Why You Suck at Guest Blogging (and What The Pros Do Differently)

Confusing, isn’t it?

Everyone seems to have a different view about guest blogging.

Some popular bloggers claim it’s still a great way to start a blog and grow it.

But others say it’s too much effort for too little reward.

Maybe you’ve tried it for yourself and had less than stellar results.

You may even believe that guest blogging is dead.

So what’s the deal?

The truth – guest blogging is still an awesome strategy for raising your profile (and some guest blogging gigs can actually earn you money).

But only if you do it right.

And that means avoiding the mistakes that cause most guest bloggers – including you – to screw it up.

The First Big Mistake Most Guest Bloggers Make

Many bloggers start guest blogging simply because other bloggers tell them it’s a good idea.

But they don’t truly understand why it’s a good idea. They don’t have clear objectives. Or, worse still, they have the wrong objectives.

Of course, if you’re aiming at the wrong target, you’ll only hit the right one through sheer luck.

But most guest bloggers have completely the wrong definition of success. So they don’t stand a chance of becoming successful in ways that can actually help them.

Here’s why…

People think that a successful guest post is one that gets lots of comments and shares.

But that’s a huge mistake.

Because while comments and shares are nice for the blog owner, they don’t help you much at all.

Sure, you need to keep the blog owner happy. But if you don’t fix your definition of success, you’ll end up writing “successful” guest posts that don’t bring you any real success at all.

The Only Smart Measure of Guest Blogging Success

Your goal is to grow your blog, right?  So, getting tons of views, shares and comments for someone else’s blog isn’t really what you need. You need more traffic for your own blog.

But getting more traffic from a guest post isn’t a worthwhile goal on its own. Traffic is useless if the new visitors simply bounce straight off your site and never return.

Even guest blogging to get some juicy backlinks to your blog doesn’t make a whole lot of sense any longer, since Google is now slamming down SEO-focused guest bloggers.

This leaves only one truly smart guest blogging goal:

Getting more subscribers.

In other words, getting more people to join your email list because they trust you and want to hear from you on a regular basis.

Turning visitors into subscribers is crucial because most people will only visit your site once. Even if they like what they see, they’re unlikely to ever come back due to countless other distractions online. They simply won’t remember to check your blog for new content – these visitors become a lonely dot in your web analytics account that marks the happy day they dropped by.

But when they join your email list, you can build a relationship with them.

When you have new content or a product you want to promote, you can send them an email and invite them to check out what you’ve got.

And in the meantime, you can send them your latest blog posts. The lonely dots turn into repeating dots – thousands of them.

The Spoils of Guest Blogging Like a Pro

When you take the time to learn the art of effective guest blogging – not just “good writing” – getting more than 100 new subscribers per guest post is totally realistic.

Think about it. How long would getting 100 new subscribers take you simply by waiting for people to show up to your blog and then hoping they sign up for your list?

I personally average around 170 new subscribers per guest post. So, with every six posts, I get over 1,000 new subscribers. And occasionally when a post strikes gold and generates over 750 subscribers, the benefit is even more dramatic.

Once you have your sights set on the right target, you have the chance for some real results from your guest blogging efforts. You’ll no longer have to be satisfied with compliments on your literary ingenuity, grammatical prowess, and insightful thoughts – as comments left on someone else’s blog.

But even with the right goal, you can still fail to get results if you make any of the following dumb mistakes.

5 More Dumb Mistakes That Cripple Your Guest Blogging Success

Writing effective guest posts requires more than just avoiding dumb mistakes.

You still need to write well, provide value and engage your audience using power words.

But when you do avoid these mistakes, you’ll start attracting subscribers – a lot more than ever before.

Mistake #1: Your Target Blog Sucks

Your chosen target blog can suck (from the perspective of getting more subscribers) in two ways:

  1. It doesn’t have enough readers to justify your efforts.
  2. The readers aren’t a good match for your own blog.

Pick the wrong targets and you could write a hundred guest posts and get no new subscribers – if too few people read the blogs.

Pick the right target and you could get hundreds of new subscribers with just one post – if a lot of the right people read it.

But how do you determine if a blog is big enough? It’s not always easy. Sometimes you get lucky and they display their subscriber or monthly-reader numbers somewhere on the blog. You’re generally looking for at least 5,000 subscribers or 100,000 monthly visitors.

But if you can’t find these, you need to get a bit more creative:

  • Check out their social media accounts. If they have tens of thousands of Twitter followers and thousands of Facebook page likes, they’re usually getting decent enough traffic to justify the time required to write a guest post.
  • See how many social shares and comments their posts usually attract. The more popular posts should have at least dozens of shares, preferably over 100. Some popular sites don’t get lots of comments, but if you see dozens of comments on many posts, it’s a good indicator of popularity and engagement.
  • Check the blog’s information at Alexa. But be aware that their rankings can sometimes be misleading due to limitations around how the scores are created.

Remember to compare all numbers to the most prominent sites in your field; in other words, don’t compare a chess blog’s rankings and share numbers to those of Huffington Post – it’s not a fair fight and doesn’t help you choose target blogs.

But just writing for a big site isn’t enough to guarantee good results. You also have to be aware of who’s reading the site.

The qualifying question is, “Would people interested in this blog also be interested in my blog?” If not, don’t write for that site – it won’t help you get more subscribers. And consider the experience level of the blog’s readers. If you want to attract experts to your list, don’t write for a site that’s meant for newbies, even if the topic is the same.

Finding big enough sites in your field can take some time, but don’t settle for just any big site; if the audience doesn’t match the one you’re after, you’ll just waste your time.

If you don’t already know big sites in your field, try Google. Type in “gardening blog” (or whatever your blog topic is) and see what comes up.

You can also look for lists of sites that accept guest posts. Just be aware that they usually accept any sites to the list – even ones that are too small to justify the effort. Unfortunately, they don’t just list sites that are worth your time.

Mistake #2: Your Blog Post Topic Sucks

You can get this one wrong in many ways. But the result is always the same – people won’t end up subscribing to your blog.

  1. You pick a topic that has little to do with the target blog’s topic. If you make this mistake, most people won’t even read your post. Or rather, you won’t get your post published – in fact, you’ll be lucky to get a reply from the site owner. For example, don’t pitch a nature travel post to a marketing blog. (This might seem obvious to you, but the example comes directly from my inbox!)
  2. You pick a topic that doesn’t strongly interest the target blog’s readers. You can easily avoid this mistake (see tips below), but if you make it, only a few people will read your post. For example, writing a post here at Smart Blogger about “advanced tracking and behavioral segmenting of leads” would likely flop because even though these tactics are related to getting traffic to your blog and making money, they’re just too expensive and complicated for the vast majority of bloggers.
  3. You pick a topic that isn’t clearly connected to your blog topic. If you write a blog post that fits the target blog perfectly, people will read it and might even love it, but they won’t become your subscribers if the topic isn’t also connected to your own blog. For example, you could write a post about the spiritual benefits of meditation for a self-development blog and get great feedback. But if your site is about productivity, you’ll be lucky to get a few subscribers from the post even though your topic fits well with the general theme of the target blog.

You can come up with a great topic for your guest post in many ways. And you’ll often get the best results when you take a well-evaluated risk. But unless you’re sure you know how to pick a killer topic that hasn’t been covered before, stick to what the pros do with most of their posts:

  • Look at the “most popular posts” list at the site you’re writing for. Which topics come up most often?
  • Go through the last 50 or so posts and see which ones have the most shares and comments. Again, look for the topics that seem to consistently get the best responses.
  • Pick a topic (from the ones that have done especially well before) that relates clearly to what your blog is about.

That’s not too hard, right? If the blog has no topics that have performed well before and would be connected to your blog topic, you might want to write for another site where the topics align better.

Mistake #3: Your Call to Action Sucks

People procrastinate. They avoid taking action whenever they can. As a guest blogger, if you can’t help them overcome that natural inertia, you won’t get results.

Most bloggers just include a link to their blog at the bottom of their post and hope for the best.

But more often than not, people won’t bother clicking the link because they simply don’t see a strong reason to do so.

That’s why your guest post should always include a call to action where you specifically tell the reader what the next step is and ask them to take that step. A call to action is usually a link in your byline (the short blurb about the author at the end of the post), its sole purpose being to get people to visit your site and subscribe to your blog.

If people don’t click your link, either your call to action sucks, or worse still, you don’t have one at all.

Can you spot the call to action in this typical byline?

Jack Jackson is a writer who writes about writing at jackjacksonwriter.com. His ebook can help you learn to write better.
Even if the post preceding that byline is great, few people will take action and get the ebook – because it failed to include a call to action.

You need to specifically tell people to do something. And you need to tell them why they want to do it.

So, if you model the pros, your byline could be something like this:

“Jack Jackson is a novelist who trains aspiring authors to finish their books, get them published, and make it to the best-seller lists. You can download his free ebook to learn the five most common reasons publishers turn down book offers, so your book finds its way into people’s bookshelves.”
Note the clear command to take action (“download his free ebook”).

Note also how explaining the benefit people get from the ebook makes the action more compelling. Similarly, the first sentence doesn’t just introduce the author; it also points out how he helps people achieve the results they’re after.

Mistake #4: Your Landing Page Sucks

Getting more traffic to your site is practically worthless if those visitors just leave. You need people to subscribe to your updates because if they don’t, they’re most likely never coming back.

So the cardinal sin of guest blogging is to only link to your home page from your guest post. Even if your home page is good, your conversion rates will be terrible.

The typical home page has too many distractions; it’s not entirely focused on the one thing you care about – making visitors subscribe to your list. And every distraction makes more people leave without subscribing.

Of course, you’ll never get 100% of the people who click your call to action to subscribe. But you can get at least 50% of them. And your “landing page” must make that happen.

It’s called a landing page because it’s the page new visitors “land” on. In other words, it’s the first page on your blog that people see (though often the term is used to describe any page that has a specific goal).

The landing page you link to from your guest post should be focused on compelling people to subscribe to your list.

Let’s look at an example to see why your landing page is so important.

Say you write one guest post and get 300 people to click the link to your site. If your landing page’s conversion rate is only 15%, you get 45 subscribers. If the conversion rate was 65%, you would’ve gotten 195 subscribers (which is 150 more).

And that’s just one guest post.

After 10 guest posts, you would’ve effectively lost 1,500 subscribers. Sure, you’d still end up with 450 subscribers, which is nice, but you could’ve gotten almost 2,000 with a better landing page.

So, what should be on your landing page?

Simply put, it should have three essential components:

  1. A headline, which highlights the greatest benefit of joining your list
  2. A list of further reasons why people should sign up to the list
  3. A clear call to action with a prompt to enter and submit an email address

Getting just those three basics right will do wonders for your conversion rate.

In practice, plenty of other variables could affect how many people subscribe, and landing page optimization is truly a huge topic on its own. So check out the following resources for more detailed information:

The most important takeaway is this:

Don’t expect your home page to convert visitors into subscribers.

Have a separate landing page that’s focused entirely on giving people good reasons to join your list.

And when you look at the landing pages the pros use, they’re rarely overly fancy. Rather, they focus on getting the basics right. So, don’t stress about brilliant graphics and cool functionality.

Editor’s Note:

A WordPress landing page plugin makes the process of creating a separate landing page a snap.

Mistake #5: Your Freebie Sucks

Few people will subscribe to your blog if you don’t give them something concrete in return.

So, don’t just ask people to “sign up for blog updates.”

Instead, create a focused freebie people can only get by subscribing. When you offer a freebie (a.k.a. giveaway, bribe, opt-in incentive, etc.), significantly more people subscribe.

The freebie gives people a clear reason to act immediately – getting the results that the freebie enables.

For example, if your site is about playing badminton better, you could give a short ebook titled, “5 Ways to Beat Your Opponent Faster” to everyone who subscribes.

But even if your freebie is extremely valuable, it might still suck. Because people won’t be tempted unless it’s a perfect fit with your guest post’s topic.

For example, just because your guest post is about marketing doesn’t mean people will automatically be interested in a freebie that’s also about marketing. The connection has to be stronger than that.

However, your freebie doesn’t have to be on exactly the same topic as your post. For example, if you write about the health benefits of raw food, your freebie doesn’t have to be directly related to raw food – e.g., a raw food recipe ebook (although it can be). Instead, it could be about other healthy habits or what you need to know about nutrition if you do switch to raw food.

The key question is, “Can you make getting your freebie the natural, compelling next step after reading the post?”

You can do it in a number of ways, but more often than not, you should use the simplest of them – explain why your freebie is a solution to the question or a desire readers are left with when they finish reading your post.

For example, if you write a post about the benefits of meditation, the readers are likely to be interested in a freebie that helps them try meditation.

But if you’re smart, you can make them want something else instead.

For example, you could point out that meditation is just one way to achieve the benefits you listed in the post. And your freebie could teach them other ways to get those benefits.

Or let’s say you wrote about using Facebook advertising to promote a business or an affiliate product. Your freebie could then be a more detailed look into Facebook ads, or it could explain how to use other online advertising methods in combination with Facebook ads.

Sometimes you might want to write about a topic your freebie doesn’t have a clear connection to (maybe because you created your freebie for an earlier guest post). Even without an obvious connection, you can still sometimes create that connection.

For example, maybe you write a guest post about losing weight and your freebie is about procrastination. You can end your post by pointing out that your advice won’t help the reader unless they actually act on it, and by pointing out how procrastination is really the number one reason for weight issues. Your freebie then becomes the natural next step for anyone who has struggled with procrastination over weight loss because without solving that problem, they won’t benefit from what they learned from the post.

If you want to use guest blogging to build a big list of subscribers quickly, you must learn to connect your freebie(s) to the topics you write about.

When you learn to connect the post’s topic to your freebie, you’ll get significantly better results. And you won’t need lots of different freebies; you can just connect the post topic to the freebies you have.

The Huge Rewards of Guest Blogging – If You Do It Right

For the few smart people who take time to learn how to effectively use guest blogging to get traffic and build a significant subscriber list, the rewards are huge.

You’ll get an immediate spike in traffic and subscribers, and in many cases you’ll still see a steady trickle of subscribers months after the post went live.

You’ll also boost your expert status because of your association with industry-leading sites. This extra authority and credibility could lead to interview requests, more guest blogging invitations (from even bigger blogs), and extra sales of your products and services.

Your profile and reputation as a writer will rise and (if you claim your guest content using Google Authorship) you’ll gain authority in Google’s eyes too.

And perhaps most importantly, the relationships you build with the people who run the big blogs you write for can lead to more opportunities and they may even help you promote the content on your own blog.

But the most immediate result is seeing people subscribe to your blog. And when you do things right, you can get more than 100 subscribers with each post you write.

And each new subscriber brings more regular traffic to your blog.

Are You Ready to Go Pro?

The guest blogging landscape has changed, but if you have the right goals and avoid making any dumb mistakes, guest blogging is still an awesome way to grow your blog quickly.

While the amateurs are getting discouraged (and the spammers are getting punished), the way is clear for those who have been initiated into the circle of guest blogging pros.

The rewards are hundreds of new subscribers, more long-term traffic for your blog and valuable relationships with the power players in your niche.

So why not get started by picking a blog from my list of the 140+ best guest blogging sites and pitch them a post today?

After all, that’s what a pro would do.

About the Author: Right now Peter Sandeen is dodging icebergs while sailing with his wife and dogs on the Finnish coast. But you can download his short ebook “7 Key Steps to Guest Blogging Success” that shows you how to get 100+ subscribers from every guest post you write.