Guest blogging is a hot catchphrase amongst SEOs at the moment. A relevant topic in light of the social path that is being paved into our rapidly-evolving industry, let’s start with some perspective that most of us agree on: which is that guest blogging has always worked – when done right. The question we need to start asking ourselves, is will it continue to going forward?
The fact is that guest blogging has always been considered an extraordinarily powerful tool when it comes to sending search engines the right signals. In light of last year’s algorithm updates that were rolled out by Google, and that targeted shallow content and overly aggressive SEO tactics, search professionals will need to be critical of linkbuilding go-to’s, like guest blogging, in the coming months.
My prediction? Guest blogging outreach strategies will need to make the transition from SEO to smooth digital PR if we want them to move up the organic search chain. As it stands, our industry’s reliance on platforms like BlogDash and MyBlogGuest to place content, which caters mainly to search engines instead of targeted audiences, is a mentality that needs to change. The threat remains: if SEOs don’t become conversation starters as of 2013, the not-so-authentic guest bloggers among us might be the next thing that Google targets.
But don’t get me wrong, guest blogging still has its role in SEO currently. Its value as a marketing tactic, like PPC; display ads; email campaigns; and affiliate programs, remains. There are a few priceless lessons we can take from the principles of organic guest blogging if we are ready to get serious about social.
So what are the two simple components of guest blogging that SEOs need to get to grips with?
- Social outreach: This is a just a fancy pants digital way of saying “go make friends.” Any person with a Twitter account knows that in order to gain new followers you need to tweet relevant content that appeals to a targeted audience. Same thing goes for guest blogging. It comes down to how effectively you go about building online relationships.
- Quality: This is what separates the likes of Leo Tolstoy from Stephenie Meyer, the Matt Cutts from the everyday spammer. You need to be able to create high quality, exclusive content that make site owners want to collaborate with you – and vice-a-versa.
Sounds pretty straightforward right? And yet many SEOs will readily admit that they don’t do enough guest blogging (in its true sense). Simple isn’t the same as easy. It’s worth the big pay offs however – especially in an industry that hinges on organic search. Also keeping in mind that Google’s three biggest taglines in 2013 are credibility, relevance, and value, leveraging guest blogging in the context of kickass digital social campaigns might be the very thing that distinguishes you from your competition going forward.
Navigating the Guest Blogging Landscape
In an Internet land that has more content creators and publishers than ever before, insight is your number one weapon when it comes down to yielding results from guest blogging and social efforts. It’s time to abandon the previously trusted article directory/submission approach, which has slowly but surely degenerated into spam’s ugly brother, and the uncouth blogging behaviour associated with that method.
For a lot of SEO agencies, the difficult part about changing their link-building tactics with regards to guest blogging will be staring the dragon in the eye. Ask yourself, have you truly come to grips with the fact that search engines have zero tolerance for content creation strategies that are borne on dumbing down output for the sake of scaling up productivity? This is a false dichotomy that has no place in today’s world of SEO.
My Take on Mike Sobol’s Organic Guest Blogging Guidelines for 2013:
Beware of the BINO
These are the “blogs-in-name-only,” posers that are really no-good spam farms – also known as article directories. Avoid these at all costs. You can pick them out easily for their suspiciously prominent “Submit a Guest Post” home page headers, their poorly written posts with subjects ranging from cats to space technology, and their lack of social shares/comments. These are the blogs that litter SEO blogger outreach platforms and that continue to give guest blogging a bad name.
As Sobol remarks, the ol’ “content is king” marketing trope is true, but misleading. Where are you putting your content? This is by far the most important question you can ask yourself, keeping in mind that online real estate has its own slums. You don’t want your content to live there do you?! Vice-a-versa, bloggers don’t necessarily NEED your content – but you do need their sites. Go in knowing that competition is fierce and bring an inspiring, relevant piece of writing to worthwhile blogs.
It’s also time to contemplate a more collaborative approach. Instead of trying to mimic authoritative bloggers who curate quality domains for a living, why not try and become one?
Don’t Pitch to Strangers
You need to know the person you’re pitching to. A website is a business that is run by a person, so treat them as such. Showing a blogger that you’re interested in more than just the digits of their domain authority can be done easily by interacting via social media platforms. Share, comment, get involved! And for heaven’s sake, STOP being obtuse about the fact that you’re doing all of this for a link. Any form of business networking requires the prowess of a ballet dancer. Take an interest in the consumer you’re trying to engage. Learn to glide.
Seek Out Recurring Roles
Don’t turn down a recurring guest role on a high profile blog because you want a wider variety of links to add to your portfolio. This is exactly the type of dated thinking that won’t earn you any brownie points when it comes to your online reputation. Your focus should always be on establishing your brand name as a trustworthy source of content within your industry. You can do that if you work with a respectable publisher on an ongoing basis. The next step on your agenda should be becoming one!
Use Backlinks Wisely
No one is going to deny that building backlinks is the intention behind guest blogging and social campaigns, but you don’t want to advertise this point – and your concerns need to evolve beyond that in 2013. In case it hasn’t become apparent through the many polls and surveys that have been conducted for the past decade, let me put it plainly: people don’t like advertising. They don’t like the idea that they are reading an article that was purely written for the awkwardly placed client link in the first paragraph. So don’t do it. Keep your links (note the plural usage) relevant to the content and the host site so that you don’t detract from a blog’s value in the SERPS. Become concerned about the audience you’re catering to. Do they like you? Do they share your creative output? Do they comment on it? If the answer is no, no, hells no… you have a problem!
Claim Your Content
If you’re interested in the benefits of Google authorship, I’ve written an article highlighting its increasing importance in 2013. Use it to claim your content. Ownership is the highest form of credibility and trust you can place on your own work. Know this, Google will being using authorship as a filter in its quest to separate the legitimate content creators and publishers from the pretenders.
Join the Good Bloggers Club
Blogger and social outreach is really difficult in some regards. There are so many blogs, and not a lot of time to sort through them in an efficient manner. In addition to blog quantity, the ones that are receptive to publishing guest content are equally as tough to separate from the ones that aren’t. Should you use the tools that are at your disposal to help you identify the good from the bad from the ugly? I’ll leave this up to you.
These platforms, which were originally introduced in a fab blog post written by Kristi Hines (and that I found via Mike Sobol), are meant to help you join the good bloggers club:
- BlogDash is an inexpensive blogger outreach tool.
- Blogger LinkUp is a free tool that connects bloggers with marketers for content exchanges.
- BlogSynergy is a social network forum for bloggers to give and get guest posts.
- GroupHigh is a high-end solution for blogger outreach.
- MyBlogGuest one of the “best” services currently available to guest bloggers in the SEO industry.
Honestly, my hint for 2013 would be to get creative and think up a new social/blogger outreach strategy if you want to get ahead of mainstream SEO practices. Don’t just rely on the above tools to get published. We all know epic writing when we lay our eyes on it. Strive to be the Tolstoy of the Internet. Be invested in your work.
SEO has Grown Up
There’s no need to re-emphasise the current by-line of the industry. The fact of the matter, however, is that Google doesn’t owe you a living. It’s time to construct a durable online footprint for your business that won’t be wiped away by the latest algorithm update to descend on us all. And the way to do that is by accepting that good SEO is about adding value. Publishing worthwhile, tailored content that grabs the attention of the audience it’s aimed at is your golden signal to success.
You can’t fake guest blogging any more than you can fake-grow a plant. Ha. So true! As an SEO copywriter, the aforementioned joke highlights the ongoing transformation of this profession. Just like a farmer cannot short circuit the biological requirements that are part and parcel of growing a crop, the same is true of good writer. We cannot bypass the best practices of our trade if we want to see the fruit of our labour – whether it be getting published on a guest blog with high credentials, getting likes and comments from real people, or receiving praise from a client for a job well-written. It’s time to take this aspect of the SEO ecosystem seriously. And as a SEO copywriter, my aim for 2013 is to come to the table with quality work that shows respect for true blogging, and that adds value to the lives of the people who read it. Organic links are sure to follow.