Let’s talk about contributed content. In my estimation, this is one of the most underused—but most successful—tools we have in our toolbox. Not only can you control the message, and the anchor text and URL, in contributed content, it’s far easier to place that than some of the more traditional media relations activities, such as interviews and feature stories.

Yet, we tend to shy away from it for some reason. Sure, you have to actually write the content, which may not be part of your scope of work if you’re on the agency side, or you may not have the resources internally on the corporate side. But it is worth figuring out. It will give you consistent media relations results that you can control while you work on delivering some of the things you can’t control.

It’s also incredibly easy to measure, giving you the opportunity to show that much of the content you create on third-party sites is as valuable as having it on your own.

What Editors Think About Contributed Content

In a recent report, “The State of Contributed Content,” from Influence & Co., they found that nearly every editor (including Spin Sucks) plans to publish guest content this year. Nearly every editor. That means newspapers, magazines, blogs, newsletters, and podcasts are all looking for contributed content. Every one of them. (Including Spin Sucks. Did I already mention that?)

Nearly 90% said they publish at least one guest piece per week, and more than half (54%) publish one to four pieces. These are all online publications, of course. It’s harder to have those kinds of numbers in printed publications.

But they’re not shying away, either. We have found that nearly every trade publication in every industry we work in takes guest content—and so do many business and consumer publications. 

When asked why they accept guest content, most cited have diverse insights from the people doing the work. At Spin Sucks, we always look for guest contributors who have expertise we do not, such as connected TV advertising, mobile marketing, cannabis communications, graphic design trends, and more.

And they’re not just looking for written content! More than three-fourths accept video content, 63% accept audio content, and more than half are doing webinars where they feature guests. 

The report says, “Publication editors are looking to meet their audiences’ varying needs. If you can help them do so by contributing original, relevant ideas in a variety of formats, you’ll have a better chance of earning acceptance.” 

So much opportunity! So little time! 

Keep These Things In Mind

If you’re going to pitch contributed content, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. When asked what makes them want to read a pitch email from a guest author, editors said the pitch has to succinctly communicate that the author has insights to share that are relevant to the publication’s audience and are not overtly promotional. 
  2. The pitch should be short and to the point and showcase fresh or unexpected angles.
  3. Some editors say they’ll only accept content from people they know. Relationships, relationships, relationships!
  4. The content itself should be high-quality and non-promotional. Successful guest posts are well-written and engaging and share new ideas and fresh perspectives with audiences—not self-serving advertisements and promotions.
  5. The topic should be a fit for the publication’s readership. Every publication is unique, and editors expect guest posts to speak to their specific audiences and meet their particular needs.
  6. The content should share original, expert-level, real-world insights. Editors are looking for guest posts that are chock-full of relevant stories, examples, and original insights that come directly from you, the expert, as well as research to back up your claims.

From our perspective, I mentioned earlier that we want content from experts where we don’t have that expertise, but it fits within the marketing and/or communications realm—and it should be exclusive to us. We will not publish even a sentence that has been published elsewhere.

AI In Contributed Content

Lastly, the report asked editors about artificial intelligence. And surprise! I was quoted in it (I really had no idea until I read it). 

Here is what I said—and still believe, “Everyone is playing with ChatGPT. Artificial intelligence is quickly changing the digital media and publishing industry. While we’re not looking for AI to publish finished pieces, we certainly will use it for first drafts. Imagine what that does to an industry if humans aren’t careful about publishing the same exact content as their competitors.”

Use AI for good. Don’t use it for published pieces or you’ll look and sound like everyone else. Don’t let it replace you. 

The Contributed Content Process

Just the other day, I had a conversation with a girlfriend who is frustrated that a client they work with has a content agency that isn’t getting results. She said, “All we need are links, and they can’t even do that.”

Look, if your sole purpose is content and you’re not getting links, you’re doing something wrong. For the rest of us who offer it as a tactic in a larger integrated program, such as the PESO Model™, getting links to the website (either our own or the client’s) should be one of our goals.

Here is how it works:

  • As described above, let’s assume you’ve effectively pitched contributed content and gotten the topic accepted.
  • You write the content and it’s thoughtful and interesting, not self-promotional or salesy. 
  • Before you submit the piece, you have a second set of eyes look at it to ensure you don’t have any typos or grammatical errors.
  • Then you go through and add a link, using anchor text to one of your priority keywords or phrases, that leads to content on your website. This link also should not be salesy or self-promotional, so don’t use landing pages or sales pages. Use content you’ve produced, such as a video or a blog post, that provides more information about the topic in the contributed content.
  • The content is published on a third-party site, and now you have a very valuable link to your site from another website, which drives lots of different results (which I’ll talk you through in just a second).

Results from Contributed Content Efforts

The most important part of contributed content is the link. For instance, let’s say I’m going to submit some contributed content to PRWeek about the PESO Model™. I will use “PESO Model” as my anchor text. Then I will link that phrase to a blog post or podcast episode on Spin Sucks about the PESO Model.

A few things happen when I do that:

  • PRWeek linking to Spin Sucks tells Google that we are an expert on the PESO Model. They give us a gold star.
  • Because PRWeek has a higher domain authority than Spin Sucks (a higher website score, so to speak) and they are linking to us, Google assumes we’re trustworthy. We get another gold star.
  • When someone searches PESO Model, the PRWeek and Spin Sucks articles pop up on the first page of results. Because our name is associated with both pieces, the searcher assumes we are the experts on the topic.

Now we have a very valuable link to our website from a higher domain authority site, we have gold stars from Google so we show up on the first page of results, people click through to our site and, if we’ve done our jobs correctly, we have calls-to-action that lead them through a buying process.

Measure Your Work and Win!

This is how you measure the work that you’re doing. You start with the contributed content that has a link to content on your website and then you track its effectiveness based on what the website visitors do after they arrive. 

Of course, it’s a little more complicated than that, but if you focus on placing contributed content that has a link to your website, using anchor text that is a priority keyword or phrase, the rest will come.

Gini Dietrich

Gini Dietrich is the founder, CEO, and author of Spin Sucks, host of the Spin Sucks podcast, and author of Spin Sucks (the book). She is the creator of the PESO Model and has crafted a certification for it in partnership with Syracuse University. She has run and grown an agency for the past 15 years. She is co-author of Marketing in the Round, co-host of Inside PR, and co-host of The Agency Leadership podcast.

View all posts by Gini Dietrich