There’s no doubt about where Google stands on guest blogging.
Google has repeatedly made it clear to site owners and SEOs that guest posting for the explicit purpose of building links is dangerous.
And I agree.
But this doesn’t mean guest blogging is bad.
It just means guest blogging is being done badly.
What’s Wrong With Guest Posting Today?
Traditionally, guest blogging has followed a specific formula:
- Create a piece of content you think will be of interest to other websites.
- Ensure the piece of content includes keywords you want your site to rank for, as well as links back to your site — preferably in keyword-rich anchor text.
- Create a list of sites who “might” be interested in posting your content.
- Approach those sites with a clever pitch which doesn’t sound like spam and will elicit a response. Or, if you aren’t as scrupulous, spamming the heck out of as many sites as you can — playing a numbers game, praying someone will respond (AKA, spray and pray).
- Coordinating with any sites which do express interest in posting your content.
- Finally getting the content posted somewhere.
- Praying the site where the content is posted doesn’t have some sort of SEO issue and is benefitting your site.
- Rinse and repeat until either burnout sets in (it happens quite quickly) or you die.
I’ve always hated this method of guest blogging. There are so many things wrong with it.
- The success rate is abysmal. I don’t have any “official” numbers, but from the people I’ve spoken to, a good acceptance ratio for pitch to success is usually way less than .01 percent. This means you must send a whole lot of emails to a whole lot of sites just to get one piece published. And then, there’s no guarantee any content published is going to move the needle from an SEO perspective. That’s a whole lot of work for little gain.
- It’s difficult to distinguish the line between spam and legitimate pitching. Back in another life, I used to be in traditional public relations. We would commonly pitch site owners and journalists our content. The difference then was twofold: There wasn’t as much competition so it was easier to get attention for our efforts and we weren’t pitching for any search engine gain. We were trying to establish thought leadership or put our client’s point of view out in front of the public.
- This type of guest blogging is a form of “digital sharecropping.” By putting your content on someone else’s site, you are literally building your brand on someone else’s land. You don’t have control over what happens once they post your content. They could change it, they could neuter it. And if they get mad at you, they could alter it to make you look bad. Digital sharecropping to some extent may be necessary on today’s web — but not in this case. You don’t have to build your guest posting empire on someone else’s property.
Turning Guest Blogging on Its Head
In a nutshell, the mechanics of this technique are simple to understand. Here are the steps:
- Identify industry influencers who communicate well. They don’t necessarily need to have a great website for SEO (this helps, but not a requirement), but they should have a decent following and their following ideally will have websites of their own. If the industry influencers are active on social media, all the better.
- Approach the industry influencer inviting them to write on your property. You could invite them to write on your blog, contribute to a white paper, write something for your newsletter — wherever you want to create attention and generate links.
- Publish the influencer’s content on your site and promote it to all your relevant audiences. It’s important to highlight how you will be promoting the industry influencer’s content to your audience in the pitch stage. This is a strong benefit for them. Also, the better visibility you have as a brand, the better influencers you will be able to get to write for you.
- Provide influencers with easy ways to promote their content to their audiences. Offer to write tweets, Facebook posts, blog teasers, emails, etc. for them. The more prolific the influencer, the more valuable their time is. To get the maximum benefit from this strategy, it is imperative you make it easy for the influencer to promote their content to their audience. After all, the whole reason you’re soliciting the influencer’s content is to tap into their network for links and visibility.
Why Is This Form of Guest Blogging Effective?
This type of guest blogging works really well. Why?
People link to their own stuff. If you give them a platform, they will tell their friends and followers about it. They will do the work of building links for you.
People promote themselves, period. At the very least, you should expect a link from the influencer’s site — and in many cases, this alone can be worth the effort.
Another reason this works: it’s clean. It’s not cheating in any way.
This form of guest blogging is hard to automate, so it’s pretty spam proof in Google’s eyes. Yes, I know it could be abused, but it’s much harder to abuse this than traditional guest posting where paying for articles posted on sites has become the norm.
As long as you aren’t paying for the person to contribute, this is totally legitimate in Google’s eyes. The links are naturally earned — exactly what Google wants. And the links are usually of a much higher quality than those you get from traditional guest posting.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
I’m not entirely sure where this guest posting philosophy came from. I know I’ve been approaching guest posting this way for at least three years.
I remember hearing Gary Illyes of Google say something about using this technique. But, I was also reminded Roger Montti had mentioned a similar strategy in his newsletter almost five years ago.
Since I tend to take data from everything I read, and I read everything, the idea is most likely something I gleaned from either Roger or Gary. I urge you to follow both.
As you can see, this guest blogging concept is simple. Unfortunately, the execution is a bit more difficult.
In fact, I would argue while this is one of the best ways to build links, it’s certainly not something that can be automated and it isn’t a “scalable” solution. But if you put the time in, it works. And it works well.