Despite the rumours, guest posting is still an effective method to link building, getting the word out about your blog or brand, or simply forging relationships in any industry.
But that’s only if you go about guest posting correctly: the wrong guest posting approach can get a website penalized, and put you out of business.
The 2012 method of buying into guest posting networks is certainly no longer effective, instead, one needs to prepare, curate and pitch guest posting opportunities correctly.
Some believe it’s just a numbers game, others think quality matters. I certainly see merit in both, however, in 2016 quality trumps quantity when it comes to guest posting.
5 Ways to Creatively Brainstorm Guest Post Ideas
In this article, you’ll learn my creative brainstorming methods for article ideas when it comes to guest posting prospects and opportunities. Now, you can include these creative titles into a first contact email (which would be ideal, but it’s more work), or use these techniques after you’ve confirmed with the blogger or website owner that they do accept guest posts.
The latter approach may allow you to qualify more opportunities, while the former is a more quality-centric procedure.
In this article, I’ll be showing you a couple of tools. Some of them are paid, but do allow limited free use, which most of the time is enough. If you’ll be doing this at scale or for clients, I recommend subscribing, because you’ll soon hit the free versions’ limitations.
Analyze and understand the target site
Before diving into detailed research for ideas, it’s important to understand what the target site is about. Who are the readers, what style of articles are published. Look at the type of content produced and craft your message or title accordingly. Also, read through the comments to get a sense of the community.
Here are some questions to help get started:
- Is the audience male or female?
- What topics are they interested in?
- Are the articles in-depth and written in long-form content or more bulleted for a quick overview?
- Do they have a lot of “how-to” topics?
- Are the articles visual or text driven?
If you’re targeting a higher quality site, subscribe to their RSS feed and social profiles, to get a good feel of their content.
I use feedly to manage my subscriptions, because it allows me to tag and sort through a lot of sites quickly.
After you have a feel of the site’s audience and content preference, creating a persona may help visualize article ideas. You can be as specific as you want, down to giving her a name and a photo (this is also a very useful exercise for your own website).
- Name: Carolyn
- Age: 34
- Content Likes/Dislikes: Carolyn is extremely visual, she excessively consumes recipes, loves visual content roundups and is always looking at the latest inspiration for home decorating. She enjoys short how-to content and shares on social media. Only consumes long-form content if it’s on her Kindle device and comes with an Amazon Unlimited subscription.
Once there’s a persona in front of you, brainstorming ideas for guest posting becomes a lot easier, by creating content for sites that “Carolyn” may hang around.
2. Using BuzzSumo & SEMRush to know what content to offer
If you’re knowledgeable about the industry, coming up with guest posting titles can be very easy, because you know what the audience cares about. But what if you’re new to the game or working for a client?
I have two tools in my arsenal that not only provide me with blogging ideas for my own site, but are also a treasure trove of guest posting titles.
While BuzzSumo can be used to find guest posting opportunities, it’s much better at showing what’s popular on social media for a particular website. It also let’s you see the guest posting target’s most popular social network.
As an example, let’s look at one of our websites, Cloudwards.net, where we help people find cloud storage providers.
It’s plain to see that we don’t have a lot of traction on Facebook (shame on us), but interaction on LinkedIn is quite high. This tells you a lot about the audience. With a website with a lot of Pinterest shares, for example, it’s safe to assume the audience demographic is mostly female (as Pinterest’s traffic is over 70% female).
Seeing a lot of LinkedIn shares, however, hints towards a more business-oriented crowd.
BuzzSumo lets you look for the top shared content on a specific topic (e.g. “weight loss”), or you can type in a website’s name. Let’s assume we were looking to land a guest post opportunity on mindbodygreen.com (I’m no affiliate of MBG in any way). They rely heavily on visual, easy-to-consume content, as we can see by checking the number of Facebook shares in BuzzSumo.
This ties in perfectly to our persona, Carolyn – we now know what type of content and title to produce, that will make her click and therefore, what will motivate the site’s owners to publish our guest post.
SEMRush is another great tool that I like to use, because it looks at websites from a SEO perspective and shows which keywords a website ranks for, but also what’s the site’s best performing content in the SERPs.
The info is little buried, but I like to dig into the top performing pages of a target website and write down anything that would inspire me to create a new angle or twist for a unique article.
3 Researching a target website’s competitors
If you’re doing a lot research and outreach for a personal website or clients, make yourself familiar with Google’s advanced search operators.
To find sites that are “competing” with your target website, I use the “related:” query ,which brings up sites that Google thinks are relevant.
In our example, we can enter “related:mindbodygreen.com” and it would show interesting websites to explore further for content ideas.
Here are the results:
If you want to take it one step further and have access to a paid tool such as SEMRush, plug in the competitors to see what they’re ranking for, and which articles and pages bring in the most traffic.
That way, you can move from one related site to the next and record golden ideas that your targets are likely to accept.
Clicking on the competitors tab will show even more related sites, that center around the same topics your target audience loves. The process can be repeated with BuzzSumo for social visibility.
4. Use forums for inspiration
Forums have been online for almost as long as the web has. Depending on the niche you’re after, there might be forums with a domain age of 15 years and above. This is a goldmine for guest posting ideas, or even for your own website or blog.
Why do I like forums? There are a couple of advantages: forums tend to generate a lot of long-tail keywords, because it’s mainly user generated content. Also, they speak the language of your persona. So in our case, we should find forums in the health and wellness niche for women or moms.
You can either use the advanced search operator “forum:[yourkeywords]” or simply type in your keyword + forum. That should give you a host of forums to browse through.
Now, if you don’t have the budget to spend on tools, browse through communities to see if anything catches your eye and write down topic ideas on a notepad. Then verify those topics with BuzzSumo, to see if they have any traction on social media and also to draw some inspiration for your own article.
I like to cross check the top performing keywords for each forum I find in Ahrefs’ Positions Explorer, which gives great results on how much traffic and how popular a topic is. The free version provides the top 10 keywords for a domain.
Usually, that’s plenty to get your creative juices flowing.
5 Check table of contents of books
Now, let’s try a more manual approach, but one that has proven to be one of my favorite techniques, and it’s a method that will also serve people who’ve just starting creating a website or are thinking about pitching a first guest post.
If you like to work from a desk, just browse for books online at Amazon.com. There are millions of books available in any category imaginable; I like to pick the books that have a “look inside” feature, where I can glean the table of contents.
If you’re brand new to a niche, this method provides a decent overview of what are the target audience’s core problems and let’s you craft a good title for guest posting purposes. If you own a kindle, Amazon can send a book sample where it’s okay to read 20 or 30% of it, make annotations and come up with really good ideas.
I also like to peruse physical book stores or libraries, to find hidden treasures and even more content ideas. Going to the library or bookstore gets me off the keyboard and into a different environment, as an additional benefit, I can look at the entire book.
Make sure to have a recorder ready so you don’t lose any ideas along the way.
I really hope you enjoyed these five tips on how to creatively brainstorm guest posting titles.
Apply a few of the strategies presented in this article, and I’m sure you’ll have a lot more success with target websites accepting your posts.
While I used some paid tools, they are not necessary for success. However, tools will speed up the process, but they’re no replacement for a good brain.
Mauricio Prinzlau is the co-founder of Cloudwards.net, a cloud software comparison engine for individuals and small businesses.