Written by James Clear at JamesClear.com
Looking for previous lessons? Lesson 0 | Lesson 1 | Lesson 2 | Lesson 3
Less than two years ago, I started writing on JamesClear.com. During the first month, I didn’t even get 1,000 visitors.
Today, my site gets over 250,000 unique visitors per month. In less than 2 years, I’ve built an email list of more than 100,000 people.
Here’s how I did it…
The Problem With Guest Posts
Guest posting is a common strategy for growing an email list. The basic idea is simple: you write a good article. You publish that article on another site that gets a lot of traffic. And then, that traffic clicks on links in the article or in your author byline and comes back to your site. It’s a good plan and it works.
The problem is that it doesn’t scale at all. I can write one or two decent guest posts per week, but if I write 10 posts, then they are all junk. In order to reach more people, you have to write more posts, but if you write more posts, then the quality decreases.
For this reason, I haven’t written a guest post in years. Instead, I do this…
Every Monday and Thursday, I write a new article on JamesClear.com. Obviously, I put a lot of time and energy into these articles. I want them to be as useful as possible.
About a week later, I take these articles and syndicate them or re-publish them to outside sites. For example, here is an article that originally ran on my site and then was re-published by Lifehacker later on. I gained over 600 subscribers from the Lifehacker version and I didn’t have to put in any additional work writing a new
That’s why this strategy is so useful: it gives your current content legs. You put all this hard work into writing a great article and now you get to leverage that hard work over and over.
There are a couple key points you need to know for using this strategy effectively…
#1 Pitch a Perfect Fit
Many people will wonder, “How can I get my work published by a big outlet?”
Answer: Focus on pitching articles that are only a perfect fit for that audience. Lifehacker is an audience filled with people who want productivity and success hacks. So, when I send them an email about an article I wrote that covers Kobe Bryant and Mozart’s practice strategies, it’s a very easy sell to them. In fact, here’s the exact email I sent to their editor to pitch that article…
SUBJECT: Republish this post about the science of success?
I wrote the following post about deliberate practice and the science of success. It’s been a popular post on my site and I think that the Lifehacker audience would love it as well.
See what you think: http://jamesclear.com/deliberate-practice
If you enjoy it, I’d love to see it republished on Lifehacker.
The most important thing is to know what your audience wants. In this case, your audience is the person you are pitching your article to. Know the type of content they run and only send them pieces that are a perfect fit.
If you’re wondering, “How do I find the right editor to pitch?” There are two answers.
First, if it’s a really big site (Yahoo, CNN, Lifehacker etc.), then start by looking at the editor for the vertical that is most relevant to you. For me, my articles typically fit best in the health or business verticals. Many outlets will have the editor listed for a particular vertical and finding their email address is usually a few Google searches away.
Second, if that strategy doesn’t work (or if you just can’t track down the editor’s email address through some searching), you can reach out to another writer who isn’t the editor, but who already writes for the outlet.
In many cases, individual writers will have their own blogs, social media accounts, or online properties. This is true even for large outlets like the New York Times (many writers for the Times have their own blogs elsewhere online, even if they rarely keep them up). Your goal should be to reach out, get to know them, and then — if a friendship starts to blossom — you can ask them to connect you with the right outlet.
#2 Links Are Everything
The second thing to keep in mind is that links are everything with this strategy. Having a post get republished without any links is useless. It might be nice to be in the New York Times, but if they can’t send you any traffic, then your email list won’t benefit.
Once an outlet has expressed interest in a piece, I typically ask them to keep all of the original links in and I will always have a byline added to the end of the article. (Note: if possible, you want your byline to be the last line of the article, not in the author box. Author boxes often get ignored by readers.)
Here is an example of a byline I typically use:
James Clear writes at JamesClear.com about the science of habit formation and how to use behavioral science to improve your health, creativity, and productivity. To get useful ideas for improving your mental and physical performance, join his free newsletter.
#3 Use Landing Pages
The single biggest mistake people make with this strategy is not driving people back to dedicated landing pages. Notice that my byline (above) links directly to my newsletter page.
I intentionally drive people to this page because there is nothing else they can do except sign up for the email list. In a typical month, this page will convert between 79 to 81 percent and send over 2,500 email signups.
Why does this page convert so well? Is it the world’s best copy? Is it the world’s best design?
Nope. It has very little to do with the design or copy. It’s because I am sending qualified and motivated traffic to that page.
Think about it. If you just finished reading an article from me, then you are already qualified. You don’t need to spend 10 minutes clicking around my site and getting to know me. You just read an entire article from me. Of course you enjoy the content. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have finished reading.
For that reason, you should drive people straight to a landing page where they can join rather than linking to your homepage and hoping they find the email form in your sidebar.
Simple Works, Now Repeat
It’s a simple strategy, but it works wonders.
…If you actually do it.
Now, find your best content (or write new content based on Lesson 2) and then start emailing editors.
Lesson 4 Task
1) Find 1 site that is a fit for your best post/article. Share it as a comment below.
2) Email the editor of the vertical you want to write for using the following script:
I wrote the following post about [topic of the post]. It’s been a popular post on my site and I think that the [THEIR SITE] audience would love it as well.
See what you think: [URL OF ARTICLE]
If you enjoy it, I’d love to see it republished on [THEIR SITE].
3) If they say yes, be sure to include links and create a simple landing page.
Check out SumoMe’s Content Analytics tool. It shows you exactly where your visitors stop reading your content. Use the tool to optimize your own posts before you pitch them as guest posts.
This method sounds great, there is just one problem. What about SEO / duplicated content issues?
Also, how are people (editors) reacting when you offer them to publish some piece of content that has already been published elsewhere? Isn’t it like old news to them or something?
Hey James, thanks for the great lesson here. I have a quick question for you. Did you ever get a NO from a publisher because they say that the strategy is “Duplicate content” and that’s bad for SEO?. In that case how have your killed that objection? thanks!
Great advice! I’ve done this successfully before and this is a good reminder to do it more. I’ve brought in great traffic from this strategy on socialmediaexaminer.com, even though they only allow original content. I simply sent them the original article and suggested that I could create a “remix” of it specifically for their blog. That’s how I landed this post – http://www.socialmediaexaminer.com/twitter-in-stream-images/ which was originally this post on my blog http://lkrsocialmedia.com/2014/05/twitter-photo-tips-for-social-marketers-2014/
Nice, I almost came to you today with the repost e-mail template above Laura, customized a bit.
You would have spotted it from a mile away. I was going to pitch you this article on creating a facebook page tab http://itarsenal.com/how-to-make-facebook-page-tab/ or this newsletter on 4 [not 5] social media tips http://us1.campaign-archive1.com/?u=b2a0c68d6804b0cc6253b9388&id=eb53d148e0 that got a good response from my list, like this e-mail: http://take.ms/3OeH2
Go figure, since the mystery is gone, would you be interested?
Hi, 1 question. Are the websites that you approach happy to publish duplicate content or do you have to take down your original post?
I have the same question! If they do re-publish it, won’t that be considered “duplicate content” by google? Wouldn’t that ding their or your site? Is there a work-around, or is this simply no longer an issue for google? I’ve wondered about this for years and would love your input!
Ignore those SEO tactics you’ve been hearing. There’s nothing wrong about having your content somewhere else if it really gives value to others.
Same question as everybody else … what’s the deal effect of this on duplicate content? James? Anyone? … I want to believe that this is a great idea, but this goes against the grain of what we all have heard for years about Duplicate Content … I hope we’re wrong!
Sergio, just looking for a but more explanation. Do you know of other articles that discuss this ? Any other thoughts on why this is okay, and why everyone has been saying duplicate content is bad?
Duplicate content was a huge scare a few years back. As long as you publish your post a couple weeks before the guest post Google knows what the original is.
Thanks for answering our question about that…I’m also wondering if posting the same article on two of *my own* websites is okay in google’s eyes? Does either the first site posting it, or the second site posting it a few weeks later, get dinged for this? You mention that google “knows what the original is” but does that mean that the site who re-posts it will also not get dinged for publishing duplicate content? Both sites are good, then?
Rut roh, Neil Patel and KISSmetrics say otherwise – http://www.quicksprout.com/2014/11/03/should-you-repost-your-blog-content-on-other-websites/
Thx for posting that Robert!! Exactly what I thoight. I especially came away with this important tidbit:
“Whatever you do, keep in mind that it is not all right to have duplicate content roaming around the web without a rel=canonical. In the short run, you may get more traffic, but eventually Google will penalize you.”
IMTJ is best fit for my contents
How does republishing effect your SEO efforts? Does the ROI on a signup outweigh increased ranking?
Lifehacker is one that is appropriate for me too. I’ve had 1 guest post published on there but I never thought to ask them to republish an existing post from my own blog. Thanks James!
I’ve actually gone a bit crazy here, and got in touch with about 20 websites around gardening. I’m trying to ride my current enthusiasm and line up a few possible partnerships for the future as well!
Thanks for chiming in with another example Laura Roeder. I just got a piece accepted by Huffington Post and updated my byline, opt-in page, and bio to reflect what you’ve shared here. Wish me luck!
I personally emailed an editor at AdAge, Social Media Examiner, and Social Media Today, all separately, to pitch them this article:
SMT declined, the other 2 have not replied. It’s getting shared very well without major syndication but syndication would be a huge boost. Fingers crossed.
Dude, great article, bookmarked to come back and put into play for my business, will definitely promote this in general, unfortunately, a large market of my target audience don’t use reddit, like at all, but I’ll push it where I can…it’s solid good research and advice.
Thanks Robert. I hope the post proves useful for growing your biz.
So I fell a little behind in the course because of travel, but I’m back on the wagon.
I just sent pitches into the following sites:
* Mother Nature Network
* Buzzfeed Parents
* HuffPost GPS for the Soul
The last one is a small outlet, but Starre, the editor, is also an editor with MNN, so it feels like a good overlap of interests.
Hi! I’m pitching this article (3 Mistakes People Make When Hiring a Virtual Assistant) to:
Wish me luck!
I wrote to Paleohacks.com and asked to write for them!
I wrote this post explaining what people should eat based on the different ways they train and our website got over 5,000 hits for that link alone! I am going to contact Men’s Health and try and get it featured there!