In early 2014, Google’s webspam guru, Matt Cutts, proclaimed the death of guest blogging. On his own blog, he wrote, “Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.” His statement launched waves of speculation and uncertainty. Was guest blogging truly dead, or did it still have value in the marketing world?
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After his blog post provoked an outcry from the SEO community, Cutts clarified that he’d meant to say, guest blogging as a link-building tool was, in fact, dead. However, guest blogging for branding, increasing reach, exposure, and building community had just as much relevance as it ever had.
If you’re writing guest posts the right way, then they can they build your authority, earn natural, high-quality inbound links, and drive traffic back to your blog. If you’re accepting them, you build credibility in the eyes of your readers because readers, according to surveys, rate multi-author blogs as more authoritative. Overall, the news is good: Guest blogging isn’t dead at all. You just have to do it the right way, whether you’re writing guest posts for other blogs or accepting guest posts for your own blog.
The Link Spam Problem
When people realized that guest blogging was a good technique for search engine optimization and link building, they began to look for places to publish guest posts. Many blog owners, overwhelmed by the volume of work required to maintain their blogs, welcomed guests posts from these contributors.
Marketing companies also contacted these blog owners and offered to pay them to publish guest posts on behalf of their clients. When the content was both high quality and relevant to the blog, guest blogging benefited everyone.
Unfortunately, not all blog owners published high-quality or relevant content. Some started accepting any kind of content as long as people paid them to publish it, even if the content contained spam links that had nothing to do with the blog itself. Here’s how it worked:
- Market research. An SEO company discovered a blog that had a high authority score and a large number of followers. For example, the company might find such a blog in The Snuggly Quilter.
- First contact. The SEO company would contact The Snuggly Quilter and offer to pay the editor to publish a guest post from one of their clients.
- Say what? The Snuggly Quilter publishes a blog post called “How to Auto-Tune Your Race Car,” which includes a link from an auto parts store (the SEO company’s client) and maybe some other non-related links from the company’s other clients. Obviously, the blog post had nothing to do with quilting, so search engines mark the links as spammy.
Another No-No: Guest Blog Networks
As guest blogging grew more popular, guest blog networks emerged on the Web. These networks paired people who wanted to write guest posts with blog editors who needed content. On the surface, this seemed like an innovative way to connect good writers to great blogs.
Unfortunately, because blogs in these networks weren’t screened for quality, many people produced lousy content that was filled with spammy links. In some cases, spammers even infiltrated the networks, but in many cases, network members were small-business owners who were uneducated about appropriate SEO techniques.
Some guest blogging networks required blogs agree not to edit the guest post content. In other words, removing a spammy link would mean violating the network’s terms and conditions. Additionally, these networks didn’t allow people who published guest posts to add a nofollow attribute to links in the posts. They couldn’t disavow spammy links. They had to publish the posts as-is. When Matt Cutts proclaimed guest blogging dead, Google penalized many guest blog networks.
How Guest Blogging Should Work
Guest blogging, done right, follows a couple of different scenarios. The first and best scenario happens when the editor of a high-quality blog recognizes your expertise in a subject and asks you to create a guest post for that blog. You craft a well-written blog post, and it’s published on a great website that gets a lot of traffic. The blogger promotes your guest post on social media so that hundreds, thousands, or even millions of readers see it.
The second scenario mimics what freelance writers do when they want to publish articles in traditional magazines. They come up with ideas, pitch their ideas to an editor, and then, when the ideas are accepted, send an article to the magazine. Guest bloggers who want to pitch unsolicited posts should follow these steps:
- When a freelance writer wants to publish a certain magazine article, the writer starts researching good magazines that might publish the work. Good candidates would include magazines with good reputations, magazines that publish freelance writers’ work, and magazines that publish articles similar to what the writer wants to publish. When you want to guest post, look for blogs that have good reputations, that accept guest posts, and that publish items similar to your guest post idea.
- Contact the editor. If the blog offers step-by-step guidelines for pitching guest posts, follow them closely. When the blog doesn’t have a specific process for pitching guest posts, use the contact form to ask whether the editor accepts guest posts. Identify yourself and your company, explain your qualifications, and ask for permission to pitch a guest post idea. If the editor contacts you and asks for your pitch, then submit a well-written pitch.
- Wait for approval. Editors receive many pitches from would-be guest bloggers, so you might have to wait a few weeks. If you don’t hear back after a few weeks, send a short follow-up inquiry. If you still hear nothing, either ask to pitch a new idea or submit your guest post idea somewhere else.
- Submit your guest post. Send in an approved guest post following the format given by the editor, and submit it on time. If the editor asks you to make changes later, then continue editing your post until it meets the blog’s requirements.
- Publish your guest post. Good blogs have editorial calendars just like high-quality magazines do. It’s always a good idea, when you pitch a guest post, to think about what the editor might want to publish a few months from the current date. For example, never pitch a holiday-related blog post in December. Instead, pitch it in September or October to make sure that the editor can fit it onto the calendar.
It’s easy to see why many bloggers have looked for guest posting shortcuts. Pitching guest posts to an editor requires a significant time commitment. Because most blogs don’t pay for guest posts, it’s not easy to justify the time commitment when you’re only getting paid in prestige. However, guest posting the right way offers many benefits for you and your business.
When you guest blog the right way, you’re forced to research and target great blogs. Your content also gets edited, which lets you present your work in the best possible light. Because high-quality blogs don’t turn into spammy link networks, Google won’t penalize your guest post content. Your guest post gets promoted on a great blog, shared on social media, and in front of both new and loyal readers.
Whether you’re writing guest posts or accepting them, keep these tips in mind:
- Quality, quality, quality. When you’re looking for places to guest blog, use tools like the Moz Bar to identify their domain and page authority for the blogs you want to target. When you’re accepting posts, carefully investigate the author’s links. If they have low-quality content or spammy links, don’t accept the post.
- Build relationships with only reputable marketers. It isn’t necessarily wrong for marketing companies to ask to publish guest posts containing a client link on your blog or to compensate you for publishing it. However, you should only accept content that is well written, accurate, useful to readers, and relevant to your blog’s purpose.
- Take it slow. Building relationships with other blog editors and researching blogs takes time. In addition to researching a blog’s domain and page authority, take time to become part of the community. Leave useful comments in the comments section to demonstrate your knowledge about the industry.
- Ask for nofollow, and disavow old spam links. If you’ve guest posted to a low-quality blog in the past, contact the blog’s webmaster. Ask for a nofollow to be added to your links, or ask the webmaster to remove your link.
- Never associate your name – or your own blog — with a site that’s beneath your standards. Your guest posts have your name on them, so the placement site will reflects on you and your blog. Likewise, when you publish someone else’s work, your blog gives credibility to the links in the guest post. For your own reputation, never publish work on low-quality sites, and don’t link to websites that won’t reflect well on you.
If you’re guest blogging for the right reasons, keep doing what you’re doing. Publishing your writing on a great website, just like publishing your writing in a prestigious magazine, always makes you look good.
Over to you: What are YOUR thoughts on guest blogging? Have you tried it? What kind of results have you achieved?