Guest posts form an important component in any SEO campaign. Mastering how to write them properly saves time – and crucially, it promotes your chances of success. This article will explore the 7 key elements of a well-written guest post, including how to meet the needs of the blog host, the reader and, of course, your SEO requirements.
- What is a guest post?
- Plan, plan, plan
- Organise your writing
- Stand out from the crowd
- Focus your energies in the right places
- Make your blog post relevant
- Write the perfect headline
- Keep your SEO goals in mind
- Don't be afraid to ask for help
What is a guest post?
A guest post is an article you write that's published on someone else's site. They help increase brand awareness and by linking back to your own site, referral traffic. Importantly, they will also improve your SEO and position on Google.
Guest posts are therefore an essential component of any link building campaign.
For a blogger to accept them, they need to be considered useful to their readers. They are therefore not adverts, but rather valuable pieces of educational (and occasionally entertaining) content.
Plan, plan, plan!
The most-overlooked aspect of any piece of writing is The Plan! Of course, you might think it is easier to simply start writing, but often a few minutes spent sketching out an outline is worth its weight in gold.
- Begin with a few bullet points to help focus your thoughts and work out the most important things you need to say.
- Once you have outlined the points you want to make, play around with the order they work best in. Do some naturally lead into others? Would some benefit from being discussed earlier in the post?
- See if there’s a natural theme that can recur throughout the post. In this blog post, the theme is meeting everyone’s needs.
- Make sure you have a clear introduction and conclusion. This could act as a simple summary of your main points, or draw all your points together into a neat conclusion.
Now you have a clear outline, one of the hardest parts – the thinking and organising – is done. You will find this enormously helpful once it comes to the next stage: the writing process.
Organise your writing
As well as having a clear structure, your article needs to use organisational devices to help the reader navigate the text more easily. These devices are instrumental. Online readers have far less ‘staying power’ than readers who’ve settled down to devour the next 50 pages of a novel.
Use features such as:
- Short paragraphs
.....but not too short; begin a new paragraph when you begin a new idea. It should be possible to sum up an entire paragraph in one sentence. If you need more, perhaps you also need to break that paragraph up into several shorter ones.
These help your reader pick out the most relevant parts of the blog for them. Online readers won’t necessarily read the entire blog, from start to finish. Having clear headings helps them skim to find the part they need the most. This is particularly important for longer posts.
- Bullet points and lists
These make your text more visually accessible. Imagine opening War and Peace on a random page and trying to understand it. Yes, Tolstoy wrote a classic, but that’s not what you’re trying to do. Most of your readers are busy, and will be easily put off by reams and reams of unbroken text.
- Google friendly formatting
In Word or Google Docs use Heading 1 for the main title, then Heading 2 for sub-headings. Include one or two keywords in any sub-heading. When you copy these into a website, it will normally automatically format them as sub-headings that Google recognises and this helps with SEO too.
As well as structural features, make sure the writing is on-point, too. If you feel a little rusty in this respect, practise some simple creative writing exercises to warm up.
Stand out from the crowd
Rather than turn out a samey-samey humdrum piece not dissimilar for a hundred others your blog site’s editor will have read, have yours showcase something a little different. As well as catching their attention, you are also likely to capture the imagination of the reader – and make your piece an all-round success. Ideas for features which will stick in the mind include:
- Using relevant – and surprising – facts
- Adding in links to the latest research which connects to your chosen subject
- Presenting your data interestingly. A colourful pie chart is more appealing than data embedded within dense paragraphs of text.
- Embedding pictures and other visuals into your text. As well as breaking up the writing, it also gives the reader’s brain something else to latch onto – and remember.
Once you’ve caught your reader’s (and the blog host’s) attention with your expertly written, innovative piece, you’re more likely to have it shared on social media, which of course builds more links and boosts your SEO.
Focus your energies in the right places
There are only so many hours in the day, and even if you had the inclination to write a long 3,000+ word blog for every site in your business area, this wouldn’t be feasible. It is important to adopt something of a systematic approach here, ensuring you craft your longest and most perfectly formed posts for the real authority sites within your niche.
These should be the top sites rightly known as demonstrating expertise and value, recognised as a reference to other professionals in your industry. Clearly, it is worth spending the time to write a serious ‘ultimate guide’ piece to feature on one of these sites.
What’s more, the content you submit here needs to be match their kudos; it must be authoritative, offer something different and promote discussion. Showcase a new angle, reveal an unusual set of statistics, or even incorporate an interview with an industry guru if you can. This is the time and the place to pull out the stops.
Consider the length important, too. Rightly or wrongly, higher value is attached to higher word counts, creating the perception of an authoritative voice. To get the best return on investment, write at least 500 word blog posts for medium quality sites and 1,000 words or more for top quality sites. Avoid poor quality sites altogether, as they will negatively impact your SEO, rather than helping.
Make your blog post relevant to the site
While some blogs are certainly worth actively pursuing more than others, just because a site isn’t known to be one of the industry-wide big guns, it doesn’t mean it isn’t worth spending time on.
Many guest posts placed on smaller sites garner excellent results in terms of SEO, provided they contain the right mix of naturally placed keywords, backlinks and – extremely importantly – relevant content. This means relevant content for your anticipated reader, and for the host blog, too.
Some simple ways you can achieve this are by:
- Match the tone, register and style to the blog
This is important for achieving a natural voice, and it shows the editor you have made an effort to ‘blend in’. Find out exactly how the website blog relates to their readership, by reading a range of its previously published content.
Try the same approach, and modify your authorial voice in the same way you would change it to match the style of any other genre of writing you were engaged in.
- Get a good sense of your reader
This follows on from matching the voice of the blog. Similarly, make the effort to understand the site’s readership so that you can talk to them authentically. You wouldn’t address your grandma in the same way that you talk to your mates over a few drinks, so make sure you know who you are talking to before you start writing.
- Include internal links to other content within your post
This shows the host that you’ve taken the time to peruse their site, marking out which pieces of previous content fit with what you’re writing. Perhaps most importantly, though, the site publisher will thank you for the SEO boost it will receive from these internal links.
How to write the perfect headline
So, as well as finding an original angle, imitating the host website’s style, appealing to the reader and incorporating keywords and backlinks, now I need to come up with a catchy headline, too?
That’s right, you do. But don’t panic.
The headline you choose should entice the reader to find out more. It acts as a hook, but should not be overly sensational, and descend into clickbait:
You will never believe what happened when this woman ate nothing but avocados for a year!
Instead, a guest post headline should be informative about the content which follows, and act as a useful indicator to your reader that the article will solve a need they have.
Phrases such as ‘how to...’, ‘tips for...’ and ‘best ways to...’ all allude to a solution to a problem, or promise to fill a knowledge gap the reader might have. Lists also have a high click through rate.
Let’s imagine your target reader is especially interested in finding ways to perfect the culinary delight that is mashed potato. You might consider some of the following headlines:
- Top ten tips for lump-free mash every time
- Best potato-mashing techniques when you’re in a hurry
- How to make the tastiest mashed potato
- Best potato mashers on the market
These show your reader that you are about to offer them something informative and useful, getting straight to the point – but without any sensationalism.
Keep your SEO goals in mind
Remember the purpose of a guest post is to boost your position with Google and other search engines. While writing content that converts is always desirable, it is not the primary goal of a guest posting campaign. Look at your web stats and you will find the majority of your traffic comes from search engines themselves. To help achieve your SEO goals, make sure each guest blog comprises the following:
- Your chosen keyword(s)
Settle upon a focus keyword for your piece, and be sure to include its synonyms. You should try to insert them as naturally as you can when you write a guest post. Above all, make sure you avoid ‘keyword stuffing’. This is guaranteed to backfire in all sorts of undesirable ways, not least by putting off your readers and the site host.
Perhaps even more importantly though, it will backfire in terms of your SEO strategy, because Google’s RankBrain algorithm is adapted to read text in the same manner as a human brain. Therefore, guest posts need to be engaging and interesting both to ‘real’ readers’ brains, and to the ‘virtual brain’ of Google.
Google monitors how many times different keywords appear on pages linking back to you. If it’s natural to include several different keywords within an article, then that’s even better. It’s also important to include a range of anchor texts, some with keywords, some without.
If in doubt, don’t be afraid to ask...
The world of SEO can seem daunting, especially if you are writing for a new audience, you don’t know where to start, or you just want some advice from the expert. At Indigoextra, we offer a range of guest posting services, both in the UK and across Europe, as well as options and services across a range of European languages. If you need well-written content in French, German, Spanish, Italian or Dutch, we have a team of native, imaginative and engaging copywriters with a nuanced cultural understanding, too. Don’t hesitate to get in touch for more information.