As Google rules have tightened and link building becomes harder and harder to accomplish, some companies have adopted a straightforward guest-posting policy. By hiring a few writers to talk up their products and services, they can get a few links in return, and they might even move up a bit in search engine results.
A lot has been said about this specific phenomenon. (In fact, a recent article on SEJ detailed the very real benefits of writing guest blog entries.) But as a business owner and blog administrator, you might also consider accepting guest posts on your own blog. Doing so could allow you to reap some of the same rewards, but there are also a number of situations that could be problematic, should you accept these posts. Some might impact your company’s online reputation, and in serious cases, some could land you in court.
The Good Parts
Accepting guest posts often means accepting hundreds of new viewers. Guest bloggers are expected to share links to their printed pieces with their own followers via Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, and each share could result in a new fan that follows the blog on a regular basis. If building traffic to the company website is the purpose of keeping a blog, using guest bloggers seems ideal.
Similarly, using guest bloggers can give a small company some much-needed cred. An expert opinion written by someone with years of experience in the industry can lend a shine of expertise to the company website, even if that company is new and has very little experience at all.
The Bad Parts
Unfortunately, accepting guest posts can also lead to some tricky reputation management problems, especially if those posts aren’t monitored in any way. A writer with a bone to pick could discuss a person, a company, a place or a thing in a disparaging manner, and if the word got out, that post could quickly zip through cyberspace and become a world-wide phenomenon that tarnishes the reputation of the company that hosts the blog. Publishing the piece can seem like tacit approval of the words that appear, and it can be hard to undo the damage.
Editing the pieces might not help, either. Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act is designed to help protect the owners of websites from the actions of third parties, including guest bloggers. But as the Electronic Frontier Foundation makes clear, adding in a few key words, or amending a few choice phrases, could be seen as contributing new content, and that could leave the blog owner open to lawsuits.
Striking a Balance
Many blog administrators aim to protect their companies by crafting detailed rules about the kinds of blogs they will and will not publish. These same administrators might reject pieces out of hand, when the blog entries seem a little too unseemly, or they may ask writers to rewrite those pieces and submit them again. Clear, well-defined rules allow these companies to communicate clearly with their guests, and they can keep editors from taking chances with content that could cause the company harm.
Administrators also craft public statements about their liability, when a guest blog is in play. A simple statement of deniability, suggesting that the writer is the origin for the opinion and not the owner of the blog, might be enough to keep a company out of the courtroom, should disaster strike.
But from a reputation management perspective, it’s best to simply deny any blog entries that seem too risky. Controversial blog posts can spread long before a company executive has a chance to delete the offensive data, and some consumers have long memories, when the issue involves discrimination, libel or some other form of bad behavior. By reading over each and every word before posting, and ensuring that nothing untoward is contained within, blog administrators can do their best to reap the rewards of accepting a guest post, without damaging their companies in their quest for new viewers.
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