I started writing this post on 17th July 2013. This is how it started. There is a huge amount of hype surrounding the subject of guest blogging at present and how Google will perceive guest posts on blog in the future. As with everything in the digital marketing industry, it was only a matter of time before Google eventually caught up with yet another ‘methodology’ that was soon abused and turned into a quick and dirty way to manipulate search engines. That’s as far as I got. I had great intentions for this post being a pretty awesome resource on how to effectively guest blog and how content marketing should be done but alas, time did not allow for me to get very far. Fast forward to 2014, post Matt Cutt’s announcing that Google are going to be targeting low quality and spammy guest blogging and plenty of “marketers” running around flapping their arms because the only channel they’ve know for the past two years is no longer going to be safe. Blah blah blah. Let’s get one thing straight here. There is no agenda, there is no conspiracy. Google are only doing what they’ve always been doing, targeting web spam and if you’re worried that your guest contributions to other blogs in the past are going to be flagged, then maybe you need to be questioning the ethicalness and quality of your own approach and strategy…? [Since this paragraph was wrote, Google hit the MyBlogGuest community and all who participated in it – jump to this edit]. Let’s get the second thing straight here. There is nothing wrong with guest blogging if you’re doing it right!
What makes a decent piece of content?
It takes a lot to come up with content that is truly awesome and useful. Research, time, proof-reading, citing sources etc and some of the best content on the web takes weeks to put together. This is exactly the reason why you should steer clear of guest posting/writing services which are typically low quality/mediocre waffle with minimal effort/research having gone into the work, hence why only charged at $25 and only about an hour gone into the content they’ll produce for you.
A well researched piece of content that contains some worthwhile depth into the subject is going to be of decent length. Very rarely will it prove possible to write anything fresh, unique or useful in less than 500 words. Generally speaking, pieces of web content 400/500 words of less are not likely to be as valuable as a piece 1000+ words long. They also run the risk of being flagged as thin content which will be assessed against a variety of other factors.
Have you got something fresh, new or exciting to say or are you just regurgitating what 500 other blogs have already said. This makes the difference between something that readers will learn from and engage with and something that they will just glance at and move on from. Be interesting.
Picking a great title is paramount to the success (or should I say, visibility) of your content. Before publishing any content, you should spend an appropriate amount of time researching what the intended audience for your content are searching for, what kind of words are they using, what keywords frequently popup surrounding the topic. Getting this right can be the difference in instantly competing (ranking) highly amongst related content or hindering visibility so much that no-one can find your content. There’s been some great guides posted on this previously from the likes of Copyblogger, Supermedia and Problogger.
If you aren’t the best speller in the world, don’t use a particularly wide vocabulary or haven’t got the best grammar, then writing content may not be for you and you may wish to consider employing / hiring someone for this. When you’re writing for a website, whether your own or someone else’s, you are representing that business, portraying a professional image is important and there is nothing worse reading content on the web riddled with typo’s and grammatical mistakes. Always make sure you’re writing in an editor that highlights spelling mistakes and grammar errors as a minimum.
Link out to credible sources, if you’re quoting what other bloggers have said, link to them, link out to sources that back up your research, findings and facts or studies that your content discusses. Thanks mostly to Google, the web have become fearful of linking out from their website (worrying if it will harm their website, dilute page weight / link juice, confusion / misinterpretation over the nofollow link relation etc). It’s natural to link out to other sources (but may sure you vouch for the content at the destination URL), some of the most popular content on the web links out multiple times and it is this that builds a better web, with better content, with respect and trust. This will benefit your content in the long-run as the signals this triggers when done right, will far outweigh the fact that you might have leaked some authority from your domain.
Write for the reader and not for the search engines. Great content always puts the user first, answer their questions, solve their problems, illustrate, cite, research and provide relevant and useful content. As soon as you start writing for the search engine, a blog post becomes artificial very quickly, the average blogger doesn’t know how to effectively find that fine line between great readable content and content that will rank for hundreds of long-tail keywords so the best thing you can do, is forget SEO and just write for the reader.
Make sure you’re producing a unique piece written in your own words. Not scraped, copied from, article spun or rehashed in any way.
What makes a decent publisher?
Writing an awesome piece of content means nothing unless it is published on a reputable, authoritative, legitimate and worthwhile website. If you’ve spent a significant amount of time putting together a great post, you’re going to at least want it to be read, shared and considered useful by it’s intended audience.
Frequently posts new content. At least once per month, ideally at least once per week. This makes for a good signal that shows the website is active and gives search engine crawlers a reason to frequently revisit the website to index fresh content (which Google prioritises / ranks higher).
Run by real people. Of course, every site is set up by a real person but a genuine website will have a genuine person, team or company associated to it, this will be clear somewhere on the website. If a blog has just a generic keyword name with no publicly visible people that run it or any element of personalisation associated to it, then this should ring alarm bells on just how genuine or legitimate this blog actually is.
Decent design, or at least signs that it looks like the owner(s) take price and care in maintaining it and making it look attractive. Blogs with the sole intention of mass-publishing low quality junk won’t go to the trouble of designing (or even maintaining) the website.
Check if comments are accepted, then check if the authors engage with them. Same on social media, make sure there is a level of engagement between the publisher and the readers as this goes a long way in building a great source that readers keep coming back to.
When you’ve been actively working in the industry for a while, you spot signs (and plenty of them) that immediately ring alarm bells, in the same way we’d use an array of internal experience and screening processes to disavow domains/pages, we can instantly tell the genuineness of a blogger/publisher and whether there is any value in it – often, just by what they say. Here’s some signs to look out for in determining the legitimacy of an authors/publishers intentions…
Ridiculous guest posting guidelines along the lines of:-
Limitations to how many words your article can be (obviously within reason).
Limitations to how many contextual links it can contain.
Any mention of nofollow.
Any mention of SEO.
Any mention of payment.
No opportunity for it to be posted under your author name (or no author bio possible).
Generic outreach that looks like a copy and paste job, comes from a random Gmail/Yahoo/Hotmail email address or comes from a name you can’t even find anything about (you know, like Andy Murray in Delhi).
Blogs with no personalisation running on a standard/free theme with just pages of similar formatted/laid out posts and nothing else on the website.
And generally… Avoid anyone that drones on about any of these; article submissions, search engine submissions, social bookmarking submissions, press release submissions, directory submissions, web 2.0 links, link pyramids, link wheels, link schemes, reciprocal linking…
I’ve also left the title of this post unchanged from how it was when I started writing this post in July 2013.
And just as I’m about to publish this, MyBlogGuest have just received (19th March 2014) a manual action by Google affecting all participants in it’s network. Here was the official announcement from Matt Cutts on Twitter, quickly reported on by Search Engine Land:-
Today we took action on a large guest blog network. A reminder about the spam risks of guest blogging: http://t.co/rc9O82fjfn
Which was quickly followed up by a number of big names in the industry identifying this “large guest blog network” as MyBlogGuest along with Matt Cutt’s implying that MyBlogGuest publishers will receive penalties… It was unfair of Google to issue a ‘blanket slap’ on MyBlogGuest in my view, yes, unfortunately there was some low quality content and low quality publishers operating within this community (this is always going to prove difficult to police) but the ethics behind this network and what Ann Smarty had installed there were always honest and were for the benefit of the web. More on this story about MyBlogGuest
Founder and CEO of The Clubnet Group and Director of Search & Operations at Clubnet Digital. With over 10 years digital experience, Geoff has developed a solid reputation for himself in the digital industry working with hundreds of businesses in various sectors helping them to succeed online.