At one time, backlinks ruled the world of search engine optimization. When a site’s quality was measured in terms of PageRank, backlinks provided the much sought after votes that drove this metric. But as Google’s algorithm matured, a website’s rankings could no longer rest solely on the number of links pointing back to it. The quality of the site hosting that link began to carry more weight than the sheer number of links a site could obtain.
This gave rise to the practice of writing guest blog posts for other sites. The transaction was rather basic; you provide the website with content and they provide you with a backlink. Yet, like most other link building techniques, abuse permeated guest blogging. Websites were set up with no other reason than to host guest posts, sites charged people to post their articles, people writing guest posts produced junk that offered no value, and article spinning became the norm. It was only a matter of time before Google cracked down once again and began to scrutinize this link building technique.
When the Penguin updates were released, shady guest posting tactics were brought front and center; many people took this to mean that guest blogging was no longer a viable strategy since so many sites were being punished because of their guest blogging practices.
As a result, some businesses gave up on guest posting altogether, because they were under the impression that links were no longer important. Yet, despite all the negative things you might hear about the effect backlinks have on your SEO efforts, they still matter. Actually, they matter a lot. According to the Searchmetrics 2013 Ranking Factors,
“Backlinks continue to be one of the most important SEO metrics. In this regard, little has changed over the years: sites with more backlinks simply rank better.”
The truth is that guest blogging is still an important and effective inbound marketing strategy, but only when done the right way.
Unfortunately, people still have a hard time understanding the right way to go about guest posting. Despite the many guides that provide a blueprint for success, they still don’t quite get it. They make the same mistakes over and over again. For those who benefit more from non-examples, here are some of the wrong ways people go about guest blogging.
Cutting Corners on Quality
The most common mistake I see is that the quality of the content people submit for their guest posts is insufficient.
No matter where you’re going to place your content, it has your name on it. It represents your brand, so if you want an exemplary brand, your content needs to be exemplary. Back when all people cared about was the backlink, content for guest posts was churned out by content mills that spun articles with nonsense to avoid duplication penalties.
When this type of content was published on a site with little exposure, it had less opportunity to damage your brand’s reputation. Nowadays, your guest posts should be working in different ways for you. Placing your guest posts on the right type of sites means people are going to see them and form an opinion about you based on what they read.
Choosing the Wrong Sites
Before Penguin, the practice of guest blogging didn’t focus as much on the hosting site’s quality. Articles were submitted to content farms and article directories because all that mattered was the backlink. Post Penguin, sites that did this often found themselves being penalized. Not only did the dip in the search results hurt, but also this mindset was short sighted. Guest blogging opens the door to many other opportunities past the backlink.
When your guest post is published on a site that’s well-respected in your industry and has a large community your guest post does a few more things for you:
- It raises awareness to potential prospects
- It establishes you as an industry/niche expert
- It builds trust in your brand
A site with a large and active community also has a larger reach. Readers are more likely to share good content, and they are more likely to visit your site, increasing quality referral traffic.
Measuring the quality of a site can done by checking several key site metrics. If your goal is to post on a site that has high traffic, a site with a low Alexa ranking would be a good target. If you want a site that will pass along more SEO value from links, then you want to look for sites with a high Domain Authority. Ideally, you’ll want to make the effort to reach out to a variety of sites. More on that in the next section.
Lack of Diversification
One of the problems with backlinks is that obtaining them can be automated. Through directory submissions, comment spam on other blogs and even through guest posting. To find sites that aren’t building backlinks naturally, search engines look for indicators like:
- Over-optimized anchor text
- A disproportionate number of dofollow compared to nofollow links
- A large number of low quality links
Guest posting enables you to build a well-rounded link profile. Certain blogs will allow you to include links in the body of your post, while others may require that you place links only in your author bio. Another way to diversify links is to vary the anchor text. Using words and phrases that aren’t easily-recognizable and profitable search keywords will make things look more natural.
Another strategy is to guest post on blogs that are not in your industry or niche, but are somewhat similar. For example, if you’re an insurance company, you can write guest posts on health and fitness blogs that relate to how staying active and healthy can lower life insurance costs. A site that sells computers could reach out to blogs that focus on computer security. Incorporating cross-industry guest posts into your portfolio not only helps to diversify your links, but it also helps you to expose your brand to new audiences.
Guest posting not only helps your website; it can help you build strong relationships with other people in your industry. Read the blogs you wish to work with and send the owners a solid introduction and guest blogging request.
Tell them what you would like to write and how you are an expert on that topic. Most of all, don’t be afraid to tell them why you want to write for their site. Being honest lets them know that you are not trying to game the system, but rather build your business while contributing positively to theirs.