Become a Top Blogger By Mary Jaksch Do you want to grow your blog? Then writing guest posts is a great option. But it’s not so easy to get it right. As the Chief Editor of Write to Done, I get a lot of pitches. Some I immediately reply to, others just get a courtesy email — and their offering straight into the trash folder. Read on to learn 21 secret tips that will enable you to become a successful guest poster. Most bloggers focus on one main thing when they pitch: on their wish to land a guest post. Wrong! That attitude won’t get you far. Your focus needs to be on something quite different. Tip #1: Focus on what the blogger needs. Yes, your total focus needs to be on the blogger and his or her needs. Compare these two pitches I got recently: John: I’ve written an awesome post that your readers at Write to Done will love. Ryan: Do you still have a need for a guest post at Goodlife ZEN? I know you’re busy these days with the A-List Blogging Bootcamp launch – figured might be a good time to make contact again. I could do something about the value of dreams. Which one got the nod? I’m sure you guessed it. Ryan got the gig. In fact, you can see his post here. (By the way, I’m happy to report that Ryan has now joined our A-List Blogger Club) All John (not his real name) got, was a brush-off email from me. I’ll come back to the number John a little later on. But first, let me say more about why I had an immediate warm reaction to Ryan. His email told me a couple of things about Ryan: He is regular reader of Goodlife ZEN. He is considerate. He knows how to follow up elegantly. He offers an interesting topic. If someone ticks those particular boxes, I’ll definitely take a look at whether the blogger can write. And if they can, there’s a good chance I’ll accept their guest post – either now or in the future. Tip #2: Make the email with which you offer a guest post a bridge to another human being Make sure that you come across as the friendly and helpful human being that I hope you are. Personally, I dislike cold, business-like pitches. I’ll show you an example. (This one is from a blogger whose blog has only 30 subscribers.) “I would like to have a guest post on Write to Done. I suggest coming to a mutually beneficial arrangement. Maybe we could exchange guest posts.” Well, actually — no thank-you! I don’t mind if a blog is small. After all, every blog starts out small. Actually, I get a real kick out of helping ‘young’ bloggers get traffic to their blogs. A few months ago I offered Janice Hunter a guest post. She hadn’t even launched her blog yet! I suggested timing a guest post with her launch day to give her bloglet a bit of a boost. It worked and her blog has taken off! You can see her guest post here. Originally, Janice wrote an interesting comment on Write to Done, and I approached her about writing a guest post. Here is her answer: Yes, I would like you to write a guest post for Write to Done. In particular I would love to write an article about being a ‘quote hunter’. Just as well this is an email and not Skype with sound and vision – I squealed and scared one of my kids! That made me smile! It’s so nice to get a sense of the real person behind the email. Tip #3: Check your stance – are you submissive or superior? Or can you be natural? Think about the tone and the stance you are taking up in your pitch email. (I’ve done 18 years of karate training, so I tend to take an interest in stances…) Personally, I dislike a submissive, as well as a superior stance. Going back to John, his tone is on the superior side. He praises his post and assumes that everyone will love it. That turned me against him straight away. Tip #4: Remember that you are an equal human being Please remember that when you email a celebrity blogger. Even the blogging stars started small and with no experience. It’s good to acknowledge that they are more experienced and more successful than you at this moment, but they were once where you are in the past. Tip #5: Check your tone – do you sound confident and respectful, or arrogant? Think of yourself as a future A-list blogger. Your tone should be confident, straightforward, and respectful. Avoid toadying. For example, don’t say things like, “I’d be humbled if you would grant me…” or similar phrases. Instead, say things like, “It would give me much pleasure to write for my favorite blog”, or, “I’d be delighted to hear from you.” At the same time, don’t sound arrogant: “I’d be giving your blog a huge boost with my amazing writing.” As Jennifer Mattern says in her post 10 Reasons Your Guest Pitches Get Ignored: One thing even worse than a pitch making it clear you haven’t read the guidelines is a pitch letting a blogger know you did but you think you’re above the rules set for everybody else. Tip #6: A bit of humor goes a long way. If you can make the blogger you’re writing to laugh or smile, that’s great! I recently got an email from blogger Vlad Dolezal. He attached his guest post and responded to my warning that his post may not appear for a few weeks like this: “Sure, Mary, publish it whenever fits your evil masterplan blogging schedule.” That made me laugh! Tip #7: Get inside knowledge – it’s priceless. It’s important to research the blogger you want to contact. Study the ‘About’ page and read his or her blog articles. What are they interested in? What topic might be of interest to them? What is their passion at the moment? What else are they involved in at the moment? Maybe you can read their Twitter stream or Facebook page to find out. Mention something they’re working on. I recently found an email I sent Leo Babauta long before he gave me half of Write to Done. You can see how I mentioned what he was engaged in: Hi Leo, I’m wondering whether you are on overload with your Ebook? I notice that “Write to Done” hasn’t had a new post for a while. Would you like me to write a guest post or two for you? Tip #8: Know the blog your want to write for What kind of blogposts does it have? What’s the style? Which topics are missing? What kind of comments do readers leave? Make sure that you are part of the blog’s community and write some interesting comments before pitching to the blogger. I really like it when regular readers pitch to me. I know they appreciate the culture of the blog and have a feel for what the readers enjoy. Tip #9: Compliment the blogger – but don’t compromise your integrity. When you contact a blogger, say what drew you to them in the first place. Be specific and name an article that made a difference to your life. Be honest. Don’t say you like something, just to please. After all, you want to create a connection. Tip #10: Introduce yourself, but don’t make a meal of it The blogger wants to know who you are. Tell him or her, but don’t make a meal of it. A pitch is no place for a CV! Here’s how I do it: I tend to put my personal details in brackets like this: (I’m a Zen master, psychotherapist, and published author.) Tip #11: Show off your writing When someone pitches to me and I like their email, I want to know if they can actually write. Make it easy: offer the blogger links to the best posts you’ve written. You can say something like, “Here are three posts of mine you might enjoy.” Tip #12: Name-drop You want to make sure that your recipient knows that he or she is in good company. Have you had a guest post published in a well-known blogs? The way you do that is important. Make it personal. Instead of saying, “My guest post (link) was recently published at SevenSands.com” you could say, “John MacDonald recently asked me to write a guest post (link) at SevenSands.com and it was well received by his readers.” It’s a good idea to name-drop. One of our students in the A-List Blogger Club recently pitched a big blogger and wrote, “I’m in a mentoring program with Leo Babauta and Mary Jaksch.” He got the gig. Tip #13: Ask yourself, “What can I do to help?” That’s the main question you need to ask! Is the blogger going on holiday and might need guest posts? Are they expanding their business and might need new staff members? Would their blog benefit from your proposed theme? Have they written a book that you could promote? On March 26, 2008, I emailed Leo Babauta with an offer of help: Hi Leo, I’m wondering if there is anything I can do to help you finish your book? (I’m a published author and know how hard it is to get that last bit done.) I’d be happy to do some editing for you if you like. Or I could put some ideas together for you for chapters that are still bare. (Any help from me would be free) Leo replied: Wow, thanks Mary! I appreciate the generous offer Tip no# 14: Sell your proposed post with sizzle. Let the blogger know exactly what you’re offering. You might want to say, for example, “I’d like to offer you an in-depth guest post, called ‘10 Secrets of Innovative Writers ’. It would cover the following points…” Then list the main points of the proposed article in bullet form. Tip no# 15: Specify what’s in it for the readers. If the blogger accepts your guest post, what’s the benefit for their readers? Will the readers will be inspired? Or learn something new? Or acquire a new skill? Make it clear to the blogger what the benefits are. Sometimes it can be difficult to come up with something. When I wanted to interview Steve Pavlina for Goodlife Zen, I couldn’t think of anything. So I wrote, “What’s in it for you? Well, maybe just the sheer thrill of it!” It worked! Tip #16: Be audacious. You can’t lose by asking for what you want. I always say to myself, “If you don’t ask, you’ll get an automatic no.” Tip #17: Expect success. A positive frame of mind will give you a strong voice. If you believe in yourself, the other person will believe in you too. After all, confidence is infectious. Tip #18: Make it easy for the blogger. Imagine that you are a busy blogger. You need a guest post to fill a hole. But which one are you going to choose: the post that needs a lot of editing and formatting, or the one that slips into your blog without any work? No question – you would use the easy one first. Tip #19: Write your guest post in html The trick is to write your guest post in html. To do this, all you need is to write and format the post on your own blog and then copy the html version and save it as a text file. This means that the guest post is ready formatted and can be immediately placed into a blog. It’s a great mistake to offer a guest post in Word or just in the body of an email. It should always be attached in a .txt or .rtf file. Tip #20: Choose a fitting image Offer a couple of images. Research your target blog. What kind of images does the blogger prefer? What is the size and format of images on the blog? Check out whether the images he or she uses are in landscape (wider than high) or in portrait format (higher than wide). A good source for images is Flickr. Just make sure you choose images with a Creative Commons Licence and ad the reference to your covering email. It’s a good idea to choose three or four images to the blogger. Tip #21: Failure is a step closer to success There is no failure. Each ‘failure’ is a learning opportunity. You may find that not all pitches get accepted. Move on and focus on your next opportunity. The more pitches you write, the higher your chances are of landing your dream gig. Your best chance of landing guest post is to be a kind, considerate and helpful human being. And a good writer. Why not check out the Write to Done guest post guidelines and send me a pitch – I’m always happy to help you get it right.