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Guest Posting in 2021: Amplify Brand First, Build Links Second

When done properly, guest posting will help amplify your brand awareness and build reputable links. Here's how to guest post in 2021.

Guest Posting in 2021: Amplify Brand First, Build Links Second

Even after all these years, the practice of guest posting has many scratching their heads.

Talk to 10 digital marketing agencies and you’ll likely hear 10 different opinions about it.

Some are full throttle for guest posting; others hit the brakes.

Too often, those who fail to recognize the value in guest posts have done it strictly for link building purposes, rather than building their brand.

In this column, you’ll learn guest posting tips to not only provide your site SEO value but to help build your brand, too.

1. Stick to Your Niche & Exploit Expertise

If you’re a digital marketer that focuses on content in your business, write about content.

Exclusive to video marketing? Offer guest content about video marketing.

True experts have a narrow focus and tend to stay in their lane.

The key to expertise is pretty simple: you should actually be an expert in whatever it is you are writing about.

If you write professionally about multiple subjects, you run the risk of muddying your brand and confusing search engine evaluation of your content.

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For example, my main focuses for guest posting are content creation (such as this post), productivity, and time management.

I’m also an editor for a popular motorcycle publication, but don’t guest post in that industry.

That’s a different story because it’s like being a staff writer at Search Engine Journal. You likely won’t find full-time staffers guest posting on other digital marketing publications.

There may be certain circumstances where you’ll write about something that’s not your full focus.

The odd exception is OK.

But in general, stick to your area of expertise when guest posting.

2. Create All the Evergreen Content You Can

You want your work to stick around for as long as possible, so focus on creating evergreen content.

Experts are often approached for opinions about newsworthy items.

Don’t deny those opportunities, but remember that guest posting is different.

You aren’t necessarily going for a big splash, but longevity.

Create content that will have the same relevancy 10 years from now as it does today.

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That may be challenging for ever-changing industries such as technology, but try to create as much evergreen content as possible.

Because I mostly write about creating content and productivity, much of my content can remain evergreen.

My personal rule of thumb is to aim for guest post content that is 90% evergreen and 10% newsworthy or trending.

3. Target Relevant, Strong Websites

Many SEO professionals focus on the domain authority (DA) of a website.

But that single element doesn’t tell the entire story of a website’s strength.

You’ll still see a lot of websites with higher DAs but thin copy. These may be loaded with external links that are irrelevant to the core focus of the website.

Mistaking a high DA for a good, relevant website can derail your guest posting efforts.

Don’t chase just a strong DA.

Look for high-quality websites loaded with reputable content written by experts.

Two things to ask upfront are for traffic metrics and whether the site buys links (or “exchanges” them for money, as the case may be).

You may want to check their link profile or have an SEO pro do this for you before even pitching to a publication.

If the website links to irrelevant domains that feature unworthy content, save your energy and move onto the next target website.

Remember, once again, to concentrate on brand building first and link acquisition second.

If it’s not good for your brand, keep moving.

This will save you much energy as you wade through the web, searching for the best online outlet to amplify your content.

If you suspect anything scammy, especially with link building, let your fingers run and find you another prospective website.

4. Build Your Relationship with Good Publications

When you find a strong website and your guest posts resonate with its audience, do as much as possible for that website.

Some SEO professionals don’t like this idea due to the diminishing value of more links.

Most guest posts only feature a link (make sure it’s followed!) in the bio to the contributor’s home page.

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This typically means that the first link is the strongest, and each one afterward has a diminishing return on value.

However, if the publication is strong and you’re influencing its audience, forget about the link value.

Focus on building your brand here instead.

Many have this backward, and they end up providing invaluable content that doesn’t resonate well with the audience just to get a link.

5. Never Forget About SEO

Some guest contributors forget about SEO when creating a guest post (even those within the digital marketing space).

I’ve written multiple articles here about SEO writing if you want to dig in, but the absolute basics include:

  • Target 1 or 2 keywords per guest blog.
  • Use target keywords in an approximately 55-character title.
  • Use numbers; research by Conductor shows that show that headlines with numbers are the most preferred by readers.
  • Use of brackets or parentheses in the title; the same research as above says they increase click-through by 38%.
  • Use target keywords in meta descriptions of about 150 characters, with a marketing message and clear call to action.
  • Use related keywords naturally infused into the content.
  • Properly use header tags with keywords (related keywords work nicely here).
  • Use bold, italics, and bullet points judiciously to make reading easier, increasing UX and on-page reading time.
  • Offer internal/external linking recommendations.

Again, don’t forget about SEO.

You don’t want to sabotage the chances of that guest post actually being discovered.

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6. Go Long and Mention Other Relevant & Link-Worthy Sources

Don’t skimp on length.

Search engines want to represent articles that offer serious value, and it’s much easier to provide value with longer posts.

That doesn’t mean anything fluffy, but well thought out and written.

Our in-house evaluation of clients’ blog content showed that a minimum word count of 1,200 words was required, though most guest posts we do are around 1,500 words.

I recommend going even longer at 2,500 words per piece, which is on average what I do here at Search Engine Journal.

Quote other experts within your article, especially if they write for the publication where you’re guest posting.

Want to get even better results?

Try to get a direct, unique quote from an author or expert within your industry.

7. Remember to Amplify

Like writing without SEO in mind, not exploiting a guest post is another huge problem.

Once a story goes live, push it out on all of your social channels and try to influence others to share further.

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Make sure to tag the publication and every person mentioned.

Another tactic that works well is linking to the article on your main website.

I do this through an “in the media” page on my WordPress website that uses a Nooz plugin.

8. Refer to Your Other Published Guest Posts

If you have more than one guest post published in the same niche, try to link to the other articles as much as possible.

Sometimes the publications won’t allow links, especially if they are directed toward a competitor, but most times you will get them linked.

This creates synergy between all of your guest posts across the web and helps search engines connect all of your guest posting efforts.

9. Find Guest Post Opportunities & Perfect Your Pitch

Finding opportunities online is easy.

Simply Google the following preceded by your industry keyword (e.g., “SEO guest post guidelines”):

  • Guest post submissions.
  • Accepting guest post.
  • Guest post guidelines.
  • Submit a guest post.
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Once you find the ideal publication, the next challenge is the pitch.

how to pitch publications for a guest post

Here are a few points to consider when pitching as a guest poster:

  • Make each pitch personal. Find out who the managing person is and call them by their first name. Research that person to get a feel of their language (Big words? Small words? Hobbies? etc.).
  • Talk informally. You do not want them to feel as though they are reading a script.
  • Keep your initial email short and to the point.
  • Provide a list of topics you are proposing.
  • Provide some credentials of work you had published online (the more relevant to the publication, the better).
  • Let them know you understand how to create search-friendly content.
  • If a previous post is ranking highly on Google for a target keyword, share that info within the pitch. Say something like, “If you search Google for content writing trends 2021, you’ll see how my latest guest post is doing.”

Though I don’t see the author tag becoming a relevant ranking factor in 2021, the more mentions you have online, the stronger your brand and associated businesses will grow.

Remember, links are the added benefit to the work of guest posting, so make sure you’ve also planned a proper link building strategy by focusing on higher ROI pages on your website(s).

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10. Protect Your Guest Posts

Guest posting is a portion of an overall awareness PR strategy that should also involve other means of brand exposure.

Remember that although you have contributed that guest post, you don’t own the asset.

Publications can fold or change their content marketing strategies quickly, and poof — your work can disappear.

The solution is two-fold:

First, always keep a final copy of your guest posts saved somewhere.

I did work for a publication over a decade ago and found out a few years ago that the publication ran out of funds and disappeared from the web.

Thankfully, I had all of my original stories and was able to refresh them and reuse them without a penalty of duplicate content.

Make sure you search the article to ensure it wasn’t scraped and used on other websites.

The second part of the solution is to put more effort into your “home base” content.

This is content you own, that is published on your own platforms; books, ebooks, and your webpages/blogs.

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11. Stay on the Right Side of Google’s Guidelines

One word of caution: Google released some guidelines to be aware of when contributing content to other online publications.

Here’s what Google is against:

  • Stuffing keyword-rich links to your site in your articles.
  • Using or hiring article writers that aren’t knowledgeable about the topics they’re writing about.
  • Using the same or similar content across these articles.
  • Duplicating the full content of articles found on your own site (in which case use of rel=”canonical,” in addition to rel=”nofollow,” is advised).

Search Engine Journal’s Roger Montti wrote a great piece about Google penalizing websites that accept guest posts, which has some insight into why you must do your due diligence before pitching content to a publication.

Do your homework!

Guest posts can offer your link building and branding strategies great value, if you are willing to put in the time.

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Ron Lieback

Founder/CEO at ContentMender

Ron Lieback is the author of "365 to Vision: Modern Writer's Guide (How to Produce More Quality Writing in Less ... [Read full bio]

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