What is Guest Blogging (& Why it is Good for SEO)
How many times have you heard someone bang on about content is king?
If you’ve been doing SEO for any length of time, you are probably sick of that phrase. But the reality is, creating content for your own site or for others is an effective strategy.
In fact, guest blogging is an effective and relatively affordable way to build links.
Landing guest posts can help you improve your reputation, draw extra traffic, and develop stronger ranking signals. However, it’s only effective if you follow the right process. If you get sloppy, you could end up attracting penalties instead.
In this guide, you’ll get a clear definition of what guest blogging is, and learn the relationship it has with search engine optimization. After that, you’ll learn some best practices you can follow for better results, and see some examples of guest posts in the wild.
What is Guest Blogging?
Guest blogging (also called guest posting) is a practice where you publish valuable content on other sites. This is done with understanding that the finished post will link back to your own site.
This is different from earlier practices (such as article marketing). Guest blogging is done more carefully and deliberately. Guest blogs are typically high-quality and placed on relevant sites. The “guest” must have something to offer the site’s existing audience.
Guest blogging is a widespread practice, and it’s likely that you’ve seen many of them while just browsing.
Below, you can see an example of a typical guest post written by our founder, Adam Steele:
You’ll notice that this article is clearly described as a guest post in the description.
That’s because guest posting, when done properly, isn’t supposed to be an underhanded way of exploiting Google’s algorithm. It’s an interaction between two subject-matter experts.
Guest posts can be the result of healthy relationships between different publishers who serve the same audience. When they’re used that way, they can improve your SEO.
How Do Guest Posts Improve Your SEO (+ Business)?
Guest posts can improve your SEO in several important ways (when done correctly).
If the site that accepts your post is older, authoritative, and relevant to your niche, the link can become a valuable part of your backlink profile.
A good link profile can help you improve the rankings of linked pages and improve your domain authority overall.
The benefits aren’t only for you, of course.
Many sites accept guest posts because the posts provide value to them and their audiences.
- Your link can benefit them, too: If you land a guest post on someone’s site, it’s polite to promote it (which you have every reason to do, anyway). Linking to the post on your own blog, or on social media provides the hosting site with some new traffic.
- It provides a better variety of expertise: Guest posts offer site owners a way to expand the expertise they offer their audience. Good guest posts amplify the value of the existing content and give readers a reason to stay.
- It helps them keep up a content schedule: Most really successful posts are long, in-depth, and based on research. No one, not even an expert, is going to have something well-studied and insightful to say every day. Yet, blogs that post daily get 5X more traffic than those that don’t. Publishers need those extra posts to give their audience something to snack on. This gives their star content creators time for the next big case study, infographic, or guide.
As noted, these benefits only work out when the links to guest posts are built correctly. Let’s go over some of the quality standards that are going to make a difference when it comes to guest posts.
5 Guest Post Best Practices (to Avoid Google Penalties)
Google has used the language “guest posts” in a number of manual action alerts since February. In one case, they disabled authority for all outbound links until nofollow attributes were set.
Some are arguing that this means guest posting is dead, but that isn’t what the data is showing yet. In several examples from the story above, Google statements singled out sites with unnatural activity. Paid guest posting sites seemed to be targeted in particular.
Sites that take money to publish dozens of articles on almost any topic have been getting penalized for years now. The recent actions may reflect Google is better at targeting low-quality sites. That a lot different than saying they’ve developed a sudden hatred for guest posts.
If you’re serious about guest posting, you’re aiming for a much better class of site.
Here are some best practices that you can follow throughout the acquisition process:
1. Researching your guest post
- Choose a site that’s relevant: The site you pitch should target the same audience that you do. This is the best way to ensure that the link is recognized as natural (though it isn’t guaranteed to be work. The site may have other shortcomings).
- Choose a site that’s picky: Review a few pages of the existing posts before you pitch any ideas. If the content is consistently low-quality or outside of the site’s niche, stay clear of it.
2. Pitching your guest post
- Have a specific topic in mind: You should also understand how your guest post contributes to your brand or current strategy. For that reason, you should develop your topic in advance and be prepared to defend it.
- Request a nofollow link: A nofollow attribute on any links will prevent Google from considering the link as part of your profile. If you are unsure of the site’s quality, or if the exposure is more valuable than the link, nofollow will reduce your risk.
3. Writing your guest post
- Research existing content on the target site: While writing your post, you should be taking style notes from the existing content. Try to match formats, and understand the expectations of readers on the site.
- Use the same care you would when creating content for your own site: Your guest post is a reflection of your own expertise and value as a thought leader. Take this opportunity seriously and give people a reason to want to follow your link.
4. Revising your guest post
- Take criticism seriously: Some sites are going to have a lot of notes for your content. Don’t underestimate how well the reviewer understands their audience. Any advice that can make the piece more natural and attractive should be used.
- Create opportunities you can follow up on your own blog: If you create a compelling topic, save some ideas for a followup post on your own site. Followup posts can be a way to turn visitors from the original post into returning visitors.
5. Promoting your guest post
- Choose the most appropriate channels for promotion: Not every guest post should be promoted on every channel. If your topics speak to other people in your field, you should start with professional channels like LinkedIn or Facebook Groups. If it’s focused on entry-level information, you can use larger channels like Twitter and Facebook.
- Put it in front of people with the right problem: Have you written a guide that solves a problem? You should promote it where people have the same problem. You can find people asking for solutions on Q&A-focused media such as Quora, Yahoo Answers, or Reddit.
3 Guest Blog Post Examples
What does a high-quality guest look like?
Well, let’s look at some examples from some of the biggest people in SEO:
Moz manages guest posts with the notification:
“The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.”
This is an excellent example of a high-value post because it’s based on new insights and backed up by tons of data. Case studies are a popular type of guest post because a lot of work needs to be done to complete them.
This post offered offers obvious value to both Moz and their audience. It also reflects well on the expertise of the author.
Once again, it is identified as a guest post, or at least a guest contribution.
“This is a guest contribution to Ahrefs blog. Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Ahrefs team.”
Unlike the last example, however, this one shows that you can create a compelling guest post without a case study. Even in the most data-driven niches, there’s room for content that’s making an argument or taking a stand.
SEMrush accepts submissions, though it has strict guidelines. For this reason, these posts don’t entirely act as guest posts, even though they’re written by outside writers.
If you scan the link above, you can see that the author doesn’t link back to a site, but instead personal creations on Youtube and Slideshare. This is a great way to take advantage of a great guest post placement without risking your link profile.
Now you understand what guest blogging is and why it matters as part of a larger SEO strategy.
You also understand the best practices that make guest posts successful. You should find it easier to identify other guest posts so that you can learn from their choices.
You can use this knowledge to find great guest post opportunities and qualify for them more easily. If you’re willing to apply what you’ve learned, you can roll out a great guest blogging strategy.