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Most marketers think guest blogging is a waste of time.
This quote from Matt Cutts, former head of webspam at Google:
“Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.”
In reality, this warning is aimed at marketers who try and game the system by spinning out poor quality content to generate large quantities of backlinks.
When it comes to SEO, quality trumps quantity every single time. Which is why guest blogging still works.
In this guest blogging case study, I’ll show you a strategy we used to help marketing solutions provider Seraph Science:
- Generate a six-figure deal with an enterprise technology company, and
- Hit the #1 spot for several competitive keywords on Google
A content strategy to fight obscurity
Seraph Science helps enterprise companies like NetSuite, Verizon and SAS generate six- to seven-figure sales deals using a c-suite marketing methodology. Their process consistently books sales appointments with senior decision makers at target accounts.
Building awareness using a traditional bottom-of-funnel inbound marketing play was tricky. Nobody actively searches for the term “c-suite marketing:”
Even though their methodology consistently solves a huge sales and marketing problem, it was too niche to generate targeted traffic.
To combat this, we developed a content marketing strategy that targeted relevant B2B topics and keywords. We then built out a digital PR and guest blogging strategy to get their message in front of a wider audience.
Here’s a summary of the process:
- Identify relevant B2B marketing topics on challenges that marketing managers, directors, and CMOs are trying to overcome
- Conduct customer development, market research, and competitive analysis to find gaps we could fill in the content landscape
- Create long-form content around relevant topics, distribute to communities and other channels while ranking for target keywords
This process allowed us to rank for terms like “b2b marketing strategy,” and attract thousands of visitors to a single blog post using targeted distribution:
With valuable and high-performing content in place, the next step was to get their value proposition directly in front of their audience.
Guest blogging was the digital PR tool of choice to get the job done. It allowed us to distribute our owned content, build backlinks and SEO and get Seraph Science’s offering in front of senior decision-makers on the publications they read.
Here’s how we did it:
Step 1: Uncovering insights with customer development
A key part of our strategic development involved speaking to Seraph Science’s existing clients. This not only helps us direct topic ideation for content, but also uncovers where they go to find new information – including blogs and publications.
We booked calls with their clients and started with broad questions, such as:
- What are your biggest marketing challenges?
- What does your current lead generation process look like?
- How do you get the attention of senior decision-makers? What’s your process?
- Where do you go to learn the latest marketing trends?
Stick with three to five broad questions when conducting client interviews. Focus on the areas that matter and dig deeper into their responses. By asking follow-up questions, you can find the true motivations to their answers.
The last question is worth its weight in gold for distribution. Your customers will tell you the sources, channels and publications they go to for their information. With these insights, you can create a content distribution, influencer marketing and digital PR strategy.
Using this approach, we uncovered specific B2B marketing challenges that Seraph Science’s clients were facing. These conversations also gave us insight into why they decided to work with them in the first place.
Data-driven research is the next step. We used the following tactics to figure out which topics we should focus on when pitching to publications:
- BuzzSumo: Finding the most shared content for a specific keyword
- Google: Identify the highest ranking content and evaluate the competition
- Top business publications: To see which topics industry-leading publications like Forbes were covering
This helped us figure out which topics and themes to focus on when collaborating with editors.
Step 2: Targeting the right publications
Those early interviews provided a tremendous amount of insight. By talking to existing clients, we discovered where they went to get new marketing information.
A common source of new information is from their peers – other marketing leaders at enterprise companies. We needed to find out who those peers are and where to find them.
The first step was to identify relevant and active communities. By getting involved in online forums and groups, you can identify patterns, uncover popular topics and learn the language of your audience.
LinkedIn Groups were a massive source of insight at the time. Some were even full of Seraph Science’s target audience (senior B2B marketers based in the UK).
For example, B2B Marketing is a digital and online publication based in the UK:
BuzzSumo can also uncover target publications. Brands that create highly shared content likely have access to a large audience. For example, here’s what we get for topics around “content promotion:”
The results above provide us with several options, including Marketo, Content Marketing Institute and Optin Monster.
Finally, search the following queries into Google:
- industry + “write for us”
- industry + “guest post”
- industry + “submit blog post”
- industry + “submit content”
- industry + “guest column”
- industry + “contribute to our blog”
- industry + “become a contributor”
- industry + “guest author”
It’s likely your competitors are also writing for other publications. Here’s a trick to find out which:
First, find an article they’ve written and head to the bio section:
In a new tab, head to https://images.google.com. Drag and drop the headshot image from the guest post into Google Images to perform a “reverse image search:”
Here are the results:
If you’re looking for a ready-made directory of blogs, AllTop.com is another resource to find popular publications by industry.
Just head over to their homepage and enter your industry or topic into the search bar. Here’s an example for websites relevant to “content marketing:”
Finding editors (or the individual in charge of submissions)
To build solid relationships, you’ve got to reach out to the right person in the right way. Here are a few ways to find the editors in charge of accepting submissions at your target publications:
- LinkedIn: Simply search for the company/publication name + “editor” or “content”
- Staff page: Many publications have a page that lists the editors for each category
- Look at post authors: If you’re targeting a company blog, it’s likely the person controlling it also writes there
Here’s a useful article on finding anyone’s email address from Hunter.io.
Step 3: Create the best piece of content they’ve ever seen
Now you have a list of target publications to reach out to. The next obvious step is to create content for them, right?
The problem with creating content and “shopping” it to publications is that there’s no guarantee they’ll want it. You may have done your homework, but for whatever reason, the topic “just doesn’t fit right.”
That’s why you must take a collaborative approach. By reaching out to them first, you save a tremendous amount of time. You also demonstrate that you’re putting the editor’s needs first.
Here’s what you should include in your outreach emails to editors:
- Gauge to see if they’re accepting guest posts (even if they have submission guidelines)
- Tell them you have a few ideas that would be an excellent fit for their audience
- Demonstrate you know who their audience is by calling them out e.g. “SaaS marketers”
- Include links to content you’ve created to demonstrate the level of quality you can deliver
- Wrap-up with a “soft” call-to-action
Including links to guest posts you’ve already written is most effective, but owned content will do if you’re just getting started. Just be sure to lead with your best foot forward and share your strongest work.
Pitch your topics once you’ve generated a response. Include two or three working headlines, as well as a brief description of what the content will include.
The topics you pitch should fit in the sweet spot of these three areas:
- Your value proposition: The closer it is to what you offer, the more likely you are to attract your ideal customer
- What the publication wants: Check out their latest and most shared articles. What’s the format of the content? Is it tactical or strategic?
- What the market wants: Conduct analysis to see which topics, trends, and themes are getting the most attention
Your guest posts should include third-party stats and data to back your points up. Include these early on – preferably in the introduction – and pepper them throughout the article where necessary. This will help build a stronger argument and credibility.
Finally, your content must be high-quality and value-driven. Editors are hungry for content that educates, tells a story or builds thought leadership. Give it to them by providing actionable advice and examples that illustrate your points.
Guest blogging also provides an opportunity to distribute your own content. Include a contextual backlink for content you’re looking to amplify and rank on Google to get the most out of your digital PR efforts.
Step 4: Amplify your guest posts and fuel your digital PR flywheel
Distribution is the final step in this strategy. Luckily, most of the work is already done. If you’ve conducted proper research, your message is already getting out to a huge audience.
However, this is the perfect opportunity to help it go that extra mile. By distributing the content yourself, you can establish trust with your audience on other channels. This includes LinkedIn Groups, Subreddits, Facebook Groups and social media.
When sharing content, don’t simply post a link without additional context. Instead, find a way to share real value with the communities you’re engaging with. You can do this by summarizing what they’ll learn in your guest post and including some takeaways.
In the post above, Logan Honeycutt has posted a “mini-article” with the goal of adding value directly to the group. You can do this by repurposing content for these communities and for social media.
The second most useful distribution technique is outreach. Find others who have shared similar content, and reach out to them to share your guest post.
To do this, search for your target keyword on BuzzSumo and click “view sharers:”
You’ll be given a list of Twitter users who have shared the competing piece of content. On this page, click the export button in the top right-hand corner:
You’ll get a CSV containing data on each Twitter user, along with engagement data.
Filter out any company profiles, users with low engagement and any that don’t have a website included in their bio. Then, use a tool like Hunter to find their email addresses.
Those who organically share your guest post also provide an outreach opportunity. A week after publication, run your guest post through BuzzSumo and go through the process above.
You now have a list of people who have expressed interest in the content you’ve created. These contacts are the perfect outreach targets for your owned content promotion.
Finally, guest posts provide your salespeople with useful content for sales conversations. They can pass this content on to their prospects, educating them on relevant challenges – all while building authority with your brand.
What are the results?
A lot of work went into executing this strategy. The question is: what came of it?
Here’s a breakdown of what we achieved:
- A six-figure deal from a single guest post
- Attributed increase in rankings and organic traffic for a competitive search term
- New strategic relationships for future efforts
- A content strategy that generates 42 leads a month on average
Six-figure deals are rare, but it was great validation for this strategy. It showed that we were writing for the right publications and getting Seraph Science’s message in front of the right audience.
Create content that speaks directly to your buyer personas. Provide practical advice and share news ideas relevant to your value proposition. That’s how you can tap into a wide audience using guest blogging.
Furthermore, the SEO benefits speak for themselves. Thanks to strategic guest blogging, we connected with B2B influencers who extended the reach of our content further. Not only that, but it directly contributed to a sharp increase in search traffic, ranking for a competitive target keyword.
Despite what the skeptics say, guest blogging works.