How to Get Published Online: Guest Articles

Having a guest article published on an industry-specific or national news site can be a great way to build on your thought leadership and promote your brand. However, it’s not always an easy feat, as editors receive hundreds of submissions every day from others clamoring for the same opportunity. It’s easy to understand, then, why publications must be stringent in their submission and review process–they must ensure that only the most high-quality and valuable content makes it through. For this reason, it’s critical to have a well-executed strategy in place before you begin writing or submitting an article for consideration. So what can you do to successfully get published online? Having had dozens of articles published on behalf of clients and my team, I’ve listed some top tips that you should consider when trying to obtain a guest article placement.

Leverage a Relevant Time or News Peg

An article is much more powerful and engaging if there is a relevant news peg tied to it. This means leveraging a trend or story currently taking place in the news (whether it be mainstream or industry-specific) and tying it into the focus of your article. An editor will be much more likely to publish your story if it ties into a larger theme and conversation that is of interest to their target audience. For example, if you are a marketing and branding expert with a focus on social media, it would be wise to use the latest Facebook algorithm change to discuss how this shift in users’ newsfeed could impact brands and organic reach. Time pegs are another very effective way to add relevancy and a sense of urgency to your story. For example, MLK Day or Engineers Week are both examples of time pegs that could be leveraged for an article.  

Provide a Unique Angle

While it’s incredibly important to tie your article into a larger narrative or trending story happening in the news, you must also be sure to provide a unique angle to that story. You never want to simply regurgitate what has already been said. One method to help ensure that you’re not writing something that has already been covered is to do a quick search of related topics on a publication’s site to determine whether they’ve already written about the story you’re pitching/writing. This will help you to fine-tune your idea and shift the angle if needed.

Understand the Publication’s Audience

It might seem obvious, but even the most well-written, interesting article will go ignored if the topic and angle doesn’t appeal to a publication’s audience. It’s important to understand what an audience (and editor) will be drawn to. For example, if you write a guide on the best educational teaching tools out there, but the audience of the publication is primarily students, it won’t be of any use or interest to them, despite the fact that they both pertain to the same industry. You must tailor your content and angle to something that the audience will find beneficial and worthwhile in order to be seriously considered.

Make Sure to Follow any Submission Guidelines

Few things will disqualify you more quickly in the eyes of an editor than completely disregarding clear directions for writing and submitting an article for consideration. This can turn you and your article into more of a nuisance than anything else and cause an editor to overlook the hard work you’ve put into the actual content. With this in mind, take note of their submission requirements and follow them as closely as possible.

Also, unless they explicitly say otherwise, it’s usually a good idea to send the editor a short pitch outlining your article idea before you begin writing it. If it’s not in line with what they’re looking for, this tactic will allow you to either pivot your angle or focus your time and effort on other publications instead.

Have Sources to Back Up Your Claims

Although contributed articles tend to be opinion pieces, it’s still important to include credible sources that help to support and back up your claims and position. Adding in these sources will only strengthen your stance and illustrate that you’ve put in the time and effort to provide a piece of content that has merit and which goes beyond your own personal ramblings. Citing stats or studies but failing to hyperlink to the sources can also prolong the publication process, so it’s important to properly reference and link to any sources used from the get-go. Keep in mind that news sites (almost always) prefer hyperlinks to sources over more traditional APA citations and footnotes.

To learn more about our digital PR services, read here: Digital PR.

Caroline-Black-and-White-tan-3-4Caroline brings a wealth of knowledge in communications, marketing, and account management to the Circa Interactive team, and she has worked with partners such as HP, Cisco, and Adobe. Graduating with honors in Business Administration and Marketing from the University of Oregon in 2011, Caroline now plays a key role in Circa Interactive’s digital PR strategy by building long term relationships with internationally recognized media outlets on behalf of our clients.

6 Tips to Start and Master Your College’s Blog in 2018

At Circa Interactive we’re fortunate to work with a few outstanding partners. Below, our friends over at Finalsite put together six useful tips for your college’s blog to become successful. Enjoy!

While you already know that your school needs a blog, the usual roadblocks–time and staffing–are probably standing in your way. Whatever you do, don’t allow these to become constraints. Blogging has the potential to grow your school’s brand, engage your community, and recruit right-fit students to your schools, so it’s definitely worth the effort. If you’re ready to dive in to starting your college’s blog in the new year, here are a few steps to guide your success.

1. Determine a Focus for Your College’s Blog

Many colleges and universities don’t blog at all, and those that do often limit themselves to ones written by the college president, department heads and admissions directors–a pretty narrow focus.  Since your blog will be a traffic-driver and will help to fill your recruitment funnel among other things, put the focus on where you shine: your culture. Showcasing what makes you unique, like the programs you specialize in, your awesome students, and incredible careers of graduates allows you to broaden your focus and bring in students, faculty, coaches, current parents, alumni and others to contribute content.

2. Gather a Group of Dedicated Writers

In order to make an impact with your blog, you need to be consistent about posting. And while it seems simple to assign the task to one person to keep the blog’s tone and voice the same, gathering more content contributors makes it easier to produce content on a consistent basis.

To choose this group, start by polling your community. Ask faculty, students, staff, alumni and parents to share their ideas on posts they’d like to write, or topics they think would be beneficial to prospective and current students and their families, or alumni. Current student bloggers are a great source of content (especially English majors!) as it’s a great resume booster for them to see their work published online, so they’ll love to blog frequently. And, prospective students love to hear firsthand from current students.

Vanguard University does a great job of sharing content from students in a variety of stages and programs to give real-life insight into the student experience (and it looks pretty cool, too!).

An example of how to use student contributors for your college's blog.

A Student’s Guest Post on Vanguard University’s Blog

And while you may want to have different blogs for special programs, like study abroad or athletics, these should be maintained in addition to your college’s main blog. Use a tool that lets you categorize your posts so that they can be dynamically published to all related categories, letting you maximize the impact of your content with less effort.

Remember-it only takes two blog posts per week to improve your website traffic!

3. Create a Content Calendar

Once your group of writers is formed, work with them to create a content calendar that works.

Determine which days you want blog posts to be published, which topics are timely, and which topics are evergreen (can be posted any time.) If you’re only going to blog twice a week, take into consideration that Monday mornings rank highest for visits and Thursdays rank highest for social shares, so focus on those days to get the most traction.

4. Determine an Editing Process

At Finalsite, we use the “press call” concept. Each day at the same time, the marketing team receives an email with all the content that’s scheduled for the next day, including blog posts, and shares their edits with our content marketing manager, who inputs them, and prepares content for publishing.  This system works for us, and now our team expects and prepares for press call each day. Your editing team might be made up of content contributors, marketing or admissions staffers, or others with a critical eye.  

5. Write Simply and with Intent

If your intent is to inform, blogs are meant to be easy-to-read, conversational pieces, but your content contributors might be self-conscious about writing. If your blog is simple and written with intent, it will always be well-received.

Here are few tips for making this happen:

  • Write in lists. It makes content easy to digest and gives readers key takeaways.
  • Write your blog post title first (you can always go back and fine-tune it later!) A title gives your post focus.
  • Write in chunks or sections. Blogs shouldn’t be written like an essay, but should be segmented by different thoughts or ideas.
  • Use a textual hierarchy to break up your post and make it easy to read.
  • Numbered posts are really effective: “The Top Five Reasons to Major in Business,” “Three Reasons Greek Life isn’t What Think it is?”
  • Always incorporate photos in your posts. We recommend one image near the top, and several images throughout the post.
  • End all blogs with a call-to-action.
  • Encourage content contributors to be themselves and use an authentic voice.

6. Share Your Post via Social Media and Subscriptions

“Is anyone out there?” It’s a common fear that you and your content contributors could spend hours on posts that no one sees. But when you follow a few simple steps, your blogs will be seen, appreciated, and shared.

First: Create a way for readers to subscribe to your posts via email. This way, they’ll get the blog posts delivered right to their inbox.

Second: Each time you post a blog on your website, share it on your social feeds. This is a pivotal piece for your inbound marketing strategy! You can also share older blog posts that are still relevant on social media, too! Be sure to always include a photo in your tweets and Facebook posts, as posts with images are more likely to get clicked.

Third: Add links to your blog in the online newsletters that you’re already sending. If you have a monthly newsletter that goes out, include this month’s best posts as a way to drive readership and subscriptions.

Fourth: Use blog posts as inbound marketing content. When sending communications to students in the admission funnel, consider which blog posts you have, and use them as your inbound content. For example, if a student wrote a post on their experience as a student athlete, it would be great to share that with all applicants interested in your athletic programs.

 

Pulling it All Together

Your blog won’t appear overnight, and neither will differences in website traffic — so don’t get discouraged. A blog takes weeks to really get up and running and months to really make a difference. However, with the right people and plans in place, it will quickly become a central piece of your inbound strategy and school culture.

For more tips and strategies for a high-converting website, download Finalsite’s eBook “The Ultimate Website Guide for Colleges and Universities.”

 Hadley RosenAfter more than a decade working in schools in roles in the classroom, communications and advancement, Hadley joined Finalsite in 2013 as Marketing and Communications Manager. She loves meeting Finalsite’s amazing family members around the world and learning about trends impacting schools. She’s a big fan of travel to places near and far with her growing family, cooking cuisines of all kinds, and working on her French fluency.

Building Online Relationships: An Integral Part of Higher Education Internet Marketing

Establishing and maintaining relationships online is crucial for Internet marketers. These relationships are the backbone to link building and advertising techniques, as well as determine your social media presence in the online community. The marketer’s website must be talked about, shared, and linked to in order to gain the necessary strength to rank in search engines. Marketers of higher education build online relationships for many purposes, including guest blogging, reaching out to experts and bloggers in their niche, and advertising opportunities.

Who Should I Reach Out To?

When faced with the challenge of reaching out virally, many may be overwhelmed with who to target and how to find them. To reach out to webmasters who manage strong blogs in your niche, use top search engines and their advanced searching tools. Using the advanced search tool, you can filter through unrelated blogs and find an accurate list of websites ready to be contacted. These webmasters may be able to offer link building and guest blogging opportunities, advertising space, or may be willing to write about a specific aspect of your university program, which can be shared across social media channels.

How to Contact a Webmaster

It is important to remember that many webmasters do not solely manage websites for a living; they also have full-time jobs and busy lives. Keeping this in mind, it is important to do some research before sending off a generic email. Without careful preparation of a personalized email, a marketer may lose a potential relationship with a webmaster or their email may be disregarded as blatant advertising.

While a template email is important for large-scale outreach, it is equally important to personalize each message to show webmasters you have a genuine interest in their site. In regards to guest blogging outreach, showing the webmaster that you enjoy their website and have read articles they have published can go a long way in establishing a beneficial relationship. The following are a few more techniques when designing a personalized email for guest blogging purposes.

  • Avoid formatting your subject line to look like spam or a part of a generic, large-scale outreach. Certain keywords can automatically trigger spam filters and should be avoided at all costs. Try using niche-specific and creative subject lines to avoid being read as spam.
  • Consider the salutation you use, as this is the second thing a webmaster will see and could be a deal breaker. If possible, locate the name of the individual you are reaching out to. It is also important in this step to not sound too general, such as “Dear Webmaster.”
  • Begin with a personalized comment about their website or a specific blog post you enjoyed. This is where your research comes in handy and where you can show the webmaster that you are a unique individual who is interested in writing for their blog.
  • Briefly explain what program you are working with and why you feel this website is appropriate. It is best not to present yourself as a marketer, but more so a writer who is interested in contributing to this particular blog.
  • Offer a previous niche-specific article you have had published. This article should be recent, well written, and posted on a strong blog that is not overrun with advertisements.
  • Proofread your email. If a webmaster finds a spelling or grammar error in your message they may lose faith in you as a writer.

 

Social Media and Outreach

Marketers may use social media outreach in place of email, or better yet, can use social media to supplement email outreach. A developed Google+ account can immediately allow a webmaster to research your name and view your online presence. Along with this, a professional looking Facebook account and Twitter can be used for outreach also. Marketers may use the direct message option of Facebook and Twitter to express interest in an individual’s website or the expertise of an industry leader. LinkedIn can also be used along side or in place of email to develop online relationships with others.

Social media outlets should be used to reach out to individuals through the Internet, as well as to develop trust and familiarity by sharing content. If you wish to publish an article on a respected blog, it would be a good idea to follow that blog on Twitter as well as share a few articles you like through Facebook. A webmaster can review this information and see you as a trustworthy individual, not just a marketer merely looking to link build.

Here are a few things to watch out for when reaching out via email or social media channels:

  • Do not create longwinded emails with a lot of text. Webmasters are generally busy, so get to the point.
  • Do not expect every webmaster to want to publish your content, if they do not respond, it is advisable to send a single follow up, but then move on.
  • Do not rush emails and lose trust with spelling/grammar mistakes. This is the ultimate mistake when positioning yourself as a writer.
  • Do not offer articles that have already been written or are not relevant to the website. Research well to avoid this problem.
  • Do not act like a marketer who has no desire to produce engaging content for the readers of the website. Show genuine interest in order see positive results.

 

When reaching out to others online, it is important to do so effectively to avoid losing potential relationships with prominent webmasters. There are a few techniques that marketers can take advantage of to ensure they are not presenting themselves in a negative light. Being unique and creative through email personalization and original article topics ideas for guest blogging can spark the interest of a variety of webmasters, creating mutually beneficial, long-term online relationships.

 

 

Why Guest Blogging is an Essential Part of the Online Higher Education Marketing Mix

Search engine optimization (SEO) and Internet marketing are rapidly growing as businesses continue to understand and strive for a profound online presence. Universities and colleges across the United States are developing their web presence in order to cater to those who wish to complete degrees online as opposed to on campus.

For these universities to efficiently market online, they must design their websites to fit the standards of leading search engines. Search engines, such as Google, have tremendous power in regards to the amount of traffic a webpage receives. This is due to the behavior of the public online, who almost exclusively type keywords in a search engine to find what they are looking for.

Because of the general reliance on search engines, Internet marketers must comply with a continually changing set of standards in order for a webpage to be easily visible in the search results. Search engines catch on to ‘black hat’ techniques and work to alter their set of standards, or algorithm, in order for search engine users to receive the most relevant and trustworthy search results.

Internet marketers work to design or tweak websites to represent the designated keywords their target audience types into a search engine. They also must build the strength of the targeted website in order for it to outrank competitors. One way to do so is through guest blogging.

 

What is Guest Blogging?

Guest blogging is simply the act of an individual creating and publishing a blog post on a website or blog that they do not own. People guest blog for a variety of reasons, one strong motivation being the one or more backlinks they generally receive from the posting.

While some guest bloggers just have a desire to write, reaping no tangible benefits, many guest bloggers generate articles/posts in order to increase traffic or build the strength of their personal websites. These guest bloggers are required to create original, high quality articles, which will benefit the readers of the blog they are writing for.

 

The Value of Guest Blogging for Link Building

Search engines consider a number of algorithmic factors when ranking websites. A strong factor in ranking is how ‘popular’ a website is, meaning how many other websites are linking to (talking about) the particular website.

Lets consider ‘website X.’ Websites cannot just claim that they are popular and should be ranked highly; they must prove this by having other websites link to theirs. One way to attain these desired links is through guest blogging, which search engines generally see as a genuine link (depending on the caliber of the website the link comes from).

The goal for the marketers of ‘website X’ is to have guest blogs published on relevant, high quality websites with backlinks pointed to ‘website X.’ By doing so, they demonstrate to search engines that they are being talked about (linked to) by other relevant, high-quality websites in their niche.  As a result, Google will increase the strength of ‘website X’’ and positively influence their SERP rankings, increase traffic, and increase lead flow.

 

Cracking Down on Guest Blogging

Search engines are well aware of Internet marketing trends, and as they have in the past, continue to crack down on unsavory marketing techniques. Some marketers are creating very low quality guest blogs or even copying previous content in order to link to a desired website in a large-scale, low cost way.

In order to combat this, search engines are penalizing duplicate content, as well as cracking down on low quality websites that are producing large numbers of poorly written guest posts. Search engines want the most credible and honest results for their users and continue to work to attain such results.

In regards to online degree programs, if Google cracks down on a specific degree program for questionable link building, the ranking of the website will be seriously tarnished. This could result in many lost leads, therefore losing the university a large sum of money.

Because of the importance of high quality guest blog websites, marketers need to be aware of and check a variety of factors before posting on a site. One tactic would be to simply check if the website ranks on Google, to make sure it hasn’t been penalized at some point. Another factor is the quality of previous postings and the amount of blatant marketing visible on the website.

 

Guest Blogging and Online Higher Education

As with all businesses looking to generate customers through online marketing, universities and colleges can attain a sharp increase in new leads through a strong online presence. For this to happen, they must rank highly in search engine results and design their websites to be information rich and user friendly. To increase rankings, these universities pushing online programs should strive to acquire backlinks through strong websites by offering well written and engaging guest posts.

Tips for Researching Guest Blog Targets

  • Use search engines to search for guest blogging opportunities in your niche
  • When using search engines you may want to take advantage of the advanced search features found here
  • Once a blog is located, review the site in detail and locate previous guest postings to analyze their quality
  • Only reach out to guest blogs that are relevant to your niche and already contain high quality guest blogs

 

Good luck with future guest blogging and link building endeavors!