Online publications are kind of like matchmakers: If you can deliver the right content, they can connect you and your brand to the audience of your dreams.
This matchmaking service works so well because it serves everyone’s best interests. Not only do you find an outlet to reach your audience, but publications are also better able to offer their readers and consumers targeted content on the platforms they already trust and engage with.
Contributing guest content to online publications can increase your influence, credibility, and industry authority and, consequently, help you establish and build trust with your target audience. But building this kind of relationship takes more than a two-step write-and-submit process.
Taking 10 minutes to throw together an article that lacks any unique insight, references to timely events, or relevant examples won’t land you a byline in a reputable publication — and neither will shopping around the same piece to a dozen different editors, no matter how much time you spent on it.
Before you even think about signing up for this matchmaking service, you’ve got to sort out a few important details:
You have to know what you’re looking for before pursuing a relationship with a publication, and like any part of your content marketing strategy, outlining your goals for guest publishing is important. Ask yourself what results your published content will deliver to your company. What do you want to accomplish?
Are you looking to grow your following? Your influence? Is your goal to generate leads or empower your sales team with content that addresses common industry pain points?
Without goals in mind, you won’t know what you’re accomplishing as you get published, and you could easily target publications that are completely wrong for you.
With your goals in mind, it’s time to start thinking about which publication will help introduce you to your desired audience. Knowing which publications your target audience reads, trusts, and enjoys is a good first step — but the sheer number of online pubs makes this a real brain buster for many marketers.
This is actually why we developed an interactive publication quiz that makes it easy to find the publications that reach your audience. While our quiz removes a lot of the guesswork, you’ve still got to vet and review the publications you want to work with. Before you select a publication for your content strategy, ask yourself these three questions:
I’m sure there are publications you’ve been dying to publish on, but you can’t just publish to the site that sounds most impressive. You must ensure the audience profile matches the audience you’re trying to speak to.
For example, if you’re trying to reach middle-class consumers with your message, a publication that specifically publishes content for entrepreneurs wouldn’t be a good match for a couple of reasons:
Your odds of connecting with your target audience increase when a publication attracts a solid readership of those targeted audience members. You can check a publication’s reach using its online media kit, which should provide its unique monthly visitor information. You can also check its total number of visits per month by using SimilarWeb.
Monthly visitors shouldn’t be your sole deciding factor, however. Smaller UVMs on a site can sometimes mean a higher saturation of a specific audience, which can definitely be a good thing. Refer back to the goals you set to determine which would be a better fit for you.
When you’re vetting a site, check out the design and how it features contributors. Are pages typically littered with ads that distract from the content, or will your article remain uninterrupted? Will your piece be hidden under others that were published weeks ago, or will it be featured in a “recently published” section?
Of course, some of these factors aren’t as important as others — audience alignment probably takes precedence over color palette, for example — but look and layout are still worth paying attention to.
Once you’ve narrowed your list of publications, it’s time to pitch your content. No matter how perfect a match you believe you and the publication to be, it’s ultimately up to the editor to decide — and she’ll sometimes reject your guest post. To increase your chances of acceptance, check out my five-step guide to effectively pitching editors.
Finding the right publication to pair you with your desired audience isn’t always easy — but it is possible. Don’t focus only on what a publication can do for you; realize that success requires that you give as much value as you intend to receive. Share your expertise through your content to demonstrate your thought leadership and lay the groundwork for a strong connection with your audience. The right publication can help you take it from there.
Meagan Nolte is a Senior Publication Strategist at Influence & Co. Her obsessions include her kitten, reading good books, and eating dark chocolate. She's made habits out of singing musicals in the shower, taking her kitten on short walks, and traveling whenever she can.