Guest BloggingIf you have arrived at this blog there is a likely chance that you read Matt Cutt’s blog post “The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO” or heard mention of guest blogging in the forums.  While there is debate if this marks future updates or is simply sensationalism by Cutt’s to influence behavior it is a reminder that like all good SEO tactics that begin with legitimate use guest blogging has manipulated by to death by black hat ‘specialists’  for short term benefit. Cutt’s summarizes this perfectly by saying this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space.

Before going on, let’s first answer your question:  YES, Guest Blogging is something that you should be doing in 2014. Before you get upset with the apparent contradiction to all the other material that you have been reading let’s go over a few things to help to explain the reasoning behind my answer.

First guest blogging strictly for SEO purposes (dropping a link pointing to your site) is essentially dead and what Matt Cutts was explaining in his blog post.  If your motivation is just to create links then “put a fork in it.” However, guest blogging offers many more benefits beyond link juice like brand recognition, increased traffic, and exposure. These benefits should be your motivation with back links as an occasional perk.

What is a ‘Good’ Guest Blog

To begin let’s identify what Guest Blogging is and what it is not. Guest Blogging is the creation of genuinely valuable content that is placed on another webmaster’s site. It is not the ‘creation’ of 500 word pieces of trash that you drop on one site and then fan out to article directories throughout the web. In looking through new client backlinks it is incredibly annoying to find dozens of  ‘guest blogs’ with keyword rich anchor text pointing to the client’s site and this is not an uncommon discovery. When guest blogging really took off for spammers these last couple years hundreds of blogs were created that accepted any content and existed essentially to provide back links.

To create a quality guest blog you must first find a quality site to post on.

Search Engine Optimization

First identify target blogs and websites you would like to work with and then develop a relationship with the webmasters. Read their work, connect via social media, and build trust. After this happens you can then request writing for their websites. Pitch some ideas to the webmasters in a personalized (no templates) email and see what they think. Once they give the ok write your content making sure to use the best format for your target website. (For resources in identifying guest blogging opportunities skip to ‘Getting started’).

Not only must you be selective in where you place your content but you need to create quality content first. While it may be tempting to write a piece of mediocre content and then fish the web for someone willing to post it the process should actually be done in reverse (though it takes longer).

Your Content Should Be:

  • Unique (It cannot be found anywhere else – if someone scrapes it have them remove it or link back to you)
  • Well Written (Poor quality writing burns through trust quickly)
  • Useful and Engaging (is your goal to inform, entertain, convert ?)
  • Relevant to your website and the website you guest blog on (no explanation needed hopefully)
  • Push traffic to your site (nofollow links, brand mentions, etc.)

You now have the right website to post on and a well written piece of content but before you send it to the webmaster there are a couple things that you need to double check…

What to Avoid in Your Guest Blog

Looking through your content the most important thing to consider is the links you have placed. Avoid any: keyword rich anchor text and if you do include a link back to your site it should be a branded link or a naked url. Not all the links you place should be pointing to your site but to external sources as well. An article that has a half a dozen links pointing to you is a sure way to call Google’s attention.

To stay on the safe side you could also nofollow these links which will reduce the value of the link (value of no follow links) but help ensure Google doesn’t mistake your intentions. When choosing to nofollow your links consider your link diversity, particulary your ‘dofollow’ vs nofollow link proportions. Your website should have a good number of nofollow links pointing to it, especially as any links from social media are no follow. If a large percentage of your links are ‘dofollow’ it appears you are creating them yourself.

Next is to never pay for a blog to post your content and if you are a webmaster and you receive a monetary offer for posting content just trash the email. Paying for links goes directly against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines  and will get you a manual action penalty in a hurry.

ouch

Lastly, the value of content to a webmaster is that it is theirs. Don’t distribute the article that you wrote to other locations (although you can create natural links pointing toward your content). By keeping content unique you also strengthen your relationship with the webmaster who may ask you to become a frequent guest author.

The Benefits of Guest Blogging

Although you can no longer use guest blogging for link building purposes there is still plenty of benefit. The largest benefit is the traffic to your website. It seems everyone has forgotten about this although it is the reason they were link building in the first place.  In the hope to rank well in SERPS misguided marketers focus on their rankings when the real purpose of ranking well is to drive traffic to their site (and convert visitors).

If you can offer great content that will grant you access to new communities and hotspots of traffic via guest blogging then definitely invest time to make it happen. This same idea applies to other ‘dead’ methods like press releases, infographics, etc.

To reiterate the answer to your initial question, yes you should be guest blogging in 2014  but you need to be doing so with an interest in relationships and traffic rather than links and ranking.

Blogging ServicesGetting Started

As mentioned the first part of guest blogging is developing relationships; this is also the most difficult part and often includes sending out dozens of emails without receiving any response. To help you skip some of this frustration here are possible tools that you could use. Each has their own Pros and Cons and each can be used to simply generate poor quality guest blogs or high quality, traffic driving wonders.  Since these networks can be used by a number of unscrupulous individuals to create spam – this may call Google’s attention to targeting networks in general – be wary when using them.

Whatever tool you use make sure your focus is looking for connections and relationships that will enable you to guest on quality sites with quality content. Again beware of platforms that involve paying cash to bloggers to post content or write content for other websites and post it. Two examples of this that come to mind are sponsoredreviews.com and postjoint.com

2014 does not mark the end of guest blogging just as past years did not signified the death of other ‘dead’ methods. Each year it seems marketers receive the same reminder for a different tactic. Use these methods for traffic, branding, and other true marketing goals NOT for automated link building intent on manipulating search engines.  Be an online marketer not just an SEO expert. 

 

Photo Credit: John Sutton, Mike Litcht, Kristina B

Jamie Bates