If there's one thing bloggers hate, it's blogging. But blogging is an important part of just about any website. Search engines love fresh content and website visitors like to know you're on top of your game (or industry). What's more, the rise of social media requires that you have something to say, and something to share with people. Wouldn't it be nice to have some help ... for free?
Guest bloggers can do wonders for a website. Not only do you get new content from a fresh perspetive, but it also gives visitors the impression that your site is a valued resource - valued enough that other writers want some of your real estate. Guest posts also have a way of being shared by the author and the author's friends and colleagues. Also, don't underestimate the snowball effect. When other bloggers see that you are open to guest posts, they will pitch you.
Outside of paying someone to write for your website, the best value you can offer a guest blogger is exposure and more website traffic. Here are some ways to convince a writer to post on your website.
Links, links, links. We all know that links pointing to your website brings traffic from clicks and higher rankings on search engines. Tell the prospective guest writer about your link strategy. Offer a link at the top of the post and within in the body of the post - with keyword-rich anchor text.
Leverage your loyal visitors. Tell the writer about how many RSS subscribers you have, e-mail subscribers and any and all newsletter subscriptions. These are direct messages to interested consumers. There's no better way to assure the writer that his or her content will be read, and to guarantee exposure.
Syndicate. Inform the writer about the number of Facebook fans of your site, Twitter followers, your Digg influence, and any other networks that bring traffic to your website. The potential of a "viral" effect is tempting to any blogger/Web professional who is seeking exposure.
Appeal to the ego. It takes a tremendous amount of effort to write good blog posts. As such, bloggers like to be recognized for their work. Ask the writer for a short bio to include in the post, as well as a photo. This not only appeases the blogger, but also gives your visitors the impression that this person is noteworthy - an expert, if you will. The bio is a good place to link out to the blogger.
Give them something. Do you sell products? If so, offer them a free product for their services. It's not exactly paying for content, and everyone likes a freebie. You might also find that the blogger takes up your mission on their own after being "wowed" by your product.
BONUS: Need help finding a guest blogger? One of my favorite tools is a Firefox extension called Similar Web. After installing, it sits handily in your browser toolbar. When you come across a good blog in your industry, just hit the Similar Web button ('SW'at right). You will see an extensive list of websites similar to the one you are currently viewing. It's fast and easy, and a nice way to identify guest blogger targets. Also, you can add your own site to Similar Web so that other users can find it when looking for new websites.
Look for bloggers where they hang out. Just about every serious blogger will have a Twitter account. Head over to WeFollow.com and search by keyword for your industry or topics of choice. You will get a list of the most influential Twitter users that can be also be sorted by number of followers. Find their blog and start preparing an e-mail to send to them. If you're a local website, you can also sort users by city.