The recent developments in the online marketing space aren’t making our jobs easier as guest bloggers. A lot of people are no longer that sure what should be considered good practice vs. bad practice for guest blogging.
For example, here’s a bit clueless tweet by Rand Fishkin where he tries to figure things out for one of his sites:
Just to give you a short version of the story; all was well until one day Matt Cutts – the head of web spam at Google – decided to come out against guest blogging as an SEO practice. According to him, everyone doing guest blogging for SEO purposes is essentially being a bad guy and trying to game Google and their search engine results.
Of course, this point of view is a big overstatement and the only reason why someone would come out with such an opinion is because they’ve never done guest blogging themselves.
There are loads of reasons why you could (and should) use guest blogging as part of your marketing, and SEO is only one small part of the picture.
Just to name a few: guest blogging can help you get more clients, generate sales directly from your guest posts, get more leads to your email list, raise your brand awareness, launch your freelance career, even land you a spot on the news.
Unfortunately, sometimes Google tends to ignore all those valid reasons and decides to penalize a guest post just because it’s a guest post.
So what I want to show you here is how to get over this whole situation and how not to let Google flag your content.
“Hold on! Should I even be doing guest blogging?”
Glad you’re asking.
I know that you might be in doubt right now, but the answer is yes. And just to give you the best evidence possible that guest blogging is still a viable marketing method, take a look at this post at the official Google Analytics Blog:
Noticed anything funny?
Yes, this is a guest post. Published very recently (Mar 28).
Let me rephrase this. Google is publishing guest posts on their own blogs. So if they do it, why wouldn’t anyone else?
Note. This is about quality guest blogging based on writing great content that is valuable to the readers and, at the same time, that helps you achieve your business goals. This isn’t about getting sub-par content published at scale.
Okay, onwards to the strategies!
1. No keyword anchors!
Sorry about the exclamation mark, but this really is crucial in 2014 and going forward.
From the looks of things, the main tactic that Google is most fed up with is using optimized anchor texts for links.
This is an anchor text. – it’s the text that’s linked to another webpage.
So, the most common practice when guest blogging just a couple of years ago was to write a post and then link it to whatever was important to you using an optimized anchor text.
For instance, if I wanted to promote a car dealership in Vegas I would use the anchor “car dealer Vegas” – purely because this is what people are likely to type in when googling for a dealership in Vegas. Google would pick up this anchor and get the impression that the site that’s being linked to is apparently important in the “car dealer Vegas” space, so it should rank for the phrase.
Nowadays, this is a very risky tactic to have in your arsenal, though.
More than that, using optimized anchors will actually hurt you.
Try these instead:
- Use keywords in close proximity of your link, but don’t make them your anchor text. For instance, if I write something like “Check out our guest blogging services” then I don’t need to link up the whole phrase. Just doing it on the last word will be enough for Google to notice the keywords on the side and get the overall picture.
- Link single words, branded terms, naked URLs, and general terms.
- Single words like the example above (“services”).
- Branded terms stand for everything containing your main brand name.
- Naked URLs are pretty obvious (http://www.guestbloggingtactics.com/).
- General terms are things like “click here,” “link,” “nice article,” and so on.
- Link very long sequences of words that contain very few keywords. For example, in one of the previous articles, I talked about the new newspaper-like nature of guest blogging. However, this doesn’t mean using long tail keywords! Google will still get a grasp on the situation if you try to do so. An example of a long tail keyword anchor would be: “find cheap car dealer in Vegas.”
2. Place links in the body
Not everyone agrees with this, but I’d say that the bio box is almost done when it comes to guest blogging.
Let’s face it, if Google wants to identify a guest post, all they have to do is find the phrase “this is a guest post by XX XX” near the top or near the bottom of the page. And should there be any links in it, devaluing them is more than easy.
Solution? Don’t place your links in the bio box.
Always try including your links in the body of the post itself, among other links. This way, you’re making it much harder for Google to figure things out.
Note. Of course, all links have to be relevant and actually make your post better for the reader. So go with this rule of thumb: Linking to your “money sites” from within the post when it’s relevant – okay. Linking just for the sake of linking and out of context – not okay.
Since I’m at it, you should also avoid the phrase “guest post by” whenever possible. When I submit my guest posts nowadays, I always start my bio with my name, rather than with “about the author,” or “guest post.”
3. Get an author account
Some blogs will grant you with an author / contributor account. If they do, be sure to take it.
Google has nothing against multi-author blogs and will likely never strike down on them. Therefore, appearing like you’re one of the in-house writers is the best advantage you can get.
Now, what’s the difference between having an author account vs. not having one? First of all, the way WordPress is built (and the web publishing space of today is mostly run on WordPress), every staff writer has a link to their profile or archive under each of their posts (like I do here).
In plain English, having an internal link pointing from your post to your profile on the same site means that you are part of the site, which means that you’re probably not just an occasional contributor.
4. Don’t use Google Authorship
Personally, I just don’t think that you should be leaving a footprint leading all the way from your numerous guest posts published across the web straight back to your G+ profile.
If you have Authorship on every guest post you’ve ever written then all Google has to do to devalue them is to just check your G+ data and then crawl everything linked from there. They could do this in probably less than five minutes in total.
Even though there’s a lot of people preaching Google Authorship right now, I haven’t stumbled upon anyone admitting that Google Authorship has given them any actual advantage or benefit whatsoever.
Over to you
Okay, there we have it; four steps to surviving in the modern guest blogging game if you don’t want to get your work (mistakenly) penalized.
What’s your take on this? Have you changed your guest blogging ways since Matt came out with his rant?