Josh Hanagarne is the creator of World’s Strongest Librarian. He was recently offered a book deal (which he turned down), and loves to talk about books, blogging, strength training, and more. He has also found a way to cure his own extreme case of Tourette’s Syndrome.
When I started blogging I never planned on anyone reading what I wrote. Now that they do, I still don’t really plan on anyone reading what I write. Why? Because I write for fun. I write because it’s a healthy thing for me to do. Don’t get me wrong, I like having readers, and more readers is more fun than fewer readers. But before we get into the guest posting discussion, I just want that to be clear: I’d be doing the exact same thing whether I had zero readers or one million.
Whether I am at work or I am just out and about, living my life, I try to view everything as a game. This keeps it fun. One of the most frequent questions I get is “What motivates you to write so much?” Simple: the fear of boredom and the love of creating something that wasn’t here before me. The money doesn’t hurt either, what little of it there is.
I have one question for you:
Do you want more readers?
Then “why do you blog?” question isn’t even important for this discussion. If you want more readers, whether it’s for the potential fame, the money, the clicks on your ads, your affiliate sales, or because you can’t stand the thought of looking at your boss for one more day than you absolutely have to, you should guest post. You should spend time writing in other places. I’m not going to give you an absolute ratio, because there isn’t one, but I would personally suggest that the majority of the content you write goes on other sites, not your own.
It’s simple: if you want more traffic, you have to get more eyes on your work. The Internet is a big spastic screaming match where everyone is howling for attention. Your chances of getting found by new readers plummet drastically if you don’t venture out beyond home(page).
My first big guest post was for Problogger when World’s Strongest Librarian was about two months old, I think. I treated it like a game. I made a list of blogs that I had no business appearing on, based on their subject matter and size/authority, and I tried to figure out how to sneak onto them. Just as an experiment. I had no idea what would happen.
Well, what happened was that I got more traffic in the next three or four days than I ever had. A tiny fraction of it stuck. Most of it didn’t. At the time I knew nothing about SEO or the value of a link. It didn’t matter to me that a high ranking blog had just linked to my own.
So after I crossed Problogger off the list I made it onto Copyblogger and Men With Pens.
These produced similar results. Big, ephemeral traffic spikes, big links, a bump in RSS readers, and then back to business as usual, a little stronger than before.
You’ll hear this whole thing talked about in two ways, by two types of bloggers going through what look like very different paths.
People who are chasing “authority” and people who simply chase links.
The authority blog
I’ll use Problogger and Copyblogger as my examples again. These are authority sites based on their age, the amount of content they have, and the amount of links that are pointing to their sites. Regardless of any chirping I hear about “social” blogging or whatever we’re currently calling it, authority, in my opinion, still comes down to links.
Sure, the traffic might largely spread through social sources, but the real horsepower that ultimately results in passive income comes from the amount of links the blogs generate. The more links you have pointing at you, the more likely you are to be found by searchers.
By most metrics, I also have an authority blog (PR5, 60,000+ links according to Google Webmaster Tools, etc). The core of my readership fluctuates slightly and has held relatively steady for the last two years. My search traffic has gone up steadily and now accounts for the majority of my traffic. That’s because of the links. There are different values of links which are beyond the scope of this post, but the most simple guideline I can give is this question:
Could anyone get this link?
Along those lines, if you tweet one of your own posts, that link is not going to be worth as much as a link from a University’s website. How many bloggers could swing that anyways? (My hand is raised, but I am a crafty devil. Just kidding, it was pure luck).
Now back to guest posting
Let’s forget about semantics. Whether you believe you are chasing Authority or you are chasing links, they lead to the same thing: more traffic. More social traffic, more search traffic, just more. Now, whether you know how to do anything with that traffic is another subject, but if you just want more, you have to be seen.
Guest blogging or link chasing, it just comes down to more eyes on your work. Think of it however is most comfortable for you.
I’ve learned most of this stuff in hindsight. Now that I look at my results, I can tell why I have the stats I do. Lots of links and lots of word of mouth. It all started with appearing in other places.
I’d like you to try an experiment so you can gauge this for yourself. Come write a guest post for me. I get free content, you get a link from an authority blog and more eyes on your work. I’m always looking for book reviews. You can contact me here.
Then you can evaluate and see what you think about the guest posting process. This has been the gospel according to some guy who happens to have a blog that works well. Always run your own experiments and question what you hear.
And if you’re a spammer spewing out crap solely for links, I will know it. Then I’ll print your guest post out and jab it with a pointy stick.
But if you’re good, please consider this an open invitation. And if I sound like I think I know everything, keep this in mind: I only do this because it’s fun. When it’s not fun, I’ll do something else.
PS: Once I got going with guest writing, I was having so much fun it got kind of stupid. Here is the guest post I wrote for Copyblogger after a guest posting marathon.