As a niche publisher, my product is content. Content generates the traffic which earns the revenue.
That means it’s a constant struggle to produce the very best content at the lowest price. It’s the same in any business. Produce the best product/service at the lowest cost possible. Of course, there’s a balance; some businesses focus on quality and charge way more while other businesses focus on low-cost and less on quality.
When it comes to content being your product in today’s online environment, quality is very important. Gone are the days when junk could earn good money. Now it’s about quality which increases the cost per word or per 1,000 words (however you pay for your content).
This means that when you can get free content, it’s a good deal. But, and it’s a BIG BUT, free doesn’t mean you should forsake quality. I’d rather publish nothing than publish junk.
Therefore, what makes my recent experience of getting at least ,000 worth of free content over the past 30 days so great is the content is also very good.
Just how much free content have I received?
Over the last 30 days or so I’ve published about 15 guest post articles, all of which are lengthy and detailed. I have another 14 in the works. By the end of day tomorrow, I’ll probably have another one or two in the pipeline. It just keeps adding up.
Update May 19, 2017:
Over the last 2 days, I received 6 guest posts totalling 11,500 words. That’s 0 to ,000 worth of content nearly fully formatted with images. My total time to get it all published was about 2.5 hours (I usually get a few better images and spend time tweaking the formatting). This morning I had 3 more guest post inquiries… I assigned them all a topic.
While most marketing bloggers write extensively about how to be a successful guest blogger, this article provides tips and ideas on successfully and efficiently publishing guest posts on your niche site to your benefit as a viable free source of content.
8 Steps to Plenty of Free Content Just the Way You Want It
Here are the 8 simple steps I take to get a lot of really great free content in the form of guest posts.
Step 1: Publish a “Guest Post Guidelines” Page
Publish a “Guest Post” page inviting other bloggers, merchants and even agencies to submit guest posts. Actually, I resurrected my old “guest post” page. I had one some time ago, but received so much garbage it was a waste of time.
What’s different this time? Keep reading.
Do I permit dofollow links for guest articles? Yes I do. Otherwise nobody would guest post. But, I do check the site just to make sure I don’t agree to some spammy site. I require the dofollow link in the content, not in the byline at the bottom. I also require at least 5 other outbound links (I mix up the number of outbound links for each post so it’s random). I also require they research my site and include a handful of internal links.
Step 2: Set out your guest-posting guidelines in detail
This is a critical step. Be detailed and demanding in your guest posting requirements. Cover everything including the following:
- length: I mention 1,500 words but also state to expect the finished product to be longer. This probably turns off many prospective guest bloggers, but that’s what I want. I find that the topics I want to cover can’t be done in less. I know some agencies have word count caps such as 800 or 1,000 words. I decline their offers unless they lift the cap.
- topics: Be specific here. Make it clear what types of articles and topics for which you’ll accept guest posts,
- outbound links: Set out your dofollow/nofollow parameters, I permit one to two dofollow links in the content. I require the byline be nofollow. The byline is optional. I also require plenty of additional outbound dofollow links to a variety of other sites as references.
- attribution: I’m a stickler for providing attribution for images and sourcing information.
- internal links: I require 3 to 8 or more internal links to related posts on my site. I ask them to find them. I often add a couple more myself.
- headings: I set out how I like my h-tags (h2, h3, h4 tags) and your preferred formatting requirements,
- Document format: Word, .txt, Google docs, etc.
- Video inclusion requirements: Also, I often just go and grab a YouTube video myself which takes all of 2 minutes), and
- image requirements: attribution, optimization, number of images, alignment and sizing.
Lay it all out. Also make it clear you reserve the right to reject submissions and/or require revisions.
Being specific on your “guest post” page makes it easy when you start receiving the “Hey, I just love your website and would love to contribute. Are you still accepting guest posts?” emails.
As soon as you get that email all you have to do is quickly reply “Thanks for contacting us. You bet we accept guest posts. You can read our guest posting guidelines at [link to your guest post page]. I look forward to working with you.”
Right now, there are a massive number of niche site publishers, merchants and marketing agencies who want to get links and will publish according to your demanding requirements.
Another approach is…
Another approach you can take when someone contacts you, and I do this often, is tell them what topic to cover (instead of letting them pitch you topic ideas). I’ll usually check out their site and then suggest a topic related to their site. I choose very specific, long tail topics my audience will appreciate. I tell the prospective guest blogger to cover the topic thoroughly and to make it the very best piece of content on that subject published online. I also send them a link to a similar type of article on my site and tell them it needs to be just like that.
If the article is one that I really am excited about, I’ll spend 10 to 20 minutes crafting an outline for them. I figure the time I spend on an outline won’t be wasted because if they decline, I’ll get someone else to do it.
Step 3: Track all prospective submissions
I’m at the point where guest posts are a sizeable content source for my site. I now track who is going to submit what. I have a growing list of content that will be delivered in the next week or two. Each time a contributor agrees to the arrangement, I note down their name, email and the topic they’re covering. This way I don’t end up assigning the same topic twice.
Step 4: Set Up a System
This “Set Up a System” step is an update added June 9, 2017. I’ve had so much guest content come in as well as daily inquiries that it was getting out of hand. I decided to invest time and money in systematizing guest contributions. Here’s what I did.
1. Set up a public Google Sheet (i.e. spreadsheet) with article topics:
For guest posters who pitch lousy topics, I send them a link to a Google sheet. I tell them to select a topic and put an “X” next to the topic indicating that topic is taken. The Google sheet states if their chosen article is not submitted within 10 business days, it will be made available to other guest contributors.
2. Set up a front-end article submission form:
I use USP Pro for this and it’s brilliant. I had it set up in about 1 hour. Now I send all guest post inquiries a link to my guest posting guidelines and the article submission page. I also send them to the above-mentioned Google sheet if they need a topic.
The USP Pro form is so great because the article is automatically created as a draft. Once it’s published or denied, the email is sent to the contributor automatically. I don’t have to email them again. All I do is review the articles and either publish them or reject them.
Now the process is extremely streamlined. I get the inquiry. I reply with links to the writing guidelines, the article submission form and the Google sheet if necessary. No more tracking who is doing what or emailing them back and forth or downloading and uploading documents.
Step 5: Review the guest submissions carefully
Despite having very clear guidelines, I reject at least 50% of submissions. I usually quickly point out what’s wrong and invite them to resubmit. Sometimes they resubmit; usually they don’t bother and probably try farming it out elsewhere.
I reject it when it would take me way too much time to improve it. I don’t expect perfection; I usually invest time tweaking it anyway. But if it’s really bad, I just reject it and move on.
Step 6: Ensure it’s unique and attribution is correct
I copy a few snippets in the article and paste that into Google search with “” surrounding the snippet. I just want to make sure it hasn’t been published elsewhere. If you use Copyscape, use that.
If images were provided, I ensure there’s proper attribution. If there’s no attribution given, I confirm with the guest poster that they have a license for the image(s) unless I can tell they’re okay such as merchant images (to whom I’ll link to with affiliate links).
Step 7: Edit the content
Now that I’m very, very clear about what I want, I’m receiving some decent pieces of content. However, that’s not the end of the matter. I wish I could just click the “publish” button at this point, but I can’t. I actually spend a good amount of time editing and improving the content.
I do a bit of my own research to ensure they were thorough. If not, but it’s not too much trouble to fill in some gaps, I’ll do that. If it’s missing quite a bit, I send it back.
I also spend time finding more images, add a chart or two, incorporate data and/or add other content elements that make the article that much better.
Spending time editing is a big change in my approach to accepting guest posts from before. Before I didn’t edit and since I wasn’t clear about what I wanted, I received pure junk and figured no amount of editing could salvage it. The result is I stopped accepting guest posts.
Now that I’m clear and demanding as to what I want in guest content, I quickly scan the article. If it’s good, I invest time to make it better. If it’s junk I just reject it. Even with a rejection rate of about 50%, I’m getting a nice flow of free content each week.
Step 8: Publish and Promote
Once I publish it, I put it in the social media and email newsletter queue. This gets an initial burst of traffic to the article which means it starts earning immediately. From there I just let it go and if it attracts more traffic, awesome. If not, I chalk it up to win some, lose some.
When applicable, I’ll create some cool pins for the article as well. This too is hit and miss, but once images are found, it’s not too much work to create one or a few nice graphics. These days I use Canva.com as well as DesignPickle.com.
The final step is I email the contributor letting them know it’s published and give them the URL. I suggest they can promote it, but I don’t make promotion a requirement.
Step 9: Invite the guest contributor to submit more articles
In my reporting email to the contributor, I always invite them to submit more articles. I now have a few sources that provide content on a somewhat regular basis. They’re familiar with what I want and so the quality continues to improve. However, some people just want one link from my site and move on. That’s cool too.
The key is twofold
First, be clear and demanding about what you want.
Second, be prepared to edit the submissions so it has that final polish.
Best ROI Ever
Even if none of the guest articles get massive traffic in the long run, they do get some traffic and since the content cost me no money and little time (relatively speaking), whatever revenue it does generate is almost pure profit.
No Marketing Whatsoever
I don’t promote my “guest post” page. It’s found in Google and I get 1 to 3 pitches per day resulting in 2 to 5 solid articles per week. I’m talking 1,500 to 2,500 word articles that are well written, unique, nicely formatted and loaded with images/YouTube videos. This content is as good as anything else published on my site and it costs me nothing.
I Get to Publish on Topics I Would Never Have Come Up With
Another big benefit to accepting guest posts is I get pitched amazing, obscure topics that I would never have come up with. I love it when this happens because I’m getting experts in their field providing me articles on topics not widely published on. Combined with my exacting requirements results in some very good content that is sure to earn well in the long run and provide some novel content for my readers.
It’s Still Work (Unfortunately)
Managing 1 to 3 pitches per day takes time. Moreover, reviewing and editing takes time. Finally, getting the content into the site takes time. It’s the same as working with outsourced content; you must still manage everything. But it undeniably allows me to publish more great content in a short time and at no cost.
1. Be polite: Even if junk is submitted, I politely explain that they can improve it and resubmit it.
2. Mammoth .docx converter: Use Mammoth .docx converter and require all submissions be in .docx format. I require all photos and all h2/h3/h4 tags be properly placed and formatted in the Google doc. Mammoth .docx converter imports .docx in seconds all properly formatted.
3. Publish it fast: I publish guest content within a couple of days or at worst, within a week. I figure this makes the contributor very happy and they may wish to submit more for me to publish.
4. Have a list of topics ready: I always have a long list of topics to cover. This way when I need to suggest a topic, I can do so in seconds.
5. Be demanding (without being a jerk): Don’t compromise your quality. Be demanding about what you want. Demand rewrites if necessary. However, you must also be clear about what you want. Think it through and provide clear instructions. You can be demanding and exacting without being a jerk.
6. Track the traffic and revenue: I’m only about 30 to 40 days in on my “guest post” push so it’s too early to crunch some numbers, but it will be interesting if any of these guest posts attract serious traffic in the long run. It sure would be cool to get some earning a few hundred dollars per month. I have no reason to believe this won’t happen. I also don’t expect any particular article to earn thousands per month.
7. Add the guest poster as an author: I should do this more actually. You can add the guest poster as an author and have them add and format the article in your WordPress backend. This saves you having to do it. I’ve done this a bit, but writing this post serves as a good reminder that I should make this a standard procedure.
8. If it’s too short, it may still be usable: Sometimes I receive decent articles, but they’re too narrow in scope or fail to cover the topic adequately. In this instance, if it’s otherwise decent, I’ll consider how I can add it to a relevant existing article on my site. This is a fast and easy way to improve existing content.
9. Update your “guest post” page accordingly: Once you publish a few guest posts on your site, you’ll probably refine the process and adjust your requirements. Just be sure to update your guest post page accordingly.
1. What if your site is new? Will people want to guest post?
Probably not as much as an established, high traffic site; however, “white hat” links, which guest posts are widely considered (that’s a debate for another day), are in such high demand that I think even a young site with not much traffic can attract free guest post content. Yes, it’s easier for me with established sites and plenty of traffic and readers, but even if you get one per week, that’s a great start.
FYI, my biggest site isn’t even a DA 50 site, so it’s not like my site is the best-of-the-best. It’s a middle-of-the-road site, relatively speaking, and the results are nothing short of astonishing.
2. Is it okay to change the article?
I almost always. I think I’ve only received two articles that I published as-is.
I add my own affiliate links. Sometimes guest posters will have their affiliate links in the post. I change them out with my affiliate links. I retain their one or two dofollow links to their site, but the affiliate links are mine unless otherwise agreed upon (I’ve never agreed to let guest posters use their affiliate links and probably never will).
4. Is it okay to put your ads in the article?
Absolutely. That’s how you generate revenue. I did have one instance where the guest poster thought there were too many ads. He didn’t require I remove them, but he did make the content. I agreed. The article was a different format than my usual content and so the ads were a bit much. I removed a few of the ads because it did improve the article and I really liked the article.
5. Would it be okay to publish only guest posts?
I wouldn’t do this, however, I’m not sure this would be good or bad from a user experience and/or SEO perspective. I suppose if you had enough quality submissions, you could publish only guest content. I still write my own content and commission content in addition to the copious amount of guests posts I receive.
6. Do I accept payment?
Some agencies offer me money for me to publish their guest posts. $50 to $60 seems to be the going rate. I decline because it then becomes a paid link. I know I sound a bit paranoid here, but they want links to gambling sites usually, which I actually do permit if it makes sense topic-wise. I decline payment and instead require the content to be absolutely amazing. The reason I will accept some guest posts linking to a gambling site is because it can be relevant in my niche for some topics so I don’t think it’s a big deal. I wouldn’t publish hundreds of these, but a few are fine as long as the content is great and it makes sense to link to a gambling site.
7. Do I accept sponsored posts?
Yes I do accept sponsored posts, but I treat these differently. I require payment and all links are nofollow. I also clearly state that it’s a sponsored post.
8. Do I reciprocate by guest blogging on their site?
No. For 2 niche sites I guest post via an outreach service, but I don’t bother reciprocating with people guest posting on my site.
9. Did I optimize my “guest post” page for search engines?
Not intentionally, but I do have quite a bit of information on it and so I probably do get some nice Google placement. Actually, it’s not until I started writing this blog post on this process did it occur to me that I should further improve my “guest post guidelines” page to attract even more more prospective bloggers. After all, seeking out free guest post content is marketing in its own right.
For me, guest content is gravy content
I’m not going to solely rely on guest articles and stop investing in content or stop producing it myself. I consider guest posts gravy content. I love getting it because it’s free and doesn’t take up much of my time. What could be better? That said, I still have my usual content production schedule that I stick to.
Will I do more guest content on Fat Stacks?
I may, as long as it’s good and helpful content. I’ve published a few guest posts over the years. I will definitely be accepting more guest content on my other niche sites.
Go get free content
Give it a shot, but be patient. It will take time for prospective guest bloggers to find your guest blogging opportunity.
Jon Dykstra is a six figure niche site creator with 10+ years of experience. His willingness to openly share his wins and losses in the email newsletter he publishes has made him a go-to source of guidance and motivation for many. His popular “Niche site profits” course has helped thousands follow his footsteps in creating simple niche sites that earn big.