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:
- the brilliant My Blog Guest run by Ann Smarty
- Cathy Stucker’s Blogger LinkUp
- Or Good Morning Bloggers, run by CLD’s blogging friend Cassaleenie
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
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.
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.