Oct 27, 2021

Guest Posting Outreach – How to Scale It for SEO


Nicholas Rubright


Nathan Winfrey

Guest posting is something people do for a number of reasons.

Some of those include brand building, developing industry relationships, or simply getting your writing in front of more people.

For this article, however, we will focus on scaling up a guest posting campaign as it relates to improving SEO performance.

But first, let me prove to you that my team and I have done this successfully in a number of industries.

We got this guest post published on SingleGrain, a DR 79 site in the content marketing niche:

singlegrain guest post


Which, by the way, happened to earn them a few backlinks. 😉

13 backlinks

Our team’s guest posting work is also behind an article for Toast that ranks #1 for “How to open a bar.”

google search results for how to open a bar


nicholas rubright on toast's blog

Which also earned itself some backlinks:

133 backlinks in ahrefs

We’ve also done this in education via Gabby, our Campaign Manager…

student doctor network guest post example

…and in mental health:

Resources to Recover guest post example

In this article, I’m going to reveal our exact process for landing placements like these in any niche.

What is guest blogging?

Guest blogging, or “guest posting,” as many call it, is the act of writing content for a blog or website other than your own.

These websites and blogs may be part of a corporate-owned website, a personal blog, or the blog of a nonprofit.

Whatever the case, on a high level, guest blogging works like this:

  1. Find sites in your niche that take guest posts.
  2. Pitch them some ideas.
  3. If they like your ideas, you write content for them, which they publish on their site.

In return for this free content you just gave them, they often let you be somewhat promotional with your brand or the content your brand has published. This is where guest posting becomes valuable for SEO, as I’ll explain below.

How does guest posting help with SEO performance?

Guest posting helps improve SEO performance by giving you a way to earn backlinks with anchor text that you control.

Anchor text is the visible, clickable text in a hyperlink. Moz defines it well here:

anchor text definition and screenshot

Backlinks are one of the most important factors that impact your search engine rankings. This is because Google and other search engines use backlinks as, essentially, a “vote” for a specific page.

Google has even confirmed that links remain one of their top three ranking factors.

And part of how Google uses links to pass topical value to pages is by understanding (or analyzing) the anchor text of the link.

The anchor text of a link helps search engines understand what a page being linked to is talking about. Search engines use this to rank the page for the right keywords.

We can see evidence of this from the original paper that Google’s algorithm was based on:

anchor text description

For example, if I link to our link building services page with the anchor text “link building services” (see what I did there 😉?), this tells Google that the page I linked to probably has something to do with link building services (as it does!).

If other writers link to the same page, it will increase Google’s confidence that the page should rank for the term “link building services.”

So, while this is why you should totally copy and paste the above paragraph into your next blog post, the main point is that anchor text control is what makes guest posting great for link building and SEO performance.

If you give editors content that they want to publish, you can pretty easily pop an anchor text link in your article and they’ll have no problem leaving it in there for you. Just don’t overdo it. Instead of using exact-match anchors based on keywords you’re trying to rank for, use topical matches to get your page ranking for lots of long-tail keywords.

However you choose to use your anchor text opportunity is up to you, but guest posting gives you this option in ways that other link building campaigns don’t. This makes guest posting a great go-to link building strategy for sales pages, product pages, and other pages that don’t have natural link intent.

What does Google think of guest posting?

Matt Cutts, Google’s former head of web spam, struck fear into the hearts of SEOs everywhere when he wrote about the fall of guest posting on his site.

matt cutts' blog screenshot

However, if you scroll down the page, you’ll find this video where Matt talks more about low-quality vs high-quality guest posts.

There’s a lot to unpack from this video, but overall, he seems to speak very highly of quality guest posts, and he does mention backlinks in the article in a way that seems okay (i.e., when writers don’t spam their anchors).

However, he frequently refers to low-quality or paid guest posts as “spam.”

The intent communicated in this video is clear: Google does want to count links from guest posts that are editorially vouched for, and they don’t want to count links that are published just to get a backlink.

This means that Google is fine with guest posts that:

  1. Are written by a subject matter expert.
  2. Offer unique value to the internet.
  3. Are published because editors want to publish them, not because they’re paid to.

So, if we run a guest posting campaign where the intent is to give value to our prospects rather than to get a backlink, we’re in the clear.

Not only that, but by aligning with Google’s values in our link building efforts, we’re likely immune to future algorithm updates.

The guest posting process I’m about to show you, and the one we run for all of our clients, fulfills all of this.

How to Scale Guest Blogging for SEO in 7 Steps

When it comes to any link building campaign, scalability is difficult to accomplish.

I’ve been doing link building for years and only recently figured out how to piece together a guest posting campaign that can get epic results at scale for clients in any industry.

What do I mean by “epic results”?

I mean getting placements on some of the biggest sites in any niche.

Using the process outlined in this article, we’ve been able to get placements on high authority sites for clients in tons of different niches.

In the sales and marketing niche, we landed this placement on SingleGrain, which has a DR of 79.

singlegrain guest post example

Now before you hit me with “of course you guys got on a marketing site; you’re a marketing agency,” check out this placement on Student Doctor Network (DR 72 site in the health niche) authored by Gabby, our Campaign Manager:

student doctor network domain rating

If that’s not enough, check out this one we got published on InTouch, a DR 53 site in the manufacturing niche:

in touch domain rating

This guide shows you how to get on authority sites like these through a guest posting process that can work at any scale, in any niche.

Here are the steps:

Step 1: Research your niche

Understanding your audience is key in running a successful guest posting campaign. This is the only way you can earn your way to a successful placement.

If you fail to do this, then when you get super-detailed responses like this:

email approval

You’ll feel like this:

spongebob lmao

Or worse, your content gets rejected after you’ve already spent time on it because you weren’t able to accurately deliver on the editor’s expectations.

rejection email example

So how do you conduct research that helps you stop these things from happening?

You need to find the common content intent in your niche.

That is, why are the bloggers in your niche creating content in the first place?

To find this, we can look to Google.

best marketing blogs google search results

Lots of good options here.

If we click the first result, we have a long list of blogs to check out:


Let’s check out HubSpot.

Once we get on the site, we can click around, look through some articles, and find a few author bios, like this one:


rachel leidt hubspot bio

From here, because of the reference to HubSpot’s sales software, we can pick out that she’s probably interested in writing about sales-related topics.

She works in growth, as well. An author being in this position means that the content is definitely used as a form of sales and marketing for the company.

So from this, if we continue to find similar info, we can determine that marketing blogs are mostly going to be run by authors whose job is to write content to help sell a product or service.

If this is true, we know to pitch content ideas that their product fits nicely inside of. This is because we’ve identified the content intent of the site. So we now know why the content in our niche is being published at all.

Here are a few other types of content intent that you might come across and how to spot them:

  • Sales intent – The content mainly exists for the purpose of selling a particular product or service. In this case, we want to draft email copy and pitch ideas that show sales potential for their business.
  • Viral intent  – This type of content is the clickbait stuff you see shared on social media sites. This is content that’s designed to pull traffic from social more than search and is usually published by news sites. The headlines usually follow some sort of story arc that’s designed to elicit an emotional response in the reader. If you can show them proof of social media performance of past guest posts, they’re in.
  • Hobby intent – Some people just like to write a blog to share their personal stories. Bloggers that write content on these topics fall into a hobbyist bucket, and they are much more likely to respond to higher levels of personalization.
  • Education intent – These are the best sites to work with because they’re often open to linking. They’re usually connected to a nonprofit and publish content for the sole purpose of helping their audience. Show them how you can help their audience, and they’ll let you in.
  • Digital monetization intent – This type of content usually contains some sort of affiliate program or is published for the purposes of selling advertisements or some other digital product. If you pitch content ideas that help these people sell the products of the affiliate programs they’re part of, they’ll happily take your pitch. “Best of” list ideas containing their affiliate products are popular with these types of bloggers.
  • Audience intent – Some niches are full of blogs with massive existing audiences where the sole purpose of their content is to serve their existing audience. If you find this to be the case, pitching content that’s designed to address very specific pain points for their readers is a great way in.

Once you understand why your audience publishes content, it becomes easy to build an outreach campaign that turns into results.

Step 2: Write a killer email outreach template that’s designed to scale

Now that you understand your audience, it’s time to write an email template designed to grab their attention and get a response from them.

Here’s the starting template we use for guest posting that works for almost every campaign we run:


For each prospect, we fill in the “intro” and “comment” sections as outlined below:

  • Intro: We write a custom intro targeted at the prospect. Usually, this follows a format like “Just read your article about TOPIC. Great stuff! Loved your point about…”
  • Comment: Sometimes this part is standardized, but a lot of the time we write this part to tie the “story” of the email to something the prospect might be interested in. For example, for an SEO prospect that always writes about link building, we might put “…I took a quick look at your site in Ahrefs and noticed your most popular article was about link building.”

Like great sales emails, great guest posting email templates:

  • Have personalized opening lines.
  • Have a clear, concise email body that’s connected to the prospect’s content goals.
  • Have a clear call to action.

In case you need a more generic email template that doesn’t require as much personalization, here you go.


While this one does work, and it has gotten us some super high DR results, the personalized approach usually has a much higher success rate. I suggest testing both to see what level of personalization is necessary in your specific case since every campaign is different.

Note: The writing samples matter a lot! If you need to invest some time into creating something epic on your site to use as a sample, do it.

Step 3: Find your outreach targets

Now that your email template is ready and you have lots of clarity on who your outreach targets are, it’s time to find them.

Here are three prospecting techniques we use to do that.

Prospecting Technique #1: Google search strings

The primary technique we leverage for finding guest post opportunities is constructing Google search strings to help us find sites that accept guest posts.

Since Google lets us use quotation marks to force it to find exact quotes on a page, we can leverage that to use the following search strings along with a keyword that represents our target to find opportunities:

  • “write for us”
  • “guest blog”
  • “guest post”
  • “submit an article”
  • “submit a guest post”
  • “contribute guest post”
  • “contribute to our blog”
  • “become a guest blogger”
  • “guest blogging guidelines”
  • “contributor guidelines”
  • “send a tip”
  • “guest post by”
  • “guest author”
  • “editorial guide”

So if I want to find sites that write about guitar stuff and take guest posts, I’d do this…

guitar guest post search

Each of those sites is an outreach target.

If you want to get more creative, you can use some of the more advanced Google search operators.

For example, if I try to find guest post opportunities in the marketing niche using “guest post by” with my marketing keyword, I just find other articles about how to get guest posts published.

google search results for marketing guest posts

I know this because every site that writes about guest posting lists out these same phrases, and guest posting is a very common topic in the business, marketing, and SEO niche.

So rather than giving up and moving on to another keyword too quickly, I can use Google’s search operators to narrow my search to remove “guest” from the page title.

example of taking the word guest out of the title

That’s just one example of how the search operators can come in handy here, but there are tons of other use cases.

Prospecting Technique #2: Google reverse image search

A lot of people don’t realize that Google Images actually lets you search using images.

This means that, since people often use a headshot with their guest posts, you can upload someone’s headshot into Google images to see all of the sites they’ve published content on before.

Which is great if you know about a frequent guest blogger in your niche.

For example, Matt Willson tends to contribute to a lot of blogs in the business space.

matt wilson bio

Because his headshot is featured with his guest posts, I can put his headshot into Google Images to find other sites he’s written for.

matt wilson guest posts found via google image search

This technique pairs well with the above search string technique. As you find guest contributors, you can follow their guest posting trail to find prospects for your own campaign.

Prospecting Technique #3: Competing domains

Checking the competing domains of sites in your niche is a super easy way to find tons of guest post prospects.

Just put the URL of a popular site into Ahrefs and check out their “competing domains” section.

ahrefs competing domains button link location

Then, you’ll see a list of sites that have similar keyword profiles, meaning they’re likely a good target.

Ahrefs keyword gap analysis

This technique can also be used alongside the two techniques above.

When you get a successful placement of a guest post, it validates you within that “neighborhood” of sites, which means you’re more likely to win a placement on similar sites in that niche.

So, if I get a placement on Forbes, I could leverage that to get a placement on Inc. because their editors would trust that I’d contribute something good.

If you get a big placement, scrape the competing domains and email all of them saying something like “Yo, big-name editor! I just got on this other site that you know! Here’s the sample…want me to write for you?” It’s a pretty easy way to double-down on your victories.

Step 4: Engage, personalize, and send

Getting a high response rate involves warming up your prospects by engaging them pre-outreach, personalizing your outreach email, and systemizing your follow-up process.

Here’s how to do each of those.


Engaging with your prospects before you send an email is probably what will improve your open rate most significantly.


Because when your email lands in their inbox, they already know who you are.

Think about it. Which of these are you more likely to notice?

  1. The person who follows you on social media, likes your tweet, then sends you an email.
  2. The person you’ve never heard of who sends you an email.

By engaging with your prospects before you send the email, you no longer fall into the bucket of “someone they’ve never heard of.”

Here are some simple ways you can engage your prospects before you send your guest post email:

  • Comment on their blog post
  • Follow them on social media
  • Share their content on social media and tag them
  • Subscribe to their newsletter and respond when they send one out

Don’t put yourself in a box here. Be creative!


Personalization is all about filling in the template you created above. However, doing so after you’ve completed the warm-up step allows you to connect the two.

For example, if there’s a dude named James in the SEO niche, and you read an article he wrote about link building, commented on it, and shared it on Twitter, then send this personalized email…


…he probably won’t even realize we used a template (or outreach software) at all.

Speaking of outreach software, we’re going to use that, so just put your personalization work into the same spreadsheet where you keep your prospects. If we do this for the above email, the entries would look like this:

campaign tracker example

Even with a template, the personalization becomes very easy after you work through the pre-outreach engagement steps.


If you’re new to guest posting, email outreach, and link building in general, I highly recommend sending your emails individually without any software for the time being.

This will enable you to learn how to handle different problems and objections so that you can deeply understand how this process works. This is important because if you scale on something that doesn’t work well, it blows up badly.

That said, if you’re ready to automate this stuff, outreach tools can save a lot of time and make things easy to manage.

Here are a few to consider that my contacts and I have used:

  • MailShake: Mostly built for sales, but a lot of freelance link builders use this tool. We use it on many of our accounts. It does exactly what it needs to and is extremely easy for new users to follow.
  • Ninja Outreach: Primarily designed for influencer outreach, which is very similar to link building outreach. A good option to consider.
  • Woodpecker: Very similar to MailShake, but a lot more customizable in how you can send (you can send based on the prospect’s time zone, for example).
  • PitchBox: This is the big one that most large outreach companies use.

When it comes to your follow-ups, there are very conflicting views.

In response to the fact that journalists think too many follow-ups is annoying, many say that you should only follow up once.

My take is that, when it comes to following up, take an internally data-driven approach.

We can’t not follow up. It’s essential. Only 2% of sales are made at the first point of contact, so it’s safe to assume we need to do it.

But the decision of how many times to follow up should depend on what’s working for you based on your campaign performance.

Are people responding positively to that third follow-up?

How about the fourth and fifth? Are those getting results?


Then journalists who don’t want follow-ups can take two seconds out of their day to be polite, treat you like the human you are, and tell you they aren’t interested instead of expecting you to put in the work to understand their passive social signals.

douchy tweet about persistent pr person


Persistence is one of the keys to success. This doesn’t mean you should be too pushy, but if it bothers other people, it’s partly on them to inform you of that.

Your job is to keep driving your campaign performance forward in ways you think are necessary. Just be open-minded and learn and develop your campaign over time. Maybe even offer value in your follow-up if you do find you’re being overly persistent.

Step 5: Pitch ideas that excite them

The audience research you did in the beginning got you a response.

Now that you have a response, it’s time to take that research a step further to come up with ideas that excite your prospect.

When pitching content ideas, you want them to meet the following criteria:

  1. They fulfill the content intent of your contact, meaning the ideas serve the same purpose as the other content on their site.
  2. They’re legitimately helpful to their audience.
  3. They haven’t written about this topic in the same way before.

To find content that meets all of these criteria, we’re going to use Ahrefs to look for popular content on competing sites that our prospect’s site hasn’t covered.

First, put their domain into Ahrefs and go to the “Competing domains” section.

ahrefs instructions

You’ll then see a list of sites that rank for very similar keywords, meaning they cover similar subject matter.

On this list, click one of the numbers in the “Keywords unique to competitor” column.

keywords unique to competitor

This will show you the keywords that the domain in the “Competing domains” column ranks for but our prospect’s site doesn’t.

This gives us a lot of keywords to generate ideas from.

ahrefs content gap analysis

From here, we want to apply some filters to make sure we’re finding content that our prospect is likely to respond to.

To do this, we’d take a look at their headlines and find similar ones.

For example, by looking at their homepage, I can quickly pick up on the fact that BPlans likes to write a lot of “how to” content around the formation of business ideas.

BPlans headline samples

So for this prospect, we’d want to filter for “how to” keywords.

ahrefs filters

Our use case was the “how to” article, but here are some other blog content types you might come across:

  • Lists – These types of articles usually start with things like “Top 10,” “10 Best Ways to,” “10 Reasons,” etc.
  • “How to” guides – These articles usually offer step-by-step advice from the perspective of an expert who’s accomplished the challenge before, so if you’re pitching these, make sure you fit this mold.
  • Interviews – These are common on blogs that use content to help an existing audience.
  • Newsworthy articles – Exactly what you think it is. These usually have somewhat clickbaity headlines.
  • Personal stories – If your prospect’s site shares a lot of these, pitch something where you can offer unique insight from your own perspective.
  • Case studies – This content type is a definite sign that the outlet will be interested in something uniquely data-driven.

Finally, to choose a content topic that the outlet is likely to pitch, you need to verify that your idea fulfills their business needs.

From the homepage, we can see that BPlans makes lots of references to business planning.

BPlans homepage

Because these are prominently featured on their homepage, we know these are probably their most valuable pages.

Knowing this, we can now pick the keywords that are most likely a fit for BPlans, based on the pages they’re trying to get traffic to.

By asking “With which of these keywords could I get a reader whom I could then push to my prospect’s money page?” I’m able to choose the best keywords to move forward with.

For BPlans, since business planning pages are their main target, keywords about starting a business fit this mold because I can very easily feature their business planning content in content about these topics.

content ideas

After choosing the keywords, just plug them into Google for some initial headline ideas.

how to start a record label google search

Now we can take these headlines and rework them a bit to fit the preferences of the site we’re publishing on.

This technique is a part of mirroring, a sales tactic designed to gain trust quickly. We’re using it as a way to paint the picture for them that the content we’re pitching will be a great fit for their site.

To do this, we want to look through some headlines they’ve written that are similar to the types of content we’re going to be pitching.

A quick search using Google’s “site:” operator along with the phrase “how to” in quotes shows similar articles that have been published on their site.

BPlans how to start

From this I can see that their headlines:

  • Almost always contain the exact “how to” phrase that’s being targeted.
  • Sometimes contain the year.
  • Use additives to communicate time-savings.

So with these, if we were to pitch our “how to start a record label” idea to them, we’d probably want to use one of these headlines:

  • How to Start a Record Label
  • How to Start a Record Label in 2021
  • How to Start a Record Label in 7 Days

If you want to take it a step further, CoSchedule has a headline analyzer you can use to construct better headlines before sending your ideas along.

Step 6: Write content they want to publish

This is the part where most people fail.

Many link building agencies and SEO folks watch the dollar too closely during the content creation process, but this is what causes them to lose big opportunities later on.

Imagine spending all of this time on prospecting and outreach only to write content that gets rejected because it didn’t meet the editor’s standards, like what happened to me early in my freelance career.

email rejection example

I’d spent two hours on the content, but not only that, I probably spent a lot more time on the tasks that resulted in earning this opportunity.

What I’m saying is this…

Getting your content published on high-quality sites is the key to positive guest posting ROI. And high-quality sites want high-quality content.

Here are five things to do in every guest post to make sure they get published.

1. Help the reader reach a desired outcome

Any good site is going to care a lot about their readers, so if you want to get on their site, you need to care about their readers, as well.

To do this, it’s important to make sure you understand why people would need your article in the first place. Then, build a system for them to help solve their problem with very specific steps.

Let’s dive into our “how to start a record label” keyword as an example.

Due to the “how to” nature of the headline, we know that the reader’s desired outcome is to actually start a record label.

We also know that people want to consume this content in a step-by-step or list form by inferring searcher intent from the SERPs.

The snippet features a list:

how to start a record label featured snipet

And the next two articles are list-type posts:

record label article in list format

So, the solution is to create a step-by-step, list-type post that contains very specific details on the steps to start a record company.

For example, if the first step was picking a name, I might link out to some name generation tools or give the reader a repeatable formula they can use to come up with name ideas.

But how-tos are easy. What about a more complicated topic that doesn’t have obvious outcome-intent?

Let’s try “mixing vs mastering” and see what we find.

If we examine the SERPs, it’s easy to tell that searchers are looking for a clear understanding of how mixing and mastering are different.

mixing vs mastering google search results

The outcome readers are looking for here is much simpler. The best content for the job in this case likely gives them a very clear definition of each, then a third section about how they’re different from one another.

2. Add internal links

Any good SEO knows the value of internal linking.

Internal links in your guest post to other content the site has published is a great way to give them some extra value from your guest post and show them you’re putting in the effort to make something great for them.

For example, here are some internal links I added to a guest post I published on BPlans.

BPlans internal links

3. Help them make money

If you’re writing a guest post and it helps the site make a sale after they send your article out to their email list, they’ll let you write as much as you want for them.

A great way to pull this off is to feature the product or service that the site is selling inside your content in a way that positions it as a solution to the reader’s problems.

For example, this site we wrote for has affiliate offers in their article about starting a blog. We know this because the affiliate code is in their URL.

see outbound link

So, we linked to it inside of the guest post we wrote for them.

start a blog link example

By doing this, we offer even more value in the content we’re writing for them by giving it potential to generate affiliate sales.

4. Include visuals such as screenshots, flowcharts, and images

Images and visuals boost engagement. In one study, Buzzsumo found that articles with an image once every 75-100 words got double the amount of shares of articles with fewer images.

Good editors know this. So if they see images in your post, they’ll immediately perceive the post to be higher quality and are much less likely to ghost you if they don’t like the content.

Even if it’s just a simple screenshot to make a point, like I did in this article I wrote for Heroic Search, it creates a much better reading experience for their users.

html title tag finding example

Readers love this. And because readers love it, editors will too.

5. Get your formatting right

Which looks better…



…or this?


I agree.

First impressions are everything, and if you format your content correctly, it creates a good first impression that convinces the editor to give your content a read.

That way, you’re not following up endlessly just to get them to read the article.

That said, here are the formatting rules we put into practice before sending our guest posts out to editors:

  • 13pt Arial
  • 1.35 custom spacing
  • White space added after every paragraph

As you can see, it makes a world of a difference.

Step 7: Co-promote the post, respond to comments, and ask for referrals

What you do after you publish the guest post determines the course of your relationship.

If the editors don’t hear much from you after publishing your post, they probably won’t think much of it.

However, if you take the extra step to help them promote the post and answer questions their readers have, they’ll want to return the favor.

Once it’s published, here are some things you can do to help them promote the post:

  • Share it on your social media.
  • Send it to your email list.
  • Run some Facebook ads to it ($10 would be enough to satisfy this).
  • Help them rank it by linking to it in future guest posts.
  • Reach out to people you linked to or mentioned in the post.

If done correctly, the above steps will drive traffic and, more importantly, comments.

Respond to these comments, and not only will you make the editor happy, but you’ll also create a sort of dynamic Q&A section in your article that future readers will find valuable.

This further improves the value of your post, which increases the odds that it will pull in some search traffic and attract backlinks of its own.

If the guest post gets backlinks, then the backlink you have in the article is even more valuable because the page has a higher UR rating.

The best part of all of this, though, isn’t just that you’ve published a better guest post. It’s that, by making the editor very happy, you can easily ask for (and get) a referral.

By going the extra mile with social media promotion on a post for this prospect, I was able to get referred to a much larger site.

referral email screenshot

From this referral, I ended up writing a guest post for them.

nicholas rubright on toast's blog

Pretty good results just for being kind and asking a simple question, if you ask me. 🤷‍♂️

One Important Takeaway

The takeaway here is this:

Humans operate heavily on the concept of reciprocity. This means that, if you do something for someone, they’re going to feel obligated to do something for you in return.

By paying it forward and helping the site you just published a guest post on, you’re pushing the relationship in a mutually beneficial direction.

So, if you’re running a guest posting campaign, build it with the intent of giving good content rather than getting backlinks.

By following the above process and selflessly helping bloggers in your niche, you’ll find yourself earning the kinds of guest post links that Google actually likes: Ones that are inside of awesome, legitimately valuable content that has been editorially vouched for.

Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Contact us now!

We'll pair you with an SEO expert that fits your needs.

By clicking the button you agree to our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.