For marketers looking to build lasting trust with their audiences, generate leads, and improve their SEO, there's no better tool than content. Now, contrary to what the name may lead you to believe, "content marketing" and its benefits aren't limited only to marketers. Content is an essential tool for company leaders looking to influence specific groups of people and accomplish a range of business goals.
It helps leaders in an organization — from your CEO to your CTO and even to your sales team — build their brands, establish and communicate their credibility in their industry, and more. And their collective content affects the goals of other departments, too, from HR recruiting and training new hires to account services efficiently answering client questions.
To truly see these kinds of results from your content marketing, you've got to go beyond publishing content on your blog, sharing it on social, and calling it a day.
You have to ensure your message reaches the right audience members in the right place at the right time, and you've got to reach them where they are. One of the best ways to do that is by guest posting in the publications your target audience already reads and trusts.
The Value of Guest Posting
When you contribute articles to online publications, you tap into new audiences that engage with topics in your industry but might not know much about you or your company. And when you do so through a content marketing strategy that ties your guest content back to your on-site content, you create an inbound funnel — one that draws qualified traffic back to you, earns you high-quality backlinks, and boosts your SEO, creating opportunity in the long run.
In fact, in 2016, we saw that referral traffic and organic search traffic were the top drivers of qualified leads and revenue generated via our marketing efforts, accounting for 58 percent of the qualified leads generated and 73 percent of our marketing-generated revenue.
What to Publish and Where
It’s easy to think that the best sites to publish on are what we call "mainstream" sites, like Inc., Forbes, and The Washington Post. There's certainly value in publishing in these publications. Our CEO, John Hall, publishes weekly to his columns in Forbes and Inc., and our company leaders have published content in Mashable, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Harvard Business Review, and dozens more.
However, don’t overlook the value of niche sites. Our team has found that publishing in sites — like Content Marketing Institute, HubSpot, and CMO.com — that focus specifically on topics relevant to our audience (like marketing, content, sales, and PR) can generate even better results.
Regardless of where you contribute, you can't simply pitch publication editors any content you want. The biggest reason editors accept and publish guest posts is to share new insights, ideas, tactics, and more with their readers. And the biggest reason they reject guest posts is because they don't fit their guidelines: The content is too promotional, unoriginal, or not professionally written and edited.
So take time to actually read through other content on a site; make note of its preferred style, tone, length, and common topics. If you research the site you're targeting and create a custom post that's crafted specifically for that audience using your unique insights and expertise, you’ll have a much better shot at getting published.
What are editors looking for in the guest posts they publish? Check out "" for insights from editors at leading online publications.
Match Your Guest-Contributed Content to Your Company Goals
To ensure your guest content actually generates results for your business, you've got to align your content strategy and your company goals right from the start. Here are four common goals you can achieve through guest content, plus tactics for setting yourself up to accomplish them:
1. Generate Leads
If you are looking to use content to generate leads, publish on sites that are looking for contributors to offer how-to content so you can hit your readers at the middle of the funnel.
Contribute content that offers a call to action and prompts readers to download a piece of content from your site that offers more value and education around the topic. We've found that downloadable templates, guides, and research reports work really well in this scenario.
Publication editors will remove links they deem too promotional, so don't try to sneak in links solely for your own benefit. Be intentional and strategic when linking to gated content to use the downloadable content to further your message and truly provide value.
Our team consistently sees an initial spike in traffic and leads generated right after a new guest post is published, but in order for it to do so on a regular basis (for months or even years), it's got to rank on search. Help your guest content rank by looking for sites with high domain authority, and optimize your posts to include keywords that people actually might type into a search engine.
If you are purposeful and strategic about setting your content up for success, you'll find that it will start showing up on search and continue to drive leads back to your site on a regular basis.
2. Build Trust and Communicate Credibility
If you're looking to build trust with your audience and establish credibility in your industry, publishing content on mainstream sites that people already trust is a good strategy. There's just something about seeing your company's message alongside the logo of a reputable publication that adds another layer of credibility to what you have to say.
But positioning your brand next to trusted industry resources isn't enough on its own. To reinforce that trust and credibility, publish thought leadership content that truly helps and offers value to your audience.
3. Improve SEO
If you're specifically looking to use your guest posts as a tool to boost your SEO through high-quality backlinks, keep the following best practices in mind:
- Look at the Domain Authority of the sites you're interested in contributing to; anything above a 50 is recommended.
- Confirm that the site offers follow links so you can ensure the domain on which your article is published will pass authority back to your site; MozBar makes it easy to check this.
- Link back to relevant blog posts and pages on your website using the keywords you want to rank for.
- Make sure the content on your site matches the content of the article you're publishing off-site. Getting links from sites that don’t make sense for your content is a classic black hat SEO trick that will do more harm than good.
4. Influence a Specific Audience
Account-based marketing is on the rise, and that's because of the power of content to help leaders and marketers speak directly to highly targeted audiences. Here are three ways to use your guest content to influence a specific audience:
- Ask for a quote. If you're guest posting an article to a well-known site, reach out to another industry expert who you’ve been wanting to start a conversation with, and ask her for a quote. More than likely, she'll be happy to help, and she'll love seeing her name in her favorite publication.
- Get personal. If you're looking to hire new employees, speak to them with content you publish about your company, leadership, culture, failures, and successes. We regularly do this at our company. Our content gives this specific audience a peek at what it's like to work at Influence & Co., and candidates mention time and again in their interviews that it was a big factor in their decision to apply.
- Pitch to brand publications, not just industry outlets. Are you looking to start a conversation with a leader at an enterprise brand? Chances are that company probably has a publication of its own that might accept guest contributors. Try pitching an article to its blog to start a partnership that's built on helping first.
Guest-contributed content has played an incredibly impactful role in our growth as a company. It’s the backbone of our entire marketing strategy, and it's led to thousands of leads generated and millions in revenue. Effectively integrating guest posts into your strategy is the secret ingredient for generating results from your content marketing efforts.