On Tuesday, my guest post on Grammar Mistakes, Fixes, and Writing Tips for the Excellence-Minded Blogger went live on AHREFS blog.
It was exciting because, for me, this post was a stretch beyond my comfort zone.
Why did this particular blog intimidate me? For one thing, the length and depth of the posts on AHREFS were more than I am used to. In addition, they do in-depth research on keywords before posting. Plus, they use lots of internal and external links (links to other posts on their blog and to data and research that supports the strategies they offer).
And, of course, the writing is always high quality. These guys take their blogging very seriously.
So, I wondered, could I do all that? I’m not a research wiz and I don’t know as much about keywords as I’d like. And could I come up with all those examples by end of month?
How I Came to Guest Posting
Guest posting is a great strategy for reaching new people with your message and also can benefit your search engine rankings.
Guest blogging also invites you to stretch your metaphoric muscles. It can stretch you as a writer—as it did me—to write to a specific audience and write to the style and guidelines of the blog where you are posting.
However, I wasn’t trying to be strategic (and land a guest post) at the time.
Instead, I was wandering the Twitterverse looking at interesting content to share and found a blog post on The 2 Best Online Marketing Strategies for Businesses on a Tight Budget by Jacob McMillen. It was an impressive post—as are all the posts on AHREFS. [2022 note: I’ve taken out the article links as the blog is updated and these links no longer work]
I happened to notice a typo and I know I like to hear from my readers so I can correct any typos on my blog. I figured they might be of like mind.
So I wrote them.
And they wrote me back. Next thing, their blog editor, David McSweeney, invited me to write a guest post on grammar and writing tips for bloggers.
I felt so excited to be invited, because AHREFS has high standards. Their posts are full of excellent content—fresh ideas and strategies that are tested and work, excellent examples, quality links, research…
I took up David’s invitation.
Writing My Guest Post—Step by Step
I looked up their guest blogging guidelines. Uh oh. They didn’t seem to have any.
I emailed David who responded with, “We actually took them down as we are being very selective about guest posts at the moment. We’re more inviting people than looking for unsolicited pitches. The main guideline is that posts should be detailed and actionable.”
Now, the pressure was on.
As I browsed the site, the pressure mounted—each post seemed more well-researched and meaty than the last. And many posts had all these fancy screen captures to take readers step-by-step through their strategies. I had no clue how to do those screen capture thingies.
Plus examples for every strategy suggested.
How was I going to pull this off?
I have to admit. I spent more time writing the AHREFS post than I spend on most of my own posts, which tend to be much shorter and don’t have much research associated with the majority of them. Don’t get me wrong—I’m proud of my blog posts. They’re just a different style from AHREFS and a lot more informal.
Of course, about half of that extensive time I took to write my guest post was in researching their posts and then worrying about whether I possessed the chops.
I incorporated many of the strategies they suggested and modelled: headlines to break up text, lots of white space, internal and external links, including colleagues in the post.
I did not incorporate everything. I didn’t link to lots of research–but I did ask the folks at Grammarly for expert input (a quote) and any research they had on grammar and reader perceptions.
I didn’t do extensive keyword research—it’s not my expertise. I realize that’s a bit ironic since AHREFS offers tools for keyword research and search engine optimization! However, I did include my keywords in my title and throughout the post, in a non-spammy way.
I quickly realized that if I wanted examples, the best way to do it would be to include advice from my colleagues—writers, bloggers and, specifically, grammar bloggers.
I identified colleagues I’ve known for years—Frances Caballo, Stuart Horwitz, Ginger Moran, Michael Larsen, Samantha Bennett—and, with some help from Frances Caballo, I identified colleagues I’ve recently gotten to know a bit through Twitter—Jane Friedman, Mignon Fogarty (Grammar Girl), Susanne Lakin (whom I’d guest blogged for earlier, thanks to my friends at Shelton Interactive) and the folks at Grammarly. I even heard a great tip on a teleseminar on SEO tips with Neil Patel and asked him if I could quote him (Answer? “Yes.”).
Confession: At least two weeks passed between the time I identified colleagues and the time I actually got around to asking most of them. I think I delayed because of my overall fear of writing the post. In retrospect, it would have been less stressful—and more considerate—to email colleagues as soon as I placed them on my list.
I handed in my post with more than a little trepidation.
When David responded favorably (“Wow, what a great post.”) I could finally relax.
Then he wrote back asking if I was open to a new title. Of course.
While, at times, I have a knack for book titles (The Creativity Cure comes to mind), I often struggle with titles for blog posts (and email subject lines, BTW). So, it wasn’t a total surprise when David asked about changing the title (the original white bread version being, “Grammar and Writing Tips for Bloggers”).
We brainstormed by email and David suggested modifying one of my subheads and using that as a more compelling blog title. Done.
11 Lessons I Learned Guest Blogging for AHREFS
So, here are my takeaways from the experience, as well as earlier experiences writing guest posts for Writers Digest, Live Write Thrive, Positive Writer and Inspired Living Publishing:
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you don’t know. You never know what will come of it.
- Be willing to write outside your comfort zone.
- Read the submissions/style guidelines. If they are not posted, ask for any guidelines they want to share.
- Be sure to look at several of the blog’s most current posts and match those posts on length, style, content and, to some extent, tone.
- Link to other posts on that blog/website.
- Consider including and quoting other experts as a way to spread the love, reach more people and add texture and depth to your post.
- Know your weaknesses. Decide whether you need help on particular aspects that are not your forte.
- Spend time on penning a compelling title. If that’s not your strong point, see tip #7.
- Start as soon as possible. I should have emailed colleagues sooner for their tips and strategies.
- Make it actionable. This is something they stress on the AHREFS blog.
- Take a deep breath and enjoy the process. Worrying about whether you’ll do a good job just wastes time and energy.
Have you ever guest posted on a blog? What was your experience? Feel free to share any takeaways and a link to your post. And if you invite guest bloggers, please share any additional tips or takeaways to share with our community?