A friend of mine runs a web design firm and wants to increase leads and sales. My mother wrote a book about her dog and wants to sell as many copies online as possible. One's an entrepreneur, the other a book author. Neither has experience with online marketing but both want to increase traffic to their websites.
You don't need to be skilled in online marketing strategies such as SEO, paid search or social media marketing to gain visibility and website traffic. One of the best ways for business owners who are struggling to generate website traffic is to establish his or her self as a credible niche authority. One way to do that is to contribute blog posts to other sites -- a practice commonly referred to as guest blogging.
The benefits of guest blogging can be numerous and significant. Some include:
- Building and strengthening Author Rank. Google factors the author of an article into how well it ranks in search engines.
- Generating inbound links. These are links from the sites you blog for -- either in your author bio or in the body of the article itself -- that point back to content on your site.
- Building brand awareness. Every article you get published will increase the opportunity for readers to find your content and associate your name with your company or brand.
- Associating your company with more well-known brands. By getting your articles published on websites that already rank highly in search results and have high traffic volume, Google should respect the links that point to your website as being trustworthy votes of confidence. It can also help your name become recognized as an authority in your industry.
- Driving high-quality leads and website traffic. If your articles provide advice or solve problems, you should get referral traffic and leads as a result.
- Generating social signals. Posts that get exposure on popular sites usually garner lots of likes, tweets and social shares, which factor in the ranking algorithm.
The process of guest blogging doesn't have to be difficult or overly time consuming. Consider these six steps to get started:
1. Complete and optimize your online persona.
Set up your Google+ profile, Facebook page, LinkedIn profile and Twitter account if you haven't already. Also ensure that your website contains links to your social channels and that your social channels link back to your website.
2. Write at least five articles about your industry and publish them to your website.
Keep in mind that writing mediocre articles will not help. You need to have great content on your website that impresses editors of large websites. Your articles should include:
- Helpful, insightful or interesting information.
- Perfect spelling and grammar.
- Subheads to break the article into more easily consumable segments.
- Appropriate text formatting (bullet points, italics, bold, etc.).
Here are some ways to come up with ideas for topics to write about:
- Visit question and answer websites like Quora or Yahoo Answers and search for your industry keywords to see what questions people are asking. Then answer those questions in-depth with your article.
- Visit other blogs or publishers in your industry and see what they're writing about. Can you give a different or unique spin on something they wrote?
- Think about common questions your customers have and compile those into an article.
- Give your opinion on recent industry news.
- Write about a problem you recently faced and how you solved it.
- Analyze proprietary, original or unique data and publish your findings. Or analyze existing, publicly available data in a way that creates new insights or conclusions.
3. Identify sites you'd like to contribute to.
Start by contacting any industry connections you've developed. Check your LinkedIn connections for anyone who might be able to help you start out by getting an article published.
Then try using Google's Adwords tool to research the keywords or keyword phrases for your industry. My friend's would be "web design services" and my mom's would be "seizures in dogs." Then search Google for your keywords. Peruse the top 10 pages and keep track of which websites appear to be content publishers rather than companies that sell a product or service, as they generally won't accept guest authors.
Related: In Search of Buzz: What It Is and How to Build It
You can also identify publishers in your industry by using software tools such as Scrapebox (a one-time fee of $57), which can conduct search queries across Google and Bing, automatically collect the results and allow users to manipulate and export the data.
Here are some other search queries you can use to find publishers in your niche:
- [keyword] blogs
- [keyword] "submit a guest post"
- [keyword] "submit post"
- [keyword] "submit an article"
- [keyword] "guest post"
- [keyword] "guest blog"
- [keyword] "write for us"
- [keyword] "become an author"
- [keyword] "become a contributor"
- [keyword] "become guest writer"
- [keyword] "guest column"
- [keyword] "guest blogger"
4. Begin your outreach.
You can usually find an editor's email address or a contact form on the website. If you don't get a response, try emailing one of the authors on the website directly. If not, try finding them on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook and reaching out via social media.
When contacting the editors, let them know that you're a business owner who is passionate about your industry and that you'd be honored to contribute to their website. Explain your goals for contributing -- to build your reputation as an expert while providing useful content to the community -- and provide links to the best articles you've written.
Keep track of the sites and editors you've contacted in a spreadsheet along with the date you contacted them. Try using Boomerang for Gmail, a plugin that can automatically remind you to follow up if an email goes unanswered. Mac users can try Laytr, which works with Mac Mail.
5. Start writing and sharing.
As you begin to receive positive responses, work with the editors on acceptable topic pitches and article formats, write the articles and send them to the editors. Set your Boomerang to ping you after a few days if you haven't heard back from the editor.
Once published, share your articles via your social channels and thank the editor for publishing them. Then, record the published article URLs in a spreadsheet. As you write new articles, include links to the other articles you've written, when appropriate. This will build links to your other published articles, ideally making them rank higher so you get more exposure and visibility.
6. Stay on top of the process.
Continue pitching new topic ideas to new publishers. Alter your email template to include sample URLs of the best places you've been published.
Keep track of all the publishers with whom you work in a spreadsheet and set a formula to calculate how many days it's been since your last post was published at each one. If it's been more than 30 days since your last post was published at a particular site, reach out and offer to write another article. Repeat this process so that you build authority, credibility, and a great working relationship with each publisher.
Related: Need Blog Post Ideas? 3 Easy Templates to Get You Writing -- Now
The author is an Entrepreneur contributor. The opinions expressed are those of the writer.