Even after all these years, the practice of guest posting is scratching its head.
If you talk to 10 digital marketing agencies, you will likely hear 10 different opinions about them.
Some are flat out for guest posting; others slowed down.
Too often, those who fail to see the value in guest posting have done so purely for link building rather than branding.
This column shows you how to guest post to not only deliver your website's SEO value but also build your brand.
1. Stick to your niche and exploit expertise
If you're a content-focused digital marketer in your business, write about content.
Exclusively for video marketing? Offer guest content on the topic of video marketing.
Real experts have a narrow focus and tend to stay on their trail.
The key to expertise is pretty simple: you should really be an expert on everything you write about.
When you write professionally on multiple topics, you run the risk of confusing your brand and the search engine ratings of your content.
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For example, my main areas of focus for guest posting are content creation (like this post), productivity, and time management.
I'm also an editor for a popular motorcycle publication, but not a guest post in this industry.
That's a different story because it's like being in the Search Engine Journal. You probably won't find a full-time employee who guest posts in other digital marketing publications.
In certain circumstances, you write about something that you are not fully focused on.
The strange exception is OK.
However, generally stick to your area of expertise when posting guests.
2. Create all the evergreen content you can
You want your work to last as long as possible. So focus on creating evergreen content.
Experts are often asked for opinions on current issues.
Don't deny these opportunities, but remember that guest posting is different.
They will not necessarily cause a sensation, but rather a long life.
Create content that will be as relevant 10 years from now as it is today.
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This might be challenging for ever-changing industries like technology, but try to create as much evergreen content as you can.
Since I mainly write about content creation and productivity, a lot of my content can stay evergreen.
My personal rule of thumb is that the content of guest posts is 90% evergreen and 10% current or trending.
3. Target relevant, strong websites
Many SEO professionals focus on the Domain Authority (DA) of a website.
However, that single element doesn't tell the entire story of a website's strengths.
You will still see many websites with higher DAs but a thin copy. These can be loaded with external links that are not relevant to the core of the website.
Confusing a high DA for a good, relevant website can hurt your guest posting efforts.
Don't just chase a strong prosecutor.
Look for quality websites with reputable content written by experts.
Two things to ask in advance are traffic metrics and whether the site is buying links (or "exchanging" them for money, if applicable).
You might want to check the link profile or have an SEO professional do it for you before you even move on to a publication.
If the website points to irrelevant domains with unworthy content, save energy and switch to the next target website.
Again, remember to focus on brand building first and then link acquisition.
If it's not good for your brand, keep moving.
This will save you a lot of energy as you wade the internet looking for the best online outlet to add to your content.
If you suspect fraud, especially link building, let your fingers go and find another potential website.
4. Build your relationship with good publications
When you find a strong website and your guest posts are engaging the audience, do as much as you can for that website.
Some SEO pros don't like this idea because more links are worth less.
Most guest posts only contain a link (make sure it's followed!) In the bio to the contributor's homepage.
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This usually means that the first connection is the strongest, and each subsequent one has a decreasing return on value.
However, when the publication is strong and you are influencing the audience, forget about link value.
Instead, focus on building your brand here.
Many have this backwards and end up delivering invaluable content that doesn't go down well with the audience just to get a link.
5. Never forget about SEO
Some guest posts forget about search engine optimization when creating a guest post (also in the area of digital marketing).
I've written several articles on SEO writing here if you want to dig into that, but the absolute basics include:
- Aim 1 or 2 keywords per guest blog.
- Use target keywords in a title of approximately 55 characters.
- Use numbers; Research by Conductor shows that headlines with numbers are the most preferred by readers.
- Use of parentheses or brackets in the title; The same research as above says they increase click by 38%.
- Use target keywords in meta descriptions of around 150 characters, a marketing message and a clear call to action.
- Use related keywords that have naturally flowed into the content.
- Use header tags properly with keywords (related keywords work well here).
- Use boldface, italics, and bullets wisely to make reading easier and increase UX and on-page reading time.
- Offer internal / external link recommendations.
Don't forget about search engine optimization here either.
You don't want to sabotage the likelihood that this guest post will actually be discovered.
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6. Go long and mention other relevant and link worthy sources
Don't skimp on length.
Search engines want to present articles that offer serious value, and it is much easier to provide value with longer posts.
That doesn't mean anything fluffy, but well thought out and written.
Our internal assessment of customer blog content found that a minimum word count of 1,200 words was required, although most guest posts are around 1,500 words.
I recommend working even longer at 2,500 words apiece, which is on average what I'm doing here in the Search Engine Journal.
Cite other experts in your article, especially if they are writing for the publication you are guest contributing to.
Would you like to get even better results?
Try to get a direct, one-of-a-kind quote from an author or expert in your industry.
7. Remember to step up
Like writing without SEO, another big problem is not taking advantage of a guest post.
Once a story goes live, you can post it on all of your social channels and try to influence others to share it further.
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Make sure to tag the publication and each person mentioned.
Another tactic that works well is linking to the article on your main website.
I do this through an "in the media" page on my WordPress website that uses a Nooz plugin.
8. Read your other published guest posts
If you've published more than one guest post in the same niche, try to link as many links to the other articles as possible.
Sometimes the publications do not allow links, especially if they are directed to a competitor. In most cases, however, they are linked.
This creates synergies between all of your guest posting on the internet and helps search engines tie all of your guest posting efforts together.
9. Find guest posting opportunities and perfect your pitch
Finding opportunities online is easy.
Just Google the following preceded by your industry keyword (e.g., "SEO Guest Posting Guidelines"):
- Guest Posts.
- Accept guest post.
- Guest Posting Guidelines.
- Submit a guest post.
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Once you've found the ideal publication, the next challenge is the playing field.
Here are a few points to keep in mind when promoting as a guest poster:
- Make every space personal. Find out who the manager is and call them by their first name. Do some research on this person to get a feel for their language (big words? Small words? Hobbies? Etc).
- Speak informally. You don't want them to feel like they are reading a script.
- Keep your first email short and to the point.
- Provide a list of the topics you propose.
- Provide some credentials for work you've published online (the more relevant to the publication, the better).
- Let them know you understand how search-friendly content is created.
- If a previous post on Google has a high priority for a target keyword, share this information within the pitch. Say something like, "If you search Google for 2021 content writing trends, you will see how my last guest post plays out."
While I don't see Authors Day becoming a relevant ranking factor in 2021, the more mentions you have online, the more your brand and associated companies will grow.
Remember, links are the added benefit of guest posting work. So make sure you have an appropriate link building strategy in place as well, by focusing on pages with higher ROI on your websites.
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10. Protect your guest posts
Guest posting is part of a publicity PR strategy that should include other means of brand awareness.
Remember, even though you contributed this guest post, you do not own the asset.
Publications can quickly fold or change their content marketing strategies, and your work can disappear.
The solution is twofold:
Always keep a final copy of your guest posts somewhere first.
I worked for a publication over a decade ago and found out a few years ago that the publication ran out of funds and has disappeared from the internet.
Fortunately, I had all of my original stories and was able to update and reuse them with no duplication of content.
Make sure you browse the article to make sure it hasn't been scratched and used on other websites.
The second part of the solution is to put more effort into your "Home Base" content.
This is content that you own and that is published on your own platforms. Books, e-books and your websites / blogs.
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11. Stay on the right side of the Google Guidelines
A word of caution: Google has issued some guidelines to keep in mind when contributing content to other online publications.
What Google is against:
- In your articles fill in keyword links to your website.
- Using or hiring article writers who are unfamiliar with the subjects they are writing about.
- Use the same or similar content for these articles.
- Duplicating the full content of articles found on your own website (in which case it is recommended to use rel = "canonical" in addition to rel = "nofollow").
Search Engine Journal's Roger Montti wrote a great article about Google's punishing websites that accept guest posting. It provides an insight into why you need to exercise your due care before making content available for publication.
Do your homework!
Guest posting can add great value to your link building and branding strategies if you are willing to invest the time.