The 2 Sides of Guest Posting: I’m on the “It Works” Side, How About You?
When somebody mentions SEO or link building these days, the first thing you think about is usually the word “hassle”.
The second, though, tends to be “guest posting”.
That’s how popular guest posting is in our niche at present. Even entrepreneurs that I bump into once in a while know about guest posting, which is shocking when you compare that to how things were a few years ago.
Here’s the thing, though: popularity doesn’t always equal approbation… or not for long, anyway.
Guest posting or guest blogging is now being labeled as a waste of time by a lot of people. In fact, it practically has a haters’ group already. Interestingly, some members seem to be people who once used to champion it.
No longer, though. People who used to praise it on their blog posts have U-turned and even tell their readers not to do it anymore. I’ve seen some interesting about-faces on this recently (you probably have too!).
How did it get to this point?
It’s not that hard to find the beginnings of this. When Matt Cutts put this up on his blog, things started to fall apart.
People assumed that the succeeding updates would have a Batman-like way to detect guest posts. The fallout from such an assumption was predictable.
Guest posting opportunities dwindled. The number of links on the post were restricted. Links were no-followed.
Sites that saw their traffic drop panicked, removing all their guest posts. Sponsored post disclaimers were put up. Those that accepted payments for guest posts suddenly became cold.
It was a rowdy time and some people drank the Kool-Aid without questioning it.
But for myself, I always had a bit of Stewie in me (see the GIF below). I tend not to slurp up stuff until I’ve broken a thing or two first.
Here’s My Take
You may be itching to point out that something has been broken already: guest posting, specifically. Some even like to go further. Guest posting is dead, they say.
Funny. I sneaked a peek at that funeral and saw the coffin was empty.
Fact is, guest posting is still alive and well. It works. People still do it. Companies still reach out to other bloggers just to get word out about their event or product. Even more so today with the popularity of influencer and blogger outreach.
The reason it isn’t dead is that it isn’t actually too different from posting content on your own blog. It’s still just content. Content still matters.
Good content, especially.
All that Google’s algorithm really declared war on was shoddy content. It’s a bit hard to see that if all you’re looking at are the unfortunately sweeping condemnations Cutts made about guest posting initially (condemnations he tempered later, including in a forum after someone pointed out a valid reason for inviting guest posters). But it’s the truth. Even amid the hysteria after Cutts’s statement, in fact, there were already some who saw it.
Ashley Faulkes put it succinctly: he wrote that Google’s statement was just a scare tactic, “a warning shot” to stop the spammier SEOs from abusing the technique.
(Of course, Google also went ahead and claimed an outright kill after its warning shot, but we all get ahead of ourselves on occasion, don’t we?)
Want more proof that it’s alive? Think about those big publisher sites that mainly rely on contributors, for example. Aren’t those guest posts, and a lot of them, at that? How come they weren’t affected?
Guest posting only got so much flak because of human nature. It came under fire not because it failed to work, but because it worked too well at the start.
As with anything that works, people copied it and mass produced it without worrying about the quality at all. It got so crappy that even people who couldn’t write to save their lives were doing it!
Let’s bring up something else for a second. Some of you oldies might remember content spinning (whatever happened to that) from back then. It actually worked pretty well, until people started dishing out crap and wouldn’t stop. It eventually died a peaceful death along with most of the software for it.
Now, guest posting is getting blasted by guns similar to those that blasted spinning back then. There’s a big difference in this case, though.
Unlike spinning, guest posting will never die.
It just won’t. It’s not just that it still works: it’s also that it’s such a natural outcome of the Web’s nature.
The Internet allows just about anyone to act as a publisher, and a lot of people don’t restrict themselves to self-publication, do they? It’s not an activity exclusive to SEO either. A lot of people publish content from others simply because they genuinely find it interesting. Furthermore, it doesn’t have an inbuilt tendency to produce poor content, unlike SEO-style content spinning.
Even guest post placements with payments will actually survive. Honestly, there’s really no way for the algorithm to know that you accepted a payment for that past guest post on your site unless you were manually flagged.
Those who stopped accepting back then realized this eventually, you know. They’ve even started accepting payments again. Some of them just put up sponsored post disclaimers for “compliance”. I guess that makes them feel safer.
Stuff To Support My Position
I’ve done my share of guest posting work for years. Both in the past and also some more recently.
As you can see, they work pretty well. The traffic I got was from referrals from guest posts and the traffic from increased rankings.
For this blog, I plan to go on a guest posting spree by the 2nd half of the year.
I’ve only published a handful of guest posts and it’s been worth every second.
It’s obviously not that easy to create great content. It takes time, research and a lot of relationship building (and keeping track of relationship building alone is hard enough!).
It’s very easy to take the easy route and find an article network or sites that randomly accept guest posts without moderation of submitted content.
Don’t fall into the dark side because that’s when you’ll actually start wasting your time. That’s when you’ll get little to no results. You might end up one of those people who preach about how guest posting doesn’t work.
So, to cut things short, should you start publishing guest posts?
Normally, my answer is a resounding “YES”.
But with how it is now, I think it’s better to ask this first: WHY do you want to do it?
Traffic from Guest Posts – Is it Possible?
In most cases, you just get some traffic spikes and then the referral traffic disappears. That’s perfectly normal.
It’s also possible to get traffic from guest posts consistently if you keep up the work.
Here’s a simple 4-step plan that I follow each time:
- Target quality blogs that actually have the market you want to reach.
- Write a guest post that’s equal to or above the quality of what you would allow to be posted on your blog.
- Make sure you do some keyword research for SEO. It’s a big bonus in the long run. I’ll show you why later on in this post.
- Have a system on how you want to promote it. It can be through your email list, social media, media buys, etc.
If you plan to get traffic through guest posts, then you need to make sure you plan it out.
You don’t just go out and get guest posting opportunities, thinking it will automatically bring in traffic to your website.
A lot of people put out guest posts with that exact mindset. They end up getting disappointed.
Why does it happen? A lot of reasons. Because they put guest posts on blogs with readers who aren’t interested in what they’re writing about. Sometimes, they put posts on blogs with little to no traffic!
Those who do guest posts like that are usually doing it for the “links”, whether they know it or not. They’re not really in it for traffic and brand recognition.
But technically, you don’t even need a link to get a boost in traffic after guest posting. Even if your own blog is just listed in your bio on the guest post (an unlinked mention), you can still entice people to copy the URL to their address bars by supplying an interesting, valuable read.
It’s even possible to parlay multiple guest posts into boosted traffic as well as authority for your own Web properties.
A yogini, Silvia Mordini, presents a great example. She runs her own yoga blog, and also does guest posts. Her pieces have been on a number of the most popular yoga websites: Daily Cup of Yoga, MindBodyGreen, Yoganonymous, and Elephant Journal are just a few examples.
But Mordini doesn’t stop there. She contributes to magazines like Mantra Yoga + Health too.
That level of exposure makes her name more recognizable for people in her niche. Even if some of her guest posts were to lack a link to her website, the ones that did have a link would be likelier to have that link clicked on.
All because the chances of the reader having run into her name and content before (and very possibly liking it) are higher due to those guest posts.
Then there’s the benefit to her name/brand: if someone interested in taking yoga classes with her searches for her on the Web, he will see her contributions for several of the bigger yoga sites. That’s a good thing for her authority.
Links from Guest Posts
Is it OK if you simply want that backlink and don’t worry about the traffic?
Yeah, just do it. Nothing wrong with it as long as you keep it clean. You probably want to do it in scale, too.
The issue is that you aren’t maximizing your reach and your link value. It’s also very probable for you to churn out crappy content that nobody really needs.
You’re simply wasting your time because you create that content only for it to go unread. Still, it’s not always without rewards: you create 10 more and you see that you went up 1 spot higher in the rankings after that, for instance.
That’s nice. But here’s the big question: is it worth it?
Sure, you want to improve your SEO to improve your site’s rank. Getting links is a big part of that equation. But is the practical difference that change achieves actually worth the effort?
What if you have an e-commerce site, for example, and that little bump up the SERPs doesn’t make a dollar’s difference in terms of sales or even brand recognition? Would you call it worth it?
What if you put that time and effort into a single guest post on a targeted site that’s actually worth something, though? What then?
Maybe that one guest post wouldn’t only bring in traffic, new subscribers and readers, but it could also bring your rankings up higher than they would go with just 1 link.
Maybe your post could be so good that a great, really authoritative site would pick it up. You could get more trust rank passed to your site with a single great link versus 10 low quality links. It would even work for you in the long run instead of just for a week.
Oh, and there could even be a good chance that your guest post would rank on its own if the right website publishes it.
Imagine that. Wouldn’t that be something?
Let’s talk about another good guest posting example. K.M. Weiland is a published writer who writes both fiction books and guides for other writers. She also has a blog where she delivers advice to would-be authors.
Weiland posts on many other blogs, though. You can find articles from her on Write to Done, WriteHacked, The Write Practice, and JaneFriedman.com.
These are all sites with good readerships made up of the exact people Weiland targets with her writing advice books. They comprise people who aren’t just willing to go through articles in their entirety (most writers are avid readers) but who are also more ready to engage authors and their texts than others.
So Weiland’s guest posts with their solid, actionable advice on how to structure novels or raise the odds of getting published do her a lot of good on these places.
They pass on more link value than from smaller blogs, for one thing. They also reach more of the right audience than they would on other sites and give her the perfect platform for demonstrating her expertise… which serves as a sort of teaser advertisement for her guidebooks on writing.
Should you Accept Guest Posts?
I’ve been in the middle of a couple of heated debates about this question.
My take is, it depends on you if you want to accept them. You’re in control of what you publish. There’s nothing wrong with publishing them as long as you want to.
How about external links? Google won’t punish you because of external links with no reason. Sure, they can “mess up” sometimes but it’s highly doubtful that you’ll be hurt because of a couple of links to another good website.
Rule of thumb: Publish because you like the content and the links on the post should offer value to the reader.
The Real Value of Guest Posts
Here’s the thing, it’s a lot of work but if done right, you can convert the traffic into email subscribers, loyal readers and even into customers.
You’ll be seen as the expert. Just treat the backlinks as a bonus. Once you do, you’ll be able to focus to create some really awesome content.
Here’s a rather quick example. I published an article on Matt Capala’s SEO blog.
For an article that promoted everybody else instead of myself, it still brought in some good conversions. Traffic could’ve been better if I only put in a CTA and focused on my own stuff but alas, it was not meant to be like that.
So, how did this turn into a valuable guest post? It’s because I put in the research work, optimized it, went on promoting it (so did Matt!) and top it all off, it was a blog with my target traffic.
It brought in some great traffic for him and I got some, too. It was a win-win for both of us.
Guest Post Best Practices
Here are some guest post “tactics” that you can apply to make the most out of your next guest post.
– Create guest post content that adds value to what’s already on the site, or “one-ups” it.
In most cases, you will be posting on a blog that has accepted guest posts in the past.
You can come up with pretty cool ideas simply by looking at what’s available. You can continue where an old post left off. You can improve upon it.
You can do a follow up post that helps the reader take the next step. In turn you can ask the original author to help you out and promote it. You can also have the blog owner put a link on the old guest post to your new one.
It’s a pretty good strategy that also helps with SEO.
– Feel free to link to other worthy, relevant pieces of content, not just yours.
As mentioned above, you can link to old posts on the blog you are posting on. You can also link to external sites that add value to the reader. Don’t keep linking to your stuff. Share the love!
– Apply a content upgrade strategy if allowed.
To make the most of the traffic you get, you want them to convert into email subscribers.
Try to offer a content upgrade for the content you offered. If not, then at least try and get them to your page so that you can ask for that email.
– Add a call-to-action (CTA) in the body if it’s allowed.
Some blogs will give you a lot of freedom when it comes to what you put in the body, so if you have that chance, try to add a CTA at the end to send people over to your content or a landing page to collect their email addresses.
– Do a clever guest post bio.
Sometimes, you can get clever with your bio. You can lead it to anywhere you want. To your social accounts, to your website, heck, even a landing page where you convert them into email subscribers.
If you can’t get a CTA in the body, this is your last chance to pitch for that click.
– Don’t skimp on the images.
Yeah, yeah, you already spent a lot of time working on the content. Images can be costly and the last thing you want is to spend more time to create graphics or pay someone to do them for you.
Don’t think like that.
A couple of good-looking graphics can make your post go viral or at the least, the image can go viral in Pinterest. You will also be able to rank them in Google Images.
Those are still referral channels that bring in extra traffic to your website, so don’t skimp on them.
– Promote it.
After you publish a post, you have to help promote it. It’s a joint effort and it usually ends with great long-term results. A lot of the blogs you post to will never promote guest posts but that should never stop you.
That makes it all the more important for you to do some promotional work.
You’ve already put in the time to create the content. Now get some people to see it. You’d be surprised once it starts ranking for some really good keywords.
With a good enough traction, you’ll even be invited back to do another guest post.
– Reply to comments.
Comments are often overlooked. People publish guest posts and they never show up again on that site because they already got the backlink.
The truth is, you can get a lot more value if you actually engage with the people that leave comments on the post.
You can build new relationships and sometimes, you can get more guest post opportunities from it.
Key Takeaways/Action Steps
- Follow my 4 step plan above. Download a checklist here.
- There’s really no need to think that guest posting is dead. It’s not and it never will be.
- Guest blogging will bring in results if you want it to and are willing to work for what you want. Focus on quality, grammar and what kind of value you give the readers.
- Always have a goal for each of your guest posts. It will help you measure results.
- Don’t skimp on quality. It matters.
- Never overlook promotion. It also matters.
- You can help rank guest posts. Extra traffic for you!
- Have a way to capture emails. Make the most of the time you spent on that awesome piece of content.
Guest posting is not dead. Guest blogging WORKS. End of story!
How about you? What’s your story?
I’d love to hear from you! If you are in the middle of a guest posting process, try out the things I mentioned above and let me know!
Now go out there and promote your brand.
Get your name out there and let me know how it goes! I will feature your awesome results here so you can brag about it!
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