The secret to success in the online marketing world, and the solution for business owners struggling to generate website traffic, is to establish your brand (and yourself) as a credible authority within your niche, and the best tactic for doing so is called guest blogging.
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What is Guest Blogging for SEO?
Guest blogging–often referred to as guest posting–is the practice of writing and posting content on another’s blog or website in order to gain great exposure, referral traffic, leads and backlinks for SEO.
Guest blogging has been the darling of the SEO industry, but that doesn’t mean that only SEO professionals can do it. In fact, in the competitive world of online marketing, it’s necessary for business owners to do, or risk being burned by the competitors who are.
With the exception of paid search and paid ads, all the other tactics intertwine and affect each other. For instance, a strong social media marketing campaign will positively affect your organic search rankings, improving your SEO. And a strong content marketing campaign will provide fuel for social media marketing and SEO campaigns. Guest blogging is also still a more trusted source of information:
While paid search and ad campaigns can yield great ROI in the right situations, they usually amount to short-term gains with little or no long-term impact. A good SEO campaign, on the other hand, is like building equity in your business that lasts for the long haul. It’s similar to the difference between buying a house and building equity vs. just paying rent.
So, why do I so strongly advocate guest blogging? Because a properly-executed guest blogging campaign yields the strongest and safest ROI while simultaneously supporting your SEO, social media, and content marketing efforts. It builds the most valuable, long-term equity in your business, and, most importantly, requires nothing more than a computer and an Internet connection to execute. This means there are no excuses; if you’re reading this, you already have everything necessary to start a guest blogging campaign and grow your business online.
Don’t have time? Hire staff and assign them some of your duties to take things off your plate. Or, simply outsource your blogging to us.
This article is meant for business owners who want an easy-to-follow, understandable guide to building their business online through guest blogging.
Guest Posting Benefits
Guest blogging has a number of key benefits, including, but not limited to:
1. Referral Traffic
One of the most immediate benefits of guest blogging is the referral traffic you’ll receive. Assuming you include at least one link pointing back to your root domain on each individual post, you’ll see an increase in referral traffic from those external sources. For example, if your guest post gets 1,000 views and 10 percent of those readers end up clicking on your link, you’ll end up with 100 free visitors to your site. Since those links (and posts) are permanent, your referral traffic will continue to increase and compound over time.
2. Brand Recognition and Reputation Building
One of the less measurable effects of guest blogging is the increased brand recognition and reputation you’ll receive. As people start seeing your name and your brand popping up on more publication outlets, and as you are seen more consistently, you’ll start to be seen as a greater authority. This, in turn, will attract more people to your site and increase the likelihood that your new site visitors will eventually convert. You can even call attention to the fact that you’ve been published on these external sites on your homepage to strengthen your perceived reputation and credibility.
3. Link Building
One of the most popular reasons for guest posting has been the opportunity to build backlinks. Since its inception, Google’s search algorithm has used the number and quality of backlinks pointing back to domains as a go-to resource for determining that domain’s total authority. In essence, the stronger the backlink profile, the more authoritative the site will be, and the more authoritative a site is, the higher it will rank. Guest posting gives you the perfect opportunity to build high-quality links on external sites, giving you higher search rankings—so the theory goes.
4. Social Audience Building
Social media marketing is becoming increasingly important as more and more consumers rely on social media platforms for their communication needs. A larger social audience means greater influence, greater search ranks, and greater brand visibility, and including your social links on all your guest posts is a surefire way to increase your following. In a self-perpetuating relationship, a greater number of followers means more traffic for your posts, and greater traffic to your posts means a greater number of followers.
How to Find Guest Blogging Opportunities
I’m going to show you how to find guest posting opportunities by using one of my favorite internet marketing tools: Scrapebox. Other alternatives include Pitchbox and Mailshake. In some cases, you can find the opportunities themselves in Scrapebox and then use a tool like Mailshake to perform the automated outreach.
What You’ll Need:
- Scrapebox (download it here for a one-time fee of $57. TOTALLY worth it.)
- Private proxies (Get them from Proxybonanza for a small monthly fee. I recommend going for the “Bonanza” package from the “Exclusive Proxies” section.) Note: That Proxybonanza link is an affiliate link. I’d really appreciate if you’d buy through my link!
How are We Going to Use Scrapebox to Find Guest Blogging Opportunities?
Scrapebox will execute multiple search queries simultaneously in Google and Bing, automatically harvest all the results, and allow us to manipulate, augment, and export the data.
For example, let’s say you want to find good guest blogging opportunities for your website about canine epilepsy. To find other websites that rank well for the term (and similar terms) which might be good targets for a guest blog post, you’d want to examine the top 100 search results for the following search queries:
- Dog seizures
- Canine epilepsy
- Canine seizures
- Seizures in dogs
Without Scrapebox, you’d have to perform each of those searches manually (via Google.com), manually click through each of the top 10 pages, and copy/paste each URL into a spreadsheet for future follow-up. This process would easily take you at least an hour.
With Scrapebox, you supply the search queries, and it will perform the searches, collect the URLs of the top 100 results, and supply them to you in an Excel spreadsheet. Additionally, you can use Scrapebox to automatically find the PageRank of the domain of each search result, allowing you to filter out low-PR domains without having to manually visit them. Scrapebox also offers lots of other filtering options, such as the ability to ignore results from domains that would never accept a guest blog post, such as facebook.com, amazon.com, etc. All of the above processes can easily be completed in under 60 seconds.
Ready to take your link prospecting capabilities to a whole new level? Let’s get started.
Step 1: Load your proxies into Scrapebox
After obtaining your proxies, load them into a .txt file on your desktop in the following format:
Here’s an example:
In Scrapebox, click “Load” under the “Select Engines & Proxies” area. Select the text file containing your proxies. Scrapebox should load them immediately, and look something like this:
Click “Manage” and then “Test Proxies” to test your proxies and ensure Scrapebox can successfully activate and use them.
Be sure that “Google” and “Use Proxies” are both checked.
Step 2: Choose a keyword that best represents your niche or vertical
For example, let’s say I’m trying to find guest blogging opportunities for my website about canine epilepsy. I would select “dogs” as my keyword. I could go for a more targeted approach and try “canine epilepsy” or “dog seizures” as my keyword, but I’m likely to find much less (albeit more targeted) prospects.
Step 3: Define your search queries.
Copy and paste the following search queries into a .txt document on your desktop and replace each instance of [keyword] with your chosen keyword from Step 2.
Note: The following is my personal list of search queries that I use to identify guest blogging opportunities. Google limits queries to 32 words, which is why these are broken down into many chunks rather than one long query. Enjoy!
“submit blog post” OR “add blog post” OR “submit an article” OR “suggest a guest post” OR “send a guest post” “[keyword]”
“guest bloggers wanted” OR “contribute to our site” OR “become a contributor” OR “become * guest writer” “[keyword]”
“guest blogger” OR “blog for us” OR “write for us” OR “submit guest post” OR “submit a guest post” “[keyword]”
“become a guest blogger” OR “become a guest writer” OR “become guest writer” OR “become a contributor” “[keyword]”
“submit a guest post” OR “submit post” OR “write for us” OR “become an author” OR “guest column” OR “guest post” “[keyword]”
inurl:”submit” OR inurl:”write” OR inurl:”guest” OR inurl:”blog” OR inurl:”suggest” OR inurl:”contribute” “[keyword]”
inurl:”contributor” OR inurl:”writer” OR inurl:”become” OR inurl:”author” OR inurl:”post” “[keyword]”
site:twitter.com [keyword] “guest post” OR “guest blog” OR “guest author”
Step 4: Load Search Queries into Scrapebox.
In the “Harvester” section in Scrapebox, click “Import,” then “Import from file.” Select the file containing the search queries that you just created in Step 3. Scrapebox should then populate with the search queries, looking something like this:
Step 5: Update your blacklist.
Scrapebox has a “blacklist” which allows you to automatically filter out undesired search results. For example, I know that Facebook.com and Amazon.com will never accept a guest blog post, so I don’t want results from those domains appearing in my list.
To edit your blacklist, click “Blacklist” from the top navigation, then click “Edit local blacklist.”
After you start using Scrapebox and receiving output lists, you’ll begin to notice undesirable domains that often appear in search results. As you notice these, add them to your local SEO blacklist so they never appear again. Here are a few good sites to add to begin with:
Step 6: Set Search Depth in Scrapebox
Next, define how many search results Scrapebox should harvest for each query. You can do this in the “Select Engines & Proxies” area, in the text field next to “Results.” I generally set it to 200 or 300.
Step 7: Start Harvesting
We’re now ready to start harvesting search results for our queries. Click “Start Harvesting” in the “URL’s Harvested” section.
Step 8: Filter results by PageRank
You should now have a list of websites that Scrapebox harvested, which looks something like this:
The next step is to filter these results by PageRank, since we don’t want to waste our time reaching out to websites with a low PR. Scrapebox makes this super easy. Click “Check PageRank” then select “Get Domain PageRank.”
Next, click “Import/Export URL’s & PR.” Click “Export as Excel” and export the file to your desktop. Open the file on your desktop and re-save it if need be (sometimes the file is corrupt, but by re-saving it and deleting the older version, you can easily solve this).
Column A should contain a list of all the harvested URLs. Column B will contain the PageRank of each domain. Add column headers to column A (URL) and column B (PR).
Next, sort column B by PR, in order of largest to smallest. To do this, highlight column B by clicking on the column header, then click “Sort & Filter” in the “Home” tab in Excel. Then, click “Sort A to Z.”
You’ll see a popup box asking if you’d like to expand the selection. Do so, and click “sort.”
Remove all the rows with a PR of 2 or lower. We only want to target PR 3 and above.
Step 9: Manually Filter & Qualify the Remaining Websites.
You should now have a list of hundreds or thousands of potential candidates for guest blog post outreach. Add two more columns to your spreadsheet:
- Follow up?
- Contact information
Use the “Follow up?” column to note whether the website would make a good candidate for guest blog post outreach. If so, use the “Contact information” column to note the webmaster or author’s email address, or the URL where the contact form can be found.
While reviewing each website, ask yourself the following questions to determine whether it’s worthy of outreach for a guest blog post:
- Is the website designed well?
- Does it have a social following? Are they active in social media? Do they have social media icons on their website? Do they have a Facebook fan count on their website?
- Do the other posts on the website look well-written and informative, or is this website full of spam or scraped content?
Use your best judgment to decide whether the website is worthy of follow-up.
Step 10: Finalize Your List for Follow-Up.
After you’ve finished manually reviewing each website and deciding whether it’s worthy of asking for a guest blogging opportunity, save your Excel file and begin your outreach to the authors & webmasters.
Scrapebox has several very useful “Addons” which you can access from the “Addons” menu. For link prospecting, I recommend installing the “WhoIs Scraper.” This handy tool will automatically crawl your list of links and perform a “WhoIs” lookup to tell you the following information about each domain:
- Registration Date
- Registration Expiration Date
- Registered owner’s name
- Registered owner’s email address
You can use the name and email address information to aid in finding contact information for each of your prospects.
Establish and grow your relationships with each one, and you’ll be scoring guest blog posts in record time. However, getting past the gatekeepers can be tricky, and establishing a great long-term relationship is even harder. Once you’ve built your list, there’s a relatively solid system you can use to build up a store of guest posting sources.
Follow these five steps, and you should have little trouble establishing a relationship with a relevant source:
Step 11: Reach Out With a “Guest Post” Pitch
Once you have a source in mind, you have to reach out with a pitch—this is a brief outline of a post you intend to write for the source. Keep your pitch in line with other material you know the site has posted in the past; for example, you could reference a previously popular post and offer a more detailed follow-up or a rebuttal. You could also cover a topic you know has never been covered before by this particular source.
The key here is to offer value to your source. Make a bold impression by suggesting content the editor or publisher will be excited to incorporate on site. This is easier said than done, of course, but if you can find appropriate, exciting content to pitch, you’re a shoo-in as a new guest poster.
Step 12: Write & Deliver Great Content
If your pitch isn’t accepted, you must submit a new pitch or move on to a different source. If and when a pitch is accepted, it’s your job to deliver on your promise. That means creating great content that will actively add value to your selected source. The definition of “great” will vary from source to source, but a few things you’ll have to keep in mind:
- Follow any and all rules specific to your source. There may be length or formatting requirements.
- Never directly pitch your own brand or products. Your goal is to provide information.
- Back up your claims with external sources or evidence. The more thoroughly you research your topic, the better.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread. Don’t let a simple error compromise your future relationship with the publisher.
In addition, make sure to use a unique, recognizable brand voice across all your platforms and publishing sources. It will help your readers grow loyal and familiar with you.
Best Practices for Guest Blogging
Keep your interlinking strategy healthy by incorporating these best practices into your campaign:
The Importance of Link Relevance
Your links must be relevant to the subject of your article. If you try to stuff a link that leads to a meat processing factory’s website from an article about financial planning for seniors, you’re going to get some confused users and a red flag from Google’s algorithm. Google robots use contextual clues and semantic analysis to determine when links are appropriate or inappropriate, so use them only when they’re relevant and can give users more information. Your first goal should be making an informative, authoritative article, and your interlinking efforts should only enhance that purpose.
Choosing the Right Anchor Text
Anchor text has gotten a lot of attention lately, especially with the recent onset of the Penguin 3.0 update. Backlinks aren’t nearly as simple as they used to be; once upon a time, you could root your links in anchor text that contained a keyword you wanted to optimize for, and your ranking for that keyword would improve. Today, if you even try to optimize your anchor text, you’re begging for a penalty. Instead of writing out the names of your articles or trying to stuff a keyword phrase in to justify a place for your articles, embed your links into naturally relevant phrases (like I just did).
Just the Right Number
You want to have enough links to entice your users to click, but you also don’t want to overwhelm them. Having too many links from related sources pointing to one another can trigger a red flag from Google, signaling a link exchange scheme. It could also make your text virtually unreadable to the average user. There’s no firm rule for how many links you should have; instead, try and focus on only including the most relevant, highest quality links you can. You also need to vary your link targets—use many different articles in your interlinking strategy.
Occasional Nofollow Links
If you want to hedge your bets to avoid a penalty from Google, start using a handful of nofollow links as part of your interlinking strategy. Nofollow links are links marked with a rel=nofollow tag, which instructs Google to ignore the link in its authority-scouting algorithm. Essentially, you’ll be able to capture a share of user interest and traffic without angering search engine robots. It’s not ideal, since you’ll be missing out on a bit of authority, but if your interlinking strategy is tempered with occasional nofollow links, you’ll protect yourself against a possible ranking drop.
Interlinking is a worthwhile strategy for any guest blogging opportunity. The benefits of increased rank and more traffic are nice, but keep in mind that your first priority should be giving your users a more valuable experience. If your links aren’t improving the quality or value of your article, you might as well have none, so remember your users and interlink responsibly.
Can Sponsored/Paid Guest Blog Posts Hurt Your Rankings?
Guest posting on an external site can pass page rank to your website, thereby increasing your SEO ranks, and can also increase your reputation in your industry and send referral traffic your way directly.Offering guest posts on your own site can help boost your online brand reputation, especially if you can work with major influencers, and can beef up the diversity of your content offerings.
But one form of guest posting—namely, sponsored guest blogs—is perceived as risky. There are a number of misconceptions and fears around sponsored guest posts, but for the most part, the fears are misplaced.
What Are Sponsored Guest Blog Posts?
Let’s start by describing what sponsored guest blog posts are and aren’t.
There are some gray areas when it comes to this type of sponsorship, but as far as Google is concerned, the definition is clear.
Sponsored guest posts are any type of written post that somebody paid to have published. For example, if you give an external site any form of direct monetary compensation for featuring your work, that’s going to be considered a sponsored guest blog post.
The Problem With Paid Links
As Google regularly reaffirms: Buying links for the purposes of passing page rank and manipulating ranks in SERPs is explicitly forbidden and will earn Google’s wrath in the form of a penalty. Back in the day when quantity was all that mattered to a link building strategy, webmasters would take advantage of the vulnerability by buying up whatever links they could. Today, Google wants to prevent any such activity, so if you’re caught buying a link to improve your rank, you’re probably going to be penalized sooner or later.
However, merely exchanging money for a place on the web is not the problem. For example, Google’s position on affiliate links is one of understanding. Affiliate links are essentially paid links—clients pay hosts a set fee for each click those links earn—but they aren’t penalized, so long as they’re set up properly. This is because the intention of affiliate links is to attract direct traffic, rather than to manipulate search rank—as long as you aren’t trying to cheat the search engine, Google doesn’t care what you buy or sell on the web.
Google’s Official Position on Sponsored Guest Posts
In accordance with their stance on affiliate links, Google is perfectly fine with sponsored posts, so long as they aren’t meant to pass page rank. If you pay for a position on an external site, Google’s stance is that the position should not in any way pass authority to the site responsible for posting the content. In effect, as long as you aren’t paying for the opportunity to increase your rank, you aren’t going to conflict with Google’s policy, and you aren’t going to earn a penalty. Like the Hippocratic Oath of “do no harm,” you should ultimately want to protect your site from a Google ranking drop at all costs.
The trick is to make it clear that the guest post is sponsored. First, you owe it to your readers to disclose the fact that the post was sponsored. You can do this by introducing the content as a sponsored post, either at the beginning or the end of the article and including a “sponsored” indication somewhere if and when you syndicate a link to the post through social media. Second, you owe it to Google to disclose the fact that it’s a sponsored post and make sure any links available in the post are not considered for passing authority. The easiest way to do this is to mark any links in the sponsored content with a “nofollow” designation, which will prevent search engines from crawling those links.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide on building your business through guest blogging. I strongly believe it’s the most valuable tactic business owners can (and should) be using to build a sustainable online business for the long haul, while growing traffic and sales.
Although finding a place to publish your guest blog may seem like a difficult or impossible task, it doesn’t have to be. By implementing the strategies listed above, you can find a website or blog that does accept guest blogs and subsequently get yours published. In so doing, you will be able to generate more traffic to your blog and increase your conversion rates.
Did this guide help you? Are you going to give it a try? Are you at the beginning stages where you just need to start a blog?