How We Use Guest Blogging to Build Relationships

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A guest post is an article that someone external to the organization writes for a blog. The Hubstaff blog has published guest posts from awesome influencers in the industry, like Vera from Workhoppers, Anthony of Sticker Mule, Joe of Collage, and so on. It’s an excellent way to build relationships, increase thought leadership, and share ideas.

Back in 2014, Matt Cutts shook up guest post advocates when he said guest blogging was dead. This article made waves around the Internet, inciting plenty of response pieces from respected businesses like Quicksprout and Search Engine Watch. A few years later, I fall on the side of guest posts. I think they provide a lot of value when done right.

This article will cover the basics of guest blogging, what’s good and bad about it, how I find guest blogging opportunities, and how to provide value with each guest post. Now that we’ve had a few years to watch things unfold, here’s why I think guest posting is alive and well.

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Traditional aim of guest posts

Historically, guest posts were used to get backlinks for SEO, at any cost. Too often, these posts bordered on spam and were published in exchange for cross-promotion, or other reciprocal benefits.

Guest blogging is a bad idea if you are in it just for the backlinks or to improve your search ranking. Even if you get a backlink from your guest post, you’ll end up with a poor article out there attributed to your brand. It’s even worse if you repurpose content in multiple places (sites get penalized for duplicate content), or do the unthinkable and (*gasp*) plagiarize.

Guest blogging is a good idea when you’re interested in what you’re writing about, have the authority to write on the topic (beyond reading a few articles online about it), and have a genuine interest in the website you’re writing for. For example, I’ve been following Workfrom (go Oregon) for a long time, so when the opportunity came up to write for them, I jumped at it.

Secret power-up of guest blogging: Building relationships

Guest blogging enables us to reach out to brands we admire and opens new channels for communication. Now that I’ve written for them, we can just reach out to Shopify on Twitter with a quick question or to say hello. This is a big deal considering what a great resource their team is, and how well they’ve built their platform.

These blogs have also opened up unexpected relationships. When I wrote Visa tips for remote workers on Teleport (another awesome remote work resource), I included an awesome service I use called VisaHQ. Someone from their PR team contacted me to say thanks, and now I have a direct line to them if I ever need help or have questions about getting a visa.

These posts have also made our social media efforts more fun. When I was in charge of managing Hubstaff’s social channels, I always made sure to check out what the brands I had blogged for were up to on Twitter. There have been some fun gif exchanges as well:

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Tracking where, when and who has mentioned your guest post or your brand is crucial for building relationships . This is what media monitoring tools, like Brand24, Mention & Buzzsumo, are made for.

How I find guest blogging opportunities

My best advice for finding a guest posting opportunity is to just reach out. If you find a blog that you like, look for a contact email and send them a quick email asking if they’d like a guest blog from you. To save time, brainstorm two or three title ideas that would fit with their blog, which you feel confident writing on, and include that in your email. Even if you don’t see any other guest posts on their site, it never hurts to ask.

Another way I connected with blogs that I wrote for was on Twitter. Whenever someone shares a Hubstaff article, I get a ping (even if they didn’t tag us on the share), so I go in and check out their profile and website. If they’re interested in our content, chances are we’ll find their blog interesting too. If I see a website that I particularly like, I’ll reach out on Twitter, thank them for the share, and ask if they’re open to some guest post ideas.

Companies are usually happy to accept a guest post from you provided it’s well-written and insightful. Unless their blog is purposefully in-team (for example, they only publish blogs written by people in their network), guest posts from outsiders provide valuable new insight.

If you’re doing a guest post for branding, thought leadership, or another company, then you’ll find companies especially welcoming. If you’re trying to write a guest post as a freelancer, meaning you can bill the blog, if it publishes your piece, then you’ll have to research which websites pay for guest posts and how to formally pitch your ideas.

How to add value for the platforms you’re blogging for

Your aim is to provide the most valuable article you can for the platform you’re writing for, and the business you’re writing on behalf of. For me, that means writing pieces that are relevant and useful to the audiences of the blogs I reach out to, and that contribute to the thought leadership of Hubstaff. If it’s relevant to the post (and only then), I’ll even introduce Hubstaff in the article, so our product reaches a new potential audience.

In order to write valuable guest posts, you should research the blog’s tone, voice and target audience. Look at the topics their customers may find interesting, and see where they intersect your own field of expertise. When you write a guest post, write about what you know. If you’re an expert in SEM, don’t pitch an article about customer service (unless you can tie it into SEM), because that’s not the topic you’ve built authority on.

Guest blogging produces results

Thanks to guest posting, I was able to get some of my thoughts out on respected platforms, made new connections for myself and the Hubstaff brand, and got to share Hubstaff with new audiences.

One of the best parts is, most of the time, we got those backlinks anyway! Whether it was in the article itself or in my author bio, Hubstaff got a few nice mentions, which did well for our SEO without being spammy or unethical.

Here are a few other articles I’ve written as a guest. All for platforms that I like and respect.

Want to talk about guest posts? Feel free to send me a Tweet @Hubstaff.

  • Guest blogging definitely helps build your authority across all channels– subscribers, social followers, and overall recognition of your personal brand. Can’t beat it!

    • You’ve got that right, John. If you’re blogging on a platform that’s much bigger than your own, it’s the same as speaking at a huge even and getting in front of hundreds or thousands of people. Who would pass that up?!

  • Guest posting is still good for SEO and brand building.

    When I analyze the competition backlinks of https://vanila.io for certain keywords i see lot of low quality guest posts published on small blogs/websites which still do the work and bring them into page #1 on Google.

    • Yup. Despite what Matt Cutts of Google said back in 2014 about guest blogging being dead, links are still an incredible ranking factor.

  • Although guest bloging is dead, it is still actively used by many companies. It gives a possiblity to promote business and show your expertise in a concrete subject.

  • I enjoyed working with you on the Agorapulse post, Rachel! And I hope folks make use of all these trade secrets you’re sharing with them on this post 🙂

  • Kate H

    Great information 🙂 “Guest blogging is a good idea when you’re interested in what you’re writing about, have the authority to write on the topic (beyond reading a few articles online about it), and have a genuine interest in the website you’re writing for.” I think this is key. There are times I receive guest post pitches and it is clear the person pitching hasn’t read many (or any) of our blogs and they don’t understand our target audience. On the other end of the spectrum is a guest post like the one you did for Chargify — it was a pleasure working with you and the post turned out great! Thanks, again 🙂

    • Thanks for stopping by Kate. I feel you on the blanket emails. We receive a lot of those at Hubstaff as well 🙂

      • Kate H

        You’ve developed good content when you start getting strangers wanting to write for you (and get in front of your audience) 🙂

  • Rachel,
    This is a fantastic piece of guidance for the guest posters. There are misconceptions about the guest posting. I love to contribute to the authority blogs. Ever since I wrote for SEMrush, not only did I get more invitations to write but I also built relations with others. The relation building should be the priority, and of course, the content must be helpful for the audience.

    • That’s the main reason I guest blog – for more opportunities to write about what I love and spreading knowledge. Keep fighting the good fight, Hassaan 🙂

      • I will.
        Thanks for responding. I appreciate it.

  • What I like about guest blogging is the new audience it gives you. Like I am reading this post. Similarly others may be who originally were not aware of the blogger / writer, like the content and are now a subscriber / follower. Not everything has to be done for SERPs. Organic traffic is actually more valuable.

    • Yes, definitely. Relevant, loyal traffic matters FAR more than backlinks. In fact, with Google’s new algorithm update Hummingbird, that’s becoming even more so. You can have all the backlinks in the world and it won’t matter if you don’t have high-quality, relevant content. And, of course, not all backlinks are created equal!

  • Hi Rachel,
    I feel the same as you : I was a big fan of guest posts, and Google ruined the concept a little in the past. However, I have the feeling that things are getting back to what it was before. I’m pretty happy about that.

    • I think you’re right, Jean. However, I am glad that crappy guest blogging / link trading sites like myguestblogger.com were cut off by Google. The content coming from those wasn’t doing anyone any good. We used it a lot to “build links” at the first agency I ever worked at. It didn’t do anything for the clients.