Today’s Guest Post comes from one of our favorite BuzzStream customers, Adrienne Erin. Adrienne is a writer and outreach specialist at WebpageFX. Outside of work, she loves travel, practicing her French, and baking cookies.
Guest blogging has become the cornerstone of link building. Love it or hate it, chances are that if you need to build links for your own site or a client’s, you’re going to need to get in the guest blogging game. And once you jump into it, if you’re at all competitive like I am, you’ll want to do all you can to get better and better at it.
How do you get better at guest blogging? Well, improving the quality of your writing and the quality of your connections are both great, but they’re not always the most measurable of traits or easy to judge when you’re getting better. I’m a fan of numbers. And response rate is a number you can really sink your teeth into.
If you’re stuck in a rut of firing off email after email offering to guest blog and getting few positive responses, perhaps it’s time to reexamine your approach. Here are six simple tips to help you increase your guest blogging response rate. Go on, feed your competitive side. You know you want to.
Response Rate vs. Positive Response Rate
Too many people send off emails soliciting guest blog spots willy nilly without tracking which blogs they’ve approached before or what the answer was. It’s much smarter – and much more efficient – to track our response rate. Start a spreadsheet in Excel or Google Docs with the name of the blog you’ve approached, the date you sent the email, the response and any other notes you need to keep on top of things. If you’re using templates, BuzzStream can also track your response rate for you.
If you’re keeping track for yourself using a spreadsheet, when you receive a response to your query, record the answer you get – yes or no – in the line for that contact. After sending a few emails, you can determine your response rate. Divide the total number of responses by the total number of queries you’ve sent out. For example, if you’ve sent out ten queries and get four replies, your response rate is 40 percent. As your response rate trends up or down, you can see when your approach is working and when it’s not. If you’re working with a team, you can track everyone’s response rate to inspire some friendly competition.
Positive response rate, determined by dividing only your positive responses by the total number of emails, is perhaps an even more telling statistic. This number will be lower than your response rate (unless no one ever tells you no!), so don’t be discouraged when you see it.
In my opinion, both types of response rate are very important to track and measure. After all, in the world of email inundation and countless distractions, it’s far easier to just ignore or delete an email than to take the time to respond. A negative response isn’t always a terrible thing. Perhaps your idea just isn’t there yet, or the blogger has a full editorial calendar at the moment. Something about your message still compelled a response, and that “no” you just got might really mean “not right now.”
1. Work Your Way Up the Ladder
If you’d never run for office before, would you start your political career with a run for president? No. You’d run for a few local offices, then the state level and so on. The world of guest blogging is similar, with perhaps the biggest exception being if you already run a popular blog. Don’t start by querying big names like Smashing Magazine or Search Engine Land if you have never guest posted before. With nothing to show for the quality of your writing, the answer will most likely be silence.
Instead, start with smaller, but well-respected, blogs where you have a better chance of being accepted. Work your way up to bigger blogs, and be sure to continue blogging high-quality content on your own site to prove you have the chops to handle a more important assignment.
2. Lead with Your Connections
The best way to connect with someone is to actually, you know, have a connection with them. Figure out what you have in common with the person you’re contacting. Perhaps you’ve both contributed to the same blog, maybe you run in the same circles on a forum or in a blogging network, or perhaps your bios both mention your love of pug dogs. Whatever it is, use it.
By mentioning your connection at the beginning, you’ll grab the person’s attention and show you have some real legitimacy. You’ve done your research and you’re smart.
3. Don’t Sound Like a Link Builder
Nothing sours a potential guest posting opportunity faster than begging or talking about backlinks. Bloggers have become so inundated by pitches from people only looking to drop a quick link that they often won’t even respond if they suspect it’s what you’re looking for. You’re better off avoiding the subject of links at all in the first email. Concentrate on pitching a high interest post to their audience to generate lots of engagement.
Proofread your pitch before you send it, every single time. You never know when you might typo even a stupidly simple name or word. If you’re using a template, make sure you’ve removed all the identifying factors (such as quotation marks around the name of the blog). Refer to their blog by name, not just as “your blog” or by its URL. It also may be a good idea to send the email from your company’s address rather than Gmail or Yahoo, as this will show you’re actually involved with a legit business.
Please stop doing stuff like this. Please.
4. Give Them What They Want
Other bloggers want what you want for your own blog: Quality content and a chance to broaden their audience. It’s up to you to show how your guest post will accomplish this goal. Perhaps you can offer a swap — you post on their site and they post on yours, giving them a chance at gaining some new traffic. Or maybe you can offer to line up several posts during a busy time in their schedule or during their personal down time. Bloggers are always eager to have fresh content to share when they go on vacation.
5. Embrace Easy Wins
I’m a little obsessive about watching what people are saying about me and what I write online. It’s not paranoia (well, mostly); in fact, it’s landed me some of my best opportunities. Here’s how you can do the same:
First, set up an alert for your name or pseudonym. Google Alerts is what people usually recommend for this, but I find that it doesn’t do a very good job finding mentions for me; it would work better if you get a lot of mainstream press or you’re already famous, although that would mean you probably don’t really need to work on your response rate. Anyway. I’m a big fan of using Talkwalker Alerts for this purpose because it’s really simple and does a better job discovering mentions. Plug in your name (in quotation marks), language, and email address as shown in the image below. Since I happen to have a name that people frequently misspell, I’ve also created alerts for common misspellings of my name. Note that this might not work very well if you have a very common name.
With these alerts, you’re looking for easy opportunities to make a new contact. Sometimes when people really enjoy my articles, they respond to them on their own blog. I want to find these responses, for several reasons: first of all, I want to thank them for responding to my piece, and second, if they’re already impressed with your writing, they probably would love to have you guest blog for them. Ka-ching!
Since alerts don’t catch everything, I try to periodically Google my name and make sure I’m not missing anything major. If I’m promoting a piece of content like an infographic or motion graphic, I’ll also be sure to look for places it was posted that I didn’t outreach to; if they liked that piece of content, they’d probably also appreciate more.
Finally, I watch my mentions on Twitter carefully. If someone from a big name blog tweets out one of my articles, I thank them for sharing it and ask to write for them. Usually the answer is a resounding yes!
6. Follow Up Once and Only Once
As Tom Petty once so sagely sang, waiting is the hardest part, but patience is imperative. Give the person you’ve approached at least three days to get back to you before you follow up. It’s possible she is interested in your idea but inundated by work and hasn’t had a chance to get back to you. Pestering them just a day or two, or even mere hours, after you sent the first email if going to make you seem very desperate.
Still, you shouldn’t wait more than a week to follow up if you haven’t heard back; if you put it off for too long, they’ll have forgotten your first message and it will have the same effect as new outreach. Make your follow-up short, professional and polite. Reference the original message, but don’t say anything presumptuous or combative, like “You’d be foolish to turn this down.” Simply restate the benefits for them, and make it easy for them to respond.
Since you’ve probably sent out more than one query, set up a reminder in BuzzStream so you remember to follow up to each contact. Try different lengths of time to see what works best. However, if you don’t hear back from your second query, let it go. The person has obviously seen your messages and decided, for whatever reason, that your idea is not right for their site. Put your energy into the next query, not into desperately checking in with people who aren’t responding.
Practice patience, organize your approach and use common sense to help your pitches succeed. If you use these techniques, your response rate should gradually start to increase. What other techniques have you found successful in boosting your response rate? Share in the comments section below.