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How to Get 1,800 Email Signups from One Guest Post

And have the big sites approach you for your content

Last October, I wrote a single guest post that was shared 9,500 times driving more than 1,800 new email signups in the days immediately after it launched.

I’m here to share with you how I got that guest post opportunity — and capitalized on it — so that you can build your email list faster than you ever thought possible.

First, some back story:

For the last 3 years I've run a blog called Startup Career Advice, and through that work got to know the editor in chief of The Muse.

Over time I started doing some guest posts for them. And usually I asked them if I could post.

After all, my site only gets thousands of uniques per month. Whereas theirs gets millions. So they don’t really need a guy like me to do guest posts for them, right?


You see, there’s a dirty little secret about guest blogging that’s critical for you to understand. But it’s something that doesn’t get talked about very often:

Big Blogs Need An Endless Supply Of Content

I can haz content

Why do you think all of the big blogs like:

  • Huffington Post
  • Business Insider
  • Fortune
  • Fast Company
  • Inc

accept a ton of guest posts?

And why do you see those same blogs constantly pulling content from other sites and republishing (with permission) it on their sites?

It's because their ad-driven business models only work if they publish more and more content.

That means that they need your content to be successful.

And you?

You Need Distribution To Have A Big Hit

Sure, the big sites are flooded with people who are trying to get them to accept guest posts. And it’s harder to get a guest post onto a site like HuffPo than onto your buddy’s blog that gets 100 uniques a month.

But if your guest posts aren’t getting published on the biggest sites you’re missing out on a big opportunity. You’re giving up on a chance of having one of your posts go viral.

So it’s worth your while to try to build a relationship with some of the larger blogs in your space — even if it requires a lot more effort than getting your guest post up on your friend’s cat pics blog. :)

Lucky for you that the Sumos already covered how to get press coverage from the biggest sites.

So now you have no excuse to get out there and pitch the big blogs.

But you know what’s better than pitching them? Them approaching you.

How I Got Asked To Guest Post

Every morning I write down 10 ideas. It helps me get my creativity going and my juices flowing. (Thanks, James Altucher, for the inspiration on this one).

Some days I generate ideas I can use. On other days I come up with ideas for other people. So one day I decided to come up with 10 ideas for the editor in chief at The Muse:

John Gannon outreach email guest posting

Soon after, I got this email back from her:

John Gannon outreach email guest posting

(Wow. That worked and I wasn’t even trying!)

So imagine that instead of sending the same boring old guest post pitch to an editor — like every other blogging schmuck — what if you sent:

  • 10 ideas for blog posts that they should write
  • 10 blog posts from other people that they should promote to their audience
  • 10 suggestions for improving their site
  • 10 people they’d enjoy following on Twitter

It would certainly get their attention. And they’d maybe even ask you to do a guest post, like Adrian did.

(And yes, I said yes....)

Using Your Guest Post Opportunity To Make Good Sh*t Happen

3 Things To Link In Your Post

Some, but not all, sites will let you include links in your posts. If you are thinking to yourself “Awesome, I will link to every post on my site and to my product to drive a ton of traffic back my way” resist that urge. It looks super spammy and self promotional.

For maximum results and low spam factor, follow these 3 rules:

Rule 1: Make sure you link to other posts on the site where you’re guest posting even if you have content covering the same topics on your own blog.

Think about it. Why would you want to send traffic away from your own blog if you didn’t have to? So don’t try to make the people who are kind enough to let you guest post do it either. If you look at my post you’ll see I did that in a few places.

Rule 2: Find ways to link to relevant content from other influencers. In my case I made a point to mention and link to not only James Altucher’s book (since it gave me the idea to come up with 10 ideas a day) but also Claudia Altucher’s book:

James Claudia altucher guest post

In doing this you’re adding value for your readers but also giving yourself a chance to have the included influencers promote your post — especially if you give those influencers a tasteful heads up that you’ve included their content:

John Gannon twitter

Rule 3. It’s OK to include a few links to your content as well. Relevant stuff, not your favorite cat pics ;) — in my case, I put in a link to my free email course The Influence Playbook.

John Gannon email course

Because personal branding is a hot topic for The Muse’s audience, we got a ton of opt-ins on the course:

John Gannon email response

Make The Most Of What Seems The Least Important

The byline (‘About The Author’ section for those who aren’t journalists) is really important because if people like your post they’ll want to learn more about you.

It’s so tempting to spend LESS time on the byline, especially after you spend all of your energy on the guest post. But don’t cop out like a chump and say “Follow me on Twitter.” Give the reader a reason to click through and give yourself a chance to capitalize on the traffic that will come your way.

So make sure your byline does two things:

  1. Links to your most important project(s): In my case I want people to visit the website of my startup, BEMAVEN. And they definitely did:
    John Gannon cold email responses
    I also wanted people to hit, so it’s linked in the byline as well. (More on this in a moment).
  2. Has a value proposition for the linked projects/sites: Give the reader of your byline a reason why they should click on the resources and sites you’ve included there -- like so:
John Gannon author bio

Keeping Your Editor Happy

Being the editor at a big blog is a freaking hard job. They’re dealing with lots of content flying every which way, working on tight deadlines, and reacting to what’s trending that day to help drive more traffic and shares.

So make sure you do a few simple things for them so you get asked back for another guest post (or so that they don’t ignore you the next time you pitch them):

  • Be on time: Remember those deadlines I mentioned? The editor is relying on you to get a piece in on time because they have a whole editorial calendar they need to manage. If your piece is late you’re creating more work for them because they’ll need to scramble to backfill. Don’t be that person.
  • Proofread your work: I know the last thing you want to do after writing a guest post (besides making sure your byline is awesome) is reading every single sentence you just wrote again. But you should re-read your post at least once, and maybe twice, after you’ve completed your edits. You’ll cut down the amount of work the editor needs to put in. And that means brownie points for you.
  • Be in style: Most high traffic blogs and sites have a style guide with all of their editorial preferences. Stick to it. Some examples of what style guides might touch on:
    • Word count
    • Paragraph length: Long or short
    • Bolding and italics: Allowed or not allowed
    • Grammar preferences (e.g. use of the Oxford Comma)

Since the last thing I want to do after writing for hours is proofreading and reformatting, I ask my virtual assistant to do both for me. It takes him about an hour, I pay him $15, and I’m much happier for it. :)

Promote, Promote, Promote

Editors will be watching how your post is doing and do things to amplify the content that’s performing the best. After all, more traffic for them usually turns into more revenue for them.

For example, if your post is doing really well the site may:

  • Tweet it more frequently
  • Move it to their home page
  • Or they could choose to feature it in an email blast to their subscribers, like The Muse did when they saw my post was starting to take off:
John Gannon The Muse

So pull out all of the stops. Blast your email list letting them know about the post. Of course, share it to your social networks and post it on Reddit. Digg it. And call in favors with your buddies who have a decent number of followers on their blogs and social networks.

Anything you can do to make the post perform well straight away is well worth it.

The Payoff

Money in an envelope

Because my byline was strong and gave readers a great reason to come to click through to Startup Career Advice, I got a huge traffic spike:

John Gannon traffic spike

But just getting all of this traffic would have been meaningless if I wasn’t able to grow my email list in the process.

You see, my email list is the way I develop relationships with my readers and then convert the most interested ones into customers for my books and for my $300+/hour career coaching practice.

And boy, did I grow my list ;) — and most of that growth came from running a bunch of SumoMe’s apps on my site to capture lots of new subscribers.

First, I configured Welcome Mat with a strong, relevant call to action that would be displayed to all new visitors to my site — including the flood of folks who were coming in that day from my guest post:

Welcome Mat John Gannon

I also made sure that I had List Builder catching people trying to exit the site...

John Gannon List Builder

And the Scroll Box...

John Gannon scroll box

And last, good ol’ Smart Bar!

John Gannon smart bar

Here’s the big spike of email opt-ins we saw -- 261 in a single day just from the Welcome Mat alone. (I got hundreds of others from lead capture forms and widgets elsewhere on my site, too):

John Gannon welcome mat spike

It was also interesting to see how the opt-in rate was dramatically higher for Welcome Mat on the days where lots of traffic was coming in via the guest post.

On October 12, the day The Muse sent the email promoting the post, you can see the Welcome Mat opt-in rate is 16.3%, which is more than 3 times the opt-in rate I usually see:

John Gannon opt-in results

And it makes sense. Those people who read my guest post were already sold that I was an authority in the career advice space. So when they came to my site the call-to-action was super clear and super relevant — and my conversion rates for email subscribers shot up.

Getting Another Bite At The Apple

If your post does really well, some of the syndication partners who work with the blog where you posted will pick up the post. And that will drive even more traffic back to you.

And that’s exactly what happened when USA Today re-published my post with permission from The Muse:

John Gannon article shares

Pro Tip: How can you tell if other sites are syndicating your stuff? You can run a Google advanced search like this:

John Gannon Google Advanced search

Two Things I Would Do Differently Next Time

  1. I didn’t do a great job in making sure other relevant medium-to-large sites knew about how well my post was doing. This might have caused a few more sites to syndicate it themselves or share it with their audience. Ditto for influencers.
  2. A/B testing of my messaging on Welcome Mat. With all of the traffic I saw chances are pretty good I would have seen a statistically significant result.

What’s Next

I’m going to keep guest posting on The Muse if they’ll have me. And now that I’ve had this big win, I can highlight it when I’m pitching editors at other big blogs about why they should take on a guest post from me.

What have been some tactics you’ve used to get the most out of guest post opportunities?

I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

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