Here’s a scenario you’ll likely be familiar with.
You land on a site, and as you scroll through the page, you see a section called “As seen in,” which contains logos of the big name websites or publications that website or company has been featured in.
Immediately, your opinion of the website changes. You suddenly think it’s more credible and you’re more interested in what it has to offer.
Now, if you’re anything like me, you might even think to yourself, “It would be cool if I had something like this on my website.”
Sound familiar? You’re certainly not alone. I’ve coveted that “As seen in” section myself, and in fact, it’s what got me to set a goal of landing an article on a major website. (Spoiler alert: mission accomplished.)
And that’s exactly what we’ll discuss in this post. Below is the detailed process I followed to land a post opportunity on my dream website, Entrepreneur.com. In this article, you learn the steps I took and see the exact pitch I sent to the site. Check them out below and see how you can apply them in your own guest posting strategy.
Step 1 – Come up with a killer idea
What do you want to write about? Your topic or idea will be a deciding factor for your pitch, so spend time getting it right. And don’t just take my word for it — eleven successful bloggers agree that your topic should be top-notch.
Here are some of the tactics I recommend to help you find the best topic:
A. Write about what you know.
Tap into your own expertise and experience. What do you know about your industry that’s worth writing about? What topics resonate most in your field? Identify them and go from there.
That’s what I did when I came up with the idea for Entrepreneur. As a writer who specialized in the retail industry, I knew that my target readers (i.e. retailers) would care a lot about increasing profits. And based on my conversations with them, I also knew that one thing they struggled with was implementing discounts and promotions without killing their profits.
This is how I ended up pitching a post on creative discounting to Entrepreneur.com. I used what I knew about my target audience, figured out what they cared about, and turned it into a story idea.
See if you can do something similar when you’re brainstorming for topics.
Do note, however, that while mining your own expertise is great, you also need to ensure that your idea resonates with the publication’s audience. You can’t just decide to write about unicorns and then pitch that to a publication that specializes in say, rabbits. The key is to find that intersection between what you know and what the publication is about.
B. Go where your target readers hang out
Having trouble finding the perfect topic or angle? You may need to hang out more with your target readers. This is best done in person — i.e. at networking events or at their workplace — but if that’s not an option, you can opt for the online versions of your audience’s watering holes. These include:
LinkedIn and Facebook groups – No matter who you’re writing for, there’s a big chance that they’re spending some of their time on one or both of these sites. And the good news is both LinkedIn and Facebook allow users to create and join groups where they can connect with like-minded people.
If you want to learn more about your audience — the things they’re reading, the questions they’re asking — these groups are a good place to start.
Searching for groups on LinkedIn and Facebook is easy. Just enter the type of group you’re looking for into the search function on these sites. If you’re looking for writing groups on LinkedIn (or Facebook), for instance, type “writers” in the site’s search box and you’ll be taken to a results page listing relevant groups.
Reddit – Another great source for watering holes? Reddit. These days, there’s a subreddit for just about anything, so there’s a good chance your target audience is hanging out on the site.
And like Facebook and LinkedIn, finding subreddits is as easy as entering a keyword in Reddit’s search box.
One of the things I like about Reddit is that people can vote on posts. The more upvotes a piece of content has, the more popular it is. This voting system can help you see which posts resonate most with your audience, and that can give you further insights for generating ideas.
Online forums – Don’t have any luck with LinkedIn, Facebook, or Reddit? Turn to industry message boards or online forums instead. Google “online forums for [insert audience here]” and see what comes up.
The comments section of a related article – The comments section can be a goldmine for article ideas. Often you’ll find readers weigh in with their own experiences, or, even better, suggest a topic or follow-up article.
If you’re struggling with generating ideas, peruse the websites in your industry and check out the comments section to see if there are any ideas worth writing about.
C. Tap into current events, holidays, or seasons
Another way to find great ideas? Turn to current events or seasons. What’s hot in the news? Are there any special holidays or seasonal events coming up? Use them to find an angle for your piece.
Check out this example from a post I wrote for the writing blog Write to Done. The topic I wanted to write about (i.e. boosting your freelance writing income) had already been covered on the site, but Write to Done still accepted my pitch because I used a seasonal angle (i.e. spring cleaning) when I pitched my idea.
Step 2 – Validate your idea
So you’ve got your killer idea — great! Time to move on to the next step: validating it. There’s nothing worse than spending time outlining your post and pitching it to a website only to find out that they’re not open to the topic — either because it’s not a good fit or they’ve already covered it.
Avoid all that by validating your idea. Here’s how: run a site search for articles related to your pitch. Let’s say you’re planning to approach a career website with a pitch about work-life balance.
Before moving forward with your message, spend some time finding and reading relevant articles on the site. You can also take things a step further and run a search using Buzzsumo to get insight into the amount of social shares each piece of content has gotten.
Why go through all the trouble? Well, taking this step will help you get a feel for how much the publication has covered your topic. If you don’t see any articles on your topic, it could either mean you’re in a great position to provide fresh content, or your topic isn’t of interest to the website’s readers; in which case you’ll need to go back to the drawing board.
On the other hand, if your topic has been covered from just about every angle, then you’ll know that it’ll be much harder for you to add value with your post, so you have to come up with a truly unique angle or find a new idea.
In any case, looking at the publication’s coverage of your topic will help you decide if your idea is worth pursuing.
Step 3 – Beef up your pitch with sources or studies
There’s one extra step I recommend you take before moving forward with your pitch: if possible, find sources or studies to substantiate your article. It takes more time, but it dramatically increases your chances of getting a response.
Major publications and websites are more receptive towards pitches in which the content is substantiated with insights from real-life experts or studies.
If you can show the site’s editor that you’ve done your research and you have a good idea of where your article is going, you’ll stand a much better chance of standing out and getting the green light for your guest post.
So, do initial research before sending your pitch. Start by finding studies that can beef up your piece. This can be as simple as Googling “statistics about [insert topic here]. Or, depending on your topic, the following resources might help:
And if you really want to do the legwork, I highly recommend looking for experts to quote in your article. Here’s how to find sources for your piece:
A. Tap into your network
If you know any experts in your field, reach out to them. Tell them about the piece that you’re writing and ask if they would like to weigh in. Don’t know anyone personally? Try to get an introduction from people in your existing network.
If that doesn’t work…
B. Use HARO
Short for Help a Reporter Out, HARO is a service that connects writers with experts and sources for their articles. All you need to do is submit a query through the site, and HARO will send it to its mailing list of sources and experts.
Submitting a HARO query is easy. Simply enter the media outlet that you’re writing for, describe your article, and specify the type of experts that you need. For best results, keep your query brief and straight to the point. Also note that HARO won’t accept your query if you’re writing for an outlet that has an Alexa ranking above 1 million.
Below is the exact HARO query I sent out for my article. Feel free to use it as a reference:
C. Use LinkedIn
LinkedIn’s search function can help you find experts in any given field. Just type “[topic] expert” into the search field and the site will serve up individuals and company profiles that match your search terms. Peruse these profiles, and then touch base with those you think would make good sources.
A short and simple note (like the one below) should do the trick:
Hi [potential source’s name],
My name is [your name], and I’m a writer specializing in [insert field here].
I’m working on an article about [insert topic and publication] and I’m looking for experts who would like to weigh in. I checked out your LinkedIn profile and saw that you work at [insert company and position] and have done work around [insert industry here]. Given your experience in the field, I figured this would be right up your alley.
I’d love to discuss the specifics and send you more information. Let me know if you’re interested!
Once you have your sources, conduct a pre-interview. Tell them about the article you’re planning to write and see if they can share some quick insights about the topic. Take the information you’ve gathered and use it to beef up your pitch.
Step 4 – Identify the right person to pitch to
Got your studies and sources lined up? Excellent. Now let’s talk about finding the best person to contact. Major sites and publications typically have large editorial teams, so you may need to do a bit of sleuthing. Try the following tactics:
A. Check out the site’s editorial board or contact page
Does the site have an editor who oversees your topic or industry? For instance, if you’re targeting a site that focuses on finance and you’re writing about how to save money, then look for the editor in charge of personal finance.
Some publications have editors specifically in charge of external contributors. If this is the case, then it’s best to reach out to that person.
Taking this step should at least give you the name of the person to contact. And if you’re lucky, you might even find their email address listed on the site. If that’s not the case, though, you need to take a few extra steps (see below) to find their elusive email address.
B. Check their author bio
Once you’ve identified the right editor or writer, run a search for their bylined posts and see if their email address is listed in their author bio.
C. Find them on Twitter or LinkedIn
Some people list their email address in their Twitter bio or LinkedIn page, so look up the editor on these sites. And while you’re at it, follow and connect with them.
Pro tip: Did you know that you can export the contact information (email addresses included) of your LinkedIn connections? Just log into the site, click this link, and choose the format you want to export to.
Step 5 – Compose and send your pitch
This is it! It’s time to write and send your pitch. This may seem like the most daunting part of the process, but if you’ve taken the time to come up with an idea, validate it, and substantiate it, you’ll find that sending your pitch is relatively simple.
And to make things even easier for you, below is the image of the exact pitch I sent, along with a breakdown and description of each part.
Just a quick warning before moving forward: the pitch below should only be used a framework. It’s not something you can swipe and so you still need to compose your pitch email from scratch.
Remember, your pitch should reflect your own voice and be a good fit for the website you’re reaching out to. So, while you’re welcome to use my outreach email as a guide, don’t copy it word-for-word.
A. Personalize the email
Address the person by name. This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised at the number of people who don’t include the name of the person in the email, or worse, use the wrong name.
So before reaching out, be absolutely sure that you’re contacting the right person and you’re addressing them correctly.
B. Briefly talk about why you’re qualified to write the piece
Introduce yourself and talk about why you’re qualified to write the post. Mention your experience. Include links to articles that you’ve written in the past (maybe a link to your portfolio website, if you have one).
Keep this part short. As tempting as it is to talk about yourself and all of your experience, the bulk of your pitch should be focused on the publication and its audience.
Which brings us to our next point…
C. Add another touch of personalization
Offer some genuine comments about their publication and why you want to write for it. Make sure the editor knows that you’re not just randomly reaching out to them.
D. Pitch your idea
Describe your idea and show them that you did your research by briefly going over your main points. This helps the editor get a clear picture of what the piece will look like, and allows them to determine whether it’s right for the publication. They might even send some constructive feedback to improve it.
As a cherry on top, mention that you already have sources lined up. Communicate that other topic experts will weigh in on the topic. Doing so makes your pitch more compelling.
E. Encourage a response
End your message with a question like “Would you be open to publishing this?” It’s easy enough to answer, and it encourages a response.
Once you’ve done all of the above, you’re ready to hit send. Take note of the date that you sent your pitch and if you don’t hear back within a week or two, send a quick follow up email along the lines of “Just wanted to float this to the top of your inbox, in case it fell through the cracks….”
Further reading: Need more tips on how to make your outreach email more compelling? Read Adam’s previous post on how on effective blogger outreach.
Putting it all together
And there you have it! The step-by-step process of how I published a post on my dream website. When it comes to writing for big name publications, getting your foot in the door may seem daunting, but it’s completely doable if you have a killer idea, solid research skills, and of course, the guts to actually put yourself out there.
And I hope this post brings you closer to getting a byline at your dream publication.
With that, good luck and happy pitching!