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Writing for The Huffington Post – Yes, No or Maybe?
Marketer Lynn Serafinn shares practical tips on how to become a guest blogger on The Huffington Post, and turn it into an effective marketing tool for your blog.
One of the world’s most popular blogsites is The Huffington Post (HuffPost). Modelled on traditional print newspapers, its articles cover world news, politics, business, entertainment, tech, media, healthy living and comedy, as well as special sections for black voices, gay voices, sports, crime, science, religion, horoscopes and other things.
According to a blog by HuffPost founder Arianna Huffington, this megasite was recognized as the largest publisher on Facebook and had over 115 million global unique visitors back in September 20141. I do not doubt this figure has steadily increased since then.
Publishing over 100 new articles every day, their writers are all freelancers. In spite of the fact that the vast majority of their contributors are unpaid (only a few professional journalists receive monetary compensation), thousands of bloggers aspire to write for HuffPost, hoping their business will benefit from the massive traffic the site receives. HuffPost has kind of become the X-Factor of the blogging world, where getting a ‘gig’ on HuffPost is seen as the key to hitting the big time. Many opportunistic Internet marketers exploit this, selling (allegedly) sure-fire strategies to become a HuffPost author.
But can writing for HuffPost truly benefit your business? More specifically, can it be used as a marketing tool to drive traffic to your blogsite, hopefully resulting in more business? And if so, how do you do it? These are some of the questions I addressed this week when I was writing chapter 14 (‘Promote Your Blog Effectively’) of my upcoming book The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging. I thought you might like a sneak peek at how I answered.
A Statistical Snapshot
While their US site (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/) is their most highly-trafficked, HuffPost also have 15 country-specific (or language-specific) sites, including the UK, Canada, Australia, Italy, Germany France, Spain, Greece, Brazil, Japan, Korea, India, Maghreb and Arabic.
As of this writing, the US site has an impressive PageRank of 8 (PR8). It also has a global Google rank of 107 and US rank of 31.
Although still highly respectable, the stats for the HuffPost sites in other countries are somewhat lower. In terms of PageRank, the Canadian site is PR7 and the UK site ranks only PR6. Most of the non-US sites have Google global ranks ranging between 2,000 and 5,000. As of this writing, the Australian site is less than a month old and is already ranking globally at about 67,000 and 371 in Australia. I suspect those figures will go up significantly before the end of the year.
Getting in the Door
HuffPost has a contact form on their website where you can ‘pitch’ your article idea(s) to their editorial team. While some authors are accepted via this method, the majority I have researched were not. Rather, most HuffPost authors were invited to write for them via one of two doorways:
- They were referred/introduced to the editor by another contributing HuffPost
- They were directly approached because a member of the HuffPost editorial team read and liked one of their published articles.
This information was corroborated by HuffPost in a comment they made on the Quora website in March 2015:
‘…it’s helpful to have a relationship with a current blogger; their recommendations mean a lot…our editors often reach out to people with smaller blogs to see if they’d like to crosspost a piece on HuffPost.’ 2
In an article from 2014 entitled ‘How I Got on Huffington Post: 5 Bloggers Tell All’3 we can see a recurring theme. Some of these authors were approved directly because they wrote an article on their own blog that, for one reason or another, was going viral, sometimes receiving hundreds of thousands of shares on social media. Two others approached editor-in-chief Arianna Huffington directly. ALL (except one, who didn’t mention it in the interview) had previously been rejected (or ignored) via the online submission form.
As disheartening as this might seem, this scenario is not very different from what you would encounter in the book publishing world or music industry. The simple truth is that the supply (i.e. the number of authors seeking to get published) exceeds the demand (i.e. the number of articles they actually need). Because of this, it is important to do your homework before approaching them. In this case, ‘doing your homework’ means studying and networking.
‘Studying’ means reading their website to see how other authors in the same niche have written their articles. Every blog has a house style, and the closer you can emulate that style in your article, the better your chances of being accepted.
‘Networking’ means spending time developing a rapport with someone connected with HuffPost. In an article from December 2014, author Steve Gilman4 says most of the HuffPost authors he has interviewed spent time cultivating a relationship with the editors or other authors before they sent in their pitch. Some had commented on The Huffington Post Facebook page until one of their editors extended an invitation to them. Others had developed a relationship with a current HuffPost blogger by commenting on his/her posts (and eventually asking for help submitting a piece to an editor). Then, when they sent in their pitch via email, they made it short, emphasising the most interesting aspects of their proposed article, and included an author bio and headshot.
What’s the Real Value?
But how valuable IS it to have an article on The Huffington Post? Is it worth all the time and effort? Naturally, the answer depends on what you hope to gain from publication:
- If you’re doing it mainly for the prestige of saying you’re a HuffPost author, it might be worth it.
- If you’re looking to get paid specifically for your writing, that’s probably not going to happen. If, however, you’re hoping it will make you some money in general, some authors say it’s possible. Steve Gilman from the above article said his revenue came from an increase in Google AdSense sales, NOT from direct sales or new client acquisition.
- If you are hoping to get a high PageRank backlink to your site, that may or may not happen. Furthermore, the PR of your article is likely not to rank at all (i.e. it will return a rank of ‘Not Available’).
- If you are hoping your HuffPost article will increase traffic to your own blog…well…maybe yes, maybe no. Read on….
I want to be open and say that I myself have never written for HuffPost and have never sent in a pitch. However, several of my clients are HuffPost contributors, and I have seen markedly different results from their efforts.
One client, a well-established doctor of alternative medicine, was invited to write for the health section of the US site. We have been developing her blog for about two years, now; it has a respectable PR3 and a global Alexa rank of about 500,000. These kinds of stats are what I would normally expect to see for the blog of an active sole-proprietor business. Over the past year, she has published several articles published in HuffPost. While they typically only receive a few comments (fewer than 10), she does receive several hundred Facebook likes/shares and Tweets. For some strange reason, however, HuffPost does NOT appear in her backlinks on Alexa.
In contrast, another of my clients was invited to write for the business section of the UK site, having been referred by another contributing author. This client’s blog is not terribly active; it has a PR0 and no Alexa statistics. So far, two of her articles have been published on HuffPost. Both have received a handful of Facebook ‘likes’ and Twitter shares (fewer than 10); neither has received any comments. However, Alexa DOES show HuffPost as one of four sites linking back to her.
The sad truth is that ‘small fish’ articles can get lost in the big pond of HuffPost the same way lesser known authors and musicians get lost within big publishing companies and record labels. In an interesting blog post written in 2011 by Nate Silver5, he estimates that while popular HuffPost articles can generate tens of thousands of views and comments, the median blog post (of those he analysed) ‘received just 11 comments, which equates to only about 550 page views’.
Without knowing other details (such as how pro-active each author was about promoting the article on social media, and how GOOD the article actually was) these statistics are a bit naked. But taking them at face value, I get far better results on my own site. Most of my articles receive several thousand views per month, and they continue to receive traffic as long as I recycle links for older articles on social media.
Based on all this, I would guess the HuffPost articles written by my business client who had a PR0 received practically no traffic, and have done little, if anything, to help promote her blog. On the other hand, I believe the alternative medicine doctor may have received at least as much attention as she does on her own blog.
Whether or not it leads people back to her blog is another question. We’ll come back to this in a minute.
Looking at the Variables
So where does this leave us? Can guest blogging for The Huffington Post be a viable and valuable part of your blog marketing strategy? While I can only answer this question by dint of having observed the results of others, logic tells me the answer to this question is dependent upon several factors:
- How targeted your article is for the specified audience
- How interesting and relevant your article is for your intended audience
- How unique and well-written your article is
- How pro-active you are in promoting it
- Whether HuffPost put your article on their front page
- Whether you give your readers a compelling reason to click AWAY from your HuffPost article to visit your website.
As a marketing strategist, I am continually astonished at how frequently people forget this last point. Unless your readers feel inspired and motivated to find out more about you and your business, your articles on HuffPost will fall flat on their faces as marketing tools. How can you do this without coming across as a schmoozy Internet marketer? Well, you could reference (and link out to) another article you have written that goes more deeply into the subject. Or, you could mention (and link out to) a free resource that underpins the topic. Whatever strategy you use, make sure it integrates seamlessly with the content of your article, as HuffPost have their own house rules about links, and they are likely to delete them (or reject your article altogether) if they think they are too self-promoting).
But even the inclusion of good links cannot guarantee your article will generate traffic to your blog. The Huffington Post has a LOT of content. Getting seen is the first challenge. Then, even if people find your article, there are so many other links they could click when they are reading. And in this era of sensory over-stimulation, by the time people have clicked around, they might not remember where they started.
A Question of Relationships
To me, beyond all the statistics, there is one final – and perhaps the most important – question we need to ask before we can evaluate the effectiveness of using HuffPost as a marketing tool for your blogsite:
Will writing for The Huffington Post help create new, meaningful, long-term relationships between you and your reading audience?
Relationships, not statistics, are the key to any successful business. Arianna Huffington is a perfect example. As chair, president, and editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post, she communicates with her readers on a weekly basis, keeping them informed of what is going on behind the scenes. There is a natural ease in her rapport with her audience. This, I believe, has played as great a role in her success as her business savvy.
Can writing for The Huffington Post help you create those kinds of relationships? Possibly – if you are prolific, provocative and pro-active. Contributing regularly and frequently is one of the keys to blogging success, whether on HuffPost or on your own site. Being provocative, especially on HuffPost, is another. Your ideas and personal style need to stand out from the crowd. A humdrum article will receive a humdrum response. The way to ignite a relationship with your readers is to trigger their brain cells and strum their heart-strings. The final piece is to be pro-active in promoting your own content and in engaging in discussion with your audience. Remember that relationships are always a two-way arrangement; if you are not participating, there IS no relationship.
I would also like to touch upon one other important relationship – your relationship with The Huffington Post itself. Those who seek to exploit others solely for their own gain are not forming relationships. Instead of thinking of how you can ‘get noticed’ by HuffPost so they can help your business, take a moment to think of whether YOU can be of benefit to them. What unique angle do you bring to your niche? How can this bring true value to their readers? What would make people remember YOUR article amongst the thousands that are already there? In other words:
How can YOU make people want to come back again to THEIR website?
That is, in 7 Graces lingo, marketing with ‘The Grace of Collaboration’.
The Final Verdict
Taking everything we’ve looked at today into consideration, my personal opinion on whether or not writing for the Huffington Post is a valuable marketing tool for your blog and your business is:
- Even if you were to be invited to write for HuffPost, it is not going to magically catapult your blog up in the Google rankings UNLESS you have already spent time cultivating solid relationships with your readers via other methods (social media, SEO and other things I discuss in my book The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging). Spend time building your own house before trying to move into someone else’s!
- But if you are already an established blogger with a loyal reading audience and a solid, online network, go for it. It will be another feather in your cap and might open up new doors to you. Your article might even become one of ‘those’ success stories to which so many authors aspire.
I hope you found this article informative and useful. I would love to hear your comments below, especially if you have written for The Huffington Post.
If you enjoyed this content, I also hope you’ll register to receive a reminder when my book The Social Entrepreneur’s Guide to Successful Blogging comes out. When you do, you’ll receive a free 5-page blogging template as a special ‘thank you’ gift from me. Close to 500 pages in length, this book is my ‘bible’ of new-paradigm marketing strategies, as I’m sharing in it virtually everything I know about brand, audience, business, marketing and blogging.
Lastly, just a reminder that September is our ‘deepen relationships’ month here at the 7 Graces Project. That means I’m offering some special, extended-length free consultation to 10 individuals this months who want to deepen their relationships with their online reading audience and/or potential clients. If you’d like to read more about that and apply for a free session, see my article from August 28th entitled ‘Deepening Our Relationships with Clients – An Invitation‘.
9 September 2015
- Huffington, Arianna. 2014. ‘100 Million Thank-Yous to HuffPosters Around the World’. 15 September 2014. Accessed 8 September 2015 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/arianna-huffington/100-million-thank-yous-to-huffposters-around-the-world_b_5822998.html
- Huffington Post. 2015. ‘How Do You Become a Writer for the Huffington Post?’ 18 March 2015. Accessed 7 September 2015 from https://www.quora.com/How-do-you-become-a-writer-for-the-Huffington-Post
- Maccarelli, Susan. 2014. ‘How I Got on Huffington Post: 5 Bloggers Tell All’. 7 September 2014. Accessed 7 September 2015 from http://www.beyondyourblog.com/how-i-got-on-huffington-post-5-bloggers-tell-all
- Gillman, Steve. 2014. ‘How to Write for The Huffington Post and Earn Money for Your Work’. 1 December 2014. Accessed 7 September 2015 from http://thewritelife.com/how-to-write-for-the-huffington-post/#.7giwdr:kdvb
- Silver, Nate. 2011. ‘The Economics of Blogging and The Huffington Post’. 12 February 2011. Accessed 7 September 2015 from http://fivethirtyeight.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/02/12/the-economics-of-blogging-and-the-huffington-post/?_r=0
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LYNN SERAFINN, MAED, CPCC is a certified, award-winning coach, teacher, marketing strategist, social media expert, speaker and author of the number one bestseller The 7 Graces of Marketing — How to Heal Humanity and the Planet by Changing the Way We Sell and Tweep-e-licious! 158 Twitter Tips & Strategies for Writers, Social Entrepreneurs & Changemakers Who Want to Market their Business Ethically. She is listed in the Top 20 of the Top Marketing Authors on Twitter by Social Media Magazine and was a finalist for the prestigious Brit Writers Awards. She also received the eLit Book Awards Silver Medal in Humanitarian and Ecological Social Affairs, as well as the Bronze Medal in Business and Sales. Lynn’s eclectic approach to marketing incorporates her vast professional experience in the music industry and the educational sector along with more than two decades of study and practice of the spirituality of India. Her innovative marketing campaigns have produced a long list of bestselling non-fiction authors through her company Spirit Authors.
Lynn is also the Founder of the 7 Graces Project, created to train, support, mentor and inspire independent business owners to market their business ethically, serve society and planet, and restore all that is best about humanity.