How To Choose a Killer Topic – Guest Post Mastery (Part 3 of 8)

September 30, 2013

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8

In the first two posts of this series, you learned why you should guest post and how to properly target blogs to guest post on.

(If you’ve missed any post in this series, use the navigation at the top of this post to catch up!)
So now that you’re all enthusiastic and have a great list of target blogs, the next question becomes, “What should I write about?”

Why You Need to Get to Know Your Targets

Target Audience SearchAlthough you’ve gone to great lengths to make sure that you’ve targeted only blogs that have a relevant overlap with your normal content, it’s still important to recognize that each individual blog you target will have its own unique personality and its own angle on their topic.

You’ve seen it written about blogging before: The narrower you can go, the better. That’s true of guest posting as well. What you’re really trying to do for the best possible results is write a custom post for each and every blog (and audience) you’re targeting.

To make sure that happens, you need to spend some time getting to know each target blog and their audience on a more intimate level. That means a lot of reading and research.

Do You Want it Done Fast – Or Do You Want it Done Right?

Like anything else in life, launching a successful guest posting campaign the right way takes an investment of time and effort. If you want guest posts that bring you 20, 30, or even 100 new subscribers at a time, you’ll have to do the work up front.

If you think you can do that with a generic post you whip up in 30 minutes, good luck to you. That’s probably not going to
work. Each blog has a unique personality – and you need to weave that personality into your proposed guest post.

For instance, here at Become a Blogger, there’s a noticeable “open arms” feel. Leslie is very friendly, transparent and welcoming. He speaks to his audience as if they were old friends.

bigstock-A-speedometer-with-needle-movi-32481170There is also a very strong theme of education here. Leslie is an educator, so you can see and feel that teaching is a big part of this blog.

Based on that information, a potential guest poster would be wise to write in an instructional yet warm and friendly style when pitching a post to Become a Blogger. In this case, pitching a “how to” post aimed at emerging bloggers would be spot on.

You’ll have to research and define each of your targets at that level of detail in order to mount a successful guest posting campaign. And it can be time consuming.

But no worries. As long as you’re willing put in the work, I’m going to show you exactly how I researched my targets and landed relevant posts on several major blogs.

How to Uncover Your Target Blog’s Personality

There are really only two ways to choose a topic for your guest post. Plan A is to basically take a guess at what might resonate with your target blog’s audience. Plan B is to dig into your target blog, do some research, and actually know what has resonated with their audience in the past.

You’ve probably figured out by now that we’re going to leave guessing to the other guys and go with Plan B.

When you know which topics have already been successful for your target blog, you have a much better ability to come up with strong ideas that will perform well for your guest post.

As you go through this process, it's important to remember that your intent here is not to copy posts that have already been written. Rather, your goal is to eliminate the guesswork in choosing what to write about by coming up with a short list of overall themes, ideas, and topics that are already important to your target's readers.

There are three main places that you’re going to look to learn what type of content has already been most successful on your target blogs.

  • Pages
  • Content
  • Comments

The 2 Most Valuable Pages You Need to Read

Most of the time, the information you’re looking for can be found on one of two pages on a blog:

  • The About Page
  • The “Start Here” or “New Here” Page

The About Page
Did you know that on most blogs, the About page gets more views than any other page? It’s true. When a new visitor comes to a blog and reads something interesting, their natural tendency is to think, “I wonder who this person is?” So they go read the About page.

If your target blog owner is smart, they know this. And if they know it, they also know that their About page has to tell their story and drive home their core values with a new visitor quickly. That means they’ve very likely put a great deal of care into crafting an About page that quickly and thoroughly explains the core message of their blog.

Take a look at this image of the About page here at Become a Blogger.

Leslie-About

Even without watching the video, how long does it take for you to figure out what Leslie and this blog are all about?

The core message is spelled out loud and clear right at the top of the page.

Why is that important for you to know about your target blogs?

Well, if their audience has stuck with them, then that core message means something very significant to that audience.

The very audience you intend to write a post for.

It makes sense, then, that by reading the About page and understanding your target’s core message would benefit you greatly when it's time to write your proposed guest post, doesn’t it?

Read the About page several times to get a strong feel for what your target is all about. Pay attention to words and phrases that are used multiple times, and make notes about what you've learned.

“New Here?” or “Start Here” Pages
Some blogs are even so kind as to provide their readers with even more detailed information about their message. They do this by creating a “New Here?” or “Start Here” page.

BAB_01

Not only do these pages go much further into explaining the theme or message of the site, but they might even provide lists of posts, videos, podcasts, or other content that the owner of the blog feels best represents what their blog is all about.

Read every post on these “Start here” and “New here” pages. Make notes – and use what you learn to generate post ideas that have a great chance of being accepted.

For the Guest Poster, Content Really Is King

You’ve heard it said many times about your own blog: “Content is king.” I’m not sure where you fall in on that debate, but when it comes to guest posting, having a deep understanding of your target’s content really is king.bigstock-King-4554384

When it’s time to pitch your post (which will be covered in the next post in this series), you’ll want to demonstrate to your target that you understand them, their content, and their audience in order to increase your chances of success.

When a professional blogger receives a guest post pitch like this one…

“Hi. My name is _______ and I’d like to guest post for your blog. I can write on any topic, so let me know what you’d like and I’ll write something your readers will love.”

Guess where that email goes? In the trash folder. Without hesitation.

Before you can pitch well, you have to come up with ideas that will resonate with your target’s audience. To do that, you need to know their content on more than just a surface level.

As you read the content on your target's blog, pay attention to both the number of comments and the number of social shares for each post. Ask yourself what about the popular posts might have clicked more with the readers.

Most of your guest posting research will be done by reading the posts themselves. You're going to use two different methods to become familiar with your target blog's content.

  1. Current posts
  2. Popular posts widget

Current Posts
Sometimes the best way to do things is the old-fashioned, bloody-knuckled, dirt-under-the-fingernails way. And if your goal is to truly and deeply understand what your target blog is about, there is no better way than to just jump in with both feet and read everything you have time to read.

If you can find an Archives page that lists all previous posts, then great. That will make your job easier. But even if you can't find an archive page, start reading the most current posts – and keep reading from today backward.

I understand that you don't have 8 hours a day to sit and read blog posts. I hear you. But the more of your target's content you can consume, the better. If you can give it an hour or two – do it. You'll come away with a much better understanding of what works on their blog.

If you're in a time crunch, there's another place you can look to find the blog's most popular posts quickly.

Popular Posts Widget

A popular post widget allows your target blog to place a list of their most popular posts in the sidebar of their home page. These look kind of like a top ten type list, as you can see in the image below.

Pop_posts

Most popular post widgets determine the popularity of a post from the number of comments each post received.

This means that if a post did really well with social shares, but didn't have many comments, it may not be listed here.

Other popular post widgets allow the blog owner to pick which posts appear on this widget. If that's the case, be aware that you may be missing highly commented and shared posts.

For those reasons, while a popular post widget is a helpful time saver, it’s not a one-stop solution. If you really want to dig down into what works on your target blog, I'd recommend also spending some time reading through older posts as well.

Keep a list of the popular posts for each blog you're targeting. It's a safe bet that if a topic has performed well with that audience in the past, a similar topic will perform well for you as a guest post.

Comments: Not Everything That Counts Can be Counted

Albert Einstein said that a long time ago, and it’s true in many different contexts still today – including the context of guest posting.

The comments section of your target blog is a treasure trove of ideas about what kinds of topics you could write about. Up until now we’ve spoken about comments only in terms of the number of comments. But the real (and largely overlooked) value of the comments section is the actual conversation being had.

As you read the posts, don’t just finish the copy and click over to the next one. Read the comments. All of them. What is said below the post is your only opportunity to sit in on a round table discussion with the readers of your target blog.

If you pay attention, you’ll notice a lot of valuable information the readers volunteer about what they like, want, and need.

CommentsRepetitive Comment Subjects
As you read comments, you’ll begin to notice repetitive subjects. As a matter of fact, the idea for this series on guest posting came from me paying attention to comments on several different blogs.

I noticed that at least hundreds of times I read comments that said something like, “I really need to start guest posting but (insert reason here).”

People either didn’t know where to start, how to write a pitch, or any number of other things. So months before I started writing for Become a Blogger, I outlined all the steps I’d successfully followed. When this opportunity to share this information with Leslie’s audience came up, I sent him the idea – and the rest is history.

If you pay attention, you will notice common subjects appear again and again in the comments. Write these subjects down for each of your target blogs. They’re gold!

Pay Attention to the Pain
It’s been said that only two things motivate people: Having something you don’t want (pain), or getting something you want but don’t have (attainment). If you’re looking for them, both of these things occur regularly in the comments section of blogs.

You’ll see them manifest in the following types of comments, among others…

“I hate when (pain) happens. It’s so frustrating!”
“Does anyone know how to (pain/attain) this or that? I really need to get this done.”
“Why doesn’t someone come up with something that solves (pain)?”

You get the idea. Regardless of how the sentence is worded, people vent in the comments. And if you see common topics that they’re venting about, write them down. They just may be great topics for your proposed guest post.

Unanswered questionsUnanswered Questions
Even the big boys miss things occasionally. And the comments section is a great place to see what they’ve missed. When a popular blogger receives 150 comments on a post, they go into task completion mode.

Think about it – they’re running a busy blog. When all the comments start to roll in, they have a million other things going on, but at the same time they don’t want commenters to feel like they’ve been overlooked. So what do they do?

They rapid-fire replies to the comments. It’s not out of lack of caring about their readers. It’s just a reaction to a giant pile of comments that they want to answer quickly.

The end result, though, is that sometimes they miss details and follow-up questions from readers. These questions are clearly important to the readers because they took the time to ask them, but they sometimes go unanswered.

Write these questions down for each of your target blogs. They could very well lead you to the perfect topic for your upcoming pitch.

Putting It All Together

Now that you’ve researched your target blogs and made notes on what you’ve learned from the pages, content, and comments – it’s time to put it all together and decide on a topic to pitch to each target.

Organize your notes into 3 categories for each target blog:

  • 10 most popular posts
  • 10 most shared posts
  • 10 major themes from the comments

When you have all that information on one page for each target blog, you'll see patterns emerge and you'll begin to feel more confident in choosing a topic to pitch to your targets.

A Free GiftResearch Worksheet
You can make your notes on a notebook pad or in a spreadsheet, but if you’d like a free PDF worksheet that you can print and fill out for each of your targets, I’m happy to provide you with one .

The important thing is that you take the time to research your target blogs thoroughly, take good notes, and choose a great topic to pitch to each blog.

Until Next Time: Homework

The next post in this series will teach you how to write a guest post pitch that gets attention. The pitch is where most aspiring guest posters drop the ball – but after this next post, you’ll know exactly how to successfully approach your targets.

seriesUntil next time, since you won’t be pitching all your targets at once – make sure you thoroughly research at least 3 of your targets.

For your first time out, choose 3 that are bigger than your blog, but not huge. Fill out your worksheet, make great notes – and come up with at least 2 topics you might want to pitch to each target.

How are you feeling about this process?

As you move through the steps of this process, are you beginning to feel more confident? Do you have questions or comments? Let’s talk about them “down below.”

 

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13 Comments

  • THANK YOU so much for the great info about how to actually get a favorable response on a guest post request! I get SOOO many that are not even about marketing or if they are the writing in them is so heinous that I don’t even consider allowing them to comment let alone post!

    • Gary Korisko says:

      If you enjoyed that aspect of this post, then you’re going to love the next one in this series. It’s a whole post about how to properly pitch a guest post.

      Thanks for the nice compliment – and I hope you come back for the next post!

  • Andre Robley says:

    I think the intro video is brilliant, go for it! I’m soooo stealing this idea 🙂 You better coin a name for it!

  • Great post.. so well written 🙂 I love the intro video! Like I said in FB… I have had the same idea. You just validated it… thanks.

  • 33zpix says:

    yes the preVideo is a warm and useful introduction. I can see where you can embed these in many other places to bring readers to the post
    @Gary- thanks for the very thorough tutorial!

  • Bobbi Emel says:

    Great ideas, Gary! I really like the idea of checking out the Popular Posts. And, even if you don’t have time to read a ton of posts, sometimes just checking out as many headlines as you can is very helpful.

    • Gary Korisko says:

      Good one, Bobbi. Headline skimming is another quick way to get a feel for a target.

      For everyone else – Bobbi is a friend and has been a *very* successful guest poster. She knows what she’s talking about!

      Thanks, Ms. Emel 😉

  • mary young says:

    really clear and helpful information. you are pointing to several items that are likely to be missed by the newcomer like myself- addressing the importance of not only doing the leg work, but shifting the way one thinks about this process.-

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