One of my most-loved website promotion strategies is guest blogging. So I was understandably distressed to see a couple of posts recently criticizing it.
The week before last, Ann Smarty wrote, "guest blogging...to build links is being so much abused that it makes me shudder," and a post by another link builder was titled flatly, "5 Reasons Why Link Building Through Guest Posts is Bad Strategy."
The logic of guest blogging seems undeniable. When you guest post, you're featured on a site with much more authority and a larger audience than your own. Guest bloggers also provide a needed respite to a blog's regular writer(s). And for link builders, guest posts carry attribution and control over a link back to their site.
However, as the strategy has become popular, it's been co-opted by the spammy and the lazy, and criticism has mounted. The critics of guest blogging for links have three primary concerns:
- They say that when links is your goal, too often you will produce poor quality posts (both writing style and content).
- They say that some link builders indiscriminately send mass e-mails to bloggers offering "free content," which has sullied the name of guest posting.
- If the spammy link builders have success and obtain a guest blog post, it's generally on a sites with low authority and little relevance.
Discussing this meme with SEW contributor Garrett French, he commented, "I think the criticisms are really an attempt to curb the link spam abuse with guest blogging tactic." And I agree, the problem is how spammers have abused guest blogging, not on the value of the tactic itself.
So what are the keys to successful, legitimate guest blogging? Here are three questions to ask yourself to help you maximize the effect of your next guest blogging campaign.
1. What Audience Does Your Brand Need to Reach?
French said he often asks his clients where they advertise and then uses this roadmap to understand what content their audience wants. Knowing your audience's content appetite will help you go beyond simply Googling blogs where a general keyword and the phrase "guest post" coincide, and help you narrow down opportunities to the most authoritative and relevant.
2. What's Your Goal?
Your ultimate goal shouldn't be blue words with underlined text. Your goal should be to establish your site as an authority. If you're successful, some percentage of the original audience should be attracted to follow your content back to its source. When you think about what link to put in a story, think about how it can serve as a call to action for more engagement.
3. Is Your Content Truly Great?
When you get your shot at somebody's audience, you need to bring it. Content needs to be compelling and provide depth. For a masterful example of this, take a look at TechCrunch's weekend "teardown" series where guest bloggers contribute in-depth analysis of well-known startups).
Conversely, you can't hide weak content. If your guest posts produce poor engagement metrics (comments, tweets, and links), you can bet that you won't be asked back.
Does Guest Blogging Still Work?
Is it a good link building strategy? Link building guru Debra Mastaler calls guest blogging "one of the most viable link building tactics out there, it's a win-win..."
Yes, guest blogging is still a great strategy when done properly. But a goal of simply "getting links," by spamming bloggers indiscriminately and offering non-descript "free content," is definitely dead (if it ever was alive). Your goal should be to build the authority of your site by leveraging the audience and power of relevant, authority sites.
The acid test question is, "If I didn't get a link from doing this guest post, would I still do it?" Or in other words, "would the benefits of simply reaching your audience be sufficient to justify your efforts?" If the answer is, "yes," then you're on the right track.