Content marketing just keeps getting harder. The more content out there, the harder it is to get noticed, the harder we try to produce better content, the greater the volume of attention-grabbing content increases, the harder it is to get noticed… You get the point.
That’s why rather than focusing on quantity, it’s quality and placement that matter most. For example, creating a high-quality, engaging guest post for a widely-read industry publication or blog is one great way for content marketers to get their content seen by their target audiences.
But getting published can be tricky. Usually, the more popular a platform the more selective they are about the content they publish, so you need to be careful to get it right.
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Over the years — both as a content marketer, and in my previous life as a news editor — I’ve had experience at both ends: submitting my work for external publication and vetting guest writers. Here are 5 key tips I’ve picked up for convincing editors to publish your content:
1. Pay attention to their audience
By far the most important tip — and the one that’s most often overlooked — is to consider who is reading the publication or blog you wish to be published on. Their audience needs to define what you write — if it doesn’t, you simply won’t get published. Always research your target publication first to ensure it’s actually a good fit, before you rush in to offer up your valuable content.
Too often, content marketers will take the time to create a well-written, SEO-optimized piece of content that’s super relevant to their own target audience… but unsuitable for the publication they’re submitting it to.
Whatever the publication in question, make sure you’re familiar with the kinds of content they typically publish before you spend the time and effort creating one of your own.
It’s an easier mistake to make than you might think.
For example, if your company offers a marketing solution, it makes sense to pitch a blog to another company whose customer base also includes marketers. Simple, right? Except it isn’t necessarily. If you didn’t look closely enough, you could be writing a fantastic article aimed at B2B marketers — for a blog that’s clearly aimed at consumer marketers, or vice-versa.
On the flip side, if you’re looking at a company blog that’s clearly trying to target a very similar audience with a very similar product to your own, they’re unlikely to publish something which could potentially drive prospects away from them.
2. Follow the rules!
“Hey, would you be interested in publishing a guest post from us about X?”
“Sure, that sounds interesting. Before you send it over, check out our blogging rules.”
“Great thanks! Here’s the article.”
This has happened to me more times than I could possible count, both as a marketer and in the newsroom. A writer offers to submit a piece, but clearly didn’t bother to pay attention to the editorial guidelines.
Most major blogs and industry publications have some kind of house rules for guest posts. Most are really quite simple to follow. If you ignore them or neglect to read them properly, not only will your content be unpublishable for them — you’ll also quickly get blacklisted as a spammer. That might well be unfair, but consider that the person responsible for editing your work probably has a thousand other things to do, and re-writing your content entirely isn’t one of them.
It’s also worth pointing out that editorial guidelines can actually be a handy way of helping you form your content by giving you direction and even suggested topics.
3. Don’t be salesy
If this was a list of the 5 surest ways to prevent yourself getting published, this one would be right at the top.
No one wants to promote your product/solution/business for free. Period. Getting cross-posted is about quid pro quo: you get the awareness, traffic and SEO value, while they get some great content to drive people to their site and new audiences from your own social promotion of the article.
An article that’s just pitching your greatest offering — even one entirely relevant to their readership — offers no benefit to the publication. Most importantly, it just makes for poor content. No one has come to that site to buy your product; they want to read something interesting that will get them thinking: advice, tips, insights, thought leadership, etc.
What’s more — particularly in the case of industry publications — salesy articles would negatively impact their attempts to drive paid content or ads (if you can get it for free, why should anyone bother paying?) So even if they’re desperate for content, they’d be crazy to publish you.
Use your guest article opportunities as an exercise in creating truly engaging content. You’ll be reaching new audiences — and in many cases, bigger audiences than your own blog — so make the most of it!
4. Pick just 2 or 3 links you want to include
Particularly if you’re aiming for a highly popular publication, it can be tempting to try to cram your article with as many links back to your site as possible.
This is a bad idea, for many of the same reasons as the previous point. Most publications are happy to share some SEO love and allow you to include backlinks to your own content. After all, they’re getting free content, so a few external links which anyway prove helpful to the reader is a small price to pay.
But if every keyword or phrase is a link back to your site, that not only looks like you’re actively trying to draw traffic away from the article to something “more important” on your site — it also inevitably undermines the quality of the content itself. Articles or blogs with too many links look like ads and feel salesy even if the content itself actually isn’t. Hyperlinks also break up the text visually, making it less pleasant to read.
If you do submit a piece of content with too many links, one of two things will inevitably occur: you won’t get published, or most of them will get removed. Even in the latter, best case scenario, consider that the editor doesn’t know (or particularly care) which links are most important to you, so they could well arbitrarily delete precisely those links you’d most want them to keep.
Instead, spend some time selecting the two or three links which:
- Provide the reader with the most value i.e. help them better understand/appreciate your article.
- Provide you with the most value i.e. what are the two or three pieces of your own content you’d most like readers to see?
5. Have mercy on the editor
When all’s said and done, your article will be edited and published by someone just like you, who’s trying to meet deadlines, fulfill their KPIs and get home at a normal time.
The smoother and easier you can make the editing process for them, the more likely you are to get published, and more quickly. What’s more, if they come to see you as a reliable source of interesting content that’s easy to publish with minimal work for them, they’re more likely to publish you again — or even approach you themselves.
The previous four points will go a long way to making the editor’s job easier, but there are so many other small things you can do as well: like thoroughly proofing your work beforehand, or including subheadings and a suggested title.
Above all else, remember: no editor or content marketer is ever going to say no to genuinely great, relevant content. So have fun with it, find the right publication, get writing, and create something you can be truly proud of!
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