Done in the right way, writing articles for authoritative, relevant sites is still one of the best ways to improve your domain authority in my opinion.
Getting your pitch accepted from the right places (and for free) can be easier said than done however. Here are some tactics I’ve picked up over the years:
- Don’t call it a guest post – the single most important piece of advice I’m going to share (it’s all downhill from here) is not to call it a guest post, guest blog, or (and please don’t do this) a ‘placement’ when you’re pitching your idea. There’s two reasons for this. Good publications and editors will dismiss you as a ten-a-penny 2012 spammy SEO agency scrounging for links. To everyone else it signals an opportunity to charge you for your ‘guest post.’ Plus, if you’re doing it right, I always feel like the term guest post devalues your work.
- Be conversational – I like to think I’ve had quite a good record with having article ideas accepted and I believe a lot of this is down to the conversational tone I use. Politeness is always a given but I feel that being overly formal immediately alerts someone to feeling like they’re being sold to. It’s a discussion rather than an offer, so instead of saying “I’d like to offer you a 500-700 word article on XYZ”, I would go for something like “I thought an article on XYZ might work well for your readers?” Ask them for their thoughts so it’s less transactional.
- Make it look personal – your email should read like a personal email to the editor you’re contacting, not a cut and paste job. Sometimes I’ll say something along the lines of “we were discussing the idea of an article on XYZ with the team and I thought you might be the right fit.” Or I might pull out something they’ve written before and pitch an article on a topic that complements it.
- Show you know the publication – again, this is obviously time intensive so weigh up what it’s worth, but even inserting a line about which section of their magazine it might work well for shows you’re familiar with it. At the least, try and understand which sites don’t accept articles, especially if you still want to use them for news.
- Keep it concise – every piece of advice tells you to keep your pitch short, but I’ve deliberately chosen the word concise because it’s a balancing act. The idea itself needs to be fleshed out enough that you’re demonstrating what’s original about it, but everything else in your email is expendable. Keep intros and fluff to a minimum and edit your pitch for clarity in the same way you would your finished article.
- Give more than one idea – (but only if you’ve got more than one good idea). As much as you can give yourself the best chance by doing all the right things, outreach is in essence guesswork. You’re hoping that the editor is looking for an article on that particular topic at that particular time, so if you can offer two or three ideas you can increase your chances. Sometimes even if they don’t like a complete idea, they might be interested by something you’ve mentioned and you can take things in a slightly different direction. However, refrain from adding on an extra idea that you know isn’t as strong, just for the sake of it.
- Have a strong subject line – as with any other outreach email, getting your email opened is half the battle. You want to pique their interest without being misleading or resorting to clickbait. If I’m offering an article from a client I know is a well-respected name in the industry, I might include their name in the subject line.
- Mention who it will be written by – similarly to the above, if the article is going to be authored by a name that will be known to the editor, it might be worth mentioning this in the email pitch for extra clout.
- Actually ask the experts – better still, get input from the experts before drafting your pitch. Speak to the specialists first, whatever department that may be, to get more in-depth knowledge and insights.
- Offer images – this will largely depend on what sector you’re in, but often editors will only have access to a limited supply of images, or royalty free image sites, so sometimes a line mentioning you can provide them with high quality images (especially for very visual industries like home, lifestyle, beauty etc) not only looks better but it saves them time and effort.
- Tell them it won’t be promotional – hopefully it will be clear from the outline of your article that you are discussing a topic or the market more widely, whether that’s advice-led or more of an opinion piece, but I find it does sometimes set an editor’s mind at ease to have it stated explicitly that you’re not intending to be self-promotional in any way.
- Timing – whilst the timing of an article pitch is less important than something time-sensitive like a press release, I still think paying attention to when you hit send can make a difference. If I can, I’ll avoid Fridays, or at least Friday afternoons, as if it isn’t super urgent, it gets lost under a sea of emails and by Monday it’s effectively gone.
Obviously your article outreach hinges upon having a strong and original idea to start with, but putting the time and effort into the right pitch could be the difference between you actually getting to write it or not. Yes, it’s time consuming but it’s worth it.
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