In this article I’m going to reveal exactly how I was first able to write for The Guardian and how I managed to get some backlinks too.
This takes a little bit of effort...
First of all, I would like to say that if you are not willing to put in some time and a bit of effort into this process, then this may not be for you. However, if you value high-quality links and don't mind working for them, then keep reading.
The Back Story
I've only been working in SEO full-time for a few years and when I worked agency side I found it difficult to allocate time to personal blogging while also servicing clients, learning, testing and staying up to date with the constant changes in the industry. Damn you Panda!
I knew the importance of blogging as this was something that I did for clients, I was even able to help a client write a blog that earned them national news coverage and turned them into a bit of a local celebrity. However, I was never able to find the time to do any personal blogging.
Although I understood that I should be blogging to improve my 'personal brand', I never thought not doing it would be a major problem for me until I decided that I wanted to change jobs and I was asked during an interview how often I blogged. When I told the interviewer that I don't really blog that much on a personal basis they were clearly unimpressed. I wasn't really surprised when I didn't get the job.
Upon reflection at my substandard interview performance I realised that I had to start blogging more or it could negatively affect my career path. I didn't spend much time on forums, I never interacted that much on Moz and didn't have a huge Twitter following. Everything I learned about SEO was from books, videos and by following the work of a select few really good SEO professionals such as Shaun Anderson, Martin Macdonald and Rishi Lakhani.
My OCD kicked in..
I became obsessed and convinced myself that I had to get my name out there, I had to get my name known in the industry otherwise it would affect my future career prospects.
Unfortunately my spelling and grammar is absolutely horrific to say the least and I would class myself as a good writer.
After having a long think about which websites I would like to write for, I decided that I would love to write for The Guardian as they seem to be a lot more trusted than most online news resources. I knew they wouldn't accept content from me for the same reasons as the interview didn't like my answer(I hadn't proven myself yet).
So here are the steps that I took to get a backlink from The Guardian.
Learning & Testing
Just like with SEO I had to test. I had to find out which content resonates with people.
I started writing blog posts such as this one that told SEOs that they need to learn about social media or get left behind which fell flat on its face. My logic behind it was that if it scares folk, they might share it. Unfortunately I was wrong and it probably only irritated a few folk, but I plodded on, putting out articles and the traffic started to trickle in.
I also wanted to learn from others with experience and this is when I discovered Ryan Holiday. Ryan Holiday does PR for people such as Tucker Max and companies like American Apparel. I learned a lot from his blog posts and book - Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator.
Some of the ideas in the book (which he advises you not to use) are absolutely appalling and I didn't want to go down that route but the book was incredibly helpful in teaching me what type of content spreads and the economics of News & Blog sites.
I basically learned from that book that if you are are not a great writer, or have nothing decent to write about, then you can write to about an emotive subject as this type of content is more likely to spread. The same idea of what Samantha Brick does when she pretends to people that she finds life hard because she is so beautiful. Samantha managed to enrage a lot of folk, I didn't fancy that tactic myself but it gave me a few ideas.
What are they looking for?
He also writes about what journalists and news sites look for before publishing a story, this information was incredibly useful.
Advertising funded websites are always looking for decent content, they make their money based on the number of ad impressions so if you can prove that you're blog posts generate traffic, then there is an increased chance of them publishing your content.
My research lead me to Seth Godin and after reading a few of his books including The Purple Cow, I felt that I had learned a lot more about marketing in general. Purple Cow, which is an excellent book was recommended to me by Ammon Johns when I asked for advice from him on Linkedin. Thanks for the advice Ammon!
Laying the foundations
Although my personal blog posts were generating a bit of traffic and a few shares, it still wasn't enough to prove myself to the The Guardian. I knew I had to do something else so I reached out to Search Engine Land to let them know about my blog post that I had written about the leaked Google Quality documents. Another win! They linked to me and mentioned my name so I could say that I have been quoted in one of the best industry news websites.
Writing the article
I knew that if I wanted to get my article in The Guardian it had to be better quality than all of my other articles and about a subject and would appeal to online marketers and average readers.
I decided to write about the issues relating to Google pushing affiliate style offers directly while at the same time many affiliate sites were dropping rankings in the search engine result pages due to the Panda & Penguin updates.
I completed the article but I was leaving nothing to chance. I asked my girlfriend’s mum who is an English Teacher to have a look over it for me, she got the big red pen out and by the end of the corrections it looked like my article was involved in a violent street attack.
I had a contact that could put me in touch with an ex-journalist who also checked the article for me and made a few small amendments.
Time to get it over to them..
At this point the article was ready to send, but I didn't want it coming straight from me. I felt that if I sent it directly it may be viewed differently than if someone else sent it. I previously worked in recruitment and learned that when trying to sell certain aspects of yourself, in some situations it's better if someone else is promoting your positive attributes.
I got in touch with a contact and pass that is involved in offline PR and asked if they could send the article for me from their company email address. I found the email address on The Guardian website for my contact to use and passed them that information.
I asked him to mention that I've been quoted on industry news websites and that I have my own blog, I made sure that my most popular blog post was the first one that they saw. I didn't ask for a link at this point.
I managed to get this article published in The Guardian.
Not finished yet…
After the article was finished I promoted it hell out of it. I asked friends and family members to Share, Tweet and Like. I found people that shared the article on Twitter and thanked them for doing so. I made sure someone who enjoyed the article added it the Inbound and the feedback that I got from The Guardian was that it done pretty well.
It's not over yet
Once my foot was in the door and I proved that I could write a decent article that attracted visitors to their site, the door was open for me and I was able to submit another article that was also published, this time they included a link back to the company I was working with at the time.
I have also managed to introduce other people to my contacts there who have also gone on to write for them which is great.
1) Prove that you can generate traffic to an article
2) Try to get a mention on a smaller news site first
3) Write a decent article and get others to read over it for you
4) Ask someone else to submit the article for you
5) Promote the hell out of the article once it has been published
6) Thank your contact for letting you publish an article on their website
7) Come back and tell me how you got on
Thanks for reading!
I thought it was time for me to spill the beans and give something back to the SEO community who have been extremely kind to me so I hope you enjoyed the article.