31 Dec How This Niche Marketing Company Used Guest Blogging to Generate a 6-Figure Deal
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.”
But this is misleading.
In reality, he aimed this at marketers who generate large amounts of backlinks from low-quality, “spammy” sites.
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 to:
- Generate a six-figure deal with an enterprise technology company, and
- Hit the #1 spot for a competitive keyword on Google
A Content Strategy to Fight Obscurity
Seraph Science help enterprise companies like NetSuite and SAS generate 6- to 7-figure sales pipeline with using a C-Suite marketing methodology.
There was only one problem:
Nobody is looking for “c-suite marketing.”
It’s a methodology that solves a common problem in enterprise-level organizations. While “account-based marketing” is close, the challenge is hard to articulate.
So we developed an inbound marketing system, which included a PR/guest blogging strategy.
I’ve written about the inbound marketing strategy we used in the past. Here’s a summary of the process:
- Identify broad B2B marketing topics around challenges that marketing managers, directors, and CMOs were trying to overcome
- Conduct customer development, market research, and content competition analysis
- Create long-form content around “sidestep topics” and distribute to communities and relevant channels
And it worked wonders. In fact, we generated over 1,000 visits to the first blog post within a week
With valuable and high-performing content in place, the next step was to expand Seraph’s message into other audiences.
In other words: get Seraph’s value proposition directly in front of their buyer personas.
We used guest blogging as a two-pronged approach:
Distribute content for referral traffic and SEO and get Seraph Science’s offering in front of senior decision makers.
Here’s how we did it:
Step 1: Why Customer Development Is So Important
Before doing anything, we talked to people who were just like those we wanted to attract.
We started by talking to the marketing managers and directors who worked directly with Seraph Science’s team. We asked them broad questions like:
- What are your biggest lead generation 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 for your marketing news and information?
Stick with three to five broad questions when conducting client interviews. Focus on the areas that matter and dig deep into their responses. These responses will provide you with the insight that matters most.
The last question is a bonus. Your buyer personas will tell you the sources, channels, and publications they go to for their information. You can better plan your content distribution, influencer engagement, and guest blogging efforts.
Using this approach, we uncovered the specific B2B marketing challenges Seraph’s clients were working to solve. They also gave us insight into why they decided to work with them in the first place.
Market research is the next step. We used the following approach when developing topics:
- BuzzSumo: Enter relevant keywords and see what the most popular content is
- Google: Same again. See what ranks highest to measure content competition.
- Top business publications: What topics were industry-leading publications (e.g., Forbes) covering?
From here, we knew which topics to allocate to owned content and which publications to target.
Step 2: Targeting The Right Publications For Explosive Growth
Customer interviews provided a tremendous amount of insight.
By talking to existing clients, we discovered where they went to get new marketing information.
Sadly, a big part of that was “their peers.”
So we needed to find out who those peers are and where to find them.
The first step is to identify relevant and active communities. By getting involved in online forums and groups, you begin to see patterns, uncover popular topics and learn the lingo used by your buyer personas.
LinkedIn Groups were a massive source of insight at the time. Some were even full of Seraph’s target audience (senior B2B marketers in the UK).
For example, “B2B Marketing” is a digital and online publication based in the UK. They have an engaged community of B2B marketers they bring together at events and on their LinkedIn Group.
The example above has generated a reasonable amount of engagement. Pay attention to the topic and the source of the content.
Searching through BuzzSumo can also point the way. Publications with large audiences generate a lot of social shares.
For example, here’s what we get for “content promotion:”
The results above provide us with several options, including Marketo, Content Marketing Institute and Optin Monster.
Finally, run the following search queries (and other variations) 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”
If you know which of your competitors are guest posting, there’s a sneaky trick you can use to see where else they’re writing.
First, find an article they’ve written and head to the bio section:
In a new tab, open up https://images.google.com. Drag their headshot image from the guest post into Google Images to perform a “reverse image search:”
Then voila! 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/topic into the search. Here’s a peek at the list we get for content marketing:
Add this to your spreadsheet of target publications.
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 editors at your target blogs and 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 Siege Media.
Step 3: Create an Amazing Guest Post That Drives Attention
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 “shopping” content 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:
- Ask them if they’re still accepting guest posts
- Set the intention by telling them you have a few ideas that would be an excellent fit for their audience
- Demonstrate you know who their audience is by “title-dropping,” e.g., “your audience of SaaS marketers.”
- Include links to content you’ve created to show them your writing style
- Wrap-up with a “soft” call-to-action
Including links to guest posts you’ve already written is most effective. If you haven’t got any, your owned content will be perfectly fine. Just be sure to lead with your best foot forward.
When you receive a response, you need to pitch your topics. Include two or three working headlines as well as a brief description.
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 audience
- What the publication wants: Check out their latest and most shared articles. What’s the format of the content? Are they tactical or strategic?
- What the market wants: Look at industry and “major” business publications to see which topics, trends, and challenges 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 guest post where necessary.
By using third-party data, you build a stronger argument and borrow credibility from other sources.
Finally, you must, must, must make your content useful. Value-driven, how-to content is what most editors/content marketers are looking for on their blogs. Give it to them by providing actionable steps, examples, and imagery that demonstrates what you’re teaching.
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.
Step 4: Effective Content Amplification to Generate More Leads
Distribution is the final step in this strategy.
Luckily, most of the work is already done. If you’ve done your targeting right, your content is already getting out to a huge audience – the one these blogs have built themselves.
However, this is the perfect opportunity to help it go that extra mile. By distributing the content yourself, you’re establishing thought leadership with other target audiences.
Communities can be one of the best channels for this goal.
LinkedIn Groups, Subreddits, Facebook Groups and even Google Communities have engaged audiences full of your buyer personas.
Facebook Groups currently have the highest potential. There are many communities around specific business and marketing topics with very active users.
To find them, head over to Facebook and search for your industry/relevant keyword in the search bar. Hit the “Groups” tab to see all relevant groups.
You want to find groups with 1,000> members and lots of active discussions. If the last post was from a month or even a week ago, then it’s probably not worth your time.
With over 5,000 members and 10+ posts a day, this looks like a good contender:
Once you’ve found two to three relevant groups, you need to get involved with the discussion. Doing this for a week or two before distribution is critical, so plan your guest blogging around your engagement activity.
By getting involved in the discussion, you become a recognized name in the community. If you join and share content straight away, you’re more likely to be ignored, or worse: banned from the group.
When sharing content, don’t merely post a link. Instead, find a way to share real value with the group. You can do this by summarizing the points made in the guest post and provide some exclusive takeaways.
In the post above, Logan Honeycutt has posted a “mini-article” for the sake of adding value to the group. Do this when distributing your content via communities, especially on social media.
The second most useful distribution technique is outreach. Find other people (who fit your buyer personas) who have shared similar content and reach out to them about your guest post.
To do this, search for your target keyword on BuzzSumo and click “view sharers:”
You’ll be a 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 download a CSV of each Twitter user, along with their profile and engagement data.
Filter out any company profiles, users with few followers and those who haven’t got a website associated. Then, use a tool like Hunter.io to find their email addresses.
For more information on how to do this, check out this guide.
Those who 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 content further down the funnel.
Finally, guest posts provide your salespeople with useful sales enablement content. 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 this strategy.
The question is: what came of it?
Here’s a breakdown of what we achieved:
- A six-figure deal from one guest post alone (see below)
- A boost in rankings for a competitive search term
- Established strategic relationships
- Contribution to a content strategy that generated 42 leads a month
Let’s talk about the six-figure deal.
These results aren’t typical. For a start, Seraph offers a high-ticket offering to enterprise organizations, which is why we generated such results.
But the principle is replicable:
Put your message in front of a broader audience.
Create content that speaks directly to your buyer personas while providing how-to knowledge around your value proposition. That’s how you can tap into a wide audience using guest blogging.
Furthermore, the SEO benefits speak for themselves. At the time these results were generated, I was personally taking care of Seraph’s entire content strategy.
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 1,000%+ increase in search traffic, ranking for a competitive target keyword.
And that’s why guest blogging is still powerful.