SEO and guest blogging seem like the perfect match in heaven. The site owner needs content while the SEO needs links.
This perfect match started years ago. But eventually guest blogging became a venue for spammy tactics.
Now, Google has warned about using guest blogging for SEO. While the search engine is on the hunt for spammy SEO guest blogging, you can be different.
There are huge benefits to doing guest blogging the right way.
Guest Blogging for Links Isn’t Guest Blogging
When you’re guest blogging just for backlinks you aren’t serving the audience of the site. You also aren’t serving your own audience. You are simply trying to game the Google algorithm.
No one doubts that having great contextual links from websites are helping you rank. There is just more to gain than rankings.
You’re already guest posting. So why not take full advantage of it?
When you are guest posting you should be looking for relevant links. That means that the blog you are wanting to publish your post on is in your niche. If that is not the case then you are definitely defeating yourself.
The fact that the blog is relevant really helps. It means that you should be able to speak to their audience and make at least some of them become your audience.
Traffic Is There to Gain If You Guest Post Correctly
If you’re writing for blogs that have no traffic, then you’re wasting a lot of your time.
You’re already going through the process to get content, outreach, and post articles. Why not follow that same process but gain more from it than a link?
When you’re looking at who you should write for next, are you thinking of links or traffic? Ultimately, that is what will really determine whether Google is going to like your guest post.
Start looking at other websites as exposure to different audiences.
When you look at your guest post as exposure, the game changes. You are no longer as worried about the link.
Hopefully, you will get a nice juicy link back to your site. Yes it might help your SEO efforts. That’s all great.
But you really want to find websites with a community of engaged fans.
Engagement Factors Are 10x More Valuable
Engaged audiences typically are easy to spot. You may see 50 comments per post or huge social share numbers.
Why are you looking for engagement?
I look at engagement because of the click-through rate (CTR) that my links on those sites get. User behavior impacts rankings. Think about it – a website that has almost zero traffic coming from any source other than organic search is pretty easy for Google to spot (hello, Panda).
I also gain a vast understanding of who I’m writing to. When I am selling to a market or niche, I have to focus on that audience. I have to learn their desires and their pains. I need to find the desires that keep them awake until 2 a.m. Then I can really amplify their goals. I can start to create content that moves them.
This is where content marketing meets SEO.
SEO via Content Marketing with a Side of Ads ‘Mad Men’ Style
SEO is all about optimizing your site for the search engines.
Content marketing is all about making your story grow through content.
Somewhere caught in the middle is the keys to the kingdom. The golden ticket of positioning.
Positioning is what takes place in your prospects head the moment they first meet you or your brand. You’re trying to position your brand as the choice for their pain. The problem solver. They are trying to breeze past you and get to the fastest and best solution.
You catch their attention and they become engaged with your brand. You let them off your site and fail to re-target correctly and they are gone forever.
Positioning comes when you learn the key moment in a prospective buyer’s mind. That moment when they make a decision and what plays into that moment.
Why Does Positioning Mean So Much?
Enticing an engaged audience to visit your site is the same as showing them an advertisement. You want to gain a quick response. You want that response to be click the link and visit your site.
Positioning is understanding your target audience well enough to stand out. If you can’t stand out where they live online, then your website probably won’t earn top of the search rankings.
The audience is the focus.
I first learned of positioning from a great book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind: How to Be Seen and Heard in the Overcrowded Marketplace“.
But one of my favorite stories come from a book called the “Power of Habits“.
There’s a story in the book about how they convinced people to brush their teeth. This wasn’t ages ago. We’re talking a generation back – our grandparents and for some of us, our moms and dads. Crazy to think about.
In the U.S., the soldiers were falling in war and not being able to enlist because of poor dental hygiene. It was a crisis until a toothpaste advertising company figured out the moment of habit.
This moment wasn’t about fresh breath or poor hygiene. The moment was the “feeling” of that film being gone from your teeth.
Soon they had celebrities and massive content campaigns lined up talking about getting rid of the film on your teeth. It became normal to brush your teeth after every meal.
Epidemic solved. The advertiser became a millionaire.
The key factor was understanding the audience. They created a moment. They positioned themselves and created a habit. Check your teeth with your tongue, go brush the film off.
Guest Blogging Positioning & Habits to Higher Traffic
When you’re guest blogging you have to think of each post as a positioning piece. The benefit laid golden highway back to your super amazing website.
You have to really understand the audience on the website you are blogging. If you can tap into their desires, goals, and pains then you can stand out. Standing out can mean large pushes of traffic.
This also means that it makes it easier to get accepted to other blogs. Getting published in more places makes it much easier to write for larger websites with larger audiences.
You may not always want to look at the size of traffic. Engaged traffic is much better for your brand while a larger site is better for SEO.
Writing the Post – a Few Tricks to Really Execute
Leaving this post without a few writing tips and tricks would be a crime. Let me share a few juicy pointers that have tremendously helped my writing.
Really, though, the best way to learn is to just start doing it. A lot. And you will soon be a writing genius (10,000 hours later).
1. Look For Obsessions
Look at the publications you’re thinking of writing for. Look at the comments and reactions. Dig through their most popular posts. Look for the audience’s obsessions.
For instance, SEJ readers have an obsession with Google updates. Google updates keep readers of Search Engine Journal awake at night. They also have goals for ranking and have processes to rank in Google.
Their final frustration is not understanding how to make Google happy. They feel that it is a double edge sword. Chasing Google happiness while not establishing rankings.
The most useful obsessions for our purposes are those that aren’t going away anytime soon:
- Desires that aren’t easily satisfied, or at least not satisfied for long.
- Goals that will take considerable time to fully achieve.
- Fears that are never going to be completely eradicated.
- Frustrations that will never be completely eased.
So when reviewing the popular posts on a blog, ask yourself:
- What deeper desires does this post promise to fulfill?
- What future goals does this post help the reader achieve, or use to lure them in?
- What deep-seated fears does this post amplify or offer to cure?
- What familiar frustrations does it empathize with and present solutions for?
Remember to look beyond the surface topics. Find the desires, goals, fears, and frustrations that lie beneath them.
2. Construct the Post
Dive in and write your bullet points – the main points you want to cover. I often start with one major fact and then construct the story around it.
Focus on the obsession. This will develop the story and the major emotional points.
If you’re struggling with bullet points, remember the obsessions. Make a list of them. Then take that list and type it into Google. Look for case studies in Google (“Obsession” + Case Study). Look for Quora and Reddit threads about the obsessions.
If you get stuck on your bullet points, then you probably won’t have a great story.
3. Crush It with a Headline That…
A great title will seal the deal. A great headline will tell your entire story in one bite-size portion.
Jon Morrow once wrote 35,000 headlines in one year. He wrote over 100 daily. Why? Because it was the most important part of his job.
Great headlines get more clicks. He was a writer and editor. Now he has some of the internet’s most clicked on stories.
Headlines are what bring the initial interest to your story. They are why people click on the tweet about it. Headlines are the reasons either you capture attention or you get lost in the mass.
4. Write the Story
The writing answers the headline.
After you’ve laid the foundation – combining an obsession with a killer headline – it’s time to write. Simply tell your story. It’s the follow through.
It should naturally come together. Rough sketches are one helpful way to keep you focused, but every writer eventually figures out how they write best (after a few hundred tries).
Writing tip: use Hemingway Editor.
Bonus writing tip: You don’t always have to publish what you write.
5. Editors Are the Best Ever
Having an editor has really helped my writing. I had never thought of that until I was researching a post and stumbled across these eight tips. They changed my writing.
It makes perfect sense to pay someone to edit all my posts.
I don’t pay $5 per post like he mentions in that article. Instead, I trade services with a friend who also writes. Editing their articles has made me a better writer as well.
Hire an editor. If you can trade out services then great. If you have to pay, it’s worth it. Editors will make your work better.
6. Pitches Are Not for Website Owners
I realize you need a script to email the owner of websites you want to write on. It is simple when you understand their audience.
Use the fact that you have actually done research in your favor. Tell them:
- About the obsessions you wrote about.
- About the other places you have blogged.
- Who you are and make it personal.
You can post a lot more places than you know. It just takes focusing on the audience and not the SEO value to do it.
In-post Photos: Screenshots by Will Robins. Taken September 2017.
Subscribe to SEJ
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!