Guest posting is a long-standing link-building technique used by many in the search engine optimization industry. But Google has discouraged guest posting for the sole purpose of link building and even warned publishers and authors to avoid it.
In fact, in January of 2014, Matt Cutts, Google’s primary SEO spokesman at the time, wrote, “Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.”
Cutts shared a few videos from the Google Webmasters series showing how the company’s position related to guest posting had evolved. Here is an example.
Google continues to discourage guest posts as a large-scale linking-building scheme. In May 2017, for example, the Webmaster Central Blog posted an article titled, “A reminder about links in large-scale article campaigns.”
“Lately we’ve seen an increase in spammy links contained in articles referred to as contributor posts, guest posts, partner posts, or syndicated posts. These articles are generally written by or in the name of one website, and published on a different one.
“Google does not discourage these types of articles in the cases when they inform users, educate another site’s audience or bring awareness to your cause or company. However, what does violate Google’s guidelines on link schemes is when the main intent is to build links in a large-scale way back to the author’s site.”
If you focus on the phrase “inform users, educate another site’s audience,” you may notice some similarity to the definition of content marketing.
For example, I often write that content marketing is the act of creating, publishing, and distributing content for the purpose of attracting, engaging, and retaining customers. What’s more, content should be useful, informative, or entertaining. It should bring real value to those who read it or interact with it.
The difference, then, is how you think about the content. Or as Search Engine Journal stated, “It’s time we think beyond the links.”
Guest posting focused on obtaining backlinks, for some practitioners, leads to poor quality content, keyword stuffing, article spinning, and even article automation — just the sorts of behaviors that search engines like Google abhor.
In contrast, content marketing focuses on delivering value. It relies on reciprocity, which is the practice of exchanging things with other folks for mutual benefit.
In the context of ecommerce, when a business provides useful, informative, or entertaining content, potential customers may feel a sense of indebtedness. When it is time to make a purchase or leave a good review, they reciprocate.
Reciprocity is so powerful that it is the first, universal principle of persuasion, according to marketing psychologist Robert Cialdini.
So guest posting is better as content marketing. You still want to build links. In fact, “link building is one of the most important ongoing tasks you’ll work on as part of an SEO campaign.” said SEO expert Greg Gifford, in a SEMrush Academy course.
But focus on providing value first.
The Search Engine Journal article listed several industry leaders and business founders who “guest post.”
- Neil Patel, the founder of Kissmetrics and Crazy Egg, publishes an average of 100 guest posts per year.
- Eric Enge, the founder of Stone Temple Consulting, built his reputation by writing guest posts.
- Leo Widrich wrote 150 guest blog posts in two months to help build Buffer.
- Julia McCoy of Express Writers gained $5,000 from one guest blog post on SiteProNews.
In all of these cases, the content was excellent. It was valuable to the readers. Neil Patel provides good advice on building your business. Leo Widrich wrote insightful posts on a number of topics.
Their work, published on their own websites, would be called content marketing.
So rather than guest post for SEO, use “distributed content marketing” to create engaging content that also happens to generate links to your business.
This is not just a play on words, but also a change in focus. Aim for the content itself to be the product. The backlinks it creates are the by-product.
Write articles that help folks learn a new skill, complete a task, or make a better decision.
If you sell, as an example, cookware, consider a series of vegan recipes and then reach out to leading vegan blogs such as Deliciously Ella, Pick Up Limes, or Avant Garde Vegan. You could build a new customer base.
Find topics that could interest your potential customers. Produce quality work and share it.