The combination of several blog networks recently being deindexed along with anticipation related to the upcoming over-optimization penalty has many businesses looking to diversify their link profiles. Since guest blogging is a way to build legitimate links in a timely manner, businesses looking to create high value links should strongly consider this tactic.
Recently, I had the chance to interview guest blogging expert James Agate of SkyRocket SEO and discuss guest blogging at length. Agate and his agency, which specializes in guest blogging, have a wealth of information to share on this topic and nearly everyone can benefit from reading his observations and advice.
What are the best ways to discover guest blogging opportunities and some suggested resources?
We have a link prospecting team who uses a wide variety of tools and sources in order to pick up guest posting opportunities. All of these have good and bad points so it’s best to use more than one and in reality it is good to use a variety of sources anyway so as to avoid missing opportunities.
- Link Prospector from Citation Labs – fantastic tool, really usable and a staple for us
- Scrapebox – this tool has a bad reputation thanks to the comment spammers out there but it is really useful for finding guest post opportunities too.
- Ethan Lyon’s tool for finding guest posts opportunities via Twitter
- MyBlogGuest – good service to get started with, friendly community but limited number of opportunities in our experience
- BloggerLinkUp – free email service that sends a digest of websites looking for guest posts… not all of these opportunities are high-quality, but with a bit of digging, you can usually find a gem.
- I also built a quick, simple and free tool in Google Docs which helps you find guest post opportunities (see here) – be sure to make a copy first!
- Competitor analysis using Open Site Explorer
- Quite a few other methods – I could go into detail about the various methods we use for prospecting (strengths/weaknesses) but it would take up an entire blog post so hopefully the above is enough to get your started.
Is guest blogging only one small piece of the linkbuilding puzzle or can it be the entire strategy?
As with anything, diversity is essential. It is natural to see lots of different kinds of links coming to your website so links from other sources are always helpful in supporting the long-term work you are doing with the guest blogging and content outreach campaigns.
The great thing about guest blogging is that provided you do it intelligently (avoiding these 8 common mistakes) then it helps to nurture a diverse and natural looking link profile anyway since there will be good diversity of website, a good diversity in the location of the link and so on.
If you were to combine guest blogging with linkworthy content creation on your own website then you can definitely cover all angles of link building; for example, let’s imagine the following scenario…
- You produce great content on your website
- You spread the word by seeding it with influencers in your space, promote it via social media channels
- You further enhance your reputation as a reputable business or individual through a co-ordinated guest blogging campaign
- You earn links from the host blogs
- You also earn links from others who may cite your work as a result of hearing about you via a guest post, social media etc
- You might get invited to do interviews (this is an example right here :-)!)
- You may become visible to journalists and industry reporters who’ll then be open to your pitches or reference your work
- Bingo! You’ve got a diverse set of links from trusted websites
Whilst guest blogging might not always be the complete story, it really can drive success in an online marketing campaign.
Do you feel that guest blogging will be hurt by the new over-optimization penalty?
You can quite easily get guest blogging wrong, just like any other link building or online marketing technique, it is all in the execution. Ryan Clark from Linkbuildr talked about an individual who had seen an unnatural links warning (via Google Webmaster Tools) as a result of guest posting even if we cast my opinion aside which is that in this particular case the individual probably engaged in other forms of link building in the past which may have caused this the crux of the matter is that you can easily get guest blogging wrong.
Some of the common mistakes I see are:
Guest blogging under one name
If you are an agency or a consultant handling a number of clients then you shouldn’t be reusing any personas that you’ve across different clients, it leaves who heck of a footprint and when AuthorRank comes into play you may notice widespread de-valuation of the links. Not to mention that it is just good practice to separate one client from another.
Going nuts for anchor text
It is nice to get a juicy link but don’t go overboard with the anchor text. At present, we are recommending most clients adopt a branded anchor text strategy or at the minimum a branded+keyword anchor text strategy for safety, stability and effectiveness long term.
Developing a pattern
When we conduct competitor research, we often come across guest blogging campaigns which follow the exact same pattern across hundreds of different blogs getting one homepage link and two deeplinks each and every time for example. Mix things up and keep it looking natural, guest blogging in too rigid a format has the potential to be just as spammy and pointless as any low-rent link building tactic.
So in answer to your original question, guest blogging may be hurt by the new over-optimization updates but only if you’re doing it wrong :-)
Do you have any thoughts related to the recent actions Google took against BuildMyRank and some of the other prominent blog networks?
It was always going to happen and I’m sorry to hear about businesses like BuildMyRank closing down not that I ever used these services but I hate to see people losing their jobs.
I would say though that these kinds of services should have come with more prominent health warnings because there must be hundreds if not thousands of small business owners out there who are now licking their wounds and potentially laying off staff because their rankings have dropped (as a result of the deindexing) and the orders have dried up.
I blame the good guys of SEO, we really need to do a better job of educating and reaching more business owners to show them how to do this SEO stuff properly. I say “blame”, of course it isn’t actually our fault but we can certainly learn a thing or two from the slick business development processes of some of the more commercialised SEO agencies and service providers out there.
There seems to be a myth amongst ethical SEO agency owners that somehow promoting your SEO services is sleazy, of course it isn’t. A business lives or dies based on its ability to get clients – if you’re proud of what you produce why not make sure as many people can get their hands on it as possible? But I digress.
The point about these link networks being de-indexed is not to panic, don’t start believing the hype that link building is dead or any other nonsense like that.
Before you do anything whether your recent drop in performance or rankings (if you’ve seen a drop that is) is to understand the root cause of it rather than assume there is a one-size-fits-all approach to overcoming this. For example, you may have been hit with a penalty for a reason other than the link networks recently disappearing, you may have overcooked building links for a particular keyword for example. Similarly, you might not be getting penalized but simply dropped in rankings because the link network links were working well for you and now their worthless Google has deemed your site less worthy of its previous position.
Seek the advice of a professional who can guide you through the next steps; in most cases, proactively cleaning up your link profile is likely to benefit you and similarly starting to rebuild your website’s authority through good quality link building is definitely going to stand you in good stead.
When things get rocky with your website’s performance, it can be tempting to strip out costs and try to cut back but now is a golden opportunity to invest in link building and outrank your competition.
What are some of the common pitfalls people should avoid as they begin guest blogging?
Confusing guest blogging with posting to blog networks - just so we are clear, guest blogging is about developing relationships and publishing to other genuine websites that are authoritative and relevant to the site you are promoting. Posting to a blog network takes little more effort than busting out your credit card and believe me, if you’re using a public blog network then you’re investment isn’t going to be a long term thing.
Getting overwhelmed - by the different tools out there and getting bogged down in all the data and metrics available. Start small and scale as resources allow.
Thinking there are shortcuts - I hate to break this to you but sadly there isn’t a door marked private where security usher you through the velvet rope to guest blogging easy street. Blood, sweat, tears and elbow grease (or hustle to your American folks) goes into each and every one of our campaigns.
Screwing up your chances with particular bloggers - you only get one chance to make a first impression and so be sure to approach them in the correct manner. Nobody wants to be pestered, nobody wants to be pitched junk and I’ve yet to meet a blogger who doesn’t want something out of the arrangement (awesome content!). If you or your company get a bad reputation in a small market then you’re what’s technically known as SOL. :-)