Capturing your audience's attention is tough, especially when consumers are bombarded with online marketing content every day. A long-term marketing strategy that small-business owners can employ is content marketing. Establishing a blog and getting guest blog posts from prominent experts in your industry is a good way to get customers to pay attention to your business.

What Is Content Marketing?

Traditional marketing activities involve pitching your product or service to your consumers. These marketing messages focus on the problem the audience is having and tell the consumers that they can solve their problem if they purchase the product. It is a form of inbound marketing: getting your future customers to come to you, rather than you chasing them down. The end goal is to engage and interest your target audience enough so that they will be ready to buy. However, content marketing takes a different approach.

Content marketing is about providing your target audience with truly relevant and useful content. This content is designed to provide helpful information that is relevant to what the consumers are experiencing now. The strategy behind content marketing is to offer valuable information on a consistent basis to the target audience so that they will ultimately purchase the product.

While the goal of content marketing and traditional marketing is the same — to sell the product — the method is different. Content marketing is a long-term activity where businesses build trust, credibility and expertise in the eyes of consumers by offering them interesting and useful high-quality information. Content marketing can come in many forms, including blogs, vlogs, podcasts, email series and newsletters.

Blogging is one of the most common forms of content marketing. It involves a business establishing a blog on its company site and posting SEO-optimized articles that appeal to its target market. Often, the site owner posts on a regular basis, such as once every week or once every few days depending on the content schedule. In addition to posting quality content on his own blog, the blog owner can partner with guest bloggers and publish guest articles to provide variety for the audience.

Building a Guest Blogging Strategy

Writing content for your blog on a regular basis can be hard work, especially if you’re also running a business and managing a team of employees. Guest blogging is a great way to supplement your blog content program while offering your audience new and useful information from people they trust, value and respect. Each piece of content a blog publishes should be designed to make life easier for the target market, and guest blog posts can help the blog owner accomplish this goal.

There are many benefits to having a guest blogging strategy, which include:

  • Building credibility by having multiple experts write for your organization

  • Increasing your website and blog traffic and improving your relevancy with search engines like Google

  • Getting new leads for your company from people who are interested in what your guest bloggers have to say

  • Filling your blog content calendar with useful information for your target market

Getting the Right Guest Bloggers for Your Website

Building your guest blogging strategy begins with identifying the right guest bloggers for your business blog. A great guest will be relevant to your target market and will be able to provide a new perspective or unique insight that your target audience craves. Don’t get a guest blogger who cannot offer valuable content, as that will not help you further your content marketing goals.

As with any marketing activity, it’s critical to start by researching your target audience. Review your business’s target market persona and the demographic, geographic, psychographic and behavioral qualities. You’ll need to focus on a few areas to understand what kind of content your blog should publish — both your own content and your guest bloggers’ content:

  • What main challenges are they facing day to day?

  • How do those challenges make them feel?

  • What do they think is the ideal solution for their problems?

  • What is the real ideal solution for their problems?

  • What are they searching for online?

  • Who is considered to be trustworthy in your industry?

  • Who is considered irrelevant or outdated in your industry?

Answering these questions will help you determine which people are best suited for your guest blogging strategy. Make a list of names and outline why you think your target audience would be interested in hearing from them. What specifically can they offer that will engage your target audience? Contact your ideal guest bloggers to see whether they are interested in guest blogging opportunities with your blog.

Building Clout With Free Guest Blog Posts

People in your industry who are new, establishing credibility and making a name for themselves may be willing to write a guest blog post for your blog for free. Making connections within this network is beneficial because you can get a great article for the cost of networking. Many small businesses don’t have a large budget assigned to their marketing strategy, so this is a good way to start your guest blogging efforts.

Keep in mind that while the article you receive may be free, it will still need to meet the high standards you follow to publish content on your blog. Be sure to discuss the process with your guest authors so they know to write content with search engine optimization in mind: Their blog should help answer a question for which the target market is searching online. For example, if your target market frequently searches for healthy weeknight dinners that kids will love, then publishing a guest blog on that topic is a good idea.

In addition to helping your guest bloggers get their name out in the industry, you can offer to trade blog posts with them by providing content for their blogs. This way, both businesses can get the content they need while reaching a wider audience and building credibility. Once you have a consistent publishing schedule and are offering your target audience valuable content on a regular basis, your blog will build clout, and you may start getting requests from potential guest bloggers who want to write content for you.

Establishing Expertise With Paid Guest Blog Posts

People in your industry who are established experts and have a large following may agree to be a guest author for your blog in return for payment. These are reputable, established professionals who frequently write for other blogs and publications, sharing their wisdom in the industry in a way that no one else can. If your target market respects and values specific individuals in your industry, they may be a good choice for your blog.

While paying for guest bloggers can be a strain on a small business’s marketing budget, you may be able to increase your web traffic and reach new markets with this approach. For example, if a prospect conducts a web search for the industry expert’s name, her guest post on your blog may turn up as one of the search results. The prospect may then look at your business as a credible source because someone she trusts has written for the blog.

Creating Engaging Content for all Guest Blog Posts

Writing a guest blog post is a strategic marketing activity. It’s best to establish content guest posting guidelines that all your guest bloggers should follow. This way, you can ensure that the content you publish meets the high standards for which you want your blog to be known.

  • Create a click-worthy title that captures the target audience’s attention immediately, such as "4 No-Fail Ways to Finally Lose the Last 10 Pounds" or "Don’t Leave Your House Without Checking Your Car for This."

  • Use search-engine-optimized subheadings to break up the text. People like to skim quality blogs, and subheads help them know what the post is about without reading every single word. They also boost your search engine ranking.

  • Write valuable, relevant and engaging body copy that helps the target audience solve the problem they are having. This is key to having a great article. If your audience isn’t interested in the topic, they will not come back.

  • Incorporate interesting graphics that help tell the story and stay true to your brand. Google measures the time people spend on your site, and having engaging graphics helps to keep people there longer.

  • Always include a call to action in every blog post, including guest blogs. This doesn’t necessarily have to be purchasing something from your business. It can be leaving a comment on the blog to boost engagement or booking a free consultation for more information.

  • Offer a short author bio that includes why this guest blogger is relevant to your target market. Why are the authors the right people to share this information on your blog? Every guest post submission should include this content.

  • Add relevant internal links to your website. This is good for your SEO and also gives the reader a chance to spend more time on your website.

  • Include a strong meta description, which is the short snippet of content that shows up on Google in the search results. This is what convinces the target audience to click on the blog and read it. 

Understanding and Using Backlinks

An effective SEO technique to increase the effectiveness of your content marketing and guest blogging efforts is using link building in your blog. Google uses many different criteria to determine the quality and ranking of your website and blog. One such way is how many backlinks you have pointing to your site from other sites. However, it’s not just about the quantity of sites that backlink to you — it's about their quality.

If you have poor-quality sites that are linking back to your website, you may be penalized by Google. However, if authoritative and credible websites are linking to your site, this will help your search engine ranking considerably. As part of your guest blogging strategy, ensure you have your guest bloggers link to their guest post that’s on your blog from their own blog or website. This way, they point their readers to content they have written for you while improving your SEO ranking.

Promoting Guest Blog Posts

Once the guest blog post has been published on your site, the work is not over. Now, it’s time to promote the guest blog to ensure that a large number of your target audience read it. Blog promotion tactics include:

  • Email blast to your target audience encouraging them to read the guest post, comment on it and share it with their network

  • Social media tweet or post using relevant hashtags to increase visibility

  • Content creation of other marketing material using details from the guest blog post, such as infographics or checklists linking back to the guest blog post

Be sure to ask all members of your team to read, comment and share the guest blog post with their networks. Provide your guest blogger with a short snippet of content he can use to promote the blog post with his network as well so that all he has to do is copy and paste the content with the link. Don't forget to say "thanks for sharing." You can include this process as part of your guest post guidelines.