Remember the good ole days? You could go to a friend and ask to write a guest post for his blog, he would write one for yours and you would benefit from one another's traffic and the backlink? It was fairly cut and dried and seemed like an easy way to market your business and get content for your blog from others.
Today, Google has made so many algorithm changes in the last few years that most SEO experts feel as though their heads are spinning around at warp speed. There are as many questions as there are new methods for getting a good search engine ranking from Google.
- Should you let others guest blog on your site?
- Should you guest blog on other sites?
- Do backlinks make a difference anymore?
- Should you not worry about all this nonsense and just focus on reaching new customers by getting your info out there?
We'll answer these questions in this article and offer a few tips that will help you make a smart decision about guest blogging for your business.
To be sure, the experts all disagree on what the right approach is. Miguel Salcido, a search marketing agency expert for eight years, falls on the side of any exposure and backlink helps with white-hat marketing. In his article titled Guest Blogging Vital to Any SEO Campaign, he says:
For any business that’s implementing a SEO strategy, guest blogging is one tactic that should not be lightly ignored.
However, James Finlayson, the SEO Manager at PureBlue, has a different take and says you should be very worried about your method in the guest blogging. He suggests:
One person authoring the majority of your links looks like link building – because it is.
I'd like to suggest that the truth is right smack in the middle. Watching where you guest post and who posts on your page is vital, but guest posting is still a valid way to promote.
A Look at Changes in Google's Algorithm
During intensive studies of Google's algorithm, which is forever changing these days, a few things have become clear to me as I try out things with my own websites, study advice from other experts and even have worked ranking pages for six months.
- Google is paying attention to the quality of websites backlinking to you.
- Google cares whether the content you write is something you can be proud of. Are you sharing it with others? Posting on your social network sites? Are others sharing your work as well?
- Google cares about who you link to from your site and the quality of that website's content.
How do these points translate into the decisions you make about guest blogging?
Blogging for Other Sites
Let's say you decide that you do want to write a few high quality guest posts and offer each one to a website that doesn't compete with your own business, but complements you. How can you be sure that the link back to your own site is one that will improve your rank with Google, or at least not hurt it?
- Choose a site that does not link to spammy sites, have a ton of ads or link to low value sites. Yes, even the other links at this site are very important.
- Read through the content on the site. Is it of value? Would you stay around and read it?
- What is the site's rank on Google? Stay away from a low-ranking site as it could pull your own ranking down.
- Ask the site owner to only link back to your site where it makes sense and not to overdo it. At times, it is okay to simply refer to your site and not link at all as Google Penguin 2.0 is thought to either be able to now or in the near future tell how many times a site is referred to even if there is not a link. Google is looking for buzz about your product.
Allowing Others to Blog on Your Site
Who you link to from your site is just as important as who is linking to you. A few things to keep in mind:
- Don't limit yourself to a single guest blogger and only have links going out to one other site.
- Check the quality of the site you will backlink to. Is it spammy? Is the content good?
- Only accept articles that are on topic for your site and well written. Putting lackluster content on your site can harm you and won't help the guest blogger much either.
- Don't require a link back to your site, but encourage the guest blogger to talk up his post on social media and in discussion groups.
- Don't announce that it is a guest post. Google is pretty smart. Don't you think they'll probably look for the words “guest post”, “guest blogger” or even just “guest”?
- Don't allow guest bloggers to put links into their own articles or bios. In fact, don't promise a link in exchange for publishing their article. You may not want to link to their site, but feel the value is of worth. You can mention their site without linking to it, which is still of value, because if the article is great (and if it isn't, it shouldn't be on your site), then that person's author rank will rise with Google. Google addresses this issue in their own link schemes information. They point blank tell you what not to do, so pay attention!
Some Additional Things Google May Implement Soon
Based on Internet chatter and things Google itself has said, I expect that there will be some changes coming down the pipe. If you can get out in front of these changes, you have the potential to increase your site ranking once Penguin updates again. While some of these are guesses, they are educated guesses.
More Penalties for Irrelevant Content
Google has started to look closely at content in the last few years. Is it relevant? Is it well-written? Is it unique to your site? Does it offer information you can't find anywhere else? It stands to reason that Google will also look closely at blog posts, even those created by guests. If it does not relate to your site's overall theme, expect your site to be devalued by Google.
Keyword Rich Text Links Are a Think of the Past
Many SEO experts still put that keyword in the first paragraph of an article, link it out and use it X number of times in the article. This doesn't work well anymore and soon may not work at all. Google is aware of these “tricks”, probably more so than the typical SEO “expert”, and changes the algorithm consistently in the favor of the web browsing reader and against those playing games.
Author Rank Gains Importance
Google already looks at author rank. This looks at how often a person publishes. How many places on the web. What the content is (quality or not?). As you gain in experience and reach, your Google rank will grow. Finding guest bloggers with a prominent author rank is beneficial to your site.
Social Media Cheats Get Busted
Google is well aware that you can now pay a service $5 and get 100 Twitters about your site or post. I won't name that site, because it is best you don't use it. You can be sure that Google will be implementing changes to ensure those who cheat the system and try to make their sites look more popular than they actually are on social media will suffer in either the most recent (May 22, 2013) Penguin update or upcoming ones.
Keep it All in Perspective
Matt Cutt's, head of Google’s Webspam team, said in a recent video that Google's goal is not to shut down solid, whitehat SEO tactics, but blackhat tactics that aim to shortcut the system by taking the easy way around rather than providing quality for web browsers. Pretty simple.
Like it or not, for now, Google is the largest source of web traffic for most websites. It is important to be aware of changes and trends so that you can adjust your content accordingly. Spend some time cleaning up old guest posts on your site that might be link heavy or unrelated to current content.
In the end, it all boils down to creating great content that others will want to share. If you focus on that, much of the SEO issues will be automatically taken care of and your job as you go back and make sure you rank as high as possible will be much easier than if you try to play games and use tricks.
Image source: Lego artwork by Sean Kenney