Is Guest Blogging Bad for SEO?

Posted in google, seo

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Does guest blogging for the purpose of SEO really hurt your website and your search engine rankings? Matt Cutts at Google wrote a blog post on the pitfalls of guest blogging in future Google search engine updates. To me, what is really being discussed here are the guest blogging networks or the “blogger for hire” link network schemes. I have been asked questions like “Is guest blogging bad for your website?” or “Should we avoid too many blog authors to avoid looking like SEO spam?” These are all good questions.

“The trouble is, there are only so many experts on any given subject.”

A few years ago, marketers simply hired bloggers through a blogger network or allowed someone to post on their blog who they thought was a good enough writer. For many years, these same blog networks were in the business of buying SEO links and running link exchanges. As little as a few hundred dollars could get you ten high quality guest posts for your website?! (yeah, right)

Let’s think about what makes a good blog post. Quality, authentic, in-depth, expert posts will never go out of favor, no matter who is doing the writing. The trouble is there are only so many experts on any given subject. So what is a marketing department or SEO specialist to do?

A Short History of Guest Blogging

MyBlogGuest was a good early guest blogging forum which I used a couple years ago to connect with legitimate bloggers. As time went on, more SEO spammers and bloggers for hire began to fill up forums like these until they were flooded with blogger for hire networks.

SEO specialists and marketing companies accustom to getting one or two emails a week from link building networks, started to see more and more emails from these spammy link networks. This time the emails were a mix of blogging services and guest writing for hire companies, many of them from overseas. Some bloggers went as far as direct outreach to SEO companies looking to exchange content and links on their blog for money. Seems like an easy way to generate 100s of links for clients, right?

Marketers began using these cheap blogging networks, noticed a jump in organic search visitors, so they funneled more of their link building money into guest blogging networks. My assumption is the same folks that felt the pain of Google’s Panda and Penguin updates in the past two years are the same companies that will be hit by future guest blogging updates by Google. Let’s face it. Small businesses in competitive industries have a very limited budget so it’s unlikely they will go full “white hat” SEO anytime soon.

Guest Blogging Tips

In my mind guest posting, and link building for that matter, lives on. What Google and other search engines want to see is authoritative, subjective, and in-depth posts on any given subject matter. If someone is a subject matter expert they will likely have a blog of their own, a social media following and be published somewhere other than a handful of guest posts.

Where guest posting gets into trouble is when an author has 100s of guest posts but no real social media following or published work outside of these blogger for hire networks. I expect blogging networks to feel the same Google wrath as link networks in 2013-2014. Here are some tips you can use to avoid getting flagged as spam.

1. Find an Expert

Not everyone is an expert in any given field but whom ever you reach out to for a guest post should have a background on the subject. Check to see if they have worked or been published on the subject anywhere else. Twitter, Google+ and a social search engine like Tweet Binder are great ways to start your expert research. Using social media as a way to background check your authors is a good practice. You may even want to run their blog through a tool like Buzzsumo to see if any of their blog posts are getting shared on social media. If no one is engaging with their content, it may be due to poorly written posts or spam issues with posts in search engines.

2. Ask for an In-Depth Post

It’s not easy to create an in-depth blog post on a given subject, so try to provide the author with some prep questions or talking points. These can help lead to a longer post, a better reader response and social sharing. I would ask for at least 800-1,200+ words. Generally the longer the better but with limits. Most high performing posts are in the 1,600 word count range. Long-form content of 3,000+ words is becoming more popular as blog posts and articles compete for readers. Ask yourself if the topic is a good fit for long-form content. There are plenty of topics that can be covered in the 1,200-1,600 word range.

3. Proof Read & Add Images

After you or your author has created their post, make sure to check for spelling errors and the like. Grammarly is a great tool for double checking your work. Chrome has some nice extensions for spell checking to make it easier. A second set of eyes is always a good idea.

Make sure your posts stand out and load quickly. Having a video or graphic with your blog post helps improve engagement with your content. Skitch is a great tool for mocking up photos, screenshots, and graphics. Tools like Tinypng can help blog posts with several images load as quickly as possible.

Blog On!

As always, if it sounds too good to be true (like 15 bucks for a quality guest post for your website) it probably is. If you are a guest blogger, keep these simple tips in mind as you’re blogging to avoid red flags on your post or SEO spam on your clients website. Happy guest posting!

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photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography cc