Guest posting is arguably the best way of gaining exposure, and potentially backlinks, that has stood the test of time.
But you may have noticed that you’re not getting quite the positive response to your pitches that you’d like.
Is this because guest posting is saturated?
Yes and no. Yes, guest posting is more popular than ever, so blog owners get hundreds of pitches every month.
However, guest posting is still very effective, because most people suck at pitching guest posts.
Only a fraction of those hundreds of pitches are accepted, because they are bad.
If you’re not getting a good response rate, you’re likely doing one or more things wrong.
Luckily, most issues are easy to fix.
I’ve put together 11 ways to fix common mistakes that I see in guest post pitches.
Spend 80% of Your Time on The Headline
When I’ve been the editor of blogs, I don’t care who you are when you pitch a guest post (unless you’re super well known).
All I want to know is do you have a great topic idea that my blog audience will love, and can you execute on the idea.
That’s why your idea (and headline) are the most important parts of your pitch.
If you’ve ever sent a guest post pitch and you’ve said something like “I’ll come up with a better headline later,” don’t do that.
Don’t be lazy, because this presenting your idea in the best light is the difference between getting accepted or not.
Pitch A Unique Idea or Angle
Hopefully you have a good idea for a potential guest post.
But is it original?
It’s easy to find good guest post topics, you just look at any trending topic in a niche.
But no blog wants to publish the exact same content as a competitor. That’s why you need to find a unique and interesting angle.
For example, take this guest post for Fitness Magazine headline:
My 67-Mile Bike Race: FITNESS Advisor Dr. Jennifer Ashton Recaps Her Epic Ride
The author didn’t just write about what to expect on a long cycling race, but she put a personal spin on it that no one else can copy. That adds extra value to the post, which makes the guest post even more valuable.
How do you find your unique angle? Here are some common ways:
- Be a contrarian – Can you come up with an argument against the popular opinion?
- Be personal – Do you have personal experience with the topic you can share.
- Use a different format – Can you take a research or data-backed approach? Could you create a podcast or infographic instead?
- Could you interview experts? Very few writers are willing to go the extra mile to find and interview experts to add extra value.
- Can you create a case study?
The Basics: Follow Guidelines
Many sites have a “write for us” or “guestpost guidelines” page.
Read this at least twice before submitting a pitch.
It will often tell you topics they’re interested in, and how to pitch ideas.
For example, the guidelines may ask you to submit your pitch as a Google Doc:
If you submit it as a Word file, you may automatically kill your chances of being accepted.
Editors create these guidelines to make their lives easier. It’s not much effort to comply with them.
Only Pitch Relevant Ideas
There’s nothing that will get your pitch thrown out faster than pitching an idea that doesn’t belong on a particular site.
This includes, topic, tone, and style.
Although it takes extra time, always read the about page of a site you’re interesting in posting on.
It will tell you their goals and what kind of content they produce.
Here’s a short blurb from Examine.com.
It’s clear they write about science-backed health topics that are very in-depth.
Next, read 5-10 posts to get an even better picture.
Look at all the references in that small sample, and the style used.
Now ever though “holistic healing” might be a topic for a “health” blog, it should be clear how inappropriate it would be to pitch it to this site.
Don’t just make a big list of guest posting targets in your niche and send them the same ideas. Generate custom ideas for each one.
Give More Than One Idea (Optional)
One really good post idea is generally most time-efficient, but if you want to maximize your chances of guest posting, you can send 3-5 post ideas.
It’s still good to pitch your best, but you can follow that up by adding a statement like:
If you don’t feel like that’s a great fit right now, I had a few other ideas as well:
- Idea #1
- Idea #2
- Idea #3
Personalize Your Pitch
Any marketing tactic that gets popular attracts spam.
Many guest posting pitches are clearly templates taken from some guide. If you’re using a template, stop.
Most editors click the trash button as soon as they realize it’s a template.
Whenever possible, track down the name of the blogger or managing editor.
This isn’t always easy. For example, on Persuasion Nation, Mary Fernandez’s name can’t be found on most pages, even the “write for us page”, but is included as the author on most posts.
It took me a few extra minutes to find, but now I could start my pitch with “Hi Mary,” demonstrating that I’m not using a template and have looked around on her website.
If you really can’t find a name, that’s okay, just start your pitches with a simple “Hi.”
Don’t start with “Dear sir/madam,” it just sounds spammy.
Describe Your Idea(s) With a Paragraph (If Applicable)
In many cases, it’s obvious what the post will look like just from the title.
For example, “11 Tricks to Teach Your Cat” is going to have 11 main points.
But some post ideas aren’t as clear.
If you feel like your pitch idea isn’t clear, include a short paragraph of 2-3 sentences that describe why the idea is interesting, and how you will approach it.
You can include a few bullet points that state the main takeaways from your post.
Don’t Follow-Up Like a Crazy Person
Following up can be a good idea.
Editors for large blogs get several emails a day (or more) and it’s possible for your initial pitch to slip through the cracks.
But you don’t want to email them everyday asking if they’ll accept your guest post.
Instead, wait at least a week, and then follow up if you haven’t heard back. If you still don’t hear back, they’re either not interested, or so disorganized that it will be a pain to ever get a post published.
Save your time and move on.
Get an Introduction
A big way to improve your chances of having a pitch accepted is to get an introduction to a blog editor from a friend of theirs.
An introduction basically means that they’re vouching for you, your knowledge, and quality of work.
This does depend on having a network, so it may not be an option.
If you do know some people in your industry reasonably well, you can ask them for introductions to people they know. LinkedIn is a great tool for this, as you can see which blog owners your friends are connected to.
HubSpot has a great guide to asking for email introductions effectively.
Include Samples of Your Other Guest Posts
At the start of this post, I mentioned that only 2 things are crucial in a guest post pitch: the idea, and the execution.
If the editor thinks you’ll be hard to work with, or won’t deliver on time, or can’t create high quality content, they’ll reject your pitch.
If you want to eliminate any doubt from the start, include links to other guest posts you’ve published. The more relevant to your topic, the better.
Proofread Your Pitch
This shouldn’t need to be said, but many guest post pitches I’ve seen are rife with basic spelling and grammar mistakes.
If you won’t take the time to proofread a short pitch email, no editor is going to trust that you can write a post that they won’t have to spend time editing.
Those are 11 keys to maximizing your chances of getting a guest post accepted.
Not all are mandatory, but do as many as possible.
Your biggest takeaway is that it’s better to spend an hour creating one really great pitch, than to spend an hour sending out 10 okay pitches. In the long run, you’ll end up with more guest posts, and also higher quality guest posts.