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Guest Blogging: the what, the why, and the how

Gareth By    |    June 1, 2012 Back to Posts

CLD customers will know that we’re quite keen on guest blogging here. We spend quite a lot of time talking to bloggers, marketers and website owners about providing content – in fact, we’ve probably spoken to about 300 over the last few months.

We don’t just like Guest Blogging because it’s fun. We like it because it works: it helps our customers expand their reach and increase traffic – and it actually adds some value to someone else’s website. As part of a digital marketing strategy, guest blogging can have a real impact. Here’s the what, the why and the how…

What is it?

Guest Blogging is basically writing an article for somebody else’s website. As you browse the web, you’ll find guest posts all over the place – bloggers are participating in communities, providing something that their readers (and readers of other websites) will appreciate, and in return, getting a link back to their website.

Why do we do it?

Some people do it for the backlinks – for example, putting in a keyword as anchor text within the text, and linking back to their site in the hope that they’ll rank higher for that keyword.

We do it for brand purposes. We don’t like to link within the text, unless we’re pointing the reader towards pertinent information that relates to the article. Indeed, pertinent information could be found anywhere on the web, not just our clients’ websites. Therefore, we only link to clients in the author bio at the end of the article – so if the readers are interested in finding out more about the author, they can.

Yes, there is an ultimate aim in improving rankings and traffic, but that’s everyone’s aim. Guest blogging helps us achieve that aim in an ethical manner, and instead of polluting the internet with rubbish that nobody wants to read, it’s adding a little value, so it helps us sleep at night.

How do we do it?

First of all, we have to find bloggers or websites to contribute to. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s not. For example, you can search for “guest blog” + keyword, or “write for us” + keyword, and you’ll find a whole list of people already accepting guest blogs. You can search on Twitter for guest blog opportunities, too. People want content for their websites, and they’re quite open about asking for it. You can sign up to a number of services, such as:

Secondly, we have to assess whether it’s worth our time writing an article for the website. So – we’ll ask ourselves: is the website relevant? Is the website popular? For example, do people already engage with this blog through social media?

Thirdly, we then have to assess what kind of content is appropriate for that blog. Will it fit in with the rest of the blog, and will it be of interest to the blogger’s readership? Can we think of something that hasn’t already been covered? Equally, is the content we’re writing relevant to our client?

Coming up with content is the hard bit. Thinking tangentially, and especially thinking about your blogger’s readers, is the key. Knowing about your industry is essential, and if the client can help draft the content, then even better. There are a number of strategies for content creation – such as taking a topical news item and taking a fresh angle, or curating facts about a current issue and bringing it to life with your own opinion and writing style. The key here is this: find the blog first, write the content second. Do it the other way round, and you’re stuck with articles that you’ll have to work on in order to make them acceptable.

Then, we’ll contact the blogger with either a pitch or some content that we’ve written specifically for them. There’s nothing covert, no secrets here – we’re working on behalf of our customers, but we’re not promoting them or their services.

Some golden rules that we always follow:

  • No promotions, no pitches: this isn’t an advert, it’s someone else’s website we’re talking about.
  • Provide something that’s unique – i.e. not published anywhere else
  • Keep it relevant to the client, and to the blogger
  • Always credit your sources
  • Respect their editorial guidelines
  • If someone comments on your article, comment back
Finally, this is about building relationships. If the blogger wants to write a guest post for us, fantastic! If the blogger wants further content, fantastic! Everyone’s a winner in Guest Blogging – or at least, they should be.

The results

What we want to see is a long-term increase in targeted traffic – and ultimately sales. What we have seen, with regular guest blogging alongside other strategies, is an upward trend in both.  The search engines are beginning to get it right: if you are an authority, you will be rewarded with higher rankings and better traffic in the long run.

The future

Everyone is guest blogging now – and if they aren’t, they should be. This implies that it could be open to abuse. I’ve seen examples of guest blog pitches with spun content (i.e. plagiarised content with words replaced by automated software), or pitches with content that has been stolen. I’ve seen brazen guest blog pitches for SEO reasons alone, and all of them have gone in the bin.

This therefore implies that guest blogging will be in the sights of Google before long. Which guest blogs have been placed just for “link juice”, and which guest blogs are honest and ethical? It will be interesting to see where they draw the line. Google’s attack on ‘splogs’ was legitimate, but how will it define quality of guest blogs and the links that derive from them? How can it define what is editorial and to what extent a guest blog is human-controlled?

Let’s assume that Google can differentiate, and remind ourselves of the motto – add value, and you’ll win.

Some credit to give here: that image above is from the Electronic Frontier Foundation (cc / Flickr) – http://www.eff.org. We think it’s brilliant, and so are they. Enjoy. 

Addendum: this article by James Agate demonstrates how to evaluate guest blog opportunities in some serious depth – well worth a read:

  • http://myblogguest.com/blog/ Ann Smarty

    Thanks a lot for your kind words and for including MyBlogGuest in the article!

  • http://bestcollegess.com Ehab Attia

    Enjoyed every bit of your blog post. Really looking forward to read more. Fantastic.

  • http://www.twitter.com/clevergareth Gareth

    Thanks Ehab, glad you enjoyed it!

  • http://lab41.co Alex @SEO (Search Engine Optimisation)

    Great article. I think I have read over 30 articles on the subject now. (Yes, been stuck n SEOmoz for a while!)

    I like the way you sum it up.

    Can you explain a little about relevancy for a guest post? I.e. we have some obscure niches that are a little backward, so it’s tricky to guest post directly in the niche. We’re thinking of higher level categories, but then the relevancy is getting diluted. (i.e. maybe only 10% of the readers are interested in the specific niche)

    How do you handle the above?

  • Pingback: Guest Posting - Fantastic Summary | Business Website Development | Join In Our Online Web Success | Lab41()

  • http://www.twitter.com/clevergareth Gareth

    Hi Alex, Thanks :)
    To a certain degree, you’re always going to dilute relevancy in obscure niches. What I do is focus first on a core group of highly relevant blogs, and then work my way out into broader themes. For example, CRM software – there’s a handful of expert blogs accepting guest posts already, and a handful who I might target. But then, once that’s exhausted, where do you go? Broaden it out into the people affected by the software and you’ve got sales people, call centre managers… marketers even, and there’s plenty of good marketing blogs.
    I think that so long as the article is interesting to the blog’s readership, you can get away with a brand link in your bio even you’ve diluted your relevancy. Just don’t offer a payday loans article to a blog about ice cream 😉
    What niches are you thinking of? Perhaps I can help?
    Gareth

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