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Santiago Jaramillo

The (Smart) Startup’s Guide to Guest Blogging

verge1Guest blogging has a scandalous past. It started with slimy SEO tactics “guest bloggers” used to up their page ranks. For several years, guest blog posts were littered with invisible keywords and messy copy and pastes. In 2011, a New York Times article revealed guest blogging’s sins against search engines. This led to a decline in guest posters trying to “trick” Google with spammy content.

Yet still the scandal continued. Companies pumping out mass quantities of poor quality content labeled “content farms” began trying to outsmart Google. Mashable defines a content farm as:

“A company that employs large numbers of often freelance writers to generate large amounts of textual content which is specifically designed to satisfy algorithms for maximal retrieval by automated search engines. Their main goal is to generate advertising revenue through attracting reader page views as first exposed in the context of social spam.”

To make matters worse, in 2011, Matt Cutts made a statement in this article discrediting guest blogging in its entirety. This sparked a media firestorm in the marketing community. Matt Cutts later semi-redacted his statement, but it got everyone talking about—and slamming—guest blogging.

But guest blogging isn’t dead, especially when it’s done right. As a startup with a small team and lean budget, guest blogging has been a way for us to drive sales directly through good calls to action to an ideal audience. Guest blogging just for the sake of free links and SEO is trashy. Guest blogging for the right reasons is classy.

If your motives are to expand your platform as a thought leader in your industry and/or market a product through education, guest blogging is definitely something to try.

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How to Woo Bloggers with Class

    1. Build a relationship and become a regular contributor to a blog. Don’t be a cat-caller. One of the common “shady” tactics in guest blogging involves sending a large number of impersonal pitch emails to bloggers. Random emails with no context and a sales-y or desperate pitch is a major turnoff. Begin by actually reading a blog and get a conversation started about the content. Follow and interact bloggers in your industry on Twitter, and above all, be friendly!
    2. Set up a Gravatar account. A Gravatar is an image and short bio that follows you from site to site, appearing beside your name when you do things like comment or post on a blog. Many blogs that accept guest posts include a two-sentence bio from their guest bloggers that link straight from the site. Having a Gravatar account will help you establish credibility as a guest blogger and help with SEO.
    3. Build your authority as a thought leader. Bloggers despise sales-y and spammy content, so make sure your overarching goal is to educate readers in your industry. Posts with research-backed and thought-provoking content will perform much better than those bragging on products and services. If you establish yourself as a thought leader, people (and inbound leads) will follow.
    4. Don’t forget about composition. Even if you have good content, a post is useless without the basics. Get a feel for the blog’s voice and style. Get to know the audience too, because it is them you will want to impress. Keep sentences short and pay attention to MUGS (mechanics, usage, grammar, spelling). Be economical with word choice, and be clear and concise.

Using these key actionables, we were able to experience great success in guest blogging for a well-known church marketing blog. One of our employees made an introduction to the blog’s editor via Twitter and quickly established a relationship. As we familiarized ourselves with the blog’s content, we noticed few posts covered mobile technology for churches. Seeing an opportunity to educate, we virtually approached the editor with an offer to guest post about mobile apps for churches. From there, we wrote a series of four posts, launched once a week for four weeks, each addressing a topic relating to mobile apps. We took care to produce well-written, high quality content, and the blog’s readership noticed. Over the course of the series, we had thousands of views, 66 inbound leads and booked 32 sales appointments.

Guest blogging only works when done right. Through building relationships, having a solid bio on a Gravatar account, positioning yourself as a thought leader and writing concisely, you can bypass the guest blogging scandals of the past and experience great success. Guest blog with class, don’t be crass.

What’s your guest blogging story? How has it helped/hurt your overall strategy?

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  • http://www.repurify.com Hunckler

    Great insights, Santiago (and thanks for sharing actual metrics from the campaign). We’ve seen similar success with Guest Blogging through Verge. How are you usually converting the guest readers to actual sales leads?

  • Chris Palmer

    Fantastic post Santiago. I really admire the way you endeavor to help and educate readers in your industry – rather than bragging or only caring about conversions. Like Matt, I’m also curious about your method for turning guest readers into sales leads. Thanks for the great take-aways!

  • Santiago Jaramillo

    Thanks Matt and Chris.

    That is the tricky part. By repeatedly adding value with educational content, we earn their trust and thus, are top-of-mind when they’re considering an app purchase. In this way, this can be measured by number of inbound leads (fill out a demo request, meeting request, or download a content piece). Additionally, guest blog posts drive additional traffic to our website. Our website is intentionally designed as a funnel of sorts, so by increasing inputs into the top-of-the-funnel, if we execute well, it yields increased output (sales). We include a “soft” Call-to-Action in most blogs posts with an associated landing page with an offer (eBook or whitepaper download, discount, etc), as well as have our lead generation team follow up with each lead to see how else we could help.

    The most important thing to remember, is that we’re selling to people. We try to sell how we want to be sold to. We lead with value until folks are ready to begin a conversation. The more value we add, the more and faster they seem to want to talk, so we’ve found that focusing on adding the most value to our prospects, ultimately leads to increased sales. It’s a beautiful thing.

    Lastly, we wrote a blog post specifically on this: The Secret to Turning Leads into Customers here: http://vergestartups.com/turn-leads-into-customers/

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