Guest posts are an incredibly popular method of link building, and in this article, we're going to show you how to guest post effectively to land incredible backlinks.
Here's what we'll cover:
What guest posting is
Why it’s important to find the right guest blog to post on.
How to prospect sites for guest blogging.
Pitching guest posts and closing links.
Top 10 best guest blogs to post on.
What are Guest Posts?
Guest posts (or guest blogging) are when we contribute a piece of content to another website.
Example - Noah Kagan frequently guest posts on publications like HubSpot.
The benefit of guest posting is that we can gain a backlink from the website we're contributing to, and we can also generate referral traffic from that website's audience.
💡 If you would prefer to pay an expert to handle guest posting for you, then check out these top guest posting services.
How Noah Kagan Exploded with Guest Posting
Back in 2011, Noah Kagan wrote a guest post on the Tim Ferris blog about creating a million-dollar business.
It's one of the most read articles on Tim Ferris's blog, and helped Noah's new brand AppSumo to explode.
The point of this story is to show you that effective guest posting isn't only about earning backlinks, it can also help to generate massive audience awareness and traffic from other communities
Our value proposition—giving the website editor free content—is going to be enough to win a link on their website without having to pay for the privilege.
Finding High-Quality Sites for Guest Posts
Guest post websites fall into two broad categories: high quality and low quality.
- High-quality websites: These usually exist to serve a specific interest, purpose, or niche. They have stringent guidelines and will only publish well-written, well-researched, relevant, and original content. They are usually free to write for. These are the types of links that our link building services deliver for clients.
- Low-quality websites: Exist solely for building links and making money for the blog owners. They usually charge a fee—either directly or by association with link builders. They have few or no guidelines and will often publish any content they receive—even if it is poor quality or irrelevant to their site.
This is very important to note, especially for newcomers to guest posting.
Getting a guest blog post on high-quality websites will have a positive impact on your rankings. But posting on poor-quality sites will result in little or no impact. Worst still, Google may give you a penalty, causing your site to rank lower.
Why? Because trying to manipulate search engine rankings is against Google’s guidelines.
If Google thinks that you are trying to do this then it will ignore the backlinks in the post, meaning you won’t get any ranking boost. It might even give you a penalty and reduce your ranking—but this is rare.
Avoid Scammers and Link Farms
Some link builders claim they can get you a lot of links for very cheap. One of the ways they do this is by placing badly written guest posts on poor-quality websites.
Some low-quality websites are legitimate, but just not good.
Over time Google realizes what is going on and the website’s domain rating erodes, leaving you with a bunch of worthless links.
Basic Guest Post Prospecting
Every guest posting campaign begins with effective prospecting.
For those of you who have done this before, the process typically follows the following route:
- You search for a list of websites that accept guest posts
- You run a campaign and earn some wins
- When you need more links, you do the same thing
But how long will it take before you’ll run out of options? How long before you’ve exhausted the relevant websites in your niche?
Yes, prospecting is easy in the beginning, but when you are looking for new websites in your niche for the hundredth time, that’s when it starts to get really tedious.
Below, we share strategies for finding more opportunities for your guest blogging goals when it seems that you've exhausted every avenue.
Let's look at the "tried and tested" approach
I’m sure you’ve tried this too. You googled ‘search operators for guest posts’ or ‘search operators for link building’ when you were sick and tired of a well-known keyword + “write for us” operator.
And when you google this, you have an immense choice of options. Have a look at this:
10,000 queries for your link-building campaign!
Can you imagine that? Now we’re gonna rock our link building!
Well, not really.
Of course, variants of search queries allow us to discover more opportunities, but do we really need 10, 100, or 1000 of them?
I decided to test that.
I took 11 popular guest post search queries, used them in a formula “keyword + search query”, added every first 20 results to Google Sheets, and checked those pages.
Using Basic Google Search Operators
The keyword I chose was “cycling tips”. So my search queries list looked like this:
- cycling tips + “guest post”
- cycling tips + “write for us”
- cycling tips + “guest article”
- cycling tips + “guest post opportunities”
- cycling tips + “this is a guest post by”
- cycling tips + “guest contributor”
- cycling tips + “want to write for”
- cycling tips + “submit blog post”
- cycling tips + “guest column”
- cycling tips + “become a contributor”
- cycling tips + “guest post courtesy of”
🧠 Tip - You can easily export Google's top 100 results with the Ahrefs Toolbar
After exporting and arranging the data, my Google Sheet looked like this:
The next task was to check every single page to ensure each search result is a good fit. During this process, I identified three types of pages that weren’t relevant:
- Guest post articles that have no connection to the topic of cycling as well as links from quora/forums - those I highlighted in red
- Marketing guides about guest posting techniques - I made this a separate category as it was an interesting find, and highlighted them in yellow
- Not working or broken pages, which I highlighted in grey.
After the check, my list looked like this:
The last thing to check was duplicates. To identify them, I copied all 220 websites to another tab and used a script that would highlight duplicates in purple. Here’s the result:
So, out of 220 opportunities found using 11 search queries:
- 62 are duplicates
- 85 are not relevant
We have 73 opportunities left and almost three hours spent on their search and check. Which means only 33.2% of all guest posting sites could be used for blogger outreach.
This quick and simple test helped me understand that we don’t need lots of search query options.
- To find the basic opportunities, we don't need lots of search query options
- Most of these sites are optimizing for guest post-related keywords in their niche
- As a result, we're seeing all the same websites even when we use different search operators
- Even if we use less popular search operators, it's going to give us some irrelevant websites And here are the reasons.
In this case, cycling tips + “guest post”, cycling tips + “write for us”, cycling tips + “guest article” proved to be the most efficient searches.
Advanced Guest Post Prospecting
So what are we supposed to do when we need more prospects but we’ve tried all efficient search operators and we know there’s no use in trying all those 10/100/1000 queries?
I’ll tell you what.
Long-tail and low-volume keywords
Once again, let’s imagine you need to find guest bloggers for your next campaign for a blog on cycling. What your first keyword ideas would be?
Mine would be “cycling” and “cycling tips”. I’d start with the simplest variants. Then, after these are not enough, I’d use synonyms or something like “cycling for health”.
Every time, our brain will try to find the easiest keywords. Why does it happen? We’re so used to the simple “keyword + write for us” formula that even in practice we tend to make this search query nice and short.
That’s why I suggest using our wits a bit and coming up with a list of very specific long-tail keywords in the cycling niche.
Why would we do that?
Simple SEO answer here. We all know that big websites are usually ranking for high-volume and popular keywords. And in most cases, we use those high-volume keywords only for our guest posting prospecting. This means we’re limiting our search to the websites that rank for this high-volume keyword only.
My idea is to broaden the search and use long-tail and low-volume keywords to make sure we’re seeing websites that are ranking for these keywords only and have no chance to appear on SERP for popular keywords. This way, we’ll have a wider range of options to choose from.
Okay, so how do we find those keywords?
We could use Google Keywords Planner for this. For example, let’s say I’d like to find low-volume keyword variants for the topic ‘winter road cycling’. I’ll do it this way:
I’ll look for keyword ideas for ‘winter road cycling’ and will sort them by competition from low to high. Now, among those low competition keywords, choose something specific, with 3 and more words, and use it as your search term. Using a similar strategy, I’ve chosen three different keywords for my search:
- “mountain bikes for snow riding”
- “biking to work in winter”
- “leg exercises for cycling at home”
And these are the websites I’ve found using these search strings:
None of these websites is on the initial list of guest post opportunities.
All of the websites I found were relevant and connected to the topic of cycling. Of course, there would be some repetitions of popular websites (in the case of cycling, the website road.cc is usually on every list), but you remember this website and you won’t add it to your list more than once. So what is left for you is a nice list of opportunities that you wouldn’t have found using the standard guest posting search queries.
You can see my working file here to check everything for yourself: finding guest post opportunities - work file.
Now you may ask me:
You suggest using long-tail keywords only. But how do I make sure the website accepts guest posts?
I’ll tell you a couple of secrets here.
- There’s no guarantee that the website will accept your article even if they write openly about guest post opportunities on their website. This is not my opinion only, Ahrefs mentions that here as well.
- Many websites that don't openly advertise guest posting, will still allow guest posting if your outreach & pitch is strong enough.
From my experience, what really matters is the quality of the website you contact, the quality of your outreach email and of course, the relevance or intrigue of the content you are suggesting.
Prospecting with Ahrefs
Ahrefs has some awesome tools that can massively accelerate the prospecting process for guest posts.
- You can explore all of your competitors using the 'competing domains' tab and analyze their backlink profiles
- You can use the link intersect tool to find relevant sites linking to your competitors but not you
- You can use content explorer to find blogs in your niche
Example - Using Ahrefs content explorer
- Add in your keyword in quotation marks e.g. "cycling"
- Apply all the filters to narrow your results and remove spammy websites - One page per domain, website traffic value >500, DR 30 - 75
Voila - We now have over 3,000 websites that we know have published content around cycling!
Generally, we recommend going after sites within the DR30-80 range, as you're going to see optimum results there. Of course, if you're feeling confident in your abilities you can go for higher, but many of those websites have very strict rules around external contributions.
Here's a cool graphic from Ahrefs which illustrates the different tiers.
Pitching Guest Posts
Now that we have a solid prospect list, we can start approaching sites and pitching them our guest post ideas.
Pitching a guest post is hard. You have to come up with a great idea the editor will want to publish. Then, you’ll have to send a killer email that will stand out from the hundreds of other guest post requests they receive each day.
Here’s where to begin:
Choose the best guest post sites to target: Select the best guest post opportunities based on how relevant they are to your niche or industry as you are more likely to be able to write valuable content. The backlinks you get will also be more effective as Google will see they are relevant. You should only target around 30 guest post blogs—otherwise, you’ll have too many articles to write!
Perform guest post outreach: Next, you’ll need to pitch your idea to the guest post blog’s editor. Don’t send a generic pitch to all guest blogs. If you do, the editors will be able to tell and they’ll ignore your message. Instead, you need to give them a personalized email and an idea tailored to their website.
Guest Post Outreach Templates
As mentioned above, your outreach should be as personalized as possible. But sometimes it can help to use a guest post email template as a basis.
Below, we have provided two examples of guest post email templates that served us well. Choose the one that suits you best and customize it as much as you can. At the very least you should include the recipient’s first name and the site name in the title.
Example 1: 60% response rate guest post email template
This template was sent to over 70 tech websites and achieved an incredible 60% response rate. We ended up winning a substantial number of free guest post links on many websites with a DR greater than 30, all with strong organic traffic.
Reasons this template is so successful:
It highlights some seriously good topic suggestions. It’s easy to find good topics—just go to Google news for inspiration or visit Buzzsumo or Ahrefs, and type in keywords relevant to the niche. Be creative, and try to avoid generic 'top 10' style suggestions.
It shows examples of previously published content. This is known as social proof, and it's an extremely powerful concept. It's the same reason why some digital marketing agencies are so successful—people see they've worked with other big brands, and they want to do the same.
It's to the point.It cuts through the garbage, gets straight to the point, and has immaculate grammar.
Example 2: 46% response rate outreach template
This template was sent to over 80 websites related to the productivity niche. We got a response rate of 46% and post articles on multiple high DR blogs with thousands of visitors each month.
Reasons this template is so successful:
It highlights some seriously good topic suggestions.
It shows examples of previously published content. This is essential for social proof!
It shows you’re a real person. People like working with real business people. The signature has a name, a phone number, an email address, and a real Gmail picture. It just feels real, and people appreciate that.
💡 Pro tip: Write a balanced pitch
Always write a balanced description for your guest post idea. Consider possible points of controversy and interesting ways of looking at the subject matter. You never know what the editor’s opinion is and if you propose a guest post with a strong bias then they might reject it.
Dealing with Responses
Here’s the key checklist on how to deal with successful responses.
Respond to any positive email you receive as soon as possible. It doesn't matter if you can't deliver the guest post straight away, but always respond fast in order to “lock the deal in.”
Always check any editorial guidelines they have!
Be courteous, friendly, and appreciative whilst sounding professional - That will seriously beat out 99% of other guest posters out there!
Paid Guest Posts - How to Deal with Sponsored Fee Requests
Some websites will respond to the email and ask for a payment in exchange for the privilege of posting on their website. Here's the checklist before they respond:
Check the DR of the website: Make sure it's greater than 40. Tools like Pitchbox will tell you this number.
Go to Ahrefs or SEMRush and plug in the website: Make sure it gets some organic traffic (at least 1,000 organic visitors)—this is an indication it performs well on Google.
Dive deep into the keywords the website is ranking for: If you're paying for a link, you need to make sure this site is pristine - They have lots of great editorial content and they rank for keywords hyper-relevant to their niche. We want to ensure this site isn't going to get burned!
Go to SimilarWeb and make sure that the overall traffic level looks reasonable: At least a couple thousand visitors per month.
How to negotiate
Always ask for a 50% discount on the proposed rate. Let the webmaster know that you have a tight budget for things like this, and assure them that the article will be of impeccable quality, and genuinely valuable for their visitors.
If they come back and refuse but offer a different rate, then make a note of the price along with the information.
Let the webmaster know that you'll consider the offer and get back to them. This gives them time to think that they have lost the sale and they will be more open to further discounts when you call back—they will most likely prefer to get some money for a guest post than none at all.
8 Great Websites That Accept Guest Posts
Finding high-quality, relevant opportunities is a critical part of your guest blogging campaign.
This section lists 8 of our favorite websites that accept guest posts. We’ve previously used all of these blogs to get backlinks for our clients for free.
👉 If you want an expanded list, check out our list of 65 free guest posting sites.
Hubspot’s blog is considered by many to be the best website for guest blogging. Hubspot’s DR is 92, which is high and it gets millions of daily visitors. Guest blogging with Hubspot will lead to some valuable backlinks.
Its award-winning blog is divided into four main categories:
HubSpot has high editorial requirements and gets thousands of pitches. It only publishes the best original content.
Colibri is a WordPress page builder. Much of its content is geared toward the platform and online sales and marketing. Its “Learn From” section is popular with guest posters.
Colibri’s blog offers good exposure. Guest posts are clearly labeled on the menu with your name, description, and a monochrome photo.
Here's one that SurferSEO recently published on Colibri:
The website for Entrepreneur magazine publishes guest blog posts on personal stories, entrepreneurship around the world, analyses of regulatory issues, and more.
Any potential guest blogger can pitch ideas via this form. The website provides guidelines and a style guide. These are quite long, so be prepared to do a lot of reading before you submit an idea. Entrepreneur.com has two levels of guest posting: free and premium. Premium writers’ content will be published faster than those who don’t pay.
Mashable is an international news website that focuses on entertainment, culture, tech, science, life, and social good. Its DR is 91 and it gets 15,000,000 monthly visitors. This makes it an excellent guest post site.
The website doesn’t have guidance or instructions for guest bloggers. Instead, it has published articles providing tips for the budding guest blogger. One explains how to get your startup on Mashable, while others highlight what not to do when pitching an idea. You should submit guest posts and pitches to [email protected].
DZone is an online community and resource publisher for software developers. It gets more than 300,000 monthly visitors.
DZone also operates a Most Valuable Blogger (MVB) program. This is a group of guest post writers who are considered subject experts. DZone promotes their guest posts, giving each guest blogger more exposure.
Recruitee provides tools and software for hiring talent. Its blog is comprehensive and discusses subjects connected with employment, HR, recruitment, and productivity. It features articles, podcasts, events, and downloadable guides. Use the company’s contact form to enquire about guest blogging.
WPExplorer is a community-focused website that shares themes, plugins, and useful guides for WordPress. Its blog covers a range of topics, including tips, tutorials, SEO, security, reviews, and general news.
The blog’s guidelines can be found on the site’s contact page. The quality of content published on the site is generally good and the requirements are fairly straightforward.
Bplans provides free business plans, as well as tools and guides to help companies grow.
The blog content is organized by the different stages of growing a business, including planning, starting, funding, managing, and more.
It offers clear guest blogging guidance and indicates the kind of pitches they like to receive.
Bplans requires all guest authors to fill out an agreement before pitching an idea. Pitches are submitted by filling out a detailed form at the bottom of the guidance page.
Start Guest Blogging Today
Guest blogging is our favorite way to generate high-quality backlinks, as well as generating referral traffic.
It’s something anyone can do—but it’s hard work. The techniques in this article will help you get started and find the best guest post opportunities.
Get it right and you’ll create sustainable backlinks that will contribute to your website’s rankings for many years.