Recently, Google’s head of webspam Matt Cutts said guest blogging is dead, citing its overuse by search marketing companies as part of their link-building activities.
Now, it’s easy to assume that guest blogging is dead simply based on Matt’s comments. After all, he ought to know. But the reality is more complex. Guest blogging, when done well, isn’t only about links. In theory, anyway, guest blogging is supposed to be about raising awareness of and traffic to your brand’s web presence. Seems a shame to throw away years of work based on one (admittedly authoritative) blog post, doesn’t it?
Instead of saying guest posting is dead, take a moment to consider all sides of the situation. What are those arguments? Read on and see…
Why Guest Blogging No Longer Makes Sense
We’ll start with the “guest blogging is dead” point of view. As I see it, three good arguments exist:
- Matt Cutts says it’s dead. Matt leads the team that determines what is and isn’t web spam. His team ultimately makes the call on whether something shows up in the search results or gets dropped for spamming the results. If he says something’s not a good idea for SEO, it’s pretty much not a good idea for SEO.
- Promiscuous guest blogging could label you a spammer. See the first item in this list. But, clearly, this isn’t a good thing.
- Getting your content accepted by high-quality blogs is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. It’s almost always been difficult to get high-quality blogs to accept unsolicited content. You’ve typically got to produce very high-quality content and develop a relationship with someone at the site to get your content accepted. Given Matt’s announcement, I don’t see that getting any easier. For instance, I’ve stopped accepting guest bloggers at my blog altogether unless they’re people I’ve explicitly invited to post. Your time is valuable. Spending lots of time trying to get lots of articles accepted at lots of sites is a pretty good way to waste time and money (at least in cost of labor), for little return going forward.
So, does that mean Matt’s right? Is guest blogging truly dead? Well… maybe not. Let’s consider the other side of the equation.
Why Guest Blogging Still Makes Sense No Matter What Matt Cutts Says
Even with the arguments discussed previously, I’m not convinced guest blogging is really dead. Here are a few arguments why:
- Quality websites and blogs still represent an excellent source of referral traffic. There’s more to life than just SEO. Not that you want to incur the wrath of Google, but getting placement on high-quality, high-traffic, highly-related blogs and websites can lead to fair bits of referral traffic for your site. Longtime readers know I’m not so keen on trusting Google anyway (oh, and here, too).
- Matt says the guidelines don’t apply to multi-author blogs. Well, mostly, anyway. But Google acknowledges that multi-author sites will likely continue to pass full value on guest posts.
- Building relationships with key publishers is a Good Thing. It doesn’t matter if they’re bloggers, “traditional” media, or something in between. It’s always a good idea to have a strong relationship with people who talk to the same customers you do. Whether you write for their site or simply foster a dialogue, maintaining those relationships can drive coverage and traffic for your brand.
Should Guest Blogging Still Be Part of Your SEO Strategy?
So, what’s the answer? Do you want to continue guest blogging for SEO or not?
Not exactly. Guest blogging for SEO, if not dead, is seriously wounded. But it should still be part of your content marketing strategy. Chasing links is not a good idea, but getting exposure and traffic for your brand, when done well, still is. What does “when done well” mean?
- Focus on key sites in your market (Think quality, not quantity). Pick four or five high-quality sites related to your industry (or that target the same customer you do) and focus your content marketing efforts towards those sites. As noted earlier, multi-author sites may prove more effective for SEO purposes. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore building relationships with high-quality, single-author blogs. The point is to find sites that attract the right audience to deliver your message.
- The first site you focus on should be your own. Your content marketing activity starts with your own site. Yes, you may guest post where appropriate. But, don’t forget to produce regular, quality content for your own website too.
- Write and comment regularly on this small set of external sites. Offer thoughtful comments on posts related to your business, email tips to the publisher, make yourself available for interviews or to answer questions, promote their content on your site and social channels, and provide your original content related to the site’s audience regularly. You’re looking to develop a relationship, not just gain a quick link. Think “marriage,” not “one-night stand.”
- Accept “nofollow” links as well as “dofollow” links. The goals isn’t link-building; it’s brand building. Your objective is to drive awareness and traffic for your business. Developing a strong presence for your brand across the web can help you build improved referral traffic, direct traffic and search traffic, regardless of whether those links pass SEO value or not. And in this context, “nofollow” links can offer greater value than “dofollow” links.
- Track inbound traffic and conversions. Use your analytics to measure the effect these activities produce for your site and your brand. Don’t just look for search rankings, but also keep track of whether your efforts lead to improved traffic and improved business results. Continue and expand your efforts with those sites delivering results, while graciously reducing your activity with less-productive sites (you want to keep the relationship positive in case their results improve over time).
- Expand your target sites over time. As you develop the process and skills to consistently maintain these efforts with your core group, begin looking for additional sites to expand your efforts towards. I’d recommend starting slow, adding a few additional sites at a time (based on your resources), to ensure continued quality.
For some businesses, this may seem a very conservative approach. To which I say, “You’re right.” Over the last few years, many brands and businesses have invested heavily in guest blogging, only to have the rug pulled out from under them with this latest shift by Google. You’re not looking for SEO rank, specifically, with this approach; you’re looking for solid volumes of highly-qualified traffic. Larger companies typically can devote more resources and increase the number of target sites. But, shift resources towards this as your efforts produce results. And evaluate your efforts relative to other forms of content marketing. Again, search engine placement is a means to an end. If you have more productive ways of driving awareness and traffic, focus your energy there instead.
Guest blogging for SEO has got some limitations. But guest blogging without regard to SEO remains a valuable content marketing tool, so long as you do it right. Focus on quality over quantity, build deep relationships with blogs and publishers addressing your key customer groups, and track the effectiveness of your efforts. That approach will tell you whether guest blogging really is dead and, much more importantly, whether it’s worth your time. No matter what Matt Cutts says.
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About Tim Peter
Tim Peter helps companies put the web to work to grow their business. Since 1995, he has developed innovative e-commerce and digital marketing programs that have delivered billions of dollars in revenues. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results.