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How to Guest Blog Successfully: An Interview with Sara Pence

In our third lesson of Social Media for Authors Week you’ll learn how to guest blog (pitching and writing one!)–and why guest blogging is such a valuable skill/strategy for an author.

Sara Pence, social media and guest blog strategist
Sara Pence

I first met Sara Pence when working with Shelton Interactive, now Advantage Media, on a campaign for platform building. I wanted to raise my visibility in the field and my media page looked outdated. It was time for some outreach. Sara helped me come up with terrific strategies and ideas for guest blog posts, which she successfully pitched. I even landed my dream post—with Writers Digest—12 Workplace Skills to Apply to Your Writing Career.

Guest blogging is such a terrific strategy for connecting specifically with your target audience and expanding your reach. I felt it deserved a place in our Social Media for Authors Week. And who better to discuss how to guest blog successfully than Sara Pence.

Why Guest Blog?

Lisa: What are some of the benefits of guest posting? Why would an author want to guest blog?

Sara: There are several benefits that come with writing guest posts for other bloggers and influencers. Here are a couple:

  1. Guest blogging will help you tap into an audience other than your own, and draw other people to your own platform.
  2. You’ll grow your online presence by having a link to your own website in your byline. This will help SEO (search engine optimization) for you AND the blogger who is hosting you.

Lisa: For what percentage of your authors do you suggest a guest blogging strategy? What are your criteria?

Sara: We work this strategy into every publicity campaign we work on. It’s important to remember that all media outlets are constantly searching for fresh content. Our job is to work with our Members to come up with the right angle for the outlet we want to pitch.

How to Guest Blog Click To Tweet

Lisa: How do you identify blogs that are a good fit?

Sara: Each project we work on is different, which requires us to constantly be on the lookout for new outlets that cover a wide variety of topics.

We do a lot of organic research through Google, in addition to looking for new outlets listed in Cision – a media relations database. With this resource we are able to find influencers, build media lists and track necessary analytics from a publicity standpoint.

We also keep track of our Member’s social media interactions and reach out to writers, bloggers and journalists who are already engaging with them online.

Lisa: Can you give an example of a recent pitch you made and the result?

book cover soul selfishSara: We recently started working with first-time author Jane Wyker and her book, Soul Selfish. While monitoring her Twitter interactions we were able to identify a news outlet that engaged with her on a regular basis, and I reached out to the site’s editor with a few guest blog post ideas. Referencing Jane and their Twitter interaction(s) in the beginning of my pitch was key. The editor requested a guest blog post from Jane, and you can read the final product here.

This is an example that illustrates how social media management and active publicity outreach can complement each other well.

Lisa: Let’s talk for a minute about original content vs. duplicate content. When we worked together on a guest blogging strategy, you helped me brainstorm overall ideas. Then we focused on a specific pitch for each blogger or website. I imagine pitching guest blog posts is more involved since you can’t pitch the same article for every blog. Each blogger wants original content. Is that right?

Sara: Correct. We generally pitch guest blog posts that are made up of original content, because that’s what the majority of news outlets and blogs require.

Tips to Pitch a Guest Blog Post Click To Tweet

Lisa: How do you approach your pitches to bloggers? Do you tend to pitch a variety of topics for one author, or variations on a theme?

Sara: Each pitch we send is different and tailored to who we’re reaching out to – which is why research is such a huge part of this process. We’ll sometimes offer a variety of topics, or if we feel very confident that one specific story idea will be a hit, we’ll offer just one.

Lisa: What are some tips to keep in mind when approaching a blogger about a guest blog post?

Sara: Be personal. Make sure what you’re offering is truly a fit for the blogger, and tell them early on in your pitch why.

Lisa: I noticed some statistics on the blogs you approached for me. What are those numbers and what do they mean?

Sara: One number we keep an eye on while pitching bloggers is unique monthly visitors (UMVs). This is the number of unique visitors a website has each month. For example, I’ve visited Writer’s Digest online before, so that site won’t register me as a new visitor in the future. The bigger the UMV, the better.

Lisa: What suggestions do you have for writing a great guest blog post?

Sara: One word: Lists.

Think about how many times you see articles that start with, “Five ways to…,” “10 reasons why…,” “Three common ways…,” etc., every day. This is because people (and the media) love lists.

As explained in this Fast Company article, we gravitate towards easily-digestible information. For this reason, we always suggest writing guest posts with valuable takeaways in a list format.

Lisa: Good point, we brainstormed quite a few list-based guest blog posts together. The guest blog post on Live, Write, Thrive that provides tips to land that 5- or 6- figure book deal comes to mind. We actually came up with several lists: writing advice, the tried and true tips (what hasn’t changed in publishing), the list of what’s changed in publishing and three rules to go by. So, if you offer lots of tips or items in a list, sometimes it’s a good idea to break them up into categories, each with its own headline.

Guest Blog Success Stories

Lisa: Can you share some examples of clients of yours and the experiences they’ve had with guest posting? Any exciting opportunities that have come out of the experience?

book coverSara: We have had several Members write guest blog posts for top news sites, like Entrepreneur.com or Huffington Post, and be offered the opportunity to become a regular contributor. You can look at Denise Nagel’s HuffPost column or Michelle Reina’s Entrepreneur.com posts as a couple of examples of how this turns out. There isn’t really a set-in-stone process to make this happen, so it’s really exciting when those invitations come through!

Lisa: What are some things that would cause a blogger or website to have you back as a guest blogger?

Sara: Providing a blogger with really solid and valuable content that proved to resonate really well with his or her audience is key. For example, offer a completely different opinion on a popular news story, list tips that only you as the expert in your field can explain, or regularly check in on your guest post and engage with those who comment on it.

Lisa: Any parting advice for our readers?

Sara: When writing for someone else’s blog or platform, always keep the term, “news you can use” in mind. At the end of the day, it can’t be all about promoting your brand. You have to provide valuable tips, advice and a call to action for THEIR audience in order to grow yours.Be patient because this strategy takes a lot of time, but you’ll find it worthwhile in the long-run.

editingLisa: How can people get in touch with you?

Sara: You can learn more and contact me here.

Sara Pence is a senior publicist at Advantage Media Group. She has successfully developed and implemented publicity strategies by securing hundreds of media hits for bestselling authors, health professionals, nonprofit organizations and much more. For more information, please visit www.advantagefamily.com.

Ask your questions about guest blogging below–or share your experiences and tips for pitching a guest blog–or writing one!

And here are the other two blog posts in the Social Media for Authors series:

  • Frances’ Caballo shares why Goodreads is so important for authors, along with tips and success stories on Goodreads for Authors.
  • Rusty Shelton shares his favorite strategies on Twitter for Authors, along with several inspiring examples.

Lisa Tener

Lisa Tener is an award-winning book writing coach who assists writers in all aspects of the writing process—from writing a book proposal and getting published to finding one’s creative voice. Her clients have appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS Early Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNN, Fox News, New Morning and much more. They blog on sites like The Huffington Post, Psychology Today and WebMD.

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