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Google's updates mean that guest blogging is now a key SEO tactic, but it should be about more than that.
A couple of months ago, I read an interesting article on the 3 Door Digital blog, in which experts discussed guest blogging as an SEO and engagement strategy.
Here, I'll give you the view from the other side, and provide some useful tips for people looking for guest blogging opportunities...
Why do we have guest bloggers?
Guest bloggers have been a big part of the Econsultancy blog, and have had several benefits for us.
While the majority of our articles are written by the blog/editorial team, with some great contributions from elsewhere in the company, guest bloggers have been very useful in the blog's development.
Econsultancy Director of Content Chris Lake started the blog back in 2006. He explains the thinking behind our guest blogger policy:
For us it was a way of generating (maybe 30%) extra content, which helped us to punch above our weight. Guest bloggers become advocates, and they seed their own stuff, so it's good for broadening our reach too. For example, a Bryan Eisenberg or Jim Sterne might be followed in the US by people not so familiar with the Econsultancy brand.
More than anything though, it was about going broader and deeper into insight and best practice tips, and accelerating brand awareness as a result. We have a pretty clear editorial scope, which is fairly wide given the subject matter. Now it's not just about digital, but about most things to do with optimising a modern business. Subject specialists can help us to cover more ground, more quickly.
It's something that has worked well for us. We have a smaller writing team than other publications covering digital, but having guest writers, among other reasons, has enabled us to compete effectively and carve out a niche for ourselves.
Most importantly, it has allowed us to put out some excellent guest posts full of valuable tips and advice. Check out our most popular guest posts of 2011 for evidence of this.
What are we looking for?
We are looking for insight from guest bloggers, for them to speak about what constitutes best practice in their area of expertise, the lessons they have learned, and useful tips that they can pass on to our readership.
To pick out but one, Kelvin Newman's post on Facebook's Edgerank Algorithm is a great example of this.
It contains valuable insights into the workings of this crucial algorithm, as well as some useful tips which show how readers can increase their own Edgerank, and thus this visibility and effectiveness of their Facebook pages.
The key ingredient here is that, other than showcasing his own knowledge and insight, Kelvin (and other guest bloggers) is not promoting himself or his company, but has instead focused on producing something of value.
Most of our guest writers are agency-side, but we also have client-side bloggers (though we'd always like to have more) showing how things look from their perspective.
To summarise, we are looking for:
- A commitment to regular blogging.
- Blogging for its own sake, rather than to grab a link, or mention a client or two.
- Sharing of data and experience.
- Showcasing best practice and providing useful tips for our readers.
- An understanding of Econsultancy's readership.
- Bloggers who write about what they know best.
- Exclusive content.
- Bloggers who can provide a new perspective on their subject matter.
This article from Matt Fielding on his Econsultancy guest blogging 'fail' provides some useful lessons on the mistakes to avoid.
The benefits for guest bloggers
Post Penguin, and post rel=author, we are now receiving many more submissions from people wanting to post on the blog, as people realise the value of guest blogging as an SEO tactic.
Now, we benefit from great content which we get for free, but this is a quid pro quo arrangement and there are benefits for guest bloggers.
UPDATE (May 2014): Matt Cutts has publicly stated that Google intends to clamp down on guest blogging for SEO purposes.
While we don't want overt self-promotion, guest blogging essentially allows writers to show our audience of e-commerce and marketing folk how clever they are.
This is a much better way to market yourself than shoehorning mentions of the amazing work you've done with clients.
We've had a number of guest bloggers who have won clients thanks to their blogging on Econsultancy, and they weren't engaging in shameless self-promotion.
Since Google introduced its authorship programme linked to Google+ last year, there has been much speculation on how it might be used as a search ranking factor.
This is as yet unclear, but at the very least it allows authors to promote themselves and link the content they create on different sites through their G+ profile.
It seems sensible that Google will look at signals around the content guest authors create around the web, and guest blogging for authority sites can only help.
I like the idea, as it encourages the creation of quality content, since interactions, shares, +1s will only come in response to good writing.
UPDATE (Feb 2015): Google has now removed authorship.
It allows you to share ideas
Guest blogging is a great way to start a conversation around an idea or theory you may have, and start a debate with our readers.
You shouldn't be guest blogging just for links, but we're happy for guest bloggers to add links to their own site and social media profiles to their blog signature, as in this example from Paul Rouke:
UPDATE (May 2014):As we don't want people to guest post just for links, we now add nofollow to all blog signature links.
Improve your writing
If you write for this blog, you'll gain some valuable feedback from our audience and editorial team which will help you to learn from what does and doesn't work.
Tips for guest bloggers
Don't do it for the links
Achieving links from guest blogging on Econsultancy should not be the only reason to blog.
In fact, if you are just doing it for links, this will be obvious to anyone reading it. If it even gets published that is.
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.
Make sure you flesh these out so that people who are interested in your articles can learn more.
How to approach editors
I get a lot of requests for guest blogging, and the way you approach editors can make a difference.
- I prefer it if people come to me with a number of ideas for articles, or maybe an article they have already written. This allows me to make a quick decision.
- If people show a clear understanding of what this blog is about and have perhaps spotted a gap in our coverage, this will give you an advantage.
- I'd rather hear directly from the person who will be doing the blogging. This means I can discuss posts and provide feedback more easily.
I always ask for a regular commitment from guest bloggers. While I appreciate that, if you're an e-commerce manager or CEO of an agency, you're going to be pretty busy, it's important to post regularly and build up a readership.
There have been many guest bloggers who have posted once or twice and then never again. I'm not really sure what they get out of it.
Join in and respond to comments
I encourage guest bloggers to read the comments on their posts and get involved with the debate. As I mentioned above, you will learn something from our readers, while it helps to encourage more people to comment, and to keep checking back on the article for replies.
Read the style guide
We have a blog style guide, which is written for staff and guest writers. We're keen to have a consistent approach to formatting and writing style, and we know what works and makes an article readable.
This covers things like formatting of articles, common spellings and instructions on uploading images and video.
Guest bloggers should read this and follow the house style. It saves me a lot of work editing posts and it's more likely you'll be asked to blog again.
Besides, I know which bloggers haven't read the guide, as they're the ones who have pasted articles straight in from Word. This causes extra work for the editor, which isn't always appreciated..
Think about the formatting
Articles should be readable, especially if they're relatively long.
For example, the use of short sentences and paragraphs, using bullet points and subheadings, as well as charts and images, all makes an article easier on the eye.
If an article is well formatted, people are more likely to read it.
Avoid marketing jargon
We also have banned words as we want to avoid too much marketing jargon (and there is a lot of it). Here's an example of some of the marketing speak we despise.
This is for good reason. We don't want to hide behind jargon, but instead present ideas in plain English.
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 on other sites after they’ve been published at this end.
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.
They should be concise, descriptive, but should also contain keywords the site is looking to rank for.
Get on Google+
OK, you might prefer Twitter, and don't really have much time left to involve yourself with another social network but Google's authorship program allows you to claim ownership of your articles and promote your personal brand online.
This is something that works for our guest bloggers, but for us too. This may become an important ranking factor but, if nothing else, it makes our results stand out in the SERPs.
Write about what you know
We do get guest blogging requests from copywriters and others 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 a copywriter, offer us a post about online copywriting, as Tom Albrighton does.
We're looking for experts in their fields to share their insight and tips. This is what works best.
Give us your best content
If you want to do well on this blog, 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're Rand Fishkin or Pete Cashmore, chances are you'll reach a bigger audience on our blog than your own.
We've been through a number of guest bloggers over the years, and many submitted articles which we would never publish on the blog.
A common reason for this is that some have basically been jazzed-up press releases, promoting their 'market leading solutions' and trying to cram in as many links to their own and clients' websites as possible.
We’re in the business of thought-leadership, and you should be writing informative posts that pass on a little bit of knowledge for free. Overt attempts to promote products and services will be quashed. Use your insight and your data to reveal trends and best practices.
People will remember you that way. Avoid PR guff and self-loving.
Read the blog
If guest bloggers are familiar with our blog, and the kinds of reports that Econsultancy produces, they will have a feel for the kinds of articles we are looking for.
This means that 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.
If you're interested in guest blogging for Econsultancy, please email firstname.lastname@example.org with some article ideas. We're over-subscribed in some areas (social media for one) so think about a gap you could fill in our coverage.