Editor’s note: Hello weekend warriors. We’re back with another quick and effective task you can do in a weekend to get big results for your business.
You’ve imagined it so many times.
Your work, featured proudly on enormous websites with millions of readers: Huffington Post, Lifehacker, LiveStrong, or so many others… attracting thousands of views, thousands of shares, but most importantly—hundreds of new subscribers!
Then you snap out of it and remember, you’ve never actually pitched to a big website. And you don’t know where to start.
You ask yourself:
“Is my content good enough?” (spoilers: yes!)
“Doesn’t it take special connections to get published there?” (Nope!)
“Mine must be one of hundreds of pitches they get every day—what are the odds?” (Better than you think!)
These are all valid concerns. Today, let’s try to answer all of them and set you on the path towards pitching to the big boys—and getting a “yes!”
Two Winning Mindsets to Help You Pitch with Confidence
There are two kinds of big blogs relevant to you:
- Biggest sites specifically in your niche (e.g. if you write about health and wellness, your target blog would be LiveStrong).
- Huge blogs that publish tons of content on many general topics (Huffington Post, Cracked, Lifehacker, etc.)
When dealing with either type, it’s important to internalize these two mindsets—they will empower you to pitch the right way.
Mindset #1. They need you just as much (if not more)
These blogs live and die by their ability to maintain a constant output of content. Nine out of ten pitches they get will suck irredeemably, so they’re constantly on the lookout for good content, i.e. content like yours.
You might not be a big-shot expert, or a proficient writer, but you have to have solid content. And how do you know if it’s up to snuff? Only one way to find out…
Mindset #2. Your pitch doesn’t have to be groundbreaking
There’s a misconception that it takes an incredible story to get on a big blog. Something like…
“12 Counterintuitive Lessons I Learned Making a Billion Dollars Overnight”
“How to Travel to Every Country in the World While Broke, Naked, and Swearing Uncontrollably”
“I Can Do 1,000 Pushups with My Tongue—Let Me Teach You How in 15 Minutes”
Yes, these are all me being ridiculous for the fun of it.
But you know the type of posts I am talking about, right? Well, if you look closely, you will discover a simple truth: these insane stories are a minority. For every jaw-dropping article published, there are hundreds of regular posts you don’t notice. Like these:
“Not Finishing a Marathon: Failure or a Success?” (Not completing a marathon? Gee, how revolutionary!)
“7 Ways to Unlock Your Greatness” (What does that even mean?)
“The Most Overlooked Muscles in Your Upper-Body Workouts” (Insightful, but by no means groundbreaking)
Open any big blog, and you will see dozens of posts like these—in some cases, exclusively posts like these (*cough* Pick the Brain *cough*). If you think I’m cherry-picking, you’re welcome to try it yourself.
If you’re an expert in your niche (as I’m sure you are), I bet you could churn out stuff like that non-stop—even if I unleashed a litter of excitable Corgis on you while you do it.
Bottom line is, editors working at those blogs aren’t looking for sensational stories only. More than anything, they are looking for relatable and emotional ones. As long as yours can be a little remarkable and stand out just enough to get noticed, you’re good to go.
Now, let us dispense with theory, and talk about crafting a killer pitch that will get you noticed by an insanely busy editor.
80/20 Process for Preparing and Sending a Killer Pitch
1. Stalk before you talk—at least a little
Guest posting is only one of many relationship marketing strategies. It’s incredibly popular, though. And as a result, most editors are irrevocably traumatized by cookie-cutter pitches.
So much so that a generic, one-size-fits-all pitch is the worst disservice you can do to an editor. If it’s hilariously bad, then at least they can make fun of it. If it’s merely sad and devoid of individuality, they can do little but remove it from their inbox while dying a little bit inside.
You know the type of pitch I’m talking about. When someone writes new content just for the sake of it, and then goes around shoving it down editors’ throats.
Don’t do that. Nobody wants unproven content that isn’t a good fit.
By the way, the same holds true for when a guest post is rejected. Don’t pitch it to other sites on the off-chance that it might get accepted. If you can rework it for another site, fine. But don’t just spew out the same pitch after pitch.
Pitching to a big website means you have to invested time and effort into learning what kind of content they like, and what kind they’d never publish.
If it sounds hard, that might be because it is. But if you do the work in advance, and use your in-depth knowledge to craft a killer pitch, it will pay off.
At a minimum, you should do this:
- Study their submission guidelines (most people never do).
- Gather the topics of the posts related to your niche from the past month or so.
- Make a list of the ones with the most views, shares, and comments.
- Skim the contents, so you know how the authors of those posts chose to present the topic.
- Know the name of the editor responsible for the topic you want to pitch.
For extra credit, perform steps 2-4 on competing blogs, too, so you know which topics are trending on more than one website.
These steps give you the necessary groundwork for a compelling pitch. You don’t want to come across as a clueless, cocky blogger, who is only sending in a pitch because everyone else is doing it. That’s lottery-ticket reasoning: “They’ve got to accept someone’s pitch—why not mine?”
Doesn’t work like that. Never has, never will.
2. Prove your relevance
This is where your “homework” pays off.
You studied the content, you figured out which pieces resonate with the blog’s audience, you thought about how it relates to your expertise and your particular niche…
Time to show your work! Here’s the easiest way to do that: don’t present your pitch in a vacuum.
Whenever possible, link to a recent post on the blog, or a past popular piece, and explain how it connects to the topic you’re suggesting.
- Are you going to focus on something that was overlooked in said popular post?
- Will you offer a contrarian, but legitimate, point of view?
- Do you have a terrific case study or a personal story about applying a technique from the post?
This is very important. Give the editor some helpful context. Connect the dots for them, explain why their audience will love your topic.
Remember: they don’t want something totally new and groundbreaking just because it’s totally new and groundbreaking. They want a relatable story, preferably about something people already love.
And if it happens to be somewhat new and a touch groundbreaking as well, all the better!
3. Never send a draft right away
This goes back to my previous point about cookie-cutter pitches. Sending the draft right away is a huge red flag. To the editor, it means you assume they will agree to publish.
It’s disrespectful, and you should never do it… unless submission guidelines clearly state to send a draft right away. Amateur approach, if you ask me, but there are more than a few blogs out there practicing it.
In a similar vein, never ask the editor if they want to publish your piece. Instead, ask them if they want to see a draft. This removes pressure from both of you—and nine times out of ten, getting a “yes” on a draft means the post will get published.
4. If you have strong previous content, use it
Editors are terrified of two things:
- Agreeing to a draft and getting an unreadable mess.
- Publishing a perfectly good guest post that bombs.
Alleviate both of them, and you’ll be their hero.
You have the perfect tool for the job—your past content. If you can link them to your best-written post, preferably one that also did well in terms of views and social shares, you make those fears go away.
With certain blogs, you can even get your past successful content syndicated (basically, republished) on their website. This is a strategy not many bloggers know about, but it’s extremely effective (James Clear used it to grow his blog to the household name it is today).
I won’t get into it here, but you can read this guide from SumoMe to find out more.
Bonus tip from the editor!
First off, Oleg is right. I want your content. I am rooting for every single person who sends in a pitch. I open every pitch with the expectation that it is amazing, and I can’t wait to publish it on the site.
So nothing brings on my pouty face faster than opening a pitch email and seeing “Dear Mr. Mirasee.” Aside from the fact that that clearly tells me you know nothing about our site, it states on our Write for Us page “send your pitch to Selene…”
Another quick bring on my pouty face pitch email… someone doesn’t submit their pitch in accordance with our guidelines and has clearly not researched our site.
But probably one of the things I’m most turned off by as an editor is the immediate ask: “And all I ask for in return is a link.”
I know you want a link. You know you want a link. And I know you know I know you want a link. And I also know if you’ve done your research, you’ll see all of our guest authors get a link (and often more than just one!).
So based on that alone, there’s no need to ask for a link. We just met, yes? Let’s first see if this is a mutually beneficial relationship before we go asking for stuff from each other.
End Editor’s note.
Full disclosure: even for an entire weekend, preparing a pitch to a big blog is a lot of work. This process is neither quick, nor easy.
However, it’s the key ingredient that separates people whose pitches get a “yes” from thousands of time-wasters, sending half-hearted, one-size-fits-all queries to every website they can think of, and then whining about how the deck is stacked against them.
I can’t stress this enough—big websites run on content. They are relying on good ideas from people like you to keep them in business. If you have something valuable to offer to them, you owe it to yourself to try.
And hopefully this post will help you navigate the most common pitfalls, and land a pitch that will make any big-shot editor say, “Whoa! We need to get this on the blog asap!” Godspeed!
Over to you. Have you tried pitching to some of the bigger sites like HuffPo? If not what’s holding you back? Any tips for hopeful pitchers out there? Leave a comment and let us know!