Despite some powerful messages from Google over the past few years, guest blogging is still a popular link building technique and has been proven to get results. The question that we’re ultimately looking to answer, is whether guest blogging is still good for SEO.
For those unfamiliar with guest blogging, here’s some background. Way back in 2014 Matt Cutts, Google’s former head of web spam, made a bold announcement claiming that guest blogging is done. This was followed by a warning issued by Google in 2017 about abusing guest blogging to build links.
What Is Guest Blogging?
Briefly, guest blogging means publishing content on other websites. It’s a common practice in digital marketing and it can work very well as a tool for SEO because (on occasion) you can include a link back to your website. In turn, this can have a positive influence on your search engine rankings.
What’s Wrong with Guest Blogging?
Within Google’s guidelines, there’s nothing wrong with guest blogging. According to HubSpot, 53% of marketers say blog creation is their top inbound marketing priority. So it would take a pretty blunt announcement from Google before we can safely say guest blogging is a no-go.
The issues stem from bad practice and misuse. Because of the potential SEO benefit of guest blogs, people have overly used the technique. This means that Google has voiced their concerns to the community on more than one occasion to make it clear on what they consider to be good practice.
In his statement back in 2014, Matt Cutts said that guest blogging had become “overused by a bunch of low-quality, spammy sites”. He clearly criticised guest posts that are written purely for quick links to manipulate Google’s algorithm to drive rankings, rather than for writing for people and adding value.
Meanwhile, Google’s warning in 2017 didn’t suggest stopping writing guest posts altogether. You can benefit significantly from publishing high-quality content that reaches out to readers, not just search engines. It’s imperative to follow Google’s webmaster guidelines on link schemes and not abuse the system.
How to Ethically Approach Guest Blogging
The most important thing to remember when creating content for other sites is that you are doing it for more than a link. You are aiming to educate and add value to your target audience. That should be the primary objective of guest blogging. A link back and any clicks from the blog to your site should be secondary. Taking this approach will help keep you in the realms of ethical practice and within Google’s guidelines. I mean, why would you want to contribute a quality guest blog to a terrible site that doesn’t receive any traffic?
Here are a few tips to help keep you on the straight and narrow with guest blogging.
1. Only Write for Trustworthy and Relevant Sites
On the surface, look for sites that are easy to use, with lots of well-written content already on them. It’s also important to look under the hood before submitting a guest post: think traffic, links, and visibility.
Use SEMrush to see a good estimate of how much traffic a guest blogging website receives. Good websites get lots of traffic. While you’re there, look at the backlink profile. Moz’s Domain Authority metric can be deceiving, so don’t solely rely on it to determine whether the guest posting site website is quality. So, check out the backlink profile using Ahrefs or Moz’s Open Site Explorer. Finally, is the guest blogging website visible in Google’s SERPs (search engine results pages)? Use search operator site:domain.com in Google to find out for yourself. If Google hasn’t indexed the website, there’s a reason for that; so avoid them.
In addition to the above, make sure that the sites you write for focus on a similar topic or industry to yours. This will ensure relevance and means that you’re also reaching the right audience with your content.
So, where can you find quality guest blogging opportunities? The first point of call is your page one competitors. Use backlink auditor tools such as Ahrefs to identify links from guest blogs that have contributed to helping them climb to page one of Google. From there, use Google search operators such as keyword “contribute” and use Buzzstream’s prospecting tool to scan for opportunities.
Take the time to look at this definitive guide to guest blogging from Backlinko!
2. Only Write for Sites Where Content Is Curated
This could fall under the point above, but it’s important enough to warrant its own. Much like adding listings to online directories, make sure that humans moderate guest blog content. If websites allow you to upload content with no questions asked, that’s a big red flag. Only write for websites where you know content is carefully reviewed before publication, to ensure it’s quality. Look out for clearly displayed contact details too, as this is a good indication that the business is legitimate.
3. Don’t Abuse Anchor Text
Avoid using exact match keywords as your anchor text for every link you get from guest posts. While anchor text still has a direct influence on rankings, it’s important to maintain a natural and varied anchor text profile from external links.
For example, if you’ve relied on guest blogging too much and this has resulted in a high proportion of exact match anchor text such as “paint suppliers”, you could be in trouble. Use tools such as Ahrefs and SEMrush to get a handle on your anchor text profile and maintain a balanced anchor text ratio of a combination of branded and commercial.
4. Don’t Keyword Stuff and Keep Your Audience in Mind
Write for people, not search engine bots! Set out to provide truly useful information to readers. This also means Google won’t see your content as unnatural and written specifically to dodge their guidelines.
5. Don’t Mass Produce, and Repurpose Content with Caution
Google’s warning in 2017 specifically targeted large-scale article campaigns. This ties in with a spammy tactic called article spinning. This process involves tweaking and editing parts of a post in an effort to have it published on multiple sites. While repurposing content you have written previously for a different audience is fine, it’s not to take that piece of content and rewrite it over, and over again. It’s safer and likely to get you sustainable results if you write original guest blog content that adds value to your target audience.
6. Use Guest Blogging as One Piece of Your Link Building Strategy
Google looks at the quality of links you have pointing to your site as an indicator of trust. Your link profile could end up looking unnatural in the eyes of Google if all your links are from guest blogs. So, be sure to take a diverse approach to building links. There are countless link building techniques you can take up, in addition to guest blogging and editorial, including:
- Earn your links with rich content pieces such as infographics, interactive tools, guides, eBooks, whitepapers, quizzes, calendars
- Link reclamation through native and competitor broken links, and brand mentions
- Research your competitors: where have they obtained quality links?
- Sponsor local sports teams
- Run a competition
- Suppliers and partners
- Offer discounts and offers
- Contribute to charities
- Attend events
- High-quality online directories: both national and industry-specific
Broaden your horizons and don’t let guest blogging become the beginning and the end of your link building activity.
So, Is Guest Blogging Still Good for SEO?
In short, the answer is yes. Guest blogging within Google’s guidelines is still good for SEO. Publishing useful content on high quality, relevant websites can benefit your search engine rankings greatly, and ultimately bring more traffic to your site.
But like any other SEO tactic; it can be abused, and it will go very wrong for you if your tactics fall outside of Google’s webmaster guidelines. The best piece of advice you can take from this, is don’t rely on guest blogging to build links. Certainly don’t link back a single poor quality guest blog to you on a large scale either. This is what ultimately triggered Google’s warning in 2017 and it won’t be their last.
What are your thoughts on guest blogging for SEO? Does it have a future? We’d love to hear from you.