UPDATE: Since I wrote the prediction below in August last year, Matt Cutts (head of Google’s webspam team) has come out and said exactly what I predicted – that Google will be targeting link building through low quality guest posts.
Make sure you’re doing the following things when approaching people, and guest posting can still be worthwhile in 2014:
Aim well (only target websites that are relevant to your niche – e.g. if you have a furniture website, don’t go seeking guest posts on a car website)
Know your target (topic/style of previous articles, who are their readers etc)
Address the person by name (you can usually find it somewhere on their website or LinkedIn)
- Be real (don’t just use a template e-mail – use genuine language and talk to them like a real person)
Provide a benefit to them & readers (write something genuinely useful and interesting)
Link out to other sites where relevant (link to any useful resources you mention in your post – don’t just link to yourself)
Don’t link from an “Author Bio” (this has the footprint of guest blog spam – try linking from another relevant place in the post)
Don’t use spammy anchor text (don’t link to your site with “target keywords” – link using your brand name or website name instead)
Original Post from 6th August, 2013
Here’s a prediction for you: Google will target guest posts in an upcoming algorithm update.
It’s really not much of a stretch to imagine. Link directories, article spinning and blog networks have been all but destroyed with Google’s Penguin and Panda updates. With the favourite options of lazy SEOs now gone, they’re turning their attention to guest posting. And, as with their previous methods, most SEOs are doing it really badly.
First things first – there is nothing wrong with guest posts, so long as they are done properly. Websites are always looking for content, and if your guest post is on topic, valuable, insightful and otherwise interesting, then go for it. Unfortunately, this is not usually the case. People are guest blogging for links, and quickly turning it into a spam fest.
Example of a BAD guest post request
One of the websites I run (Top 100 Experiences) is a travel site, and I think the travel niche is one of the worst for spammy guest blog requests. Here’s an example of one I got the other day:
I came across your blog top100experiences.com.au and see that u need some quality content. Please allow me to send an article for review. I would like to offer unique and quality guest post on car rental related topic.
Do let me know so that I can send your my content for publishing.
Awaiting your response,
This is the perfect example of how to get your request for a guest post IGNORED. It’s clearly written by an outsourced SEO (from India, judging by the e-mail address it came from) that hasn’t bothered to read any content on my website. Furthermore, it was in response to a request for guest posts that specified the topic must be about an Australian travel destination, and the e-mail must include the topic/headline and the link that they will be using in the author bio. None of these were included, so it’s straight to the trash can.
Why would I want content from someone that can’t write properly? Also, I don’t see what’s in it for me. How would it benefit my readers? How would it benefit me? If the author had even bothered to look at my website, he would’ve seen that I already have a comprehensive guide on car rental. All I see from this e-mail is that I’m going to get some crappy, irrelevant article and the guy will want a link back to his website. No thanks.
Unfortunately I get these e-mails every single day.
Example of a GOOD guest post request
If you want to make your request for a guest post stand out, then you need to make an effort. Here’s a good example of a guest post request that doesn’t reek of spam:
I hope you don’t mind me contacting you, but I saw from Cathy Stucker’s Blogger Linkup that you were looking for writers to help create content for your wonderful site, Top 100 Experiences? I was wondering if you were still looking for such content?
I am an experienced freelance writer from Australia, who specialises in providing useful and engaging travel advice to those looking to embark on a trip to or around Australia this year, and I’d love to write something for you if you are accepting.
Would this be of any interest to you?
I look forward to hearing from you soon!
This is a much better approach. She has pardoned herself for the intrusion in my busy schedule, and then complimented me on my website! How could I not read on?
The author has then gone on to tell me why I should want content from her; she’s an experienced writer, from the region (Australia) that I want content about! She then goes on to give more specifics about what she proposes to write about (and it’s something that my audience would value). In signing off, she also provides a Twitter username. This means I can find her previous work and see that she’s not just a link spammer with a fake name.
Which one of the two e-mails would you respond to?
How to avoid a penalty
Google has recommended that if you’re guest blogging for links, that you make your links no-follow. This means they won’t pass any “link juice” to your website, but you can still get traffic from people clicking through. I don’t think you necessarily need to do that, as long as you’re writing a quality article. To ensure that your links aren’t picked up by Google, I’d suggest the following:
- Don’t link from the author bio box at the end of the article. This is common practice, and will be the first thing that Google targets.
- Link from within the content of the article, wherever relevant.
- Link to other relevant websites from within the content (not just your own site). Wherever there’s a good resource, link people to it. It’s useful to do, but will also ensure that it’s harder for Google to see which website you’re trying to build links to.
- Don’t link with spammy, SEO-optimised anchor text. Mix it up.
GUEST BLOGGING TIPS
Doing the prep work
Don’t just write for backlinks. Write something that has the reader in mind, something useful and something different to what they can find elsewhere.
Make a list of target sites. See if they have any information about accepting guest articles. If they do, make sure you follow the rules!
- Read the other articles on the website and get a feel for their style of writing, themes and audience before you contact them. Look at which ones get lots of comments and social shares to see which sort of articles are most popular.
Don’t just contact websites out of the blue asking for links. Find the right contact person to send your article to. If possible, connect with them on Twitter or LinkedIn etc first. Building a relationship with the person will make it much easier to get your articles considered, especially for bigger sites.
Tell them how your writing could be of interest to their readers and how it will benefit their website.
Writing the perfect headline
There are a few psychological triggers that can be used to help generate interest in your headlines, and really get people to want to click through!
Question-based headlines work better than statement-based headlines. e.g. “Are you struggling to pay your bills?” vs “Don’t struggle to pay your bills”. Questions make us want to know more.
Problem-based headlines work better than solution-based headlines. e.g. “Is your computer’s lack of speed driving your crazy?”. The reader identifies with the problem and wants to know more.
Create curiosity – “Does your car have these amazing features?” Using words like “these” creates curiosity in the reader. They want to know what “these” things are.
You don’t need to use all these triggers at once, but the more the merrier.
Bonus tips specifically for writing travel articles
What’s your angle? Figure out what you want to convey through the article before you plan it out.
Write in the first person and make your article a personal account. This will give the readers more of a connection. Make use of your Google authorship as well!
Bring readers in with a hook early on. Keep them reading until the end! (see my article about Christmas Island)
Include useful, unique information like secret spots. (here’s a good example)
Promoting your article
Don’t forget to share your guest post on social media – Facebook, Twitter, Google+
Make sure you tag any appropriate company pages. It will pop up on their news feed and they may share it for you as well.
Social bookmarking sites (Digg, Reddit, Stumbleupon etc) can do well if you have the right headline.
Get friends, family, pets to share as well!