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Guest Posting Is Not Dead If You Do It The Right Way

Credit: etharooni

Credit: etharooni

Guest blogging is dead.

Matt Cutts doesn’t mince any words: “Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.”

I understand where he’s coming from but I disagree.

The reality is that guest blogging as a way of linkbuilding has been a risky practice for quite some time and it’s all because of execution.

We’ve all gotten those guest post emails from complete strangers. They always love our stuff, they are long time readers, and they want to contribute unique content to the site. Oh and they want backlinks. Or they skip all the puffery and just offer to pay money.

This happens because building links is still important and this is just the latest way to get them. (is it really any worse than searching the web for broken links and suggesting your site as a replacement? I’m not sure)

Unfortunately, building a lot of links for targeted keywords, especially valuable ones, looks manipulative. Big companies can more easily get away with it because they might add a thousand links a month and a dozen are for a targeted keyword. As a blogger, most of us can only add a dozen in a month and even three targeted keywords will look suspicious.

So is guest blogging dead? Hardly. It’s all about execution.

Why Are Guest Posts Dangerous Now?

Back before Panda, Penguin, and a variety of unnamed algorithm updates, I had great success writing guest posts with targeted links back to Bargaineering for high dollar keywords. I even used blog carnivals to build links, even though my feeling was that it was relatively low value (it was easy, didn’t hurt then, so why not?).

It was incredibly effective, I was able to retain strong positions in the search results for years. A few years ago, you could see marketers were “discovering” how useful this strategy was. (if you’ve been blogging for a while, you’ve probably noticed a considerable uptick in the volume of “guest post request” type emails)

Guest posting, in its purest form, is beautiful. I have something valuable to say, I want to say it to this brand new audience, and the publisher can publish great stuff with minimal editing work. From there, marketers discovered you could produce less than stellar stuff, wrap it in a $20 (or more) bill, and many bloggers would publish it.

Sadly, the well has been poisoned.

Today, that strategy is risky at best, especially for a blogger who doesn’t get many links to begin with and uses guest posts to link back to their site with targeted keywords.

How You Should Be Guest Posting

This should be well known but bears repeating – make sure you write awesome posts.

Everything is predicated on you demonstrating that you are an expert and worth listening to.

The crappy guest posts, the ones that are often paid posts look like they’re paid posts. They look like someone spent no time on it, or bought it from a bulk writer, and we all know what they look like.

Don’t be like that. Write really good stuff. Each post you write is an advertisement for you.

Your goal in guest posting should be traffic, not keyword rich backlinks.

Specifically, it should be traffic that translates into email subscribers. Not Facebook likes, Pinterest pins, Tweets, or anything on a third party platform that can change the rules on you. You want email subscribers so you can reach them again once they give you permission.

Stop linking to yourself in the body of the post with keywords you’re hoping to rank for. Not only is it dangerous, that’s exactly what Google considers manipulation. It’s only a matter of time before some algorithm change takes over what manual reviewers do right now.

Link back to your site with a call to action. I learned this watching my friend James Clear. In his bylines and bios, he would link back to a newsletter signup landing page with a very clear call to action.

Here’s the byline I use on US News:
Jim Wang is an entrepreneur, who founded microblogger.com. For actionable advice on how to build your own business, join his free newsletter.

My post in US News & World Report about how you should buy that latte links back to a newsletter signup page in the byline. It would later be syndicated by Daily Finance and Yahoo! Finance – each would send me a slug of email subscribers.

These are people who want to get emails from me. They want actionable advice on how to build their own business and so they clicked through. Then they signed up.

Bingo.

Next, make sure you have authorship set up so you’re continuing to build your credibility.

If you want to take it to the next level, you can create a specific landing page for each “appearance” tailored to the audience. I may not do this for a guest post but when I did a Google+ Hangout with the co-founders of Digital CoLab, I told watchers to go to this page to get a PDF that covered the tools we mentioned in the Hangout. (if it’s Monday Jan 27th when you read this, the Hangout is tonight and you can join it here at 9 PM Eastern)

This strategy is similar to offering a signup incentive, except it’s tailored. You’ll want to try this with any large audiences to improve your conversion rates. It has a lower return on time for most guest posts though.

How will Matt Cutts’ message change the way you approach guest blogging?

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Jim

In 2005, I founded a personal finance blog (Bargaineering.com) that became successful enough that I quit my career as a software developer in the defense industry. It is my goal to share everything I learned so that you can do the same - build an online business that let's you pursue your passion.

14 responses to “Guest Posting Is Not Dead If You Do It The Right Way”

  1. Jackie says:

    I’d add that you should also not link to anything that could be remotely viewed as a keyword you want to rank for in your bio. In one of my bios (on a very well-researched, informative, lengthy and well-written guest post) I included a link to my app — which then got the smack down because I must be trying to manipulate rankings by writing this guest post.

    What do you think of no follow? I’m torn on no-following things because on the one hand it says “I’m into SEO and I don’t want this to rank” but on the other hand doesn’t it also say “This isn’t really a quality link?”

    • Jim says:

      That’s an interesting question because should it matter that you’re “into SEO.” It also might mean that you paid for the post, since paid posts should be nofollowed right? I think we’re getting into the uncertainty part of everything Google puts out. Ultimately they don’t want you to create any links back to yourself, since any link is manipulative, but you still want to get exposure.

      There’s no right answer I’m afraid, but I think my current approach is safe.

      • Jackie says:

        I think this is the key: “Ultimately they don’t want you to create any links back to yourself, since any link is manipulative, but you still want to get exposure.”

        Which sort of implies you should nofollow in order to avoid being “manipulative”. But Google suggests using nofollow for “Untrusted content” and “Paid links” — neither of which a genuine guest post is.

    • Michael says:

      It’s hard to know for certain how Google views things, but a nofollow’d link should be treated as if it doesn’t even exist from an SEO standpoint, even though it can provide other benefits (e.g., traffic). In that case, it would be a non-issue. You’d be foregoing the SEO benefit but it shouldn’t be harmful to do so.

  2. I don’t guest post much, when I am do, I am looking for the traffic and just getting the name and site out there. I can typically convert a good amount of readers, so that is my goal. I never used it and won’t for SEO.

  3. Michael says:

    All I can say is that I miss the good old days when guest blogging was limited to bloggers who wanted to get their stuff out in front of a new audience. As with all things, it’s just a matter of time until the spammers show up and ruin things.

  4. Tom Drake says:

    This is something I’ve been struggling with lately. Do you think all in-post links could be an issue, or just keyword links?

    What I’ve been doing is just naturally linking to a couple related posts. Choosing them solely because they fit, not because I’m trying to boost a certain post. I also go out of my way to keep the anchor text pretty random; not keyword based.

    • Jim says:

      I think any link, including byline, that is a keyword carries some amount of risk. I would check to see if you are mixing it up as well as you think (and that may mean comparing yourself to other sites like yours, because it’s hard to say what’s “random enough”).

      I still, at times, link back naturally to individual posts (I would not link back to the homepage for keywords, that’s a red flag for sure) but I try to stick with this strategy.

  5. Pretty eye-opening post, Jim, thanks. I’ll be sure to keep all of this in mind for any future guest post. The authorship and byline advice is great too… I’ll definitely get on that.

  6. Eric Moeller says:

    Hi Jim,

    I agree completely with you – guest blogging it not dead. I actually found out about your blog because of the guest article you wrote about Google Analytics for WPBeginner. I found that article really helpful to get an overview of the capabilities of Google Analytics, so thanks for that!

    Gone are the days of guest blogging with poor content, simply to get backlinks, but you’ve proven that producing quality content, and distributing it via guest blogging, is still a positive strategy for expanding your audience.

    I look forward to reading more useful information on your site in the months ahead.

    Cheers,
    Eric

    • Jim says:

      Thanks Eric!

      Yes, guest blogging is still a great way to get exposure if you’re willing to write high quality stuff elsewhere, and as long as publishers keep standards high, guest blogging can get its reputation back (if that were important). It’s all about distribution these days… get your work out there.

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