Firstly I just want to start by saying this is NOT another blog post preaching that simply good content is the answer to guest blog posting, it’s really much more than just that. What I want to talk about is how I’ve seen a shift in what works and what doesn’t when using guest blog posting and hopefully those insights will help others deliver better results and not waste time in methods that no longer work. With Google’s next big Penguin Update 2.0 on the horizon its going to be essential that these tips are implemented into your strategy otherwise you run the risk of devaluation or even penalties.
The way people guest post content on blogs has changed, for the better I think, recycled content is especially something I’m glad to see the back of – so for that I suppose we should thank Google. The way links appear in blog posts has also changed (still changing for some), no more service/product specific anchor text plastered multiple times on link networks increasing exact match percentages. While a minority will see these updates as obstacles in making their jobs harder others will see opportunity and progression in a tactic that’s on the cusp of being “not allowed” by Google.
For me there will always be a need for guest blog posting, it’s just part of the blogger community and spirit; it’s like getting asked around to a friend’s house for dinner – who turns down a free meal with people you like? So I firmly believe there will always be guest blog posts, but the way people use them for SEO will have to evolve.
Here are some of the ways I’ve already started to change the way I approach guest blog posting, not only do I get better results than before but I believe most of these points will future proof this method of link building.
1. Creating good contact lists
There are some great ways of getting in contact with bloggers, such as My Blog Guest but the way I find most effective (by no means new) is just using simple Google commands – there are litrilally thousands of potential combinations for every industry. One in particular that works extremely well is to use “inurl:word1 intitle:word2”:
What this command does is return results that includes “guest-post” in the URL, there are many other combinations you can use like “write-for-us” or “guest” etc. Then the second part of the command refers to a word that appears in the title of the page.
How this command differs from others is that you know that each blog that you contact will have done a guest blog post around the subject you’ve searched for – it’s much less like cold calling than just approaching bloggers that just have content on the same subject as you. Bloggers will be familiar with the type of request, understand the principle of what you’re after and be more inclined to participate.
2. Sending the right emails
Perhaps the most important part of guest blog posting process is actually communicating with the bloggers. Being a blogger myself I can tell you right now I get so many emails every day, most of them trying to sell me something or offer me a thingimijig I don’t need. The best tip possible is “get to the point”, seriously, that’s it. I did a test last year looking at the type of emails I sent out and the success rate – you can see the results below:
During the test I got a much higher success rate (post live) when I sent emails to bloggers with just one sentence asking if they still offered guest blog posts. No fluff, no praise and no examples of previous posts and writing styles.
Besides writing short emails it is massively important you find out a bloggers name; it’s really not that hard, it’s often on the homepage, about us page or contact page – if not there then check the domain info out or read a number of the bloggers posts and comments.
The last point in this section could be controversial but don’t mention you’re an SEO/link builder/content marketer etc. Not everyone will be honest here but based on experience you will get better results if you just include your name along with company name and contact details on a signature.
3. Quality Control
This part of the process will require a certain amount of experience and self control. There are often occasions where you’ll find blogs that very obviously offer guest blog posts to everyone (usually visible in the bloggers main menu). While this will increase your success rate considerably the best way to approach this is to look through the bloggers content archives and answer the following questions:
- Does the blogger upload more guest blog posts than his/her own content?
- Do the other guest blog posts link to commercial webpages?
- Do the posts use a lot of exact match anchor text?
- Does the blog charge for guest blog posts?
- Are there obvious paid links in the side bar?
If you answer “yes” to any of these questions I would personally not bother contacting a blogger as it’s more than likely the content published on the blog will offer little or no value now, and almost certainly none in the future.
A list of criteria my team and I use will often concentrate on the following metrics as positive signals that a blog is worthwhile approaching:
- Does the blog have a limited number of other guest blog posts?
- Does the blogger have an active social following i.e. facebook, G+ or Twitter?
- Do the bloggers blog posts (and guest posts) receive genuine comments from readers?
- Does the blogger make a real effort in creating content for their users?
- Does the blogger have content indexed in Google?
If you answer 3 or more of these questions with a “yes” then I usually find you’ll get a good quality guest blog post published that will not only generate a good link back to your site but also an array of positive social signals.
4. How to avoid Penalties from Guest Blog Posts?
While the “off the shelf” answer to avoid penalties is to “create great content” it’s more complicated than that; a very good piece of content, given to an inexperienced link builder for outreach could lead to negative signals and be detrimental to your campaign. They could add too many links in the content, have a high percentage of exact match anchor text or even send out the same piece of content to multiple bloggers.
The way we should be approaching this type of activity is to create as many positive signals as possible in each blog post – making it hard/impossible for Google to think what you’re doing is not valuable.
- Link to your competitors – as crazy as it sounds it makes sense. I’m not saying link to a competitor for the sake of linking but if there’s a genuine reason then don’t hold back. Whenever I write a genuine blog post it’s very rare that I’ll only link to one external website and it’s ever rarer if I link to a page that’s sales focused. A nice way of linking to competitors is to look at what content they’ve created that is community driven, such as blog content or social campaigns. If Google’s algorithm does develop further to tackle links in guest blog posts then having 3-4 external links pointing to similar websites that are relevent to the page content shouldn’t give a negative signal but a positive one.
- Create bespoke content – if you really want to create a blog post that will genuinely add value then include assets like videos, infographics and images that have been created specifically for your guest blog post. This will of course increase the cost of performing guest blog posting but making sure the content is bespoke for each blog will usually ensure good pickup, links and social signals – all strengthening the value of the link back to your website.
- Link to your Google+ profile – If you’re writing good content then credit yourself (or your writer) – it shows authenticity to both users and search engines, also with the development with Google Authorship it just makes sense you start including the link.
- Invest in big content – If you invest 30 minutes into a piece of content it’s highly likely that the returns are going to be low, if any. If you have a resource at your disposal then spend anywhere up to a few days creating something worthwhile. Content that has been heavily invested in looks like it’s been heavily invested in and readers are smart enough to realise this – while your output in terms of quantity might be less, the returns will be much higher
- Anchor text strategy – simply put, exact match links strategically placed around content (even good content) looks unnatural and is likely to raise flags with Google, not to mention too many exact match links are likely to trigger Penguin devaluing the links anyway. Link using brand terms, keyword + brand terms, every day phrases and URL combinations – again it’s actually what you’d do naturally anyway.
5. Maintaining Blogger Relationships
An area often overlooked by smaller companies and agencies but if you create a good piece of content for a blogger and they receive lots of visits, social shares and links then they will want to work with you again. While the SEO value of another link from the same domain may be less than from a new domain it is again a positive signal to Google that your website is trusted (and being re-linked to over and over again) – this kind of behaviour is also a pattern that happens naturally.
Don’t keep your relationships with your bloggers to that of online only, host offline events and invite the ones you’ve worked with. Meeting bloggers face to face and involving them in your brand will lead to much more than the occasional link and while many will deny it a large number of bloggers will still ask for money or incentives – offline events are a way of getting around that problem (and keeping within Google’s guidelines). To me the initial guest blog post is similar to a first date – you want to leave a good impression, you want to be liked and you don’t want to be the one that does all the chasing!
It will take you more time but your results will be far more valuable and sustainable
Taking all these points into account, which is by no means quick or easy, you will start to see much more value come from guest blog posting. Not only that but you should be future proofing a link building technique to help increase your organic visits/revenue and rankings.