4 ½ guest post outreach tips

If you are running guest post campaigns to gather links and build visibility then I am sure you’ll agree that outreach equates to around 90% of the challenge.

The problem is that the outreach stage requires someone without a vested interest in the success of your campaign agreeing to help you do your job. That’s a tough sell but it is a sale that can be made.

At Skyrocket SEO we very much treat outreach as if it were a sales or biz dev process.

This post has 4 ½ guest post outreach tips which will help you to…

  • Create strong ‘sales’ funnels
  • Create persuasive pitch emails
  • Nurture your leads
  • Constantly improve your campaigns

#1 – All leads are not equal

Guest posting, contrary to popular belief, isn’t really a numbers game.

A 100% response rate just isn’t going to happen, so arguably yes you will need to reach out to X number of prospects in order to allow for the natural attrition of opportunities.

However, in much the same way as a sales funnel, not all the leads entering the funnel are equal.

You can ram the funnel full of deadwood and then hope and pray that something good comes out the other end (acting the busy fool in the mean time) or you can concentrate on getting the right kinds of guest post leads into the top of the funnel, nurturing them with a good pitch and spending a bit more time on each to A) Generate a better response rate with less ‘busyness’ and B) Gather higher quality links as they’ll pay more attention to a strong proposal over a weak generic form letter.

#2- The paradox of choice

The psychologist Barry Schwartz proposes that contrary to what would seem like common logic, more choice isn’t necessarily better. He demonstrates how offering people more choices, creates paralysis rather than action. This applies equally in guest posting.

We’ve tried offering prospective host bloggers a choice of one topic, two topics, three topics and even four. We’ve also varied this by including an open ended option along the lines of “we’ll write on a topic of your choice if you prefer…“.

We have found that offering just two topics consistently outperforms the other variations.

One topic means that if they hate it, there’s no ground for manoeuvre.

Offer three of four topics and we find that it creates fewer responses OR too many questions and a longer fulfillment time as bloggers and website owners receive your request, digest, muse upon the different topics and try to reach a decision usually by asking you a few more questions about each to help them decide.

An open ended option can make your request seem like hard work – they’ve got to do part of your job and come up with something for you to write about. The in-built human attribute of laziness makes an open-ended request the surefire way to get them to hit delete and move on to the next email.

Giving people two options is a powerful technique for two reasons:

  1. If they don’t like one there is always the other to choose from – without giving them brain ache deciding which one to let you write. You could even try deploying the power of contrast if you feel like taking things to the next level.
  2. More importantly it gives you the opportunity to include the phrase “Which do you prefer?”. This means you’ve moved on from asking IF they will accept a guest post to asking them WHICH ONE they’ll be taking. It is a classic sales technique, puts the power seemingly in their hands but either outcome and you win. Granted it doesn’t always work but it will likely generate a much higher success rate if you’re pitching the right kinds of content.

#3 – Actually follow people up

There’s a reason successful sales teams have CRM solutions, it allows for effective lead and sales funnel management which in simple terms translates as more leads turning into sales.

In the case of guest posts, it’s about turning more of those blog and website leads sitting on your spreadsheet into actual guest post opportunities.

If you’ve put in the legwork finding really good sites, conjured up some great content ideas to pitch them, then do yourself the courtesy of following up with them. How many times you do so is entirely your choice, we’ll usually try 2-3 times before taking the hint.

One email and no response doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not interested, they could well be busy. Following up with them means you’re visible in an inbox that might be pretty full.

I feel it is also important to keep the pedal to the metal until the post is actually live – your guest posting campaign will fail if you’re getting stuff written and it’s getting lost in the inbox of the blogger or not top of their priority list. A polite but relentless eagerness to be published will ensure you are the next guest post that goes live.

#4 – Be open to experimentation

When it comes to guest post outreach. Adaptive behaviour is crucial.

Remember the sales mantra from Glengarry Glen Ross? “ABC – Always Be Closing”…

In outreach, ABC stands for “Always Be Constantly improving”

  • Subject line
  • Opening line
  • Body test
  • Font type
  • Font size
  • Time of day you send email
  • Different signatures
  • Different personas

Even if you’re not using the same email each and every time you reach out to host sites (hint – you shouldn’t be), you can develop a framework and learn from successes in other markets

#4 ½ – Make people curious

This is arguably a tip in its own right but the reason I wanted to make it a ½ is because it highlights a methodology you can apply to guest post outreach.

You’ve probably seen at least 10 other blog posts offering tips for the best ways to do guest post outreach. Maybe you chose to read this one because you’re a regular reader (thanks very much!) or maybe you clicked through because you are looking to consume as much guest post content as possible right now (guest posting is a justifiably hot topic right now). However, I suspect there will be some people reading this who clicked through just to see what the ‘half a tip’ would be.

AIDAAttention, Interest, Desire, Action

Make your subject line intriguing enough to open (Attention), make your blog post ideas intriguing enough that they’re curious (Interest) and excited enough (Desire) to let you run with it (Action).

An email inbox is a busy place, a blogger might see hundreds of standard guest post requests every week, and this will only increase as more latch on to the power of guest posting for links and brand awareness…what’s your plan for getting seen?

If you have any questions, I’d be delighted to answer them in the comments section below. Also we provide a guest posting service which offers a scalable way to gather high-quality links.


  1. avatar
    Jordan Godbey December 1, 2011 at 3:44 pm #

    I definitely clicked through to see the 1/2 tip :) I’m glad you mentioned it — you were right!

    • avatar
      James Agate December 1, 2011 at 6:18 pm #

      Brilliant, thanks Jordan. I hope you found it useful!

  2. avatar
    Anthony Trollope December 4, 2011 at 5:30 pm #

    Thanks for writing about outreach, James. Good to see you take note of reader requests! :P

    You know I think that social media has played a massive part in making outreach that little bit easier than it once was. There is little excuse these days not to track somebody down and engage with them via Facebook, Twitter or other networks where they are active.

    Years ago before social media you had to hope that folks got your email or worse, you had to try and track down a phone number and then make a telephone call that feels so much more like you’re selling something. Social media gives you (within certain parameters) fantastic access to companies and individuals that were never possible before.

    Talking about ourselves for a second, we regularly start engaging with a new outreach prospect via social media before we take it to email. It helps solidify that early contact niggles and means that by the time you’re ready to ask something of them, you’ve already committed time & resources to the relationship.

    Anthony (@atrollope)

    • avatar
      James Agate December 4, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

      Of course I listen to reader requests!! :-)

      As I said on Twitter, the social media thing seems to work better in some areas than others. This kind of goes back to what iPullRank was saying over on Moz about social linkbuilding and personas because if we are doing it for a client and they don’t have the same community presence as say you do in the wholesale world or we do in SEO e.g. previous guest posts, comments, blog posts and social media profiles then even the social media thing doesn’t help.

      I can see how social media provides a great platform for outreach for you guys though, even if you don’t get in contact with them, it can be a great source of info to give you a better angle when talking with them.

      • avatar
        Anthony Trollope December 4, 2011 at 7:46 pm #

        I can totally see the challenges from an agency standpoint, as social media just like any form of communication strategy does take a while to prosper into something you can then leverage to explore potential biz-dev relationships.

        For us, social media is part of our everyday working thus an obvious one for us to leverage to form relationships off the back of. For those not as active in their social neighbourhoods or for agencies who chop in and out of SM as per the remits of a project, I can see plenty of obstacles.

        I think if you’re a known brand and most folks in your industry have heard of you then I still believe social media can be leveraged. But I can’t see it being a quick win that say maybe an email or a phone call might be. (I know which method I prefer)

        I can resonate with what you are saying about social media giving you context to approach somebody new. It shows that you’re genuinely interested in what they’ve got to say and what they’re doing, and have of course taken the time to do your research. This expels you from 8/10 people who get outreach wrong, in my opinion.

        • avatar
          James Agate December 4, 2011 at 8:10 pm #

          Without a doubt, a strong social media presence and well known brand is a real win when it comes to outreach.

          I suppose some of the methods I discussed in the post relate to websites and clients which are perhaps less well-known in their industry.

          It’s 98% easier to say represent First Choice’s website than it would be to do outreach for Family Business A who’ve got some great expertise and a really good service and we want to do a guest post for you but no you haven’t heard of us…sad but true. We do out best though.

          Social media in outreach is definitely something we want to try and do more of as some of our small business clients have started to get into social media, I suspect around 18 months time, they should have developed sufficiently by then for it to be ‘useful’ from an outreach perspective.

          • avatar
            Anthony Trollope December 4, 2011 at 8:24 pm #


            The reasonable footing we (and other established businesses) have in social media is a massive advantage over folks starting from scratch. But the same is true for all forms of leverage whether its social media, your company’s history or simply down to your product/service.

            I guess the ultimate thing to think about for start-ups and established businesses alike would be to find something you can leverage and throw that in when you’re doing your outreach.

            That and follow the above posts tips of course!

  3. avatar
    Erik December 23, 2011 at 10:24 am #

    Great post! I’ve seen your guests posts around SEJ & SEOMOZ, so I know you practice what you preach.

    Hypothetical question, given an unlimited budget, at what rate would you cap building guest post links for a client? In other words, do you think it’s possible to build links via guest posting too quickly?

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