In early 2012, the search engine optimization (SEO) world began talking about an upcoming Google update that would penalize “over optimized” websites. That update came in April and was dubbed Panda. While the dust hasn’t totally settled in terms of what exactly Panda penalizes, the folks at Google claim that it’s directly aimed at detecting and eliminating webspam from Google’s search results. Sites not following Google’s Webmaster Guidelines—stuffing keywords in every imaginable place, buying paid links from low-quality websites in an effort to boost their rankings, etc.—could expect possible penalties (loss of organic rankings).
In some industries, it’s really easy to get legit organic links. If you’ve just opened a hot new bar near a local college, it’s not going to be hard to get some online buzz going on all the local blogs, news sites, etc. In other industries, it’s not so easy. Not nearly as many people give a sh*t (no pun intended) that the local plumbing company just upgraded from pick up trucks to Sprinter vans or that you now offer video pipe inspection! If buying links on directory sites, issuing pseudo web press-releases (press releases about things that, in a no-SEO world, wouldn’t traditionally be press-release worthy), and getting links from relevant industry forums could be perceived as “spam” or over-optimization by Google Penguin, how is the local ______ company going to get inbound links?
Enter Guest Blogging
In a post-Google Penguin world, guest blogging appears to be the only legitimate form of link building left … to some. For those of you just waking up from a long nap, guest blogging is when you write a blog post and get it published on a website other than your own—typically in exchange for a link (or several links) back to your website. Guest blog posts suddenly make it a lot easier for the local HVAC, plumber, roofer, etc. to get backlinks. For example, if you’re a plumber, you can reach out to all your suppliers and see if any of them allow guest blog posts. You can reach out to local member-based organizations—like the Chamber of Commerce. You can reach out to local DIY homeowner type websites and submit “tips” posts, etc.
On the one hand, I believe that guest blog posts are a perfectly acceptable way to:
- Promote your business online
- Establish/reinforce authority
- Get links back to your website
On the other hand, I think guest blogging is stupid and that you should think long and hard before you do it! If the only reason you’re doing it is to get links back to your website, you’ve got to re-think your priorities.
The Case to STOP Guest Blogging
Let me give you a little piece of SEO advice. The path to long-term organic visibility is incredibly straightforward and simple (I said, “simple”—not easy). It’s free from any stupid SEO tricks and totally Matt Cutts-approved. Drum roll please … the way to improve your company’s organic rankings is to establish and promote your company as THE authority for what you do in the markets you do it in—period. In short, this means building a reputable brand.
How does all of this relate back to guest blog posting?
When you write a guest blog post and submit it to another website, you ARE building your brand, but you’re also building someone else’s brand. Most authoritative content sites have content policies that indicate that they own whatever you submit. If you write great content, that’s a pretty big cost to pay for a link or two. Is it worth it?
Remember that one of the (original) benefits of blogging was to create awesome content that would attract prospective customers to your website. If your content was really remarkable, it would earn truly organic links from people referencing it all over the web. When you submit great content to another website, they are the recipient of those links—not you. If the site you’re submitting to already has a strong brand, who is the reader going to remember—you or the site that published your piece? I think some of this depends on the sophistication of the person reading your content. When I was younger, I remembered the medium, not the author. Only as I started writing myself did I ever start to pay attention to the writer of various articles.
Let me come right out and say it—My name is Ben Landers and I write guest blog posts. So, do I really believe they are stupid? Sometimes and for some people, yes. Although I guest blog quite a bit on several dozen websites, I also spend a lot of time (maybe too much time) adding content (building brands) to sites that I own—like this one and this one. If I had a limited amount of time, and I have at various points in my life, I would focus on adding content to my own sites before engaging in guest blogging.
If the primary motivation for guest blogging is inbound links, I think you’re missing the forest for the trees. You need to stop obsessing over Google’s latest algorithm update and develop a laser-like focus on building a brand. You need to establish and promote your company as THE authority for what you do in the markets you do it. This work occurs online and in the real world. I promise that if you commit to doing this, the rankings will follow (assuming you don’t do things that sabotage your SEO!).
Finally, some of you out there might argue that a guest blog post can act almost like a referral—like what you say on someone else’s blog might be perceived as more authoritative than the same message published on your own site. No arguments from me there, but I see an awful lot of guest blogging happening on VERY low-quality websites. On these sites, it’s clear that the sole reason guest blogging is happening is for the inbound links. I’m telling you, this is a lame SEO tactic that isn’t going to work for very long.