Google and guest blogging
Like any SEO tactic which can be automated or carried out at scale, guest blogging eventually became abused by people looking for quick and easy links.
There were too many thin and poor quality articles floating around, often the same thing published across a dozen sites.
As editor here, I became tired of the sheer volume of approaches which you could just tell were only for link building.
I also had to start searching in Google to check posts hadn’t been used elsewhere already, despite the fact that we make it clear we want exclusive content only.
In short, it had become too much. Here’s what Matt Cutts had to say:
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 as a linkbuilding strategy.
The second part of that quote is clear enough: guest blogging cannot be used for linkbuilding.
In response to this, and the advice of other SEOs, we took the step of nofollowing all links in author’s bios.
We wanted to make it abundantly clear that, if people write for Econsultancy, they do it for reasons other than gaining a link or two. We were also a little bit scared of Google.
So, the situation as I see it is that guest blogging for links is not even worth trying, but that posting for other reasons can still be valuable, for writer and publisher alike.
As I see it, quality guest posts, the kind you see on sites like Moz and Search Engine Land (and here) are still worthwhile.
One benefit of Matt Cutts’ pronouncements is that the volume of guest blogging requests has fallen. Google Trends also suggests a trend away from guest blogging.
What should guest writing be for?
Forget links, and forget any benefits from Authorship since Google dropped it.
Forget also cheap and easy plugs for your services or products. We wouldn’t publish that, and it wouldn’t work anyway.
So what’s the point of guest contributions?
Once we forget about the SEO benefits, there are still plenty of compelling reasons, but only for writers of quality content.
Build your reputation. Posting on authority sites is a great way to enhance your reputation and show off your specialist knowledge.
Essentially, guest posting can be a platform to show an audience just how clever you are.
- Share / float ideas. Choose the right site and posting can be a great way to gain feedback for your ideas or to start a debate with a community.
- Improve your writing. Writing for an established audience enables you to gain useful feedback from editors and readers, and to learn what works and what doesn’t.
- Brand awareness. We have individuals blogging rather than companies, but if your posts are insightful and useful to readers, this reflects well on you and your company.
Quality content. In general, the articles written by our blog team outperform most guest posts, but we do value the contributions of guests. Indeed, the most regular and and long-term guests tend to be the most popular.
When it works as it should, guest posting provides us with quality content which is valuable for our audience.
A view from people ‘in the field’. It’s great to have a perspective from people working in digital, who have a different perspective than us staff writers.
People running search marketing for major insurance brands for instance.
- Promotion for your blog. Authors with large networks on social and elsewhere can help to promote your content to new audiences.
(Image credit: @SEOSherlock)
How to approach publishers
The way you approach publishers makes a big difference. In the past, the sheer volume of approaches meant that we just dismissed many out of hand.
- I can only speak for Econsultancy here, but we appreciate a personal approach. I want an email or call from the person actually writing the posts, rather than their PR firm.
This means I can explain what we want to see from them, provide feedback about posts directly and answer any questions.
People should also understand the blog or publication they’re pitching to. If you don’t understand what the blog is about and the kind of content that works well, you don’t stand a chance.
You’d be surprised at the sheer irrelevance of some of the pitches we receive, from people (PRs mainly) who have clearly never read the blog.
- Approach with ideas and examples of previous work. This gives editors a chance to see writing styles and quality of ideas.
- Identify gaps in the site’s coverage. If you can find an area the blog isn’t covering and have ideas to fill those gaps, this gives you a head start.
In a nutshell, do your research and make a personal approach to the site you want to write for…
How to become a great guest contributor
This is what I look for from guest writers, and these tips should help you with any publisher.
Commit to regular blogging
At Econsultancy, we ask for guest writers to commit to regular articles, normally once a month.
This is because we don’t want to accept one-off articles from people who, in the past, were just after a link or two. These one-off articles were often used elsewhere too.
More to the point, regular blogging means that people can get better as they go along, read comments, listen to feedback, learn what works and put this into practice.
Forget about links
Unless there’s a very compelling reason, we don’t want guest writers to link back to their own or clients’ sites.
We want to be very clear that guest writing for us is not for links. If that’s all you want, try another site.
It’s about sharing knowledge and insight
We don’t do news at Econsultancy, and thought pieces from industry leaders can be pretty dull.
What we want are useful posts that share knowledge and best practice, and provide some insight for readers. ‘How to…’ posts are a great example of this:
Don’t be afraid of detail
Many guest posts suffer from being too general. ‘Five tips for social media success’, that sort of thing. Don’t be afraid to drill down into the detail.
Tell people how they can improve their billing address form, or how to optimise store locator pages for local search.
This is useful content, and it’s more likely you’ll find a gap like this. Tim Leighton Boyce’s excellent two posts on using consumer surveys in ecommerce are a great example of this niche, detailed content.
Read the style guide
We have a lovingly created style guide for staff and guest writers alike. It contains all the usual stuff about use of commas, quote formatting etc, but also some useful tips.
We’re keen to have a consistent approach to formatting and writing style, and we know what works and makes an article readable.
Reading the style guide will reduce the editor’s work, but will also help you to write better posts.
I normally know who has read the guide, as they tend to comment on the banned words list in there:
Avoid marketing jargon
You’ve seen the banned words list, but it’s best to avoid jargon that isn’t even on the list yet (here are some more horrific examples).
It’s about communicating ideas in plain English so that readers can understand.
Of course, some industry terms and abbreviations are useful (content marketing, PPC etc) but writers shouldn’t hide behind buzzwords.
Look at how existing posts are presented
Good formatting makes a big difference in how easy posts are to read, and even whether people decide to read them in the first place.
A long, text-heavy post can deter people before they even begin, but the use of short sentences and paragraphs, bullet points and subheadings, as well as charts and images, all makes an article easier on the eye.
Look at how a blog presents its content and follow suit.
Include internal links
Show the blog editor that you know their content by including a few internal links back to some of their posts.
You could search on the site for topics related to your post, or do a Google search for site:domain.com intitle:keyword. This will get you their top posts on a particular keyword so you can link that post to the keyword in your post.
We ask for exclusivity on all guest posts, for various reasons.
In particular we do not want Google’s duplicate content filter to give us a black mark, but the main reason is that guests should write posts specifically for the Econsultancy audience (typically intermediate and advanced marketers).
We do not want second-hand blog posts, nor posts that will appear (in full) on other sites after they’ve been published at this end.
Make your articles visually appealing
This has been covered under formatting a little, and some of this is the editor’s job, but it doesn’t hurt to add some relevant images, charts and screenshots.
James Carson’s content burger is a good example of this, from his post 24 ingredients for a delicious content strategy.
Think about your headline
Headlines are important. They are the first thing people see, and therefore form a big part of the decision on whether or not to read, retweet or share an article.
Advertising legend David Ogilvy was of the opinion that a headline was the most critical element in ad copy.
On average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.
They should be concise, descriptive, but should also contain keywords the site is looking to rank for.
It can be hard to think of a killer headline, but it can make a big difference to a posts performance.
One thing though, headlines shouldn’t make a promise that the article can’t keep.
Write about what you know
We do get guest blogging requests from copywriters and generalists offering to provide an article on any topic we desire. This is no good to us.
Guest bloggers should write about their own experience and their own areas of expertise.
If you’re an ecommerce manager, write about checkout optimisation, if you’re in search, tell our readers how to improve local search rankings.
We’re looking for experts in their fields to share their insight and tips. This is what works best.
Give us your best stuff
If you want to do well when guest blogging, you have to submit your best articles.
Don’t be tempted to save what you consider your best stuff for your own blog. Unless you already have a very popular blog, it’s likely to be more useful to you on a site like this.
Aim for evergreen content
This is what works best long-term, and will keep people coming to your post months after it was first published.
This means content that doesn’t date easily and remains useful for a long time. Think insight and advice rather than news and thought pieces.
If it works, it should look something like below. An initial spike following publication, then a steady flow of traffic thereafter.
It’s not about promotion
Well, it’s only about promotion in the sense that you’re promoting your own knowledge and expertise.
It isn’t about mentioning your company’s ‘market leading’ software or bragging about how you improved your client’s conversion rates.
Of course, you have to draw on your own experiences to write useful posts, but this shouldn’t stray into blatant ads or pitches.
Any information about your business and related items should be reserved for the author bio.
Read the blog
If guest bloggers are familiar with our blog, and the kinds of reports that we produce, they will have more of a feel for the kinds of articles we are looking for.
This means that they can see what works well on this blog in terms of comments, tweets etc, and also identify gaps in our coverage which could be filled with their own posts.
Join in and respond to comments
I encourage guest bloggers to read the comments on their posts and get involved with the debate. The same applies for social media discussions.
You may learn something from our readers, while it helps to encourage more people to comment, and to keep checking back on the article for replies.
Take an interest in how your articles ‘perform’
Look at the number and quality of comments on your posts, the social shares etc. Ask the editor for traffic stats and any feedback.
All of this will help you to improve the next time you write a post.
Flesh out your profile
We have profiles for each member on Econsultancy, and guest bloggers can use these to provide information about themselves and their company for those that click on the author’s name.
Make sure you flesh these out so that people who are interested in your articles can learn more.
Don’t diss your competitors
It may be tempting but best avoided. It doesn’t look good.
Look at what works for other guest bloggers
We already have some excellent guest bloggers, whose content produces some great results for us.
Take a look at these bloggers and work out what makes their posts so good. We have an annual list of the most popular too, but quality matters more.
Use your social networks to promote your posts
We have a decent Twitter following, and will use that and our newsletter to promote your posts, but we also appreciate any help you can give us.
If you have a great following on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or even Google+, let them know about the great post you’ve just written.
If you want to blog for Econsultancy, email editor@. We’re not accepting so many posts these days, but an approach with the personal touch from a good writer will always be considered.