Guest Posting: How to Get it Right (When So Many Get It Wrong)

“Guest posting,” done right, isn’t a dirty word. I’ve used guest posting to build my brand and set up my own link-building agency.

But as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as an overnight success. Throughout my career, I’ve received hundreds of rejections on the journey to landing a few big wins. 

While rejection comes with the territory, you can do a few things to improve your chances of success.  In this article, I share some best practices for guest blog prospecting, putting together a winning pitch, and creating content that editors love to publish.  

How to find the right blogs that will accept your pitch

The first step to any successful outreach campaign is to find the right blogs to reach out to. The more targeted your list, the better. The goal is to find blogs that have published similar content before and have a large enough audience and brand to justify the time spent creating your article. 

The most common mistake is Googling for listicle posts that list industry blogs (e.g. “saas blogs that accept guest posts”). While this may seem effective on the surface, blogs on these lists are often outdated or receive hundreds of similar pitches a day.

While there’s nothing wrong with trying to guest post on larger sites, if you don’t have a large portfolio of quality content, it can be a struggle to break through the noise. Fortunately, guest posting is like the classic snowball effect—the more quality places you’ve been published, the easier it is to find new opportunities.

Here are three better ways to find the right places to publish.

1. Check in within your current circles (partners, SMM followers, etc.)

Editors and content managers around the world pray for quality guest post submissions. Unfortunately, most submissions are so low quality that it would take as much work if not more than just writing a new article themselves. 

Essentially, anyone who runs a blog is always looking for great content to publish, even if they don’t publicly ask for guest post submissions. 

For instance, some time ago, I published a guest post on the SE Ranking blog even though they don’t accept guest posts. The SE Ranking blog doesn’t even have the functionality on their blog to add an author photo and byline, so they added a short paragraph stating that this post was delivered by me:

Guest post byline.

An easy way to get the list of your Twitter followers along with their site URLs is by using a tool called Followerwonk. 

Go to a tab that says “Sort Followers,” and click on the Export button:

Downloading data on FollowerWonk.

Once you get your followers in a spreadsheet, you’ll see a column with their website URLs:

Guest post excel sheet.

If you want to learn more about this method, I highly recommend checking out my post here that shares how to do it from A to Z.

2. Run a quick competitor analysis to find partners’ (and rivals’) guest posts

It’s much easier to establish relationships with publications that have previously posted similar guest content. You already know that they’re interested in such content—you just need to come up with a good-enough pitch. 

Here are a few other advantages of following in partners’ and rivals’ footsteps: 

  • The list of blogs that you get is 100% relevant to your industry and expertise.
  • You don’t need to spend a lot of time to check if these blogs accept guest posts. 
  • Through a mutual connection, you can often get direct access to an editor or content manager to improve your chances of getting published.  For example, if you notice a new guest post on a publication you’re interested in, you can reach out to that author via email or social media and ask the best way to get in touch with that blog. 

To find guest posts, you can use the “New Backlinks” report in Ahrefs. Just set the maximum timespan and click on “Show New Backlinks”:

Ahref research.

Then, start searching for guest posts among the links in the results. Most guest posts contain an author bio that contains keywords like “working for XYZ,” “founder of XYZ,” “marketer at XYZ,” and so on. 

In Ahrefs, you can search for these keywords in the surrounding text near the anchor link:

Backlink research.

To show you an example of what it looks like, here’s the result showing a guest post delivered by Sendx.io:

Guest post research.

If you don’t use Ahrefs, there are plenty of alternative tools such as CognitiveSEO, Majestic, SEMrush, or Moz. 

3. Find your industry groups on Facebook/LinkedIn

In addition to using a tool such as Ahrefs, both Facebook and LinkedIn are powerful platforms to find the right guest posting opportunities. 

For instance, on Facebook, there’s a popular group, “B2B bloggers boost group,” for link-builders and content marketers. In this group, you can find guest post opportunities quickly. There are also quite a few groups in LinkedIn that are focused on guest post partnerships as well. 

Facebook guest posts.

Slack channels focused on content marketing and/or link building are on the rise and another place to engage and look for opportunities. There are entire communities devoted to building relationships with editors and content managers as well. 

Remember, using social media doesn’t give you an excuse to be entitled or rude. Follow the guidelines of the groups, and spend a few minutes each day engaging or offering help in those communities. As with most things in business, relationships take time to build!

What most pitches get wrong

While there are a lot of best practices about increasing the success of your guest post campaigns, learning from what not to do can be just as helpful. 

Example 1: “I’m XYZ, and I’d love to write for your site”

Here’s a recent example of a pitch from my own mailbox:

Guest post pitch.

What’s wrong with this pitch? 

  • I have no idea who the person is. The sender doesn’t properly introduce themselves, nor do they attach any contact information. 
  • No links to previous work samples. There is nothing to indicate that this person has the experience needed to guest post. 
  • Asking questions that have already been answered. In my case, we have clear guest post guidelines on our site. The fact that they’re asking if we accept guest posts shows they didn’t do their research. 
  • Zero personalization. This pitch is that it is 100% generic, likely copied and pasted and sent to hundreds of other sites in hopes they would get one yes. 

Example 2: Overused email outreach templates

Using templates for your outreach can save time, but editors and content managers can spot them from a mile away. 

Here’s another example of a common email template that outreach experts (or should it be “experts”?) keep sending over:

What’s wrong with this one? 

  • Misleading. While I don’t like being cynical, I’ve seen this play out time and time again. Link builders will often use the pitch of being an “intern” to increase the chances of a response. 
  • Overused template. While there’s nothing wrong with using email outreach templates (and yes, we use them as well), your templates should be as unique as possible. 
  • “High quality guest post.” When I see the phrase “high quality guest post,” I’m 100% certain that I’ll get garbage content. Other terms to avoid as well: “in-depth”, “practical,” “well-researched,” and so on.
  • No links to content samples or guest posts. To me, this leaves an impression of a lack of authority and credibility. Again, if you have samples, share them! You can even link to your website if you’re new and just getting started. 

If you do use a template to help save time, always add a few sentences of personalization that show you’ve done your research. 

For example, you can say, “Hey {name}, I really enjoyed your latest article on networking, I found #4 especially helpful…” then dive into your ask. Here are  some templates for inspiration to get an idea of how you can structure your own pitch. 

(Still, as with any template, know that editors have seen the above a million times, too—if you haven’t actually read the content or didn’t really care, don’t bother.) 

Example 3: Bulk sender blunders

Using a bulk sender tool can lead to awkward emails such as the one below:

What’s wrong with this approach?

  • Random compliments. If you want your compliment to seem credible, you need to be way more specific (which is impossible if you’re using a bulk sender tool).
  • No links. Again, always include a link to your site or other places you’ve published. Not having examples is a red flag.
  • URL instead of thoughtful anchor text. My site name was inserted as a URL rather than as a hyperlinked company name (as a real human user would). Instant delete. 

In my experience, it’s always better to go straight to the point than to add unnecessary sentences and fluff content. Remember—a strong pitch has to be short and sweet!

7 ways to make a winning pitch

I can’t overstate this enough: When pitching your guest post, always, always, always follow the guidelines and instructions. 

If a publication asks for a specific subject line, use that subject line. If a publication asks for your draft to be in Google Docs, use Google Docs.

Here are some other helpful tips: 

1. Introduce yourself.

This can be one simple sentence that includes a link to your website or LinkedIn profile. No need to tell your life story. 

2. Give a good reason why you’re writing to them.

To give you some context, a reason like “I noticed that your blog accepts guest posts and that’s why I’m writing to you” isn’t a good reason. 

Your “why” should be framed in terms of adding value:

  • Emphasize expertise/knowledge. You could write that you have tons of experience in what they write about, while providing a list of your previous posts to support your claim. 
  • Align with their current content goals. For example, “I noticed on social media you were writing more about SEO lately, and I think I have the perfect piece that can complement these two pieces you already have.”
  • Focus on SEO benefits. Content managers love good research. If you’re good at keyword research, highlight the organic potential of your pitch. 

3. Add examples of your previous posts.

Always include examples in your pitch. If you don’t have examples to show, invest time in writing an article on Medium or your own blog. While I wish it weren’t the case, not having examples is a big red flag. 

Ideally, you want to include 3–4 relevant examples showcasing your work. If you’re trying to write for a travel blog, for example, you don’t want to lead with a piece on SEO. 

4. Add a list of topics that are relevant for the blog.

Here’s what I suggest doing to find topics that will be the right fit:

  • Research the blog to understand its target audience and what most articles are about. You don’t want to be pitch topics they recently covered. 
  • Learn more about their product and company. What tone of voice do they use? What kind of audience are they trying to appeal to? 
  • Browse all blog posts to find those with good social media engagement. Use them to offer something similar and to emphasize that you performed a detailed analysis of their blog. BuzzSumo will help you come up with this list faster:
Buzzsumo research.

5. Personalize. 

With email pitches, there’s no such thing as too much personalization. Personally, I prefer to use it at the very end of my email. 

For example, I can use the “P.S.” section of my email to write something like, “I absolutely agree with your recent post about link building where you stressed that you need to earn links. A lot of link builders forget that link earning isn’t link begging.”

We recently got accepted to contribute to a blog thanks to my colleague’s pitch that included a reference to her and the recipient’s shared love of Brazilian cuisine. It was an avenue to discuss fun topics such as travel and culture—while also building a relationship. 

Here are a few more suggestions: 

  • Find something that you both can relate to. Browse the editor’s Twitter or LinkedIn feed. If you share areas of professional interest, attend the same conferences, or are fans of the same blogs, mention that in your pitch.
  • Mention the content that you liked. Highlight the articles that attracted your attention the most on their blog. Emphasize that some of these articles inspired a few topics on the list that you added to your pitch. 
  • Let them know if you’ve recently shared their content. Include a link to your social media post as proof.

6. Use the power of humor and creativity.

Humor is a great way to build rapport and stand out. For instance, I absolutely love how the sender below showcased expertise and personalized with simple language:

Humor in outreach.

Even follow-up emails become more bearable with a slight touch of humor and creativity. Here’s a great example of using humor to grab an editor’s attention through a follow-up email:

7. Use different channels for follow-ups 

Be creative with follow-ups—don’t limit yourself to email outreach. For example, you can try to connect via LinkedIn or Twitter as well.

What I’ve found especially handy is doing the following:

  1. Sharing a recent post from their blog on Twitter or LinkedIn (depending on which social media platforms the editor is most active on). While doing so, don’t forget to tag the editor and company.
  2. Once the editor has reacted to this SMM shout-out, send a follow-up email as soon as possible.

When following up, keep it short and simple. The idea of a follow-up email is to give an editor a friendly reminder that your email is still sitting in their inbox with no reply. One to two follow-ups is perfectly fine, but any more and you risk becoming annoying or seen as spam. 

Congrats, your pitch was approved! What’s next?

Here are seven ways to improve your chances of getting published. 

1. Start with a detailed outline and send it to an editor for a review.

When possible, always start with an outline (unless a full draft is expected or already approved).

We always send an outline to the editor for approval, even if we weren’t asked for it. An outline helps avoid unnecessary edits or rewriting of entire sections. 

To make life easier, let me share exactly what a detailed outline should look like:

  1. It includes all the headers and subheaders that you’re planning to cover. 
  2. It includes examples and statistics where relevant. 
  3. It has a few brief sentences under each section. 

Here’s an example: 

Guest post outline.

Naturally, when guest posting, you’re going to want a link for yourself. But as you write your draft, you can impress the publication you’re writing for by including internal links to their site. 

Adding internal links from the publication shows you’ve done your homework and naturally helps improve their SEO in the process. Try and include 6–8 links from their own content. 

3. Include expert quotes and real-life examples.

Bonus points if you’re able to get personally sourced quotes. Pulling quotes from the top of Google search doesn’t add much value to a post, and it’s a fast way to create “me too” content. 

If you’re active on social media, ask your followers if they have any expert knowledge to share for an article. 

Quoting experts on the subject matter you’re writing about establishes trust and can improve brand loyalty as well. It’s much better to have “too many” quotes and cut some out than not include any at all.  

4. Add screenshots of the tools you mention.

If your article is about the “5 Best SaaS Tools,” for example, include 3–4 screenshots of using that tool. 

Screenshots help make the piece unique (versus taking images from other popular blog posts on the subject). 

5. Include unique images.

Don’t use the same stock photos that get reused time and time again. 

You can find free high-quality images on sites such as Pexels or Unsplash. (Check TinEye to evaluate past usage.) Try and use photos that add to the article without being cliche or over done.

Additionally, can use tools like Canva to create unique images. Canva has tons of templates to put a decent design together. While the publication will likely edit or make the final call on images, including them in your draft makes their life easier. 

Including external links in your post can help improve the quality of your article, but don’t just add links for the sake of adding links. Every link you include should enhance the piece. Avoid linking to content that isn’t relevant. 

This is especially important when trying to get links for your own brand. While most publications allow a link or two, adding eight links is overkill. When in doubt, always ask the publication you’re working with about their policy. 

7. Stick to your deadlines. (a.k.a. Don’t ghost!)

Whether it’s a deadline for your outline, draft, or a revision, stick to your word. Delays in your guest post could result in an editor going with a different writer and squander your opportunity. 

Not to mention, missing deadlines will make it almost impossible for you to guest post for that site again. If your ability to hit a deadline changes, let the editor know as soon as possible. (Most editors understand that things come up.) Do. Not. Ghost.  


In this post, I’ve shared tried-and-tested methods and approaches for nailing your guest blogging outreach. While there will always be rejection, following these steps will increase your chances of success:

  • Find the right publications to pitch.
  • Reach out to your network for guest posting opportunities. 
  • Personalize your outreach.
  • Follow guest post guidelines. 
  • Provide an outline for your article.  
  • Add internal and external links as well as unique images.
  • Hit your deadlines. 

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Join the conversation Add your comment

  1. Great article Alex, Absolutely this will help me avoid mistake while outreaching.

    I have made with few backlinks with help of link collaboration after listing your recent podcast with 99signals.

    1. Hi Nimit, I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed my post!

      Also, congrats with building some links ;)

  2. If MASTERPIECE had a definiton. Perfect. I loved the way you explained. You’re right keyword research is essential, always provide topics along with keywords and their monthly search volume. I have written on SEMrush, and I agree 100% to what you have adviced above. Going to read all your articles. :D

    1. Many thanks for your kind words! I’m glad to hear that you’ve found some great tips and ideas in my post. If you’d like to check into some others, I would recommend looking for my posts on the Moz and SEJ blogs as well.

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Guest Posting: How to Get it Right (When So Many Get It Wrong)