Some important figures say that we should stop guest blogging.
It all goes back to an announcement from Google’s Matt Cutts about how the links that you acquire through guest blogging will no longer be all that useful and could, in some cases, actually do some harm to your blog’s SEO practices.
Since then we’ve seen guest blogging change to the point where a lot of new bloggers feel like it’s too risky to do any guest posts at all.
I myself have opted out of things like “expert roundups” where a bunch of quotes are collected to make a big post about a certain topic, each person with a link back to her or his site (I’ll talk about that more below).
Let’s take a look at whether or not guest posting is still a valuable strategy, and how bloggers should approach it without getting stung.
What is guest blogging?
If you’re new to blogging it might be good to do a little introduction to the idea of guest blogging or guest posting and how the whole things works.
Basically this is where you ask or are invited to write a blog post on another blog, usually in the same niche/industry as your own.
As you can see in the little graphic below, you write a bunch of posts that link to your blog which then take readers to a landing page that sells a product or promotes a mailing list.
Initially guest posting sprung up as a way to get new content on your site; you’d invite an expert to write about a topic that you didn’t fully understand and as such your readers would get new perspective.
This was a very organic and honest set up and, along with great new content, you, as the blogger, would often acquire a new audience as your guest author shared the post that they did on your site with their own followers.
So where did guest blogging all go wrong?
My own feeling is that guest blogging all started to go wrong when bloggers figured out that they could get backlinks from these posts and, as such, cause their Google rankings to become artificially inflated.
For a little while it was as simple as landing a guest post on a relevant site, including a link with rich anchor text in the article and then, after a while, you’d start ranking for the keywords in that anchor text.
It was rife with manipulation.
And the problem really became obvious when entire industries popped up around the idea of paying for links in posts. I remember back in college my friend and I would stay up late on a site called PayPerPost (I don’t want to link to it) and dig around for opportunities where some company would pay you $10-$100 for a 500-word article on your site that contained at least one (and often more) backlink to a site that was only barely relevant to yours.
Google then went and absolutely crushed that industry back in 2007 by removing page rank for a lot of pay per post bloggers and, since then, everyone has been making more and more algorithm changes to determine whether or not guest posts are allowable, valuable, or even ethical.
Here is the video with Matt Cutts mentioned at the top of this post:
Of course bloggers didn’t stop guest posting. In fact, if you look at statistics about the number of blog posts in the world I am confident that it would be bigger and bigger every year as more people start blogging and more people look for promotional methods.
So what’s the situation now?
Should we stop guest blogging altogether?
Guest blogging is not even close to dead.
In the last couple of months I’ve done a guest post on Bluehost and one over on the Jeff Goins blog about how Artificial Intelligence might change our online careers over the next few years.
But there is one qualification: it’s not about building links anymore.
When I think about a guest blogging opportunity I am always thinking about tapping in to a new audience that I think might benefit from encountering the content on Blog Tyrant.
So, really, what guest blogging is about now is getting more quality email subscribers on your mailing list.
While there are some very smart bloggers who like to call Google’s bluff on the whole links issue, even they are being very clever and careful about how the acquire those links and, generally speaking, a guest post is a pretty obvious flag to a search engine robot.
Of course link building is still important, but the old way of landing guest posts (or paying for them…) and then adding some rich anchor text is probably a little bit too dangerous to be useful from an SEO point of view.
How to successfully guest blog in to the future
I encourage everyone reading this post to continue to try and land as many relevant guest blogging opportunities as possible as they are a fantastic way to find new, relevant traffic. Here are a few tips on how to approach guest posting in the future:
- Keep it relevant
As Google’s algorithms get more and more sophisticated I think one of the things we’ll see is more frequent penalties for things that aren’t relevant. When you really consider it, it’s irrelevant materials that looks like spam. So, if you’re a finance blog doing guest posts on dog training websites I think you’ll expect that those links will be useless at some point.
- Make sure it’s all unique
Another major signal for Google is that guest posts are unique and useful. The idea here is that you should really be only writing about a topic on a guest site if you can offer some sort of unique perspective that the owner cannot. This helps to show that it’s not at all a paid arrangement, which is part of where I think the expert roundups start to look a bit suspect.
- Consider using nofollow links
If you are really concerned about some links in your guest posts you can always ask the site owner to make sure the nofollow tag is included on them. This is a pretty safe signal to Google that you aren’t doing the posts for SEO purposes but they will still, of course, send through all the traffic.
- Have a wide variety of platforms
It’s also a good idea to not just do guest posts to other blogs in your industry. You can also get featured on things like podcasts, videos, slide shares, Facebook posts, and so on. Some of these are “safer” from an SEO point of view and also teach you valuable marketing lessons about finding traffic from new sources and how those relationships work.
- Link to different properties
Another important concept to experiment with is the idea of linking to more than just a few posts on your blog. Of course, you can link to your root domain, but why not also link to your own podcast and social pages, or directly to a tool or video that you’ve made and see if you can send that viral.
- Monitor results closely
Lastly, you want to make sure you track all of these results in Webmaster Tools and elsewhere to ensure that they are having the right effect and traffic is going up over time. There are also dozens of tools that you can use to see whether you might be doing some SEO damage.
The main thing with all of this type of activity is to keep reading and then testing to see whether the information you have is working for your blog.
How is your guest blogging going?
Do you spend a lot of time and energy on your guest blogging efforts? I’d really love to know how it’s going for you and whether any of these concerns have been popping up on your radar. Feel free to leave a comment below and we can all have a big chat about it.
Top photo © Intararit