By now, you are probably aware of the benefits of guest posting but one of the questions I commonly get asked is on the issue of scale.
Guest posting (the decent kind) can be well-organised and well-executed but as much as you systemise and automate, you still need to add more people to the mix to grow the campaign which for me makes the process semi-scalable. There’s nothing wrong with that and in fact I think part of the reason link building tactics like guest posting are so effective is because it requires real effort rather than just offloading your PayPal balance to India.
Paddy has covered several strategies and tools on ways to scale link building tactics like guest posting (see here and here) and these are well worth looking at in terms of making the outreach side of things much more efficient.
Aside from the outreach, one of the reasons why it can be hard to scale a campaign of this nature is because you require a constant supply of top-notch content. Today I wanted to cover how we’ve built our own content fulfillment machine (and I would be interested on ways to improve this?).
From speaking with others, I think we operate in a slightly different way when it comes to the content element of guest posting. It seems many choose to work up the content ideas, have it all written and then pop on their outreach hats and head into the wild to hunt down some bloggers who’ll take the pre-produced content.
We don’t work like this for a few reasons:
- Pre-produced content just doesn’t feel as good or relevant to the sites you are pitching to. In my experience, it can feel like you are shoe-horning the content into a site rather than creating something which fits perfectly with the audience.
- You tend to get some of your best content ideas cruising around the prospect’s site
- Most savvy website owners can smell generic content a mile off
- It can look a bit suspicious to send a ‘bespoke’ guest post right back at the prospect who has just agreed to let you write it.
- We try to ensure the post resonates with the target audience rather than simply offering content that is industry themed.
Our process for the content side of things typically involves the following:
- Themes/topics agreed upon
- Content idea brainstorm
- Loose, potential post ideas shortlisted
- Outreach team work their magic – personalising the loose content ideas to the prospective link partner
- Orders get fed back to our content manager
- Assignments are then dished out to the appropriate writer or source of content (see below)
- Completed work goes back through our content manager who then puts her commissioning editor’s hat on to make sure it meets our requirements
- It then heads back to our outreach team, who perform the final checks and send off to the link partner.
If we break that process down it is essentially three phases:
- Quality control
Generating Content Ideas
Coming up with ideas for guest posts is certainly the most intensive part of the content fulfillment process. Getting it wrong makes outreach difficult and the chances of a successful campaign much less likely.
Some projects require external help from a specialist (or the client if they have the time!) with a much more detailed understanding of the industry. You wouldn’t hire a generalist writer to put together a specialised financial analysis post so it also makes sense to involve an expert at the ideas stage – if anything so the person doing the outreach doesn’t look stupid.
Someone with a detailed understanding of the market may also be able to come up with ideas which are irresistible to the bloggers and website owners in the space because it fits nicely with a current industry theme or is a really popular topic within the space.
Involving a specialist isn’t always practical and isn’t always necessary – if you’ve got a bit of creativity and some research skills you can usually put together a topic list.
Here are some of my favourite creativity aids:
- Quora – quickly becoming a great source of content inspiration
- Q&A sites and forums – a very straightforward way to see the types of problems readers in the target industry have, many of these problems make excellent posts.
- Content strategy generator – from SEOgadget (SEE HERE) – yes that is the second of five links in this post to the SEOgadget website. Who said good content can’t earn you links naturally!
- Competing sites – I’m not suggesting blatant rip-off content but there’s nothing wrong with learning which posts proved ‘most popular’ with the readers of a competitor’s site. Many blogs have widgets offering this kind of information, which makes your life much easier.
- The client site/your site – there is usually plenty of inspiration to be found from browsing their archives (that is if they have any!). You might find the way to take a new angle on an old topic they wrote about or a particular piece that could do with a refresh in the form of a guest post.
- Ask the client about common questions they get from their customers
Sourcing the content
When it came to constructing our content fulfillment machine we needed flexibility to source different content from different sources quickly, easily and cost effectively.
Having more than one source setup will ensure you don’t find yourself with a bottleneck – nothing worse than an abundance of opportunities but no way of fulfilling on the content front.
Having an appreciation of the capabilities of each source is also vital as this helps to maximise the ROI of a campaign; a guest post on a top blog requires really top-notch content but will be worth the investment, a guest post opportunity which is perhaps less prominent is likely to accept a slightly lower standard of content so you can adjust your sourcing accordingly.
Here are a couple of the sources of content which I am familiar with and how I would classify them in terms of pricing and quality.
- oDesk – you’ve probably heard about oDesk and you probably know what it is and isn’t good for. We have sourced a couple of great freelance writers through oDesk but the good writers are few and far between. However, the platform is very useful for managing payments to our a team of freelance writers (see below)
- MediaPiston – a startup content platform which in its own words offers “high-quality, original content on demand”. MediaPiston integrates with your oDesk account if you have one, making payments seamless. MediaPiston does take some of the hassle out of managing a freelance content team but as a result of this you do sacrifice slightly on the quality front. MediaPiston is a useful way to fulfill content for your mid-level guest post opportunities as we do at Skyrocket SEO. The lack of control when it comes to who picks up your brief and how specialised they are on that topic doesn’t make it suitable for sourcing higher level content. That being said, their stringent quality control procedures mean you can rest assured the content is original, grammatically correct and free from spelling pisstakes. We are very happy with MediaPiston and if you have an awareness of its limitations then you’ll likely be pretty happy with the platform too.
- Contently – Contently has dubbed itself a content marketing platform that connects quality writers with great brands. We’ve signed up to the service and I am currently playing around with it so if anyone wants to know how we get on just drop me an email in a couple of weeks.
- In-house (or the client) – this can be a good way to source high-end content if you or your client has the luxury of an in-house team. Naturally this isn’t always an option because it can be expensive having writers on the payroll or impractical if you are waiting on the time-pressed client to send you over guest posts. Furthermore, in-house writers at agencies also tend to be a little more generalised which means content sourced via this method can sometimes be missing that je ne sais quoi.
- Freelance team – as I alluded to earlier in this section, we source the vast majority of our content from the freelance team we have assembled. Whilst it can become a headache to manage individuals all over the globe, we do benefit from superb quality content, highly qualified individuals in every market we work in and no fixed overheads which makes this option very flexible.
See how to manage a freelance content team (part 1, part 2 and part 3). I would also add to these excellent posts by saying that hiring a content manager/commissioning editor is one of the best decisions we made – she makes sure the right writers get the right assignments and all content passes back through her on the way to the outreach team to ensure it meets our quality standards.
We have very high standards and for good reason; top-notch content makes establishing relationships, fostering loyalty with link partners and gaining valuable links much easier.
We have two layers of quality control – the first being our content manager who acts in a commissioning editor-esque role to make sure everything is ship-shape and appears to be in line with the assignment brief.
Our outreach team then act as the final check before sending the post out to the link partner, we do this because they were involved at the pitch stage so if they don’t think the post is quite right we’d much rather it comes back for the writer to put right since the chances of getting a second shot with a link partner are practically zero if you send them junk content the first time.
A couple of lessons I’ve learned…
- Sometimes you just have to get it out the door – we have a number of relentless perfectionists here at Skyrocket SEO (myself included) and whilst that is often a good thing, in many situations the content is actually good to go.
- Content will get declined regardless of how good it is – some folk are pretty fickle and bloggers are no exception.
- Think practically – always be mindful of ROI; producing a post that wouldn’t look out of place in The New York Times just isn’t always necessary.
Constructing a content fulfillment engine isn’t easy but it is worthwhile and absolutely essential.
When it comes to a guest posting campaign the output is directly impacted by the input – with content being a main ingredient. Think of it like this… if you feed shitty offal (crap content) into a sausage machine, it doesn’t matter how hard you turn the lever (outreach) you’ll never get premium grade Lincolnshire sausages (valuable links) out the other end.