Guest placement campaigns for link and expertise building require perseverance, remarkable content, and a ready supply of potential publishers. Not every client or market is suited for such a campaign.
This article will help agencies gauge the viability of a high/mid quality level guest placement campaign, as well as the scale of campaign your target market can reasonably allow.
1. Know Your Audience's Name
It's rare to talk with an SEO link builder who's targeting a specific audience - most have specific keywords in mind that they want to rank for. To gauge the viability of a guest placement campaign you must first translate these keywords into a target audience. Let's say your client wants to rank for [web hosting] and they specialize in hosting for small online business owners.
2. Brainstorm More Target Audiences
Starting from their target of "small online business owners" you can parse out some potential audiences. This is done primarily by "thinking like a directory" and determining what categories a resource for "small online business owners" could fit into. It's well worth visiting a directory to help the brainstorming process.
- Small Business
- Online Business
- Web Design
Also, take a pass at your audience keywords with this suggestion scraper tool. Once you have your audience keywords figured out it's time to run a quick viability check.
3. Quick Viability Check - ["Target Audience" + intitle:"write for us"]
Take your target audiences and combine them with [intitle:"write for us"]. Pages that have "write for us" in the title tag indicate a demand for content. Assuming you have effectively named your target audience, the quantity of results generated with this query along with the number of viable prospects in the top 10-20 will give you a sense of whether a guest placement campaign is viable and at what scale.
If you see 2-300 results for each query, with 3-5 definite opportunities in the top 10, you can reasonably estimate 10 guest post placements per query run (based on 20 percent conversion). This quick test will let you know whether you need to really conduct a full inventory, or if you need to go back and think a bit further about your target audience.
You may find that there isn't significant volume and quality of opportunities for SERP impact at all, or recognize that you need to supplement with other higher volume opportunity types.
4. Identify the Volume of Placement Opportunities
If you're seeing strong signs of content demand you can start to expand your querying into a full blown inventory ¬– or at least set up the queries for someone else to do the prospecting for you.
Here is an excellent rundown of queries for thoroughly prospecting for guest publication opportunities. Remember to keep your eyes peeled for the footprints of prolific guest posters in your vertical – they will lead you to other opportunities. If you find guest posters with footprints across hundreds of sites then set those aside for high-volume, low value placement opportunities. They're out there, and you can definitely get to larger scale with them.
By measuring the volume of opportunity you will know how many writers you'll need for cover all the available opportunities.
5. Gauge the Quality of Placement Opportunities
Quantity isn't all you need to look at, especially if you have your eyes on branding and reach. Here are some thoughts on gauging the value of a guest posting opportunity:
- Copy and paste the title of a 2-week-old article and search for it in quotes. Where does it appear? Are there scrapers, is the title in Twitter, does the site syndicate their RSS feed, etc. This will give you a bit of insight into how wide the reach is for a given publication.
- Check how many tweets, shares, and +1’s articles get on a site – this will show you the social reach that the publication has developed.
- Check the quality and quantity of comments to get a sense of the community surrounding the site.
- Does the publisher aggressively link from within the article to their own pages? Check for it – it's fairly common and could affect the SERP impact of your efforts.
- Scan their backlinks – are there any recognizable sites linking in? This will give you a sense of who's reading and linking to the publisher.
- Are guest posters using exact match anchors or brand names? This can be an indicator of site policies.
- Do they require/request an ongoing content commitment? This can indicate a strong editorial hand, which usually means a higher quality publication.
In investigating these items you will get a sense of the characteristics your content will need to have to make it "placeable."
6. Quantify the Level of Expertise in Existing Guest-Published Content
Now that you have your targets it's time to figure out what level of subject matter expertise you'll need to meet your audience's information needs. Find out how readily available subject matter expertise is - are there forums, books, PDFs, etc., that you can use for research? Often when there's strong content demand, as exhibited by the presence of "write for us" pages, there's a ready availability of pre-packaged expertise you can research and cite. If you're planning to "go big" it's also worth investigating how much or how little tip-based content exists. Note - you can use your audience keywords in your tip research as well.
7. Gently Cross-Examine the Client Before Signing That Contract
Guest placements certainly build links, and that's often what gets SEOs interested in the first place. However, if you're publishing on the right sites with the right content you can begin establishing expertise within a given category. To really deliver on this expertise building you’ll have to get access to the organization's subject matter experts and get buy-in and sign-off. Here are some questions to ask before you get that contract signed.
- Is perceived brand expertise really a factor in the purchase decision?
- How involved can the client be in content ideation?
- Are there experts available for interviews?
- Does the client have published expertise (tools, PDFs, presentations, videos) that's suitable for promoting within guest placements?
- Is there unique market data available (that can be published)?
- Who has to approve content?
- How social media active is the client do they intend to grow this?
- Can you get an @client.com email address (in under 3 months)?
- Whose name will be on the placements?
- Are there any do-not-contact publishers?
If it seems that the client is unable or unwilling to demonstrate expertise and build credibility, then guest placements (especially at high/mid quality publishers) are probably not a great direction and may not be suitable for inclusion in the overall link building campaign design. If they can see the value – the publicity, branding and reach value – of guest placements and are eager to share their expertise with the market then you should see fantastic results.