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:
Basically, it is very hard to get a guest post published nowadays. And even when you do, you still face the following challenges:
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:
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
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 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):
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
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:
- Staff discounts
- On-page content that earns links (videos, tools, maps, games)
- Online giveaways
- Sponsoring a related club or society
- Making the client’s business more newsworthy (e.g. organising an event, starting an initiative, etc)
- Pitching story ideas to bloggers and journalists
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?