Guest blogging has come under increased scrutiny of late and Google has updated its algorithms to dissuade the practice. However guest blogging does have marked benefits if implemented correctly, so it’s worth understanding the process before attempting it.
Google’s main algorithm changes have focused on improving site quality and they aim to develop a better catalogue of relevant links between sites. This is something that guest blogging can accomplish but it can also be open to abuse.
SEO techniques aren’t always implemented well and often they can be detrimental to a business’ reputation and search engine ranking. The last Penguin update from Google to its search algorithms (Penguin 5 with Penguin 2.1 anti-spam technology, released October 2013) looks set to affect guest bloggers and perhaps even discourage the practice.
However guest blogging can be a valid strategy so let’s consider the Google update and its potential changes to the way that guest blogging is conducted.
Guest blogging is…
It often seems like many internet writers don’t fully understand or utilise the guest blogging practice. The most basic definition is simply finding a blog and offering to write content for it. This has benefits for both the webmaster and the writer of the content. The webmaster gets high quality content that drives traffic to their site and the writer gets increased exposure to a new, pre-existing audience base.
Guest blogging rose in popularity recently, but as a practice it’s been around for some time. For as long as the internet and websites have existed writers have developed and written content for as many sites as possible. This has created an environment full of content and this is an area that Google hopes to moderate.
It wasn’t always the go-to practice, however the last few years have seen it become increasingly popular. In the past there were much easier ways to build links that didn’t require nearly as much work as guest blogging and often achieved much better results. For a while other SEO tactics were used but Google caught on to them.
Prior to guest blogging some popular link building tactics included:
- Link Exchanges
- Directory Links
- Forum Links
- Article Marketing – this practice shouldn’t be confused with guest blogging
- Article marketing was a practice that involved submitting (usually) low quality articles to content farms
Over time Google noticed that spammers were trying to manipulate search rankings and so it tweaked its algorithms to prevent those negative SEO tactics from succeeding. This is now the position that guest blogging finds itself in. As older link building tactics became abused and devalued, SEOs turned to guest blogging as a way to build links post-Penguin.
Guest blogging can be a win-win situation for both the webmaster and the writer and it can benefit readers, authors, and the niche community. However, it doesn’t always work that way, and often guest blogging is a practice that’s seriously abused and utilised incorrectly.
Guest posting can be a bad idea
This is a view shared by Google and now the tech search giant has taken a strong and definitive stand against the practice. In January of 2014 Matt Cutts effectively put the final nail in guest blogging’s coffin.
“So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.”
The internet changed with the introduction of Penguin and Panda and the criteria behind quality links has become much clearer. Now a good link is one that comes from a high quality site and the site should be relevant to your niche, have an overall topic, be of high quality, and have a sense of community that all dovetails around your particular issues. The last criteria are that the site must have an active following, good user engagement, and interaction, while also being shared through social media networks.
Guest blogging can tick all of the above boxes so as a practice it isn’t quite as dead as many believe it to be. However guest blogging has been misused in recent times and many articles that have appeared online haven’t been of a good or high quality. The articles were published on sites with very little relevance, no quality checks, and a complete lack of reader engagement.
This led to the present situation where sites have huge lists of back links but those links are spammy, unnatural, and ultimately harmful to the site’s standing in the eyes of Google.
Is guest blogging worth it?
Firstly, it’s worth assessing your own practices. If you suspect that your guest blogging may fall foul of Google then you need to stop. Google can slap a costly penalty on sites that it deems to be purveying bad SEO tactics. This penalty is hard to fight against and it often can be very costly to a business.
These days it seems fair to say that building links is a secondary concern of guest blogging. The main thrust behind this practice is to create valuable content that highlights your brand, its philosophy, and reaches the correct audience. You really need to evaluate the content that you’re writing and its relevancy and quality.
Here’s a quick checklist to avoid getting penalised by Google (we’ll look at it really briefly):
- Article Quality – the writing needs to be clear, fluent, and avoid bad grammar and spelling mistakes
- Hyperlinks – these must be relevant and from trusted sources
- Lack of social connections – your articles must be read, shared, and found via the main social networking sites
- General site quality – make sure the site that you’re posting content to is a reputable one
- When approaching editors stress that you want to post as a means to offering their readership something highly relevant and useful and to increase visibility of your brand. Do offer more than one post and do offer some samples of previous work – don’t bother editors on a daily basis either as this just irritates
I get a lot of requests for guest posts and very few come up to standard and it’s obvious that the only goal is a link. With this in mind, understand that editors of big sites might get up to 20 requests per day, so you should avoid wasting their time. This means that you should approach, in the first instance, with an outline and title of your idea, then if approved write it up, send it off, and forget about it. There’s nothing worse than getting an email every single day from someone wanting a guest post put up after submission and this often leads to the article ending up in trash.
It’s also worth pointing out that you should use an editor’s name wherever possible and ensure that you’re sending the piece to the right one. Avoid using templates – make it personal. Again, editors are accustomed to seeing the usual “I came across your blog and I really liked it so I thought I’d submit… all I ask in return is a link back to my site…” and will reject you if you come across as just another link chasing SEO with nothing concrete to offer.
Guest blogging is a practice that is falling out of favour in the online world. However it can be hugely beneficial to a business and it can increase its exposure. Make sure that you’re writing high quality content that you’d stand behind (and that Google will like). The SEO landscape is full of people who do the job badly – don’t be one of them. Focus on quality and pride yourself in your work and you’ll stand out in the increasingly crowded online world.