No longer a mere vent for interests or complaints, blogs have become one of the primary means by which brands garner recognition, authority and loyal fans that turn into customers. And with guest blogging becoming prominently popular, blogs have also become a mainstay for those in charge of search engine optimisation. Since the rise of Google Panda, guest blogging has become as Search Engine Watch would put it, “a key link building practice that is based on exchanging worthwhile content for improved rankings”. SEOMoz CEO Rand Fishkin sums up the many other benefits of guest blogging in saying that it is “a fantastic strategy to build your brand, get in front of new people, earn some links back to your site, and earn the recognition from other communities that can lead to all sorts of good marketing opportunities in the future.”
In this sense guest blogging has become an indispensable SEO strategy, unfortunately like so many well-meaning strategies it has not avoided being erroneously used. With an intense focus on the benefits of guest posting to SEO some would resort to spammy, low quality, deceptive and manipulative blog posts that never bring any long-term success and instead downgrade a site or brand’s authority and image. To avoid such erroneousness and ensure that you get the full value of guest posting, we’ve listed down several of the best guest blogging practices below courtesy of Search Engine Watch and SEOMoz’s Rand Fishkin.
- Find Relevant Target Blogs. Before any guest blogging can begin, you of course have to start by looking for a really good blog of which you can be a guest contributor. There are several ways to do this:
- Using Google search or any other search engine type in variations of "guest post" or "guest contributor", such as "guest posting guidelines", "guest authoring guidelines" or "guest blog guidelines" and add your keyword or topic to it.
- Search Engine Watch suggests clicking on “blogs” at the left side of the SERP to further limit your results to blogs only.
- Fishkin suggests going to Google Reader, which lists blogs and their subscriber counts (that can tell you a lot about the blogs’ popularity), or searching blog directories such as BlogHer, Technorati and Alltop.
Fishkin points out that blogs which rarely have guest posts (meaning their primary writers supply most of the content) or typically non-blog news and content sites that have guest authorship opportunities are often excellent, quality targets.
- Determine the Value of a Blog. Search Engine Watch recommends several tools to determine the level of authority of your target blogs, tools like Open Site Explorer, Blekko or Google Webmaster Tools to check backlinks and Rank Checker Firefox extension to check PageRank. After that, it’s all a matter of considering for yourself the following questions:
- Does the site have an About section?
- How frequently do they post?
- Is the content consistent?
- Are people commenting on the blog posts?
- Reach Out and Build a Relationship. One cannot simply promote a brand or a belief without knowing the person behind it first, so don’t expect blog owners to welcome your content with open arms without knowing you first. Before you jump right into asking complete (albeit authoritative) strangers to post your blog on their site, get to know them and let them know you first, and be completely transparent, personal and genuine in your intentions. “Let them know that you're a real person,” says Fishkin, “that you know who they are, that you've researched them, that you've been in touch.” Fishkin further suggests getting in touch via social media, leaving comments on their blog, or helping out in some way. Do these for at least a month before popping the big question – “Will you post my guest post?”
- Optimise Your Content. Before delving into content creation, check your target blog or site’s guest post requirements as some may require author bios, pictures, etc. Once you’ve fulfilled these, make sure that whatever you write or make will be relevant to the blog site you are targeting and the audience that the site already has. You can base your content on previous posts and comments from the site’s audience, and you can also add interesting and informative infographics to your content to make it even more shareable. But never forget that you are writing not just for a link, but for your content to spread and make you an authority in your own right, so investigate what the audience wants, what they are asking and start writing from there.
- Earn Outsized Returns from Your Guest Post. Search Engine Watch recommends getting contextualised links as these are more relevant and more likely to get clicked, but more often than not, these kinds of links won’t be allowed due to their tendency to appear spammy. If that is the case, Fishkin suggests having embeddable content, like images and other interactive content that you can reference back to your site. He also suggests other ways you can get more out of your guest post:
- Ask if you can do a series of articles on a certain topic, this will get you more familiarity with the audience, better branding and more links.
- When writing a guest post for one target blog, link to your other target blogs. This will help develop a relationship between you and these other blogs that will open doors for more guest posting opportunities.
- Cleverly create bio links. With some clever rewording, you can get anchor text and branding within your bio. An example stated by Fishkin was how he discreetly links to his wife’s travel blog in his bio with a statement like, “Rand's wife, Geraldine, chronicles their adventures in her Serendipitous travel blog.”
- Lastly, instead of targeting your primary keywords in somebody else’s site or not targeting any keywords at all, target your secondary or tertiary keyword phrases. “Remember, guest posts, especially on powerful blogs... earn lots of links,” says Fishkin. “They have high potential to rank, and of course, if they do that and they earn lots of nice link juice, the links pointing back to you are going to be authoritative and helpful for your own SEO.”