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Damn Son, Update Your Off-Page SEO for 2014

Guest blogging can be a great way to obtain links, but the strategy has been so over-used in the last few years that most site owners are just saying no. The average webmaster is spammed with dozens of generic outreach emails every week, so it’s no surprise that our requests are met with anger or amusement or sarcasm:

Josie Outreach Email

Basically, it is very hard to get a guest post published nowadays. And even when you do, you still face the following challenges:

LINK REMOVED

The site owner accepts your content, and then removes or no-follows the link several months later without telling you. Sometimes they put it back when you ask them nicely:

Link Removed

SITE NOT WHAT IT SEEMS

The site appears to be authoritative (great PageRank, Domain Authority, MozRank) but when you do some checks, you realise it was previously a different site entirely, and that’s how it built up its authority (check out Sohaib’s post here). It didn’t earn those metrics for the low quality, SEO-powered blog it is today, and I doubt a link from there will carry much value.

OVER-OPTIMISED ANCHOR TEXT

The Google Penguin update has made it very risky to over-optimise your anchor text. You could write an amazing article and get it published on an amazing site. But still, if the anchor text is pushing your keywords too hard, you run the risk of harming rather than helping your site.

Guest Blogging Tips for 2014

These challenges exist today because SEOs have over-used the guest blogging strategy in the past and haven’t combined it with other ways of getting links. If you plan to continue guest blogging in 2014, I won’t blame you. It is still a very powerful technique for building links to target URLs. But please do it appropriately and consider these tips to avoid the problems mentioned above.

THE SITE OWNER IS DOING YOU A FAVOUR

Many SEOs fail to appreciate that the site owner is doing them a massive favour when they publish a guest post. 9 times out of 10, the link is worth more than the content (however good a writer you are). That’s just the way it is.

DON’T BE JUST ANOTHER ONE NIGHT STAND

SEO One Night Stand

Many site owners are used to being treated by SEOs as ‘one night stands’. By this I mean the SEO will approach them out of the blue about contributing content, get something published, and then ride off into the sunrise, never to be seen again.

A better way to do it is to show you care by establishing a working relationship with the site owner. You can do this by contributing on a regular basis (even if it’s not for a link), sharing content and letting them guest post on your blog. It is a relationship that works both ways, and who knows where it could lead in the future? At the very least, you won’t have your links removed…

I would go further and say you should only approach people you know about guest blogging. I’m not saying the site owner has to be your best mate, but they should be someone with whom you have exchanged a few emails before you ‘pop the question’ :-)

LINK NON-COMMERCIALLY

Link in ways that other SEOs don’t. This means avoiding promoting your brand explicitly. My two favourites are:

  • Linking from the image credit: Use a picture from your website and then link to your site from the image source (as PR Newswire do in this post). 
  • Linking from a quote source: Get an expert opinion from your CEO and link to your site as the quote source (see this post on TNT Magazine).

Both of these methods are non-commercial and give the impression that the link is there to stay.

DITCH THE KEYWORD ANCHOR TEXT

I am starting to think it is safer to use no keywords in the anchor text at all. You still get the benefit of linking to a target URL, but without the risk of a penalty for over-optimised anchor text. Here are some examples, assuming the link points to “www.yoursite.com/target-page” in each case:

  • Bare URL: “See Your Brand for more information (www.yoursite.com/target-page).”
  • Branded anchor text: “See Your Brand for more information.”
  • Keyword-free: “See Your Brand for more information.”

BUILD LINKS THAT BELONG

The most common reason why a site owner will remove a link is because it doesn’t belong there. I am sure many of us have been guilty of ‘shoehorning’ a link into an article so that we can write about a topic we love (here is one of mine):

Spammy Link Example

Please try to write about your client’s business instead. This could mean writing about their latest news, products or services. Have they just released an innovative new travel app? Are they launching an epic interactive infographic for Christmas? Is their CEO a famous public figure that could be interviewed (hat tip to ex-Verve employee Lena for this one)?

These types of angles may be less fun to write than ‘5 Cool Things to Do in East London’ but, unless your client is ‘a cool thing to do in East London’, they will provide far more PR value.

It’s Time for Some New Moves

Yoda pirate

The real issue here is that too many SEOs have been relying on guest blogging for their entire link development strategy and not trying out other ideas. There are literally hundreds of other ways of getting links, as Jon Cooper of Point Blank SEO demonstrates in this comprehensive list. To give you an idea, here are some strategies that have been working for us at Verve recently:

I think the reason we are facing a glut of guest blogging is because the SEO industry has this culture of promising clients a certain number of links each month. If we can take a leaf out of PR’s book and stop guaranteeing the results we are able to achieve, this would free us up to try bigger and better things.

When the final door closes on guest blogging, I am sure that another scalable tactic will take its place as the new sweetheart of the SEO industry. My hunch is that this will be the creation of on-page content and big linkworthy assets. This can only be a good thing. Can’t it? ;-)

 

 

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7 thoughts on “Damn Son, Update Your Off-Page SEO for 2014

  1. Julian

    Damn son, nice post! Another linking method I’ve started using, credit to Brain Dean is, dividing my guest post into relevant sections, and including 1-3 resource links at the end of each one. “Here are a few interesting articles if you’d like to read more about blah blah blah”

    Then I go into the next topic. So far it’s never been an issue with any site owners, and if you target=”blank” the links then the site owner still gets to keep readers onsite should they click on the resources.

    Reply
    1. Matt Lindley Post author

      Thanks Julian, great ideas there.

      I agree, there is a lot to be said for linking to a useful blog post or article published on your domain rather than to one of your commercial pages. If the link provides useful additional information for the reader and doesn’t seem like it’s selling something, there is no reason for the site owner to question it.

      Reply
  2. Sharmeen

    Hey there Damn Son! That’s a nice post, but its almost all about guest blogging which I’m not good at all at :( I’m doing off-page SEO for a house-buying company, what do you think I can do for link-building other then guest blogging? Would be ever grateful if you could help :) Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    1. Matt Lindley Post author

      Hi Sharmeen,

      Thanks for getting in touch. Well, I’m not sure I’d bother with building links through blog comments :-)

      I’ve noticed that your site only seems to have 6 pages indexed. I would therefore recommend creating a good company blog (www.yourdomain.com/blog) to drive traffic, generate social exposure and earn links instead of building them.

      Do some keyword research to identify the search terms that you want to rank for. Then create the content to achieve this.

      Think about searcher intent. Focus on creating the best result in the SERP to satisfy a particular query. You could do this by writing content that is more in-depth, offers new insights and utilises visual assets to explain difficult concepts.

      A quality company blog will drive traffic to your website, generate social shares and earn you links. That’s my two pennies’ worth, hope it helps :-)

      Reply
  3. Deepak Singh

    Damn Son, This post is very good and right way to Guest Blogging for SEO but i think you have share more off page new technique because there are many seo are searching for this type of information.
    Thanks for share this update.

    Reply
    1. Matt Lindley Post author

      Thanks son! True, this post does focus mainly on guest blogging, forms of which have since been discouraged by Google’s Matt Cutts.

      If you’re looking for insights into what forward-thinking agencies are doing to get links, have a look at these posts on Moz:

      http://moz.com/blog/8-step-plan-to-get-pr-driven-links
      http://moz.com/blog/31-link-building-tactics-discovered-from-competitive-analysis
      http://moz.com/blog/12-scalable-link-building-tactics

      Links shouldn’t necessarily be considered the primary objective of an online marketing campaign, more like an added bonus.

      What unites most of these ideas is that they’re not really scalable and require a combination of the following: creativity, time, resources and authenticity.

      Reply