Guest blogging is a form of link building which involves writing blog articles for sites other than your own. Often this articles are written to build a link from that website but not always, sometimes guest blogging is conducted as more of a PR exercise than an SEO specific exercise. Whatever the intentions, high quality guest blogging is an effective marketing tool. However, fall foul of certain guidelines and guest blogging is considered a spam metric by Google. Here we will cover the various types of guest blogging, best practices and what to look out for.
Unsolicited Guest Blogging
This is usually part of a SEO or PR campaign. You will proactively identify websites which you would like to guest blog for and contact them. It does not matter whether you are pursuing the website from a public relations or a search engine optimisation perspective the basic theories around link building remain: only approach high quality and highly relevant sites. As the name suggests, this is an unsolicited approach to a website so success will depend on your ability to engage the recipient quickly and to offer value to them.
Invitational Guest Blogging
Invitational guest blogging is the much sought after cousin of direct link earning. Yes you may have to create content in order to be featured on the website but it cuts out the necessity contacting websites yourself. If a website invites you to guest blog for them it is likely that your onsite content creation strategy is being well implemented. For any business being asked to provide your expert advice is a mini ego boost. The likelihood is that not only will the website be relevant to yours and therefore be a potentially useful link which would have high relevancy metrics.
Spammy Guest Blogs and How to Avoid Them
Guest blogging rose to prominence in the wake of the Penguin Update. Many SEOs and business owners alike were wondering how to link build without receiving a Google penalty. Word of this quickly filtered back to Matt Cutts who suggested guest blogging as an additional option for link building although he later admits that he assumed that people knew he was talking about high quality sites! Unfortunately many in the SEO industry utilised their selective hearing and looked to manipulate this theory of guest blogging.
The main issue with spammy guest blogging was the proliferation of blogs that were set up using WordPress templates or website builders purely to host articles that were submitted as guest blogs. It was not so much that people were submitting poor quality content to high quality blogs because let’s face it, you don’t create a great blog by posting bad content. There were varying degrees of these spam blogs that were popular targets for spammers. Some were just generalist blogs, others were pseudo specific to subject (a popular one was money saving) and the quality of writing varied dramatically often between blog posts on the same blog. We have identified some of the key features to look out for in order to avoid them:
1. The initial giveaway before you have even clicked through to the site is the domain and/or name of the blog. They were usually very obscure or misspelt versions of more well know phrases.
2. These spam blogs are often produced en masse often interconnected in a link network. As such, they are often created from very simple templates which makes the design of the site fairly uninspiring!
3. The quality of writing is usually poor. Spammy SEO companies often outsource their SEO work to countries where English is not the first language (often India) and as such the ‘About’ or ‘Write For Us’ sections are written by these individuals. In addition, the articles submitted are sometimes spun articles or also written by individuals for whom English is a second language. As a result, simply reading some of the articles on the site can be a clear indicator that it is a spammy blog.
4. As a byproduct of the fact that multiple agencies/companies are submitting content, there is no discernible writing style for the blog.
5. The blogs will clearly advertise the opportunity to submit a guest post and state how many backlinks each guest poster is allowed to include. Quite often the ‘Write For Us’ section will concentrate on the SEO value of submitting a blog and receiving a backlink.
6. One of the key identifiers of spammy blogs is that they offer very little value to the user. Most articles have no unique value and again, as a byproduct they will have no user engagement whether that be through commenting or social sharing.
7. Finally, a key indicator of a spam guest blog is that every article will link back to a company. Furthermore, these links will often have exact match or ‘money keywords’ as their anchor text.
It is because of the widespread creation and use of these types of blogs that Google’s Matt Cutts was forced to publicly denounce this practice in an article titled “The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO” on his blog in early 2014. Whilst the article demonstrated that guest blogging had become highly spammy, Cutts also placed a caveat that high quality guest blogging for PR purposes is still legitimate. Once again, it all comes down to whether the guest post is of value to the user, relevant to your website and of high quality.
How to make the most of guest blogging
If you are going to look to guest post on other sites there are a number of factors to take into consideration not only to avoid being penalised by Google but also to make the most of any exposure you may have on another site. Clearly, you should be avoiding content farms by assessing them using the criteria listed above. Also, if you are looking to identify websites, contact them and get an article posted have a read of our guide to link building.
If you are going to go through all the effort of contacting websites and creating content worthy of being posted then you should look to get maximum benefit from this effort, regardless of whether the article includes a link to your site. We have included a few tips in making sure that your guest post has the furthest reach possible:
– Ensure that you respond quickly to any comments on your article. This can help drive further engagement and is an opportunity for you to further demonstrate your expertise on a subject.
– Share on social media. Take into consideration the fact that your whole network is unlikely to see the post if you only share it once. Be proactive and schedule shares out over a matter of days or weeks, unless it is time sensitive and therefore has a significant amount of decay.
– Use social tools to see if there is any conversation on social media in regards to either the article or subject matter. You can subsequently get involved in the conversation and promote your article where appropriate.
– Include the guest post in other forms of marketing such as a weekly email send out.
Be creative. Remember that whilst this may involve more of your time, it is all designed to create the most powerful results possible from your guest blogging efforts.