When you provide relevant, meaningful content, you quickly become a resource for prospects and customers alike. However, producing content is a time-consuming process. For many companies whose resources are already stretched to the limit, producing enough content can become a real challenge.
That’s where a guest blogging program comes in handy.
No, a guest blogging program shouldn’t replace your own internal content production engine. At the same time, it can be a wonderful way of supplementing an already strong content marketing program.
“OK,” I hear you say. “It’s all fine and good to say that – if you’re a company like Salesforce or Maximize Social Business, with big name pull and a robust blogging program. But how can I attract relevant talent when I’m just a mid-sized business?”
I’m here to tell you that it’s very doable. Here’s how I know.
I run marketing for Glance Networks. We are a strong company in our space (cobrowsing and visual engagement), but we are far from Salesforce-sized.
Less than a year ago, we didn’t have a guest blogging program. Now we have a steady stream of folks writing for our blog. In fact, we even have people writing to us specifically asking if they can contribute to our blog.
If we can do it, so can you.
The Benefits of a Guest Blogging Program
The first step in starting a guest blogging program is to understand why it’s important.
As mentioned above, having more content providers eases the burden on your marketing department. However, the benefits go way beyond content volume.
First of all, when you have a guest who posts on your blog, she brings her audience with her. Take, for example, the piece I posted on Likeable Local on “5 Fabulous Ways to Make Your Business More Likeable.”
After that piece went live, I posted it on my social channels numerous times (and I still repost it every now and then). Many of my followers reposted the piece. When they reposted the piece, I made sure to give Likeable Local credit and to send my followers back to their blog. That means that the Likeable Local blog got a stream of visitors who might otherwise never have seen their blog.
Equally important to me as a guest blogger are the benefits I receive. In having my name on a piece on Likeable Local’s site, I, too, got an infusion of new followers and interest. So the relationship is symbiotic.
The more beneficial a guest blogging program is for both parties, the more likely it is that both parties will want to continue the relationship. You will want to keep that writer in your circle of guest posters – and they will want to continue to be a guest poster for you.
Additionally, when guest posters may link to your blog from their social channels and/or their own websites (for example, I linked to the Likeable Local piece in the Resources section of Glance’s website). This strengthens your SEO while at the same time, making the blogger’s own reputation stronger. Again, good for both parties.
Before you begin putting together your guest list, you should understand what you need to do in order to create a sane guest blogging program. This step involves developing some guidelines for your program (to be used internally) and for your guests (to be used externally).
Internal program guidelines can include answers to questions like the ones below.
What categories of guest posters do we want to invite and why? For example:
- Are you looking to strengthen relationships with your partners?
- Do you want to have more customer stories?
- Are you looking to bring in influencers in your space?
- Are you trying to answer questions about your products and services?
- Are you trying to show your company is a thought leader?
Answers to these types of questions will guide who you should invite to participate in your program.
Is your program paid or unpaid? For example:
- Are you OK paying guest bloggers?
- If so, how much would you pay them per post?
- Would you be willing to pay more for a bigger influencer (for example, an analyst or big-name blogger)?
- If you are not willing to pay, how will that affect your content contributor pool?
- What kind of content are you looking for?
- Do you want posts to focus on your company? For example, do you want mostly customer or partner case studies?
- Do you want a more general industry focus? For example, do you want something that focuses on “customer service” but not necessarily your products and services?
- Are you looking for deep-dive technical pieces?
- Are you looking for high-level concept pieces?
- Are you looking for humor?
- How often do you want to include guest postings?
- One guest piece each week?
- One each month?
- What do you want your rate of employee postings to guest postings to be?
- How often do you want guest contributors to contribute?
- Do you want to focus on twelve contributors, each of whom contributes once a year?
- Do you want to focus on 24 contributors, twelve of whom contribute once a year and three of whom contribute four times a year?
- Do you want to have some people contribute a monthly column?
Once you more thoroughly understand your internal program guidelines, it’s time to develop your guest guidelines.
Here are some items to consider when creating your guest guidelines:
Graphics. Do you want guests to provide graphics for their posts? If so, what format should the graphics be in? Also, should they be screen shots, photos, drawings, etc.? Do you want to request headshots of guests?
Links. Do you want to allow guests to include links back to their own site within the body of the text or only within the bio section? What other kinds of outside links are legitimate? For example, is a link to Wikipedia OK? How about a link to a competitor site? Or linking to another business as an example of something negative?
Length. How long do you want posts to be? Are you looking for deep dives? High level thought pieces?
Writing. What are some basics of blog writing that you’d like to see included? For example, are you going to ask for headlines of a certain length, sections of a certain length, bulleted text, short sentences, no fancy vocabulary, humorous/serious tone, etc.? Remember, your guest bloggers may not be professional bloggers and therefore may not know these things ahead of time.
- Are there any particular subjects you’d like your guests to focus on or avoid?
- Do you want to allow your guests to include references to statistics or research that were not specifically performed by you or them?
Try to cover as much as you can in these two sets of guidelines. At the same time, remember that they are not set in stone.
Firstly, you may have to be somewhat flexible depending on who the guest is. Secondly, you may decide to adjust the guidelines as you go along. Sometimes, what seemed good before starting the program doesn’t work in reality. And sometimes, you will find that new items arise that you hadn’t considered and they are worth adding to your guidelines.
Who to Invite
Once you’ve put together your guidelines, it’s time to start inviting guests.
Here’s where it can feel daunting, especially if you don’t have big name pull. Don’t become overwhelmed! You can be assured that you know more potential contributors than you might have originally imagined.
Start by making a list of groups of people who might be good guest contributors. For example:
- Other employees within your company
Then break your list out into three parts:
Low-hanging fruit. These are the folks that you know would be happy to be a part of your guest blogging program. For example, do you have a partner with whom you are particularly friendly? That person or company would likely be excited about writing for you. Do you have a customer who has already given you a positive online review and had some great interactions with your customer service department? That person would likely be thrilled to share his story on your blog.
Likely but not definite. Once you have a list of easier targets, start thinking about mid-level targets. These are people with whom you will have to do some work before they will write for you. For instance, maybe you have a customer with a great story, but you know they would have to get approval through their legal department before they could write it up for you. Or maybe you are friendly with some mid-level influencers in your space but you’re not sure if they will have the time or inclination to write a blog post for you.
Stretch prospects. Finally, it’s time to add the people about whom you are completely uncertain. For example, maybe there is a powerful influencer who you would be thrilled to have contribute to your blog, but you have never approached her before. This person would take a long time to nurture, because the first step would be to develop a relationship with her and that in itself can take quite a while. Even then, there is no guarantee that she will want to contribute to your blog, even if you offer to pay for the contribution. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort! But it does mean that this person isn’t someone you can count on to definitely become a guest poster.
How to Invite Guest Bloggers
Now it’s time to begin inviting your guests!
How you word your invitations should depend on the relationship you have with your bloggers. For example, you might send an email to a partner with whom you have a close relationship. In that email, you would explain that you are starting a guest blogging program and of course that partner was one of your top choices to kick things off! Explain the benefits of guest blogging for both parties and then ask your partner if he or she is interested in contributing.
It’s fine to keep it somewhat casual since you already have a close relationship. However, do keep in mind that at least when you are beginning your program, you are asking each potential writer for a big favor.
If you are inviting someone you don’t know quite as well (for example, an influencer with whom you’ve spoken via Twitter but no where else), your approach might be different. For instance, you might send him a Direct Message via Twitter asking him if he would do you the honor of being a guest contributor to your blog.
If your guest blogging program has already started, you might reference some of the posts that have already been included and let him know how much it would mean to you to have him, a person you admire and appreciate, post on your blog. Don’t be insincere, but again, it never hurts to be as polite as possible!
Keep the Ball Rolling
The more people who agree to guest post on your blog, the easier it will become for you to convince others to become guest bloggers. Who knows, you might even find that people begin knocking at your door unexpectedly in the hopes of contributing on your blog. That’s when you know you are doing it right.
Be sure that you include guest contributors in your blog schedule. Keep your guests informed as to when their posts will go live. Moreover, be sure you are following them on their social channels and reference them when you post about their guest pieces on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, or anywhere else!
In addition, you can use their posts in guest blog post round-up articles and/or write up a blog post that references all of your guest bloggers’ blogs. That will give you yet another chance to publicize your guests – and for them to publicize you.
Finally, don’t be afraid to ask them if they’d be interested in writing another piece. Who knows – the answer just might be a resounding yes!
Do you have any other suggestions for creating a strong guest blogging program? I’d love to hear about your own successes and what you learn over time as you develop you own amazing guest blogging program.