You probably already know the benefits of guest blogging:
- Grow your readership
- Establish your online influence
- Develop relationships with publishers
What matters now is developing a guest blogging strategy that will not only help you achieve these goals faster and more effectively but also generate more links to your website!
I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t guest blogging frowned upon as an SEO tactic?
“So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done,” so said Matt Cutts, once head of webspam department at Google.
My take on this subject is this: It’s easy for guys like him to say these things because they’re not the ones trying to get their website on top of Google search! At this rate, he could very well say that all forms of link building are done! LINK BUILDING IS DEAD!
However, one thing remains constant in all this huffing and puffing from Google: link building is vital to the success of your site, and that includes guest posting for SEO!
So don’t believe the goobledygook and read this post to learn how to form a sustainable SEO strategy using the different tactics involved in guest blogging.
- Guest blogging was once the centerpiece of every link building strategy
- The right way of developing a guest blogging strategy for SEO
- But what about Google warning us against guest blogging?
- The process of guest blogging for SEO
- Look for sites that accept guest posts
- Export data using SEOQuake
- Rank sites according to factors
- Visualizing your tiers
- Organize the sites for your tier
- Brainstorming and pitching ideas
- Reaching out to blog for your guest post
- Writing your post
- Next steps (and conclusion)
There was a time when brands would create content with a link to the body of the post (if not on the author bio) to their site and get it published on sites with high Page Rank.
As with most popular link building tactics, lots of inexperienced marketers run the strategy down the ground. They don’t observe the proper etiquette and best practices when getting guest posts publishing for the purpose of acquiring backlinks.
As a result, since the focus was just obtaining a backlink from the site, the actual content suffered. Not to mention, site owners didn’t mean this as last because they were at least getting free content to publish.
Because of this, the guest blogging initiative was dealt with a heavy hand. Matt Cutts even made a formal announcement on his blog of bidding farewell to guest posting as a link building technique. There are also casualties in this war against guest blogging. Sites like MyBlogGuest that connects publishers to site owners took the brunt of the punishment as members received manual penalties.
— Ann Smarty (@seosmarty) March 19, 2014
You’d think that this is the end of guest blogging as an SEO tactic. However, if anything, the slap on the wrist by Google was a way to weed out newbie marketers from implementing this technique.
It was a blessing in disguise for guest bloggers because it cleared the path for them so they can operate again behind closed doors and without the scrutiny of the world’s largest search engine.
The right way of developing a guest blogging strategy for SEO
So what got Googles’s attention towards guest blogging in the first place?
The answer is poor content.
As mentioned earlier, people created guest posts for the sake of building links. They are not concerned with the quality and value of the post to be published. As long as the link remains intact within the content, they are happy with it.
However, this mentality prevailed with most guest blogging practitioners. Aside from producing spammy content, they were content with writing posts that simply regurgitate information from those that came before it. The posts did not present any compelling data or thought-provoking ideas. It reached a point where the quality of content was bordering on content farm territory. Google was forced to do something to stop people from creating terrible content online.
Therefore, if you are serious about building a guest blogging strategy, then you need to learn how to create content that offers value to your audience. You need to satisfy your intended readers, not search engines, with your content you will post.
To help you get started, you can read my post about on-page SEO, which details the different best practices that you should observe when developing your content. By following the guide, you will be able to publish content that both readers and search engines will love!
But what about Google warning us against guest blogging?
At the bottom of Matt Cutt’s blog post, he did clarify that Google is targeting “spammy attempts to do guest blogging.” The spirit of guest blogging has existed even before it became cool, with sites like Boing Boing publishing content from guest authors. That’s why creating better content is the first step away from low-quality guest blogging so you won’t feel the wrath of Google.
“There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.”
Matt Cutts, “The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO“
At the same time, you need to approach guest blogging with a strategy or framework in mind. You can’t email websites offering your posts for free but with a blatant link to your site. You need to gather data first and plan your next moves so you can effectively reap the benefits of guest blogging for SEO.
The process of guest blogging for SEO
At the very heart of guest blogging for link building, as with most effective SEO tactics, is building trust and relationships.
SEO has come a long way since online directories and listings. In order to sustain your rankings on organic search, you need to build genuine relationships with people who can help you achieve this. I’m talking about striking friendships with site owners and webmasters who will help get your content published.
You see, with building relationships online, you don’t have to move right in and risk rejection by asking for something right off the bat. Fortunately, bloggers aren’t like cute strangers in coffee shops; you don’t have to pounce on them the moment you see them or risk missing your chance. Instead, you can go about building relationships with your favorite influencers progressively and steadily, which is easier and helps you develop confidence.
Katharine Di Cerbo, “How to Build Relationships with Popular Bloggers (Even If It Scares You Silly)”
Ideally, this is what you want to achieve through guest blogging, but it doesn’t have to end like this all the time. As long as there is a way for you to constantly find authoritative sites where you can publish your post, you should be able to rinse and repeat this process so you can obtain more links.
Below is the step-by-step process on how you should develop your guest blogging strategy for more backlinks.
- Look for sites that accept guest posts
- Export data using SEOQuake
- Rank sites according to factors
- Visualizing your tiers
- Organizing the sites for your tiers
- Brainstorming and pitching ideas
- Approaching targets for guest blogging
- Writing your post
Let’s die right into it, shall we?
Look for sites that accept guest posts
What you want to do first is find sites that readily accept guest posts. These sites normally have a page with a contact form that you fill out to express your interest in writing for their site or blog.
What we want to do here is find those exact pages with a contact form.
Go to Google and enter the following search query:
“keyword” + inurl:write-for-us
The “keyword” should be the niche of the sites where you want to publish your post. For example, if you have a business site and want to write for other sites in the same niche, you should type this in the search bar:
The search operator “inurl” will help us extract pages from the search index that contains the word you will enter. In this case, we want pages with the character “write-for-us” in the URL. This is normally the “Write for Us” page of sites that accept guest post. Here’s an example from Travelicious:
While the page doesn’t have a contact form, it does offer directions on how to sign up for an account to write for the site.
You want to get as many pages like this so you write for those sites and place a backlink from the content or your author bio. It is important that you find “Write for Us” pages related to your niche. Assuming that your site is narrowed down to a particular niche, you’d want to write content for sites that discuss the same topic. It also allows you to increase your influence in your niche by sharing your unique knowledge about the subject.
Export data using SEOQuake
Once you enter the search query above to find business sites where you can sign up as a guest blogger, you should be able to see these results on Google:
The results should have pages with “write-for-us” in their URL.
Right now, we want to extract all the results from Google. However, opening them one by one would be too time-consuming. Therefore, you want to export all results in the fastest and easiest way possible.
For this, you want to download SEOQuake Chrome extension or Firefox add-on. It’s a tool for your browser that helps you analyze a page based on the different factors. For SERPs, it allows you to download all results, so you don’t have to open them to copy the link and paste it into a spreadsheet.
After downloading and activating SEOQuake, you will see this section on SERPs:
Click on the “Export CSV” button to download all the results. Make sure to show 100 results from your search settings, which is the maximum number of results on Google Chrome.
Rank sites according to factors
Once you have the list, you need to rank them according to the different metrics used to determine a site’s authority.
One of the metrics that most marketers look for in a site is Domain Authority (DA). It is an aggregate measure developed by Moz to figure out how authoritative a site is. The higher the DA, the more authoritative the site is.
There are other factors that people look into such as Majestic’s Trust and Citation Flow, Alexa Global and Local Ranking, and others. However, for simplicity’s sake, let’s stick to finding out a site’s DA first.
You can find a site’s DA by heading to Moz’s Open Site Explorer. Enter the URL from the spreadsheet to see the aggregate score of the site.
Again, doing this one by one for hundreds of URLs is time-consuming. Instead, you can use a tool like Netpeak Spider to find the DA score of each URL automatically. The tool allows you to perform a comprehensive SEO audit of URLs to help you research for a backlink profile of a specific page and evaluate competitors.
For this purpose, however, all we want to do is find the DA of each page from your list.
Upon installing the tool on your device, adjust the settings so you can correctly extract the DA from each URL. From here, you will be able to identify the site according to their DA score. If the sites have identical DA scores, you can compare them using other metrics like Majestic and Alexa so you can see which site is better.
Visualizing your tiers
The concept of tier sites originated from private blog networks (PBNs) and web 2.0 properties. Some marketers develop blogs from expired domains with reasonably good metrics. Once they have acquired the domain and set up the blogs for each, they will create content that explicitly links to a page on their site. Since the domain has established metrics, the site passes link juice to your site which helps increase your ranking for your target keyword.
Here’s a simple diagram of how tiered link building works:
In the illustration above, you have three levels of tiers that strategically link to your money site. You don’t want all sites to link to a single page because it will inform Google who can then penalize your site for gaming the system. Instead, you naturally funnel the links down from one tier to another, developing a more potent link juice to be passed down to your money site.
Tiered link building belongs to the gray hat SEO practice. It goes against Google guidelines, but there are still people doing it to great effect so far.
Just to be clear, we won’t be doing tiered link building. What we are doing is taking the concept of tiered link building and applying it to guest blogging.
This is different for one reason: you don’t own the sites. Getting your content with your link within it published is up to the editor of each site. You have no control whether your article will be posted on not. This makes your guest blogging journey much difficult, but if it’s easy getting published on high-quality sites, then everybody should be doing it. At the same time, you need to up your content game if you truly want to acquire a link from these sites.
Organize the sites for your tier
Taking the illustration above, what you should do is assign different sites for the spots on each tier.
Before anything else, identify the page on your site that you want to build links for. The page you will choose must be related to the sites on your list. For example’s sake, let’s choose the post I recently wrote, “The Ultimate Guide To Writing 10x Content.”
After running your list using Netpeak Checker, you need to choose down the sites with the highest DA. You can easily filter the sites from your spreadsheet for a quick view of each site’s DA from highest to lowest.
I have highlighted three sites from the list to help build our tiers. For this example, let’s build two tiers with one site on the first tier and two sites on the second.
From here, we should put the site with the highest DA on the first tier while the other two occupy the second tier.
Here’s an illustration of our current tier:
Before assigning the sites for each tier, make sure that you read the editorial guidelines for guest blogging on each site, so you know what and what not to do.
Brainstorming and pitching ideas
Once you’ve read and understood the guidelines, it’s time to come up with potential article titles for the content that you will submit to the site.
The best way to proceed with this is to choose a topic from the post you want to link from your site. For example, in the post “The Ultimate Guide To Writing 10x Content,” I mentioned ways to promote your content to greater shares, but I never went in depth on the topic.
I could write more about content promotions in great detail for my first tier. In the content’s body, I can link to the guide I wrote on my blog and the editors won’t remove it because it is relevant and contextual to the article.
To validate my idea, I need to search the site for topics written about content sharing and promotions and see if the blog has published a topic similar to what I have in mind.
It seems like Hashmeta doesn’t have a search bar on their blog. If this is the case, you can plug their URL into Google search and enter the topic you want to write about.
In the screenshot above, Hashmeta has published similar content but doesn’t have a dedicated topic on how to grow a blog post’s social shares. This is perfect!
Next, come up with working titles for potential posts I will write for the first tier. For this reason, I use CoSchedule Headline Analyzer to help me come up with good titles for my post. The tool provides you an aggregate score of the title based on different factors. It’s not an all-inclusive tool to help you build article titles, but it provides a good index on how to approach creating your titles.
Below are potential titles I can use for my post:
The top two entries have the highest scores so it makes sense to choose either. Both titles answer the question “how” and share the benefit of promoting a blog post (higher social shares means more opportunities for your target reader to find your content).
For the other two sites, we can further expand the topic of content promotions by discussing social media promotions. I could discuss how to promote on Facebook on one site and LinkedIn on the other. At the same time, you can easily link to the article you will write on the first tier because it is a natural extension of that topic.
Here’s an illustration of how the tier will look like:
It’s up to you to craft the headlines for each content. It’s best to create at least three working titles so the blog owner can choose which one s/he prefers.
The point is that you want to start with a broad topic at your first-level tiers so you can get more specific with the article topics for the lower tiers. This allows you to actually link the content to each other and generate a more potent link juice to your money page that is guaranteed to increase rankings.
Reaching out to blog for your guest post
Once you’ve identified which sites to target for your guest blogging strategy, you can simply visit the site and look for its “Write for Us” page.
The advantage of the approach above is that you’re sure that they’re accepting guest posts so you won’t get denied right off the bat. The fact that they have this page on their blog means there’s a good chance the blow owner will accept your post.
The good thing about these pages is that the editorial guidelines are laid out for you. All you need to do is follow the guidelines to ensure that your post will be accepted by the blog owner.
Most “Write for Us” pages have a submission or contact form at the bottom. When sending an email to them using the form, you need to make sure that you cover all the bases with your email. Here’s a basic template you can use to reach out to the blog owner:
Hello, [name of editor/site owner]!
My name is [your name] and I’m a [kind of blogger/writer you are]. I have written articles for different publications related to [your niche] such as [name the sites you’ve written for – make sure to include the best and recognizable sites in your topic to make this work. You may choose to include the links for the editor’s reference].
I wish to share my knowledge about [your niche] to your audience.
I would like to pitch an article about [explain the topic that you want to discuss in your guest post. Make sure that the post hasn’t been discussed before in any of the posts there to increase the chances of your post to be accepted. Also, discuss the benefits that your posts will bring to their readers.].
Let me know if you’re interested. Thanks!
Replace the brackets in the email template with the correct information ad you have something that you can send to your guest blogging outreach. You can add or subtract details in the email as you see fit.
Writing your post
There are many tips I can share when writing your post, most of which I will share at the bottom of this section.
However, I would like to address the mindset of some people who write guest posts, which is a mistake that you should avoid at all costs.
When writing a guest post, you need to treat it like a writing the best possible post about your chosen topic to be published on your blog.
There are guest bloggers who skimp on the quality of their guest posts and reserve their best content on their blog. While it sort of makes sense that you do this, you are making a mistake by not putting your best foot forward when writing for another site.
Think of it this way:
Your blog has low traffic despite writing the best posts on your blog. To improve your blog’s performance, you want to write guest posts in the hopes of funneling readers of their blogs to yours.
Your strategy is to write lower-effort content as your guest post and reserve the best ideas on your post.
If you do this “strategy” on all your guest posts, expect it to backfire.
Why you ask?
It’s because you’re not giving it your all on your guest post.
Think about it: why would anybody initially visit your site if the content you publish on someone else’s blog is less than 100% of what you’re capable of?
Also, consider that the blog you’re writing for has more traffic than yours. This reason should be enough to put even more effort into writing your post! A greater audience means higher visibility of your post. Now that you’re in the limelight, your content needs to shine so you can, as well!
Once you have this mindset in place, below are things you need to consider to ensure that your post will attract the attention it deserves:
- Observe the editorial guidelines to a tee – I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again – follow their directions carefully. You submit a guest post that’s less than what they demand based on their guidelines. You can potentially go the extra mile and create an even better content than what they expect to increase your chances of getting published.
- Valiantly edit your posts – Make sure that your post doesn’t have grammatical errors and dodgy sentence constructions. You can use Grammarly Premium and Hemingway to edit your post before submitting it to the blog editor. When in doubt, ask a native English speaking editor to check the post for you.
- Going the extra mile (but within reason) – I get it – you want to impress the blog editor by going beyond the blog’s editorial guidelines so your post will be published sooner. However, you need to restrain yourself by not going overboard as it might come across the wrong way. For example, they want a 750-word post. Unless they encourage more words in your post, then go for more! However, don’t bloat the content just because you think the editors will be impressed with the word count. You need to ensure that quality prevails in your guest post and it can be achieved with just 750 words.
Lastly, you need to create linkbait content to help you create informative and actionable content that your readers will love to read and link to. For more information on how you create this type of content, read this post.
Next steps (and conclusion)
You can expand your tiers so you can strengthen the link juice that will fall on your site. You need to start writing guest posts from the top tier and work your way down to the bottom. If for some reason, the editor declines your article, then you can adjust the sites in your tiers, just as long as the top tiers have the best DA.
Signing up to become a guest author is pretty straightforward. Since they have a page where you can sign up, you don’t have to come up with persuasive tactics to get them to accept your content. They actually want people like you to write for them. Of course, make sure that you’re qualified enough to send them a guest post. Don’t get way over your head an pitch content if you don’t meet their requirements.
Lastly, this strategy will take time to implement. Some sites may take forever to publish while others will request you to edit or even remove your link. This is why you should submit the best kind of content possible to increase the chances of the sites publishing your articles. As long as you provide value to your content while observing their guidelines, you should be fine.
Notice that I didn’t emphasize on link building too much in your guest blogging strategy. The reason is that you shouldn’t focus on building links in order to generate even more links.
Sounds counter-intuitive, but the point is that you need to put all your stock on creating the best content for your guest posts. The tiered approach to guest blogging will ensure that each post will contain a link to your site. But in order for that to happen, you need to create content that people will love to read for it to be published on your target blogs.
Not only with your links complement each other, but your readers will also link about to your content and passively create links for you!
By focusing on this goal, you will be able to take advantage of writing for different blogs to help you improve your SEO performance without purely focusing on building links.