Genius, a guest blogging service for SEO professionals, and Content BLVD, a content marketing platform for busy bloggers and brands. Building businesses since 1999, Mike's passion is to create effective new services to fulfill unmet needs in a variety of niche markets, including internet marketing, content creation and SEO.