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10 Lessons
FROM DEBT TO 7 FIGURES

How to Guest Blog: Do You Really Need to Build Relationships With Editors Before Pitching Them?

how to guest blog 1

Most guest post advice recommends building relationships with editors or bloggers (sometimes they’re the same person) before pitching them. No shortcuts.

Send lines like:

“I’ve been a fan of your blog even before you had thoughts of creating it!” (Doesn’t matter they obviously can’t read minds.)

“I’ve been following your blog for the past 10 years.” (Doesn’t matter they’re 10 years old.)

“You may have seen my name in the comments section of your blog.” (Doesn’t matter they left only “great post” as comment on your blog once in the past year.)

Ok, so it’s a bit exaggerated, but you get the point.

Some recommend following the editor on social media, commenting on their posts, sharing it, and sending them emails. They swear by it.

Does it work? Sure, it does.

So what’s the problem? Why did I write a post about building relationships with editors in the first place?

Well, it’s because some people think it’s the only way to get published on popular blogs.

So they blame their failure to land guest posts on popular blogs on partiality. Favoritism. Prejudice. And any word that conveys how biased the editor must be.

Do editors really look forward to discarding your pitch because they don’t know you?Click To Tweet

Is that the case? Do editors really look forward to discarding your pitch simply because they don’t know you?

To answer those questions, let’s consider…

The 5 ways to write for any blog/publication

1. Follow guidelines when pitching

This is for cases where the website has guidelines for guest posts.

All you need do is read and follow the guidelines to stand a better chance of getting a reply at least. For example, this is Mirasee’s.

Following guidelines means:

  • Sending your pitch to the appropriate editor. Especially for publications that have different editors for different sections of their site. This is an example from MarketingProfs.
  • Pitching the right ideas to a website. Don’t pitch a post on “100 Reasons Why Dogs Cry” to Mirasee, because it’s not a pet blog, although I’m sure that topic would make a great post. Only on an appropriate blog.
  • Following desired word count. If a publication only accepts 800-word posts, you’re effectively wasting your time by sending a 1000-word post. You can refer to the MarketingProfs screenshot earlier.
  • Using required formatting procedures. Do they accept only word docs? Do they accept only PNG images?  Do they allow embedding of links in the article?

I know sending guest posts in HTML is pretty cool and you probably think you’re doing the receiving blog a favour, but if the guidelines say share a link via Google doc, please share a link via Google doc.

Several people get published this way. I don’t have numbers, but it’s an easy way to get published on popular websites that accept guest posts. Just read guidelines and pitch accordingly.

2. Don’t follow guidelines when pitching

Can that get you published? Yes it can. For example, Karol Krol got published on Sophie Lizard’s Be a Freelance Blogger (BAFB), even though he admitted in his pitch email that he wasn’t a reader of BAFB.

That isn’t just contrary to the guidelines of the blog, it’s contrary to advice on guest post pitch templates out there!

Other blogs claim not to accept guest posts, but you see guest posts published there weekly. While some blogs strictly use invitation-only writers (I’m still not entirely convinced myself but more on that later), the guest posts you see on some of them are the product of successful pitches.

Take Problogger for example. This is their “write for us” page.

But week in week out, you’ll see guest posts from other writers on the blog. Sure, some writers are handpicked to write for the blog.

The rest? They break the rules. They don’t wait to be picked. They search for the email address of  the editor and send pitches.

I know because I’ve been published on Problogger twice this year, and all I had to do was:

  • Write a relevant post.
  • Find the email address of the editor.
  • Send a pitch email with my completed post.

Don’t go out of your way to break guest blogging guidelines just for the fun of it. You’ll fail terribly!

I can say it worked for myself and Karol because:

  • The pitches were relevant.
  • They were addressed to the right people (though Karol sent his post to Sophie, the blog owner, and not her editor).
  • The accompanying post was well-written.

My post was so good it wasn’t just the most popular post on Problogger in January 2016, but it also gave me the chance to write a followup post!

Karol’s post?

He took it further by even designing the layout of the post. Of course, Sophie was impressed.

If a website says they no longer accept guest posts, but you keep seeing guest posts on their blog? Find the email address of an editor and send a hypnotic pitch.

If possible, send a complete post, so they see, not just your writing ability, but your development of the idea. If it’s good enough, I doubt they’ll say “no, we don’t accept guest posts.”

In other words, if you want to break guest blogging guidelines, just recall a simple principle: “Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Then again, there are no guarantees. But there are no guarantees following guidelines will get you published either.

3. Build relationships with editors

Remember commenting on posts, following editor/blog on social media, subscribing to their email list, and probably sending a “thank you” email for a post? Yup. This is it.

This is the part you’ll find in most templates. Often called the “warm up” before asking for a guest post.

It’s just the way you’ve read in other blog posts, so I won’t rehash what you know already.

When Bryan Harris sent a cold email pitch to Hubspot, and claimed to be a fan of Hubspot (see below) he’d never guess the recipient would look up his contact record.

But the editor had other thoughts. She says (bold is mine):

“He had been reading and interacting with HubSpot content for almost two years. How do I know? I’m a creep, and I looked up his contact record in HubSpot. I could see he wasn’t some random stranger out to get backlinks.”

Not everyone is creepy, but if you’re going to send editors emails, please don’t imply what isn’t there. It may help, like Bryan’s case shows, but you don’t need to say you’re a “huge fan” to get your pitch accepted.

If you’ll still tow the “huge fan” line, be sure to have proof. Have you:

  • Commented on the blog—not just “great post” comments, but added to the discussion?
  • Shared their posts on social media or subscribed to their newsletter long enough to know they publish new posts on Tuesdays and not Fridays like you planned to send in your pitch?
The best bloggers are voracious readers.Click To Tweet

The best bloggers are voracious readers. They’ve read the same parts of pitching etiquette you’ve read, too.

Keri Morgret of Inbound.org sums it up well with this comment on Moz:

“I may be one of the few that has the view of don’t worry about starting up a relationship with me. I’m a marketer, I can tell when you’re suddenly following me on Twitter, commenting on what I write, sending me a LinkedIn request, etc. Give me good content (and cupcakes), but don’t try to be my BFF suddenly overnight. It’s easy to spot, we’ve all read the same playbooks.”

And there are other editors like Keri out there too. They won’t mind if they know you, or have seen your name elsewhere, as long as you give them great content.

Building relationships may increase your chances of getting your pitch accepted, especially on sites that do strictly-on-invitation guest posts.

Notice I said “increases your chances,” because an editor won’t accept a terrible idea from you simply because they know you.

I can only imagine how difficult it may be for editors to turn down guest posts from people they know.

Don’t make your acquaintance with editors an affliction for them. Make it a relief.

Some sites that previously accepted unsolicited guest posts still leave the published guidelines online.

Here are Content Marketing Institute’s guidelines:

And this is Blogging Wizard’s guest post guidelines:

It lets you know what Adam wanted before he called time on unsolicited guest posts on his blog.

What if you can’t readily find guidelines on any page on the blog? A quick search on Google can help. For example, this, for Blogging Wizard:

You know the best part of building relationships with respect to guest posting? Read on.

4. Get invited

This can happen in several ways:

  • The editor sees your post on another reputable blog and decides to invite you to contribute on their blog too. This is how Adam Connell became published on Smart Blogger (formerly Boost Blog Traffic). Jon Morrow saw his post on Problogger, liked it, and invited him to write for Smart Blogger.

Barry Feldman’s prolific guest blogging has given him many invitations to write for other blogs, and sometimes he’s paid to do it!

  • The editor notices your meaningful interaction on their posts, in the form of comments, shares, etc., and asks you to write for their blog. Kevin Duncan wrote for Smart Blogger in this way too. In fact, he also wrote a whole guide about blog comments.

The possibilities are endless.

As you’ve noticed, you don’t choose who invites you to write for their blog. That’s not in your power.

But you can choose how well you write your guest posts. You can choose to build relationships with editors of your favorite blogs. You can choose proactivity—actively pitching editors accepting guest posts.

Nobody is entitled to attention.

When you’re not getting attention from an editor you admire, then you’ve probably not done something remarkable enough to seize their attention. Or you’ve not given it enough time.

Like Keri’s quote earlier says, don’t expect to be an editor’s BFF overnight. It may take time; otherwise, getting invited to write for a popular blog is a dandy.

5. Syndication

If you’ve read media publications longer than five minutes, you’ll see something like:

“This post originally appeared on [insert website here] but has been republished here with permission.”

That means the post you just read was syndicated.

It can happen in three ways:

  • You write a remarkable post on your blog, (bonus points if it goes viral), an editor notices it, and asks for permission to republish it on their site. For example, Melissa Fenton wrote a post on her tiny blog—it was even a dot-blogspot domain name then. After some promotion, within a week, the article was shared over 500k times.She woke up one morning to an email from an editor who wanted to publish the article on HuffPost. Melissa got a blogger account with HuffPost and they republished her article. All from one viral post on her free website!
  • You write a guest post on a blog often syndicated by media publications, an editor notices it, loves it, and republishes the post on their blog. For example, a guest post on The Muse can get you featured in a publication like Inc. As an example, all of Aja Frost’s articles on Inc are syndicated from The Muse.

A guest post on Brazen or Good Men Project can get you featured on Huffington Post.

If you’ve been reading Mirasee for a while, you’ve likely read an article from Jacob Mcmillen. His post on Brazen got featured on Huffington Post. Oh, and Brazen is also an author at HuffPost.

Here’s the original post:

And the syndicated version:

  • You write a wonderful post, reach out to publications that permit syndication and ask them to republish it. In other words, you pitch an already published article to a publication you know accepts syndication. Sarah Peterson has had great success with this and writes a guide about it here. The examples above are not isolated cases. You can find scores of them on the internet. That’s proof that it works. You may get fortunate, and an editor from a reputable publication notices a viral post on your blog and decides to republish it on their site. I’m not saying it cannot happen, but you may have higher chances of winning the lottery. Again, the other two methods have no guarantees, but I’m all for proactivity.

The Editor’s Dilemma

“No matter how organized an editor is, a big part of the job is actually just managing chaos with poise. Some weeks, I scramble for content. Other times, I can barely keep up with the email flowing into my inbox.”Tara Clapper, SEMRush

I know this to be true. I once waited two months to get my first post published on a popular blog.

Later, I sent another guest post, and it was published in two days. I wasn’t even told my post was accepted, let alone told the date it’s scheduled for publication.

Another post was rejected because the editor was so busy. She asked me to submit the post elsewhere for consideration!

So, you may interact with editors, send the perfect guest post pitch, and still get rejected. Don’t take it personally. Most editors do not really want to reject guest posts, especially when they have quotas to meet.

Consider the following:

The Washington Post’s editorial staff publishes about 500 articles per day. That’s over one post every three minutes.

The Washington Post’s editorial staff publishes about 500 articles per day! Click To Tweet

Do you really think they’re hovering their cursors over the “Delete” icon while reading a pitch? Then think again.

Some editors do weekly or monthly writing for their websites. Some do just editing.

A shortage of great pitches means that to meet their quotas, they have to either: find writers or do the writing themselves.

For some, the latter may involve scrambling for content. Sometimes.

Sending great ideas and great pitches don’t just help you, they help editors too.Click To Tweet

You see, sending great ideas and great pitches don’t just help you, they help editors too.

Should you build relationships with editors before pitching them?

It took me over 2,000 words to say it, but I guess you probably figured out an answer yourself…

No. You don’t need to build relationships with editors before pitching them.

But editors have their preferences, and you have higher chances of getting your pitch accepted, or at least getting a reply if you simply follow guest post guidelines on their website. (Editor’s Note: So true! 90% of my replies to guest post pitches is: “Please read and follow our guidelines!”)

That said, it’s not wrong to build relationships with editors before pitching them. It has its advantages.

Telling an editor “I’ve been a fan of your site for over two years” actually puts pressure on you to pitch something relevant to the site to prove how well you know them.

And an editor will not drop their standard just because you’ve tweeted their posts a few times. Or commented on their posts. Or followed them on all social networks.

Just remember, relationship or no relationship, you need to:

  • Pitch relevant ideas to the site.
  • Write a mind-blowing post when your pitch is accepted.

Otherwise, all that talk of knowing or not knowing an editor won’t count.

What’s your experience with building relationships with editors? Do you think it matters? If so, how much?

Get Started With Guest Blogging

Use this handy guide to get started with guest blogging!

About Iniobong Eyo

Iniobong Eyo is a copywriter and content strategist. He helps businesses get serious with their content marketing by planning, developing, and managing their content for greater ROI.

16 comments

  1. Hello Iniobong,

    You literally did a great job writing these over 2000 words and the way you communicated. I am so amazed of your writing that being a wanna be blogger I have something to confess here that even after reading more than 1,00,000 words myself I can say that none of them hit so hard combined as two of your advice were enough to make me change.
    One is “following the rules and breaking them”. Keeping on reading regularly I became so much obsessed with ‘templets’, that I myself kinda stopped thinking.
    And secondly is the voracious reading habit of bloggers. I was being so lazy that I really needed a push.
    I think if everybody in my place could do only two of these things their life will be changed by an 180.
    Thank you again.

  2. Great post–this is a subject I’ve always wondered about. I came to the conclusion that there is no way I would have time to “get to know” each editor before I pitch them. It would take weeks or months just to send one pitch! It definitely helps to read and comment on the blogs you know you want to write for, but I don’t feel like it’s a requirement just to pitch.

    It’s also interesting to know that editors can see through it when we’re trying to “court” them. LOL!

  3. Hey Iniobong,

    Before pitching we should really study carefully guidelines because it help to strenghten relationship. If you develop content according to you it might be not acceptable for that website and may leads to distraction in establishing fresh relationship.

    Relationship is considered significant mechanism in online marketing or in blogging without it you can’nt achieve success in these kind of platform. Eventually, thanks for sharing your worthy thought with us.

    With best wishes,

    Amar kumar

    1. Hello Rocky,

      You’re not exactly “totally” missing out by not syndicating posts, though it sure helps. But just try and see how it works for you.

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Thank you for this post, Iniobong! This is by far the most comprehensive and useful guide on guest posting I’ve seen, or at least for 2017 😉 I love the way you break stereotypes and give specific examples! I recommended it to my network as well, as I think many of them will find it valuable for starting their content marketing outreach…

  5. Iniobong,
    Thanks for the great summary here. I’ve been putting some posts up on my site and then trying to rally some attention around them but also worried about coming off spammy. I’m actually far more comfortable with the idea of pitching an editor than trying to convince everyone to read the post. How do you select the right blogs to go after?

    1. Hi Calvin, I’m chiming in until Iniobong can respond. The short answer is to choose the blogs your target audience is already reading.

      The long answer is in this post, which includes a sample of how you can track your target blogs on a spreadsheet: https://mirasee.com/blog/how-to-get-traffic-to-your-blog/

      In addition, this post lists some of the top blogs for Blogging / Internet Marketing / Social Media, Self Improvement / Productivity, Health / Fitness, and Finance: https://mirasee.com/blog/guest-post-target-blog/

      Hope that helps!

  6. Good tips and techniques provided – thanks.
    Yes, it’s good to remember that ‘rules’ don’t need to be a deterrent to trying.
    Relationship building, while important, is still secondary to strong content.

  7. Thanks for bringing this up. “Building a relationship” does feel a bit contrived. I like how you balance it out by saying it can help but isn’t an absolute necessity. You may have hit on the real reason to at least follow and be involved in a blog before pitching–so you really know what they are about, could use and can then write a really mind-blowing pitch. In other words, “building a relationship” is more for the guest blogger wannabe than it is to soften up the editor.

    1. Hello Mary,

      Building relationships isn’t absolutely necessary. Also, you don’t need to “follow” a blog to know what they’re about. To help you craft and write an excellent post, you can:

      1. Read at least ten posts on the blog. That way, you can tell what topics are published and the blog’s tone.

      2. Use Buzzsumo to check the most popular posts on the blog. You can then decide to write on a similar topic.

      3. Most blogs have “popular posts” category. That can also help you decide what works on the blog.

      If you craft your pitch using any of the info above, you’re likely to succeed, even without “following” the blog or building a relationship with the editor.

      You’ll just be left with creating great content.

      Thanks for reading!

    2. Hello Mary

      That’s true. But you can often discover what types of posts work on a blog by reading at least ten posts on the blog, using Buzzsumo to check the most shared posts or checking “most popular” posts category on the blog.

      You can use that to craft your pitch and create excellent content for the blog.

      Thanks for reading!

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