Why Guest Posting is Still a Good Idea for Reputation Management
Early this year, head of Google’s Webspam team Matt Cutts panned guest posting:
Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.
Cutts even called out guest posting as dead: “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”
But is guest posting really dead? Not necessarily.
As a link building strategy, guest posting may not be a good idea — especially if you’re using spammy tactics. But from a reputation standpoint, there’s still plenty to benefit from with guest posting.
“There is still value in guest posting,” says EZSolution content marketing strategist Michael Juba. “Are you really going to say that having a guest contribution on Forbes, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Search Engine Land, Moz, and other authoritative sites are going to be bad for your business or your clients? No way.”
Content marketing expert Alex Chaidaroglou agrees: “Guest posting is and always will be a great way to gain access to someone else’s audience, thus building your brand and developing thought leadership. No matter what Google says, no one can deny that.”
Since Cutts’ announcement, guest posting for link building has largely fallen out of favor — but that doesn’t mean it’s a worthless practice. In fact, it’s a great way to grow as an expert online, regardless of link benefits.
“Guest posting was hijacked by SEOs because it was the low hanging fruit for link building,” explains SizzleFactor.com SEO manager Zac Spencer. But, says Spencer, guest posting is still a powerful way to get noticed. “Remember, attention is the new currency.”
Even though guest posting as an SEO strategy is out, it’s still very much alive as a demonstration and builder of thought leadership. “Although many people have historically done guest posting for the SEO link value benefit, even without the SEO benefit, guest posting is still a very important part of growing your authority as a thought leader,” says digital marketing expert Brian Carter.
Beyond Links: The Benefits of Guest Posting
Guest posting isn’t a good idea for link building, but it’s still an excellent strategy for building a great reputation online and establishing yourself as an expert. Sharing your expertise on blogs is a good way to reach out to new audiences and build trust online.
“The key to establishing yourself as an expert in your field is the same as it has been for decades – publish content,” says Little Penguin PR owner Michelle Stansbury.
That means publishing content, whether on your blog or another blog within or beyond your niche is always a good idea. It’s a great way to build your personal brand, show your expertise, and establish yourself as an authority to your audience, as well as a wider audience when you’re guest posting.
Finding a New Audience with Guest Posting
“Even though guest posting as an SEO practice isn’t as effective as it used to be, guest blogging is still one of the best ways to build a personal brand,” says eZanga.com digital content supervisor Brittany Berger. “By publishing your expertise on someone else’s website, you’re showing an entirely new audience what you know. You’re also piggybacking off of the trust the publication’s readers have for it, making them trust you and what you say. If you have a portfolio or your own blog, guest blogging can also bring more traffic to it.”
Writing for another blog, instead of just your own, also commands authority, explains Stansbury. “Becoming a guest blogger commands “expert” status by validating your knowledge. Getting your blog posts published on a credible third party website is a valid first step to becoming known as an expert in your field.
Stansbury says that it’s possible to position yourself as a thought leader with a successful guest blog with an influential organization or industry conference. “Share your knowledge and you will demonstrate your vision as a thought leader,” she says. “Remember, you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room or the most experienced in order to share unique perspective and practical knowledge. Sharing your knowledge, experience, and skills with others is a surefire way to become known as an expert. Once you serve as a resource for others, they will recommend your abilities to others.”
Using Guest Posting to Develop Credibility
In addition to reaching new audiences as an expert, guest posting can develop your credibility in a big way. When other bloggers trust you to share your expertise with their audience, they’re sending a message that you’re a trusted authority in your area of expertise.
Guest posting can also help you develop valuable credibility markers, says Carter. “If you want to be seen as an expert, you need to work your way up the ladder of credibility markers,” he says. “Credibility markers are names or logos you can use to show that other authorities think you’re worth listening to. That means being able to say you’ve worked with such-and-such company or been published by x well-known blog, or appeared on whatever TV channel.
Carter shares an example of how building credibility with guest posts can lead to more opportunities:
“When I first started, it was great being able to say I wrote on Search Engine Journal, and then Search Engine People. I got on SEJ because I spoke at a conference, which showed my authority- and the editor of SEJ was in the
audience. He later asked if I wanted to write on SEJ. Writing for these established blogs got me seen by more readers, and more conference coordinators, which led to more speaking, and so on. When my first book came out, the publisher’s PR person got me into Mashable, and I was able to write there three times before they closed off their guest posting.”
Carter explains that exposure creates a snowball effect: writing on blogs and sites gives you exposure and adds to your bio, allowing you to gain more momentum with credibility markers developed using guest posting.
How to Guest Post for Reputation Management
If guest posting for reputation management is so great, how can you actually go about posting with your reputation in mind? Simply creating authoritative posts that are useful to your audience and your guest post blog’s audience is a smart strategy to start with. But Michael Lazar, senior growth hacker with TrueShip shipping software explains that though guest posting for link building may be over, there is still a search engine benefit to guest posts that can benefit your reputation. He says that it’s all about creating posts that help you gain traction in the keywords you want to rank for — particularly posts on blogs that can outrank any negative content out there.
Lazar recommends using the skyscraper SEO technique, which starts by assessing the length of any negative content you want to push down. You’ll need to create better, more engaging content that is longer than the negative content you want to outrank, and share it on blogs that are authoritative and tend to do well on search engines. By publishing great content to these blogs, you can more effectively dominate the results for keywords that matter to your reputation.
Lazar shares a few specific tips for effective reputation management guest posting:
- Be certain you assess the link profile of any guest post: Assure there is no clear-cut guest posting footprint (clean site, non-spammy outbound links, not too many guest posts, etc.).
- Don’t write for SEO, write for reputation: This means that you just want to squeeze your reputation keywords into the content once or twice, preferably by the third paragraph. Don’t canonize titles or H-tags with reverse SEO keyword content. Avoid keyword stuffing and fluffing.
- Be selective in where you guest post: Use resources like Help a Reporter Out to find networks of aged, established and authoritative blogs you can guest post to. Avoid blogs that talk about spammy subjects like loans, making money online, pharma, forex, or gambling.
- Create aged social bookmarks to your guest posts: This looks great in the eyes of Google and can add even more authority to your posts.
- Syndicate the content throughout key social circles that you have developed especially for guest posting syndication and reputation management: This helps drive even more clout to the process via active social signals.
- Reference your guest posts in press releases to get even more link juice flowing back to them.: Link new guests posts to old guest posts as part of your tiered linking method.
Guest Posting without Spammy Tactics
Google looks poorly on guest posting because it’s really gotten out of hand among spammers. Loads of duplicate content, posts that add no value, and questionable linking have given guest posting a really bad reputation. So clearly, if you want to engage in effective guest posting, one of the most important things you can do is stay far, far away from spammy guest posting tactics.
- Practice quality control: When Matt Cutts spoke out about guest posting, there were too many sites accepting any guest post on any topic without any quality control, explains Juba. He says that’s clearly a bad strategy. Avoiding spammy anchor text and low quality content is a smart move, and a good place to start, but that’s not all. Juba also warns about ruining your credibility with blog owners by approaching them with this kind of low-level content, as this kind of approach means they’re likely to ignore you in the future — and your junk content definitely won’t get published. In a nutshell: write guest posts that are genuinely useful to the blog’s audience, not just for a link. Remember, you want to show that you’re knowledgeable and authoritative in the subject you’re writing on.
- Don’t spread yourself too thin: One majorly spammy tactic used in guest posting is writing for an unusually large number of different sites — often domains with little to no authority. Instead of writing for many different websites that aren’t necessarily strong for your brand, stick to a selection of ones that you respect and are proud to appear on.
- Choose relevant websites: Consider the audience of the blog you want to write for. Do they need to hear what you have to say? If the answer is no, just don’t bother. Remember that you want to create useful content for an audience that matters to you. That means if you’re writing about fixing IT bugs for a wedding inspiration blog, there’s a serious mismatch and you’re not creating relevant content that will help you develop as an expert in your field.
- Be selective with links: Berger recommends being careful about the number of links and how you introduce them. She prefers to save them for your bio at the beginning or end of the post. If you’re going to add links in the post body, you should only add them if it can help the reader with the topic being covered or add context — and never only link to your own content.
- Nofollow your links: Avoid any link penalties by asking blow owners to nofollow your links, says Chaidaroglou. He explains that this allows you to have a link to your business in your author’s bio, but it will not carry much, if any, weight for SEO purposes. Essentially, it’s a clean link with little to no risk. But, he says this may not be necessary. “If you do 2-3 guest posts a month, without keyword-rich anchor text, on sites with real traffic and social shares, you should be fine, even with dofollow links.” Blue Fountain Media corporate marketing communications manager Austin Paley adds that nofollowing links may be helpful down the road if your website attracts some less desirable links that you have no control over: you’ll have a mix of followed and nofollowed links to protect yourself.
- Stick to reputable websites: Paley recommends checking the domain authority of websites before you blog for them. Using a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer will allow you to see what a website’s domain authority is — and ideally, you’re looking for scores at or above 40.
- Vary your anchor text: While it’s tempting to use keyword rich anchor text, natural anchor text can make your backlink profile look more well rounded, says Paley. Link text like “buy cars” or “find a degree” may not fare well, but natural text like “learn more” or “click here” should be fine. Or, just link to your name or company name. Bottom line: avoid trying to squeeze in keywords-it just doesn’t look good, and Google may even penalize you for it.
Developing Guest Posting Relationships
If you want to get started guest posting for your reputation, first, you’ll need blogs to appear on. This may seem difficult, but it’s actually quite easy. You’re likely to find out that blogs, especially those that are still growing, are eager to share useful, well written content, and are happy to feature guest experts. Here’s how you can start developing guest posting relationships and find opportunities for appearing on websites that can help you grow your audience and authority:
When you’re just getting started, Spencer recommends that you start at the bottom to find the best opportunities. He says lower level blogs that may be struggling to get an audience are often happy to have someone come in to write for them and offer a little extra validation. Of course, you’ll need to make sure that the content that’s already on the blog is authoritative enough to make a good impression on your reputation, as writing for a low quality or spam website will not help, but hurt your brand.
When you’re introducing yourself, explain that you want to develop a mutually beneficial relationship. Show that you want to share great content for them, while getting access to their audience. Be sure to include links to other guest posts you’ve done, your own blog, and any other links or references that can instill confidence.
Once you’ve written for a few lower level blogs, use your experience and growing profile as an expert to leverage access to more established, larger blogs, says Chaidaroglou. He notes that along the way, you’ll probably also build good relationships and partner deals that can be useful as well. You’ll also need to share ideas for posts: this can get blog owners excited about your potential, show them you’re serious, and get the ball rolling.
Not sure where to start? Chaidaroglou recommends a few search queries to use:
- “industry keyword” + “guest post”
- “industry keyword” + “guest author”
- “industry keyword” + “write for us”
These queries can help you identify blogs that are familiar with and open to guest posting, and they are a good place to start establishing yourself as an expert online.
The best guest posting opportunities may not be found on Google, though. Juba recommends reaching out to the authoritative sites in your industry. He says that online magazines and organizations are a great place to pitch ideas and become a contributor.
Of course, keep in mind that it’s important to stay relevant. As you identify guest posting opportunities, consider how they mesh with your brand, and whether they apply to your area of expertise or not. Berger encourages guest bloggers to do research before pitching post ideas: “If you want to build a reputation as an HR professional, reaching out to technology blogs about guest posting won’t help as much as pitching a blog that writes about recruiting, careers, and HR,” she says.
Thing about the long term opportunities of guest posting as well. Juba encourages guest bloggers to put serious effort into developing relationships with the bloggers you guest post for. “Don’t just do a one-off guest post and never come back to them,” he says. “Share your guest post on their site, maybe mention it somewhere else online, and build a relationship with that blog owner.”
Taking this approach may make it possible for you to become a long term contributor on an authoritative blog, says Juba. “After they see that you’re not just trying to use them for spammy links, ask if they would allow you to become a contributor if they use WordPress,” he says. “Then you can log in write your article, and submit it to their editor so you take most of the work away from them and they welcome your content on a regular basis.”
But, be careful not to get stuck with just one or two blogs. Juba recommends becoming a contributor to as many sites as you can handle and write for. This is a great way to get your name and brand out there, and show that you are an authority in your industry and niche, he says.
Writing Guest Posts
Pitching and developing relationships is just the start of guest posting: remember that you’ll actually have to do some writing at some point. Obviously, the quality of your content is key to using guest posting as a resource for developing your reputation. You’ll need to stay relevant, appeal to the existing audience, and show that your ideas are useful and authoritative.
Often, the best way to get started developing guest posts for an individual blog is to take a look at their existing content. Consider the writing style of the regular contributors and the level of audience they may have. Take a look at the most popular content: is it list posts, guides, reviews, or news? It’s also important to pay attention to formatting standards, like article length, styling, and the use of images. Your post should fit in with what’s already there — content that is too unfamiliar to a blog’s readers may not be trusted (or even read at all).
Of course, be sure to adhere to any guidelines given to you by the blog owner, and pay careful attention to deadlines, or you may miss out on opportunities.
Remember to take advantage of your author bio: this is the one place where it’s most appropriate to share a link back to your business, and it offers you a space where you can toot your own horn, explaining how and why you’re an expert in any particular subject — just in case your content didn’t drive that point home. Your bio should also explain how you can be helpful to the reader.
Make the most of your guest posting opportunity by tuning in to the comments and social interaction that follows publication. Engaging with the audience is a great way to build relationships and develop your brand.
Reputation Guest Posting 101
There’s a lot to consider in guest posting for reputation management, but what are the basics of developing a good guest posting strategy? Here’s what you really need to know:
- Focus on reputation, not links: The goal of guest posting today is not to earn links, but to earn a reputation. Avoid writing just to get a link. Instead, do it to show that you’re an expert and gain access to a new audience.
- Become obsessive about quality: In more ways than one. Obsess over the quality of websites you contribute to, the relevance and quality of what you write, and the quality of the links you’re sharing. Every word you write and every relationship you establish should only serve to show that you’re authoritative and a trusted source of information.
- Write to build an audience: You’re writing to win the attention and respect of a new audience. Wow them with what you know and provide real value to the blog owner you’re writing for.
- Develop strong relationships with blog owners: Guest posting is mutually beneficial — make sure it feels that way. Be respectful of blog owners, ask them how you can help, and show them how you can bring benefits to their blog. Use these relationships to build your network and snowball guest blogging to reach more opportunities with blogs and websites at a higher level.
- Spam — just don’t do it: It’s clear that spammy guest posting strategies just don’t work anymore, so don’t bother. Avoid junk links, stay away from keyword rich anchor text, and by all means, don’t contribute to websites that aren’t well respected.