UPDATE: Read our January 2014 update on Guest Posting.
Guest blogging is dead they say. The Panda will get you! Google does not allow link building! As Stephen Fry might proclaim on QI, these opening statements are a load of old poppy-cock, albeit they do have an element of truth. Link building is by no means dead and is still very beneficial to your search engine ranking – but the rules for guest blogging have changed.
To understand the nature of guest blogging it helps to know the history of link building and how search engines grade websites. Basically, Google et al want quality websites to offer their users. It makes sense really, search engines are a business, so they want to deliver the best possible product. And your website is a product of search engines.
The search giant uses algorithms to rank websites, a series of complicated computer data that is able to identify indicators and deliver details analytical reports. The data is collected by search engines spiders – sometimes referred to as crawlers or robots – in order to grade a website for quality, and rank it accordingly. The more Google points you score, the higher you rank.
However, Google could not accurately rank websites based on data collected from a single website alone; they needed users to tell them whether the site had good quality content that is engaging and informative – so they came up with the idea of link building.
The principle behind link building is that when third party sites include a hyperlink from their website to yours, it is perceived the reason is because your content ticks all the right boxes and is worth a visit. Google´s idea was to use incoming links as data to assess the quality of a website. Unfortunately, things didn´t turn out as planned.
Online business owners started using link farms and smattering guest posts around the web in order to earn incoming links that would improve their page rank. Google execs took firm action and unleashed the deadly Penguin and Panda combo to identify weak links that manipulated search results. Web owners were subsequently penalized and thousands lost their page rank.
Penguin and Panda are still lurking in the background and will penalise any websites that are found to have inorganic links. A penalty involves the suspension of your website from the search engine until you remove inorganic links. Needless to say, penalties could be very damaging to your business.
In order to create a level playing field and ensure incoming links from third party sites are genuine, Google also introduced other rules that restrict SEO companies and web owners from manipulating search results.
They are as follows:
- The site you are contributing to must bear some resemblance to your online business
- You are not allowed to pay for links
- You should not leave random links on forums etc.
- Do not use link farms (firms offering 100 links for $20)
- Only approach reputable online magazines and blogs
Guest blogging is not impossible and is by no means dead, but it is a little more difficult, especially now Google robots are policing inorganic fodder. Remember, inorganic links can be identified, so if you write an article for low ranking blogs it is obvious you are link baiting. Saying that, if your blog is low-ranking as it’s new, it’s not a good idea to go for top-ranking blogs only either.
Ideally, target web magazines as they carry more weight with the Big G. The way to distinguish between reputable web magazines and lowly blogs is that editors are only permitted to publish links to business websites in the author bio at the bottom of the article, whereas blog editors usually accept one or two links in the body of the article.
Authors that publish their author bio will still be credited with a link and once Google+ kicks in you will also be awarded scores for being an authority in your chosen subject.
Identifying websites that accept guest blogs
Your first task is to identify websites that accept articles from third party contributors. Common search terms are:
- Write for us
- Contributing writers
- Guest blog
- Writer´s guidelines
- Submission guidelines
- Submit a guest post
- Become an author
Once you have identified suitable targets you should read the submissions guidelines carefully. Make a note of the word count, whether photos should be included, how the article should be delivered and a contact.
The guidelines should also explain whether you should approach the editor with an article idea or a fully-written article. Some websites also say they only accept guest posts upon payment. Avoid these websites as they are damaging to your page rank.
Submitting guest posts
Editors tend to be protective of the content they publish and the style they prefer. Needless to say, articles should be well written, so if you do not have a gift for writing do not waste your time writing articles as they will be rejected. Hire a professional content writer.
To gauge the style of the magazine, read several articles and assess what type of articles are published; whether it is written in first or third person, is humorous, educational, descriptive, sales material or academic? How many words are used in a paragraph? Are short sentences used more than long sentences or is there an even flow to the rhythm?
Analysing published articles in this way will help you find a voice to use, decide which angle is best suited for your article (and the target audience of the site) and how the layout should be structured. For example:
- How often are sub-headings used
- Do images have to of a certain size (both in MBs and dimensions)
- What kinds of articles tend to attract the most comments/shares
To approach an editor send a brief email proposing your article idea and why you are qualified to write the piece, or if requested attach the completed article and introduce yourself – but keep it brief. Editors tend to be busy and don’t like to be bothered over and over again. This is something that I personally get a lot. “Have you read my article yet” every day is only going to irritate an editor. Also don’t expect editors to hold your hand through the process, if it’s rejected, it’s up to you to figure out why, not the editor to give you extensive feedback.
Guest blogging remains a valid technique in 2014, but it also requires a talent for writing and the ability to present that to your industry, using the style of the site that you’re writing for. It takes work, of course, but it’s worth it in terms of building quality industry relationships and getting your name out there.