Is Guest Posting Dead?

Some in the SEO industry are arguing that guest blogging is dead. Here at Go Up, guest blogging is still considered a fundamental part of any decent Inbound Marketing strategy. But it is just one component of a very large mechanism. It is vital that it is used correctly.
  • Although Guest Blogging is far from dead, it has certainly become over used in this day and age.
  • Think about it, if it was spam every time a blogger mentioned a brand on their blog, then every major brand on the planet would be engaged in the worst kind of spam.
  • Guest Blogging is a fundamental part of any decent Inbound Marketing strategy. But it is just one component of a very large mechanism.

I had an interesting message from an SEO in Indonesia a few days ago. In it he effectively said that ‘Guest Blogging is Dead’. Now we hear things like this a lot ‘SEO is dead’, ‘Social Media is Dead’, (a few people were saying this after the disastrous Facebook flotation). But I had never before heard ‘Guest Blogging is Dead’.

When I say that he said this to us, I am not entirely telling the truth. He said it to one of our clients. Naturally, our client was a little startled. After all, Guest Posting is one of the strategies used by Go Up for our clients (along with content creation, online PR, onsite optimisation, Social Media etc).

I thought, however, that the topic was interesting enough to write a guest blog about it. He does, after all, have a point. Although Guest Blogging is far from dead, it has certainly become over used in this day and age. It has become an almost industry default… the be all and end all of the majority of SEO campaigns. You have many companies who now only focus on Guest Blogging, ignoring every other important factor in Google’s algorithm. There is definitely, therefore, an argument to say that ‘too much Guest Blogging is going to be a waste of your time’.

His main concern was that this was just another form of spammy link building that, in time, is going to be clocked by Google and devalued.

To begin exploring this issue,it is first sensible to see what Google themselves have to say about it. The following is a video by Matt Cutts, head of the Google Web Spam team, speaking about Guest Blog:

Matt Cutts on Guest Posts

To paraphrase, he says that it is entirely dependent on the quality and quantity of the article posts. If a guest post is written well, and if you aren’t getting too many of them, then they are a great tool.

Guest Blogging has become so imperative in the past year as a result of the Penguin Update. In short, it is the one of the only ways that Google like to see links nowadays. Let me explain. Google rely on other website’s endorsements (or links) in order to accurately rank a website. This is why links are so important. The problem is that, over the years, links have been manipulated to work against Google. Poor SEOs have used links to manipulate the the algorithms so that websites that should not rank well, do. It is a Catch 22 for Google. Google is, when it boils down to it, a link search engine, and so links will always be an incredibly important factor in what they do. It is what originally made them better than every other search engine, is how they crawl the Internet and their constant refinement of their link-based algorithm allows them to stay ahead of the game. But it has been these very links that have also undermined their efforts to produce the most fresh, high quality content possible as websites that have no right to rank well have been able to as a result of spammy link building.

Because of this, Google have webmaster guidelines, and constantly advise SEO firms (such as ours) on what constitutes a good link, and what constitutes a bad link.

There is a lot of discussion in the SEO community about exactly what they are looking for. But it all boils down to this:

The Link must be there to provide value to the end user, and must not be there solely to garner Google ranking benefits, or link juice as we call it.

So, what links provide benefit to the end user?

This has a very simple answer. If the link is directing a genuinely interested party towards content that they wish to find, then this is a good link. THE LINK MUST BE THERE WITH THE IDEA THAT SOMEONE WILL FOLLOW IT.

So, why Guest Post?

Blogs are great. A good blog is popular, trusted and has loads of daily readers. When you write an article on a popular blog then that article will be read by people. If the article has a link in it, then that link may well be followed by many of these readers. These links therefore are living endorsements. So, as far as Google (an endorsement engine) is concerned, they are ideal ways to rank a website.

In terms of SEO, the benefits are tremendous as well. The blogs are popular, have high Page Rank and are relevant, and the article itself is relevant as well. You get loads of link-juice in a legitimate way.

What kind of guest posts should you build?

The blog posts that should be posted are written in good English. They are interesting, unique, timely and topical. They are all researched and written to be informative or entertaining, or both.

There are two main kinds of Guest Posts that are acceptible:

1. Written by a blogger.

In this kind of guest post, a blogger has come across your brand and wants to write about it. This is the least risky kind of guest post. It is following, by the book, how Google utilise their link ranking system. A blogger endorses your brand, and so Google follows suit.

Why is this not spammy?

Bloggers are an incredibly active community. They mention and endorse millions of brands every single day. An example: A blogger comes to London. They visit Harrods and have a great time. They then go home and decide to write about Harrods on their blog, telling people what a great brand it is. They include a link to Harrods for user convenience. As stated, this link is why Google’s link based algorithm exists in the first place. It is an endorsement. Google simply take someone else’s endorsement and use it as their own. Think about it, if it was spam every time a blogger mentioned a brand on their blog, then every major brand on the planet would be engaged in the worst kind of spam. Our job as SEOs would be to try to prevent bloggers from writing about brands… counter intuitive to the idea of PR!

2. Written by your brand.

In this kind of post, the brand engage in an active PR campaign, intended to increase its catchment and brand awareness. Instead of writing a bland piece about their brand, they write something that they think users will find genuinely interesting, about a subject that they are experts in, and thus have a valuable treasure trove of knowledge to divulge. This content makes their brand interesting to the user, who will then follow the link back to their website. These articles are written by a member of your team, who can be credited. The brand make it very clear in the article that it is a member of the team writing them, so that Google understand exactly what is going on (incase it ever did go under manual review).

Why is this not spammy?

This is a standard advertising tactic that is used by every major brand on the planet. When you open a copy of GQ and Paul Smith has written a ‘how to wear your suit’ article, people read it because it is written by Paul Smith (who they admire as an expert in fashion and will therefore take his advice). Paul Smith gets the benefit of additional brand exposure, as he is credited with writing the article.

Blog post outreach (as we call it in house) is taking this standard traditional marketing strategy and applying it to the digital sphere. As long as the article is well written, well placed and of genuine interest to the end user, then this is a really positive thing. It is placing good content on the web. So long as you do not cover up that it is written in house then it is understood that this is just part of an in-house outreach campaign.

That said, because this content is written in house, if it ever did go under manual review the link would be credited less link juice than the out-of-house endorsements (as it is a brand endorsing itself.) If this kind of blog posting is not done in too much bulk and so long as the blogs that they are placed on are quality blogs, then this would not be considered as spam and the link would still pass on link juice.

How should you meet bloggers?

There are regular Blogger networking events in most major cities, where you can meet and befriend many bloggers. Do not go in straight away with the old ‘please place articles on your site for us’. Go to these events and become a recurring member. When you have made genuine friendships then you will be in a good position to ask the blogger to allow you to guest post for them.

You should also be active on many forums and other blogs, writing helpful (non-link) comments in their comment boxes and sending the blogger friendly messages on occasions. Through this you will slowly befriend these bloggers.

If you start up your own blogs, make them really good and interesting, then over time you will probably find that bloggers start to contact you directly with ideas!

When these friendships are fruitful and genuine, see if you can’t leverage them!

What are spammy guest posts?

There are many forms of Guest Posting that are not acceptable. This mostly involves article spinning, mass article submissions, article nuking or article farming. The key common factor which links all of these strategies is that there is little in it for the end user. They are there strictly for SEO.

Article farming.

Article Farming is usually called Content Farming. This is when a blog writes very low-level content crammed with keywords to attract searchers. The other form of content framing is when a website ‘scrapes’ articles from other websites… essentially making them a database of loads of different articles, none of which are unique. This actually has very little to do with link building.

Article spinning.

This is when someone finds a good article, and rewrites it, changing the wording slightly so that it is not flagged up as duplicate content. The idea is to, again, hit keywords and provide interesting content without having to do any of the work yourself. It is often used for link building as well: a good article will be modified to make it look unique, a couple of links will be put in and the article will be sent out to different bloggers for inclusion on their websites.

Article nuking.

Article nuking was an old-school strategy that was used pre Panda and Penguin updates. Article nuking is when an article is written, links included, and then pinged out to many thousands of different content farms, with guarantee of inclusion. So, one article would be on about two thousands different sites, all of which were very low quality and had not active reader base.

Mass article submissions.

This is when one article is submitted to a bunch of different bloggers, in the hope that at least one of them will accept it. Think of it as a press release on steroids. There is no relationship with the blogger and it is all a bit pie in the sky. Although this is nearly impossible for Google to detect, problems arise when more than one blogger agrees to publish your article, and all of a sudden you have duplicate content issues which are very easy to detect.

Make sure to avoid the aforementioned tactics like the plague.

So, what does a good guest post look like?

This is an example of a Guest Post that we did for a company called Exec Runs.

www.lifewelllived.co.uk/the-most-kick-ass-sidekicks-in-history

We contacted the Blogger a while ago and, after lots of sucking up, finally proposed us writing a Guest Blog for them. The blog post, we believe, is funny, interesting, unique and very readable. It is on a good blog with a good following. Setting aside any Google benefits that the link will also provide, Exec Runs will generate a lot of traffic as a result of the link alone.

This is a good post on a good blog. It used imagination, creativity and research. These are three features that should be crucial in all of your blogging.

Closing thoughts.

Guest Blogging is a fundamental part of any decent Inbound Marketing strategy. But it is just one component of a very large mechanism. It should always be used in conjunction with a plethora of other components. This is how you make the cogs turn and the traffic and rankings increase.