Google’s Panda and Penguin updates have upended some businesses’ search results.
Make sure you create blog posts that are Google-proof
Target audience: Businesses, brands, digital marketers, advertising agencies, SEO specialists, entrepreneurs, educators, journalists, Web publishers.
Guest post by Rohan Ayyar
Barry Schwartz of Search Engine Land recently brought to our attention some minor but significant updates to Google’s Link Schemes document. It now targets — that is, penalizes — some popular and hitherto “safe” areas of link building and SEO, namely large-scale guest posting, advertorials, press releases or any other attempts to include optimized keywords in anchor text.
The Link Schemes document on Google Webmasters Forum now makes it clear: Only quality content pays off. If you are writing guest posts for your business or for your clients, there’s just one way to do it: Develop naturally engaging, awesome content that users will find valuable and share organically.
Here’s the kind of content that makes Google see red and bury your results outright:
But many guest blogging experts still vouch for this approach. Sharon Hurley Hall, a writer and blogger, carried out some experiments with guest blogging that saw her traffic go up and also resulted in an improvement in other metrics such as visitor engagement and total time spent on her websites.
Even professional link building and SEO agencies see value in guest blogging. Ryan Clark, CEO of Linkbuildr Marketing, has a case study analyzing stats unearthed from a total of 4,137 emails sent to website owners and bloggers, directly asking if they would publish guest posts on behalf of his clients. About 19.7% of websites were willing to accept guest posts. That’s the great news for us and we won’t get into Ryan’s debatable point about paying for a guest post. (Socialmedia.biz publishes occasional guest posts but never accepts payments for posts.)
So are there any Google-friendly strategies or tactics left that you can use for guest blogging? I seriously don’t know. Consider the following points and work it out for yourself:
Organize & plan your guest blogging campaigns
Depending on your niche, go find host blogs that accept guest posts. There are some blog owners that don’t explicitly advertise “Guest posting opportunities” with a “Write for us” or “Contribute” page but might still be open for a few posts that pique their interest. Many sites seek out high-traffic sites for the Google link juice, even if it’s just a single link in a tagline bio.
The first step to approaching them is to get organized yourself. Create multiple pieces of content, schedules, ideas and tasks that you can use in your approach. Try out various project management/collaboration tools such as Asana or Trello to plan your guest posting campaigns (either for yourself or your clients), and a CRM tool such as Buzzstream to manage your outreach.
Here’s one possible way you could plan your guest posting campaign. The snapshot is from Asana, but you could just as easily use a tool of your choice, including plain old Microsoft Excel.
Sort the main sections by host blog, somewhat like Microsoft Outlook. Create a couple of sub-sections, one of which can be called “Idea repository,” and have a list of all your ideas pitched (or to be pitched) to the host blog. Optionally, you may want to create another sub-section called “Tasks,” where you list the status of the outreach, follow-ups or the next task involved in your interaction with the point person for that particular host blog.
Know your host: Build relationships, not links
From a true SEO standpoint, you’re not really qualified to write guest posts on a host blog until you know a lot about the subject in great detail, right down to the bone.
You’ll be able to find out a lot more about bloggers from the website itself. Google their name to get some baseline information. See who they’re interacting on Twitter, learn who they’re friends with on Facebook, dig up their employment history on LinkedIn, find out where they guest post from Google+.
Suggest ideas on how they could improve their blogs or site. Almost every site can be improved in some small way. You could also suggest a strategy for the site if you’re skilled enough. For instance, see who are the site’s competitors using Quantcast or SEMrush, and devise ways to beat them!
Reach out to folks, irrespective of whether or not they accept guest posts, and keep in touch. You never know when a “No” turns into a “Yes.”
Create specific post ideas for each blog
The secret to organized and successful guest blogging (or self-blogging, for that matter) is to be a treasure trove of ideas. It’s imperative that you pour in and select ideas quickly, consistently and over a long period of time.
Easier said than done, isn’t it? Post ideas will take form depending on the host blog or publication you are writing for. Once you identify a guest blogging opportunity, brainstorm and jot down ideas — you can qualify them later. Then zero in on those that most identify with the theme of the site and those that are most similar to its existing posts.
It just might help, so check out this infographic on 22 Ways to Create Compelling Content When You Don’t Have a Clue or Peter Shallad’s article on How to Find More Ideas Than You’ll Ever Be Able to Create.
Create idea sets for each host blog because a single or even a couple of ideas usually don’t work. When you give blog editors the option to pick and choose from an assortment of ideas, there’s a much better chance that they’ll be captivated by one of them.
Learn from the best writers, researchers and guest bloggers
Creating Web content is an art that’s constantly evolving around the confines of budgets, algorithms and the changing nature of information. The only acceptable resulting guest post is one that’s valuable, priceless and well-researched.
General rules for writing will always apply. It’s important to follow experienced, savvy marketers and attempt to replicate their success. Learn from the very best in the industry on how to write guest posts that will work for you.
Avoid blatant footprints
Sidebar and footer links have long been devalued and even penalized. Google now also realizes that author bio boxes are stand-alone pieces of text with links that have nothing to do with the blog post itself. The only place where links can add value to content is right in the middle of the post, which is of course where they add value to the page.
The host blogs that you select for guest posting need to be chosen very carefully!
- The theme of the sites you post on and the pattern of your posts can be monitored by Google through your authorship details.
- There have been studies showing the dangers of getting links from sites with home pages that fall within a particular Pagerank range, too!
- The server IP and co-location of the host blogs tell Google how reputable or reliable they are. Run a check on the location of your with IP address, assess the reliability of their hosting provider at WhoIsHostingThis and the domain owner’s details with a Whois Lookup. This is due diligence and you never know when you might find use for these records.
- There are patterns in the sites to which your host blog regularly links.
The Panda and Penguin updates to Google’s search algorithm, introduced in 2011 and 2012 to foil spammers, are something that every Web publisher has to deal with. As a guest blogger or blog host, your best bet to comply with these updates is to diversify everything, including your author bio, the anchor text to your links and the text that goes around them. Don’t get all your links from sites with limited focus. Focus on the quality of inbound links instead of targeting 100 blog posts a year from 20 different websites. Avoid being the exclusive author for all of your posts — use the authorship of fellow writers, co-workers and sourced contractors, and spread the authorship love.
How do you work on Google-proofing your guest posts? Share your ideas with us in the comments!