Your favorite industry trade publication is probably well known around your office. Their print magazines reside on your coffee tables and their email newsletters are always welcome in your inbox — maybe you’ve even considered buying ad space from them. These publications can do so much more for your business than educate and promote ads, though. They are powerful tools to leverage your expertise and rise up as a thought leader in your industry.
In this piece, we’ll go in-depth on how to get published where it matters most. Before we dive in, though, I want to highlight some of the key benefits of guest authorship:
- Exposure: You now have access to the publication’s audience. Guest authorship helps you reach those not already familiar with your brand (so make a good impression!)
- Credibility: If a trustworthy and highly respected trade publication allows you to write for them as a “subject expert,” then their readers are likely to see you as a credible source.
- Traffic: If your post links back to your site (which it should as long as the publication allows it), you may see increased traffic due to clicks on those links.
- Search engine optimization (SEO): When a credible source links to your website, Google takes it as a signal that your website is also credible. This gives you higher domain authority (discussed more later in the piece), which gives you a higher ranking in search results, which gives you more clicks, traffic, and ideally more leads.
Why do publications want content from your business?
Publications want content that provides value to their readers. As an industry expert, your voice has authority! If you have a fresh perspective, in-depth information on a complex topic or insight into a developing industry trend, you’re helping that publication create value. That’s something they’re likely to be interested in.
How to find relevant publications
The important questions to ask yourself when looking for relevant publications to pitch to are: “What is this piece about?” and “Who does it benefit?” You’ll want to look for publications based on your industry and based on the content’s topic.
It’s good to develop relationships with industry-level publications because you’ll likely find yourself pitching to them multiple times. You can compile this list before you even know exactly what you want to write about. They’re pretty simple to find. Here’s how I usually go about my search:
- Start with what you know. Your favorite trade publication should be the first one on your list.
- Conduct a simple Google search. Type in “best [insert your industry] publication” or “publications for [insert your profession]”
Depending on what you write, your piece may fit on publications outside of your industry. A good way to build a pitch list is to start with those industry publications and then ask yourself, “Who benefits from this piece?” Think about what that person would read and add those publications to your list. For example, if your piece is about how small businesses can find the right product manufacturer, you may want to pitch to some small business magazines. Here are some potential Google searches to find them based on that example:
- “Manufacturing advice for small business”
- “Resources for small businesses”
- “Small business magazines”
Not all publications are created equal — some are spammy, some don’t take guest content and some may even require that you pay for guest blog posts. Here are my general tips for making sure you’ve found a good site:
- Avoid company blogs. These are blogs that a company has created on its website, and you can spot them easily if there is a “products” tab at the top. Use the keyword “magazine” or “publication” in your search to yield what you are looking for — simply typing “blogs” can work, but it will still yield company blogs.
- Check to see if they accept guest content. Look for pages that say “contributors” or “submission guidelines” or see if they have an opinion section on their website. Check out their staff, too. Do they already have staff writers? If so it probably means they won’t publish you.
- Check for domain authority (DA). Domain authority is a measure on a scale of zero to 100 that indicates how authoritative the website is in the eyes of a search engine, and it is measured by sites like Ahrefs or Moz. If a publication has a high DA, it means that Google is more likely to recommend it in search results, which basically means it is an overall high-quality site. Getting links from sites with a high DA can help your website raise its own DA, so it’s a good metric to look at when considering where to pitch.
- Look for opportunities both in print and online. Print magazines don’t offer SEO benefits but are great for developing thought leadership.
How to find the right contact person to reach out to
Once you’ve figured out which sites to pitch to, you need to find the right contact. Most of the time, you will be looking for the editor of the publication unless the website explicitly lists who else is in charge of guest content.
My first step is to go to the publication’s “about us” page. Most of the time, the editor’s email address will be listed right there.
If it’s not, you can usually find their name at least. Then I like to try a handy tool called Hunter.io which you can download as a browser extension. If you click on the extension, it will show you all the email addresses it can find attached to that domain. Look for the editor’s name and copy and paste.
If you can’t find anything with the help of an email finding tool, you can reach out to their general info[@]company.com or editor[@]company.com email addresses. These should be a last resort though because they tend to be checked less frequently.
My final tip: Check if there is a submission form. You don’t want to flood an editor’s inbox with pitches if they have a preferred method of gathering guest content.
What are editors looking for when you send them content?
In my experience with pitching, editors are looking for six major things in the guest content they publish:
- Exclusivity. This isn’t always the case, but lots of publications will want the exclusive right to publish your piece. Is this a bad thing? It depends on your strategy. If you are trying to get lots of links or a really broad exposure, it’s not ideal. It’s important to be honest, though. Don’t promise exclusivity if you plan to pitch it elsewhere.
- Fit with their site. What content of theirs is your piece related to? Does it fit with their style? Does it appeal to their reader?
- High-resolution images. This is especially important for print. Most publications will want 300dpi.
- Value for their readers. As discussed above, this is the whole reason editors want your content. Make sure it is valuable to their audience.
- Professionally written content. Make sure the piece has good grammar and spelling, along with accurate research and an interesting perspective.
- Non-promotional writing. Publications will never publish a piece that explicitly promotes a company or a product. If they do, they’ll make you pay for it.
Pitching 101: structure, tips and tools
Crafting the perfect pitch is crucial. You are potentially fighting with hundreds of other submissions in an editor’s inbox, so keep it short and simple. Convey what you have to offer and what you hope to gain as quickly and clearly as possible.
Be sure to personalize every email, even if you are distributing the content on a mass level. We use Mailshake to send our pitches, because it allows you to insert personalized tags.
You also want to pitch as a human being. Use your email address rather than a designated pitching[@]company.com email. It’s also important to be personable and friendly in your email as if you were reaching out to a friend or coworker.
You can take a look at pitch structure in this downloadable template based on our best practices. It includes notes and tips for getting started on your first pitch.
The power of follow up
We’ve already established that editors are busy and get lots of pitches, so don’t be discouraged if they don’t reply right away. I’ve had plenty of editors get back to me after my first or second follow up email, sometimes even weeks later. It’s important to be respectful of their time and workload when pitching — here’s how:
- Leave about five days between follow up emails. Pitching software like Mailshake will allow you to schedule and automatically send follow-ups. Make sure your settings are configured to stop sending follow-ups to recipients who have already replied to your email.
- Don’t send more than two follow-ups, and be sure to state when it’s the final follow up.
- Send follow-ups as replies to your original pitch. This makes it easier for the editor to stay organized and remember your pitch.
You can find examples of follow up emails in the pitching template as well.
Pitching software is also useful because it allows you to check opens and clicks. Those metrics can tell you a lot about your pitching strategy. For example:
- If you have a low open rate, rethink your pitch list and subject line. Are you targeting the right publications? Do they accept guest content? Is your piece interesting enough?
- If you have low replies, but high opens, rethink your pitch and the content. You’ve caught their attention, but just couldn’t get them to bite.
Here’s my parting piece of advice: Don’t get discouraged.
Pitching is a challenging process, and depending on your industry, it can be very difficult to get pieces picked up. That’s why it’s worth it though. If it were easy, a guest post wouldn’t carry nearly as much weight or benefit.
This piece will serve as a good checklist for all your future pitching endeavors. If a piece isn’t pitching well, come back to this and ask yourself: Is the content well written with editors in mind? Am I targeting the right publications? Is my pitch effective? Then, adjust your strategy accordingly.