Know what’s even better than guest posting on a popular blog?
Getting mentioned or featured by a popular blogger, with a link back to your blog.
When you have an expert link to you on their blog and say, “Hey, look at this valuable info,” you are golden. No hours of sweating a topic and writing a draft necessary!
Essentially, a guest post is you promoting yourself on someone else’s platform.
By contrast, a mention from a top blogger is a recommendation from someone with thousands of loyal followers.
Which would you rather have? I thought so.
But there’s a catch: How can you — as a blogger who’s starting out, or has just a small audience — do something noteworthy enough to earn these valuable mentions and links?
Quick answer: Study what others do in your niche, think about what your readers need most — and then find a way to stand out. Bust a major move.
You can do it! I know, because I started as a total blogging newbie, and didn’t know any big bloggers. But I managed to get mentioned on many of the top sites in my niche.
Here are four things I did that helped me get those prized backlinks:
1. Enter contests
Whenever you see contests for bloggers, enter.
In fact, start writing posts with the express purpose of winning contests you know are coming up! Contests are a terrific way to gain a ton of exposure to new readers quickly.
My blog’s audience skyrocketed at the end of 2010, when I entered the Top 10 Blogs for Writers contest on Write to Done. Readers nominate you, which creates backlinks on Write to Done, even for those who don’t eventually win!
When I won, that created another backlink and drove more traffic.
In all, the contest created a major traffic surge for my blog. You can see in the chart below that my blog had only modest traffic before the contest win — 200-300 views a day (I didn’t have Google analytics until November 2010, so the figures start there).
Soon, I began seeing many days above 1,000 views:
With new readers arriving who’d seen the contest link, a couple of blog posts in January and February created similar spikes. Years later, when I analyze my biggest sources of blog traffic, I can still see a steady stream of new readers from my contest wins.
Writer’s Market has a whole section on contests, and you can Google “blogging contests” to find many online.
Note: I’m NOT talking about the scammy types of contests where you pay a stiff fee to enter. There are plenty of free or very-low-cost contests, so concentrate on those.
2. Do something different
One of the first things I did on my blog was start a petition writers could sign vowing they wouldn’t write a blog post for $15 or less. It was sort of a crazy idea, but it got readers taking action — or talking about why they wouldn’t sign.
It was something different, and it got some mentions on other blogs.
I got a taste of what standing out could do for me, and looked to take it a step further.
In late 2010, I made a decision that if my blog was all about fair pay for writers, I needed to put my money where my mouth was. At the time, few blogs paid.
So I started paying guest bloggers $50 a post (now $75). More importantly, I began advocating for websites to pay their contributors.
My pay policy gets my blog mentions and links in many, many roundup posts about paying writing markets on popular blogs. Being a paying market continues to be a point of difference for me — and I consider the money I spend paying writers for guest posts my marketing budget. It’s money well spent.
3. Provide high-value posts
We all have days when we crank out a quick idea for our blog because we’re rushed or short of time.
But if you want top bloggers to take note of you, it requires some serious thinking about your content. Analyze your most popular posts and the most popular posts of big blogs in your niche.
What are the hot topics that get a spike of readers? That’s what you need to write about.
I was pretty slow to figure this out. But if my blog is addressing the primal need of helping freelance writers earn more, it would help if I showed them exactly where they can get a better-paying gig! Duh.
Once I figured it out, it wasn’t even hard to do. When I began paying for guest posts, I started hearing from other paying blogs. In short order, I had a short list.
When I started publishing big roundup posts of paying markets, these were widely linked to by other blogs. I’ve made these market lists into a regular feature, because they continue to be big traffic drivers.
Here you can see how my most recent, biggest-ever list post created a huge traffic spike that led to a new, higher baseline for post traffic:
This comprehensive list of paying markets created a major traffic surge.
It’s the sort of event that’s a game-changer for the size of your blog audience.
4. Be their case study
Have you used a top blogger’s tip, and it helped you be healthier, wealthier, or happier? Let them know, and offer to serve as a case study.
Give them a testimonial, do a Skype recording with them, come on their podcast — and they’ll pop you on their sales page and mention your blog for months or possibly years to come.
I’m a case study inside of several different top bloggers’ courses or communities, and constantly hear from new readers who found me that way.
There are plenty of other ways to promote a blog: Press releases, in-person networking, and public speaking spring to mind. Some folks are techy enough to create an awesome tool to get them mentions.
You know your market, your capabilities, and what the top bloggers in your industry might respond to.
It’s worth the time to figure out how to stand out and get noticed.
Of course, unless you’d like to spend hours and hours writing guest posts, when a quick mention from a top blogger can often get you even more visitors back to your blog.
What strategies have you used to grow your blog’s audience?