Does guest blogging still work for SEO? Pros, cons and best practices
Search engine optimization techniques keep evolving, leaving many wondering what still works and which tactic is no longer effective. With the focus on guest blogging being so intense and the opinions about it changing so fast over the years, it’s no surprise that many are uncertain about its relevance for SEO today. As for the Google algorithm, everything is stable – having links from quality niche-related sites still counts as a digital thumbs-up that can enhance your search rankings.
Of course, there are multiple ways to earn those valuable backlinks besides guest blogging. Still, even a single post on the right website can significantly change your site’s position in SERPs. That’s why it is hard to imagine any SEO specialist not implementing this tactic. If that’s you, you probably also know the pain and stress of carrying out multiple monthly outreaches, hoping to get a quality backlink that can make a big difference. So, is it even worth it?
You may have heard some argue that guest-blogging sites are bad for SEO. If so, you might wonder why most SEO experts still use them. Some confusion can be traced back to this post on Google Search Central, which appears to aim at large-scale article campaigns done to earn links. And we all know that most guest-blogging sites want to get you as many links as possible, which can be an exact recipe for disaster. But is this always the case?
A second look at the GSC blog referenced above shows that guest blogging is permissible under certain conditions. They must be educational and non-manipulative. The truth is that many SEO techniques are not entirely black and white; many are in the “gray” area. Is paying for guest posts against Google policies? Yes. Can you find sites to publish your blogs for free? You can try (hard). Can search engines know if you paid for the posts? Hardly. That’s why guest blogging is popular. It is effective, and it can be a Google-friendly tactic.
Still, there are downsides to guest posting that you may want to consider. While efficient for those with the know-how, it is still easy for the newbies to make costly mistakes and get penalized. The first detail you should know is that you might not encounter any issues if you act according to a well-thought-out plan based on the best practices. You are definitely off the road when you use questionable and spammy tactics. And the only thing you will face in the long run is the drawbacks of your guest blogging activities.
What are those “spammy tactics” you should avoid? I’d say that some of the most widespread are the following:
- Using too many keywords in your anchor text or only using keywords for anchors.
- Ignoring the natural dynamic of acquiring backlinks. If you have a newly created website that gets 50 backlinks in a month out of nowhere, it can do no good for your site. There is no rule of thumb regarding the number of monthly backlinks. Still, most pages with high rankings get +5%-14.5% dofollow backlinks from new websites.
- Creating low-quality content for guest-blogging sites (including AI-generated texts).
- Forgetting about the natural and diversified backlink profile. You don’t only need dofollow links from super high-DA websites. Instead of ignoring nofollow links, create an organic mix, including at least web 2.0 backlinks (forums, social media, listing platforms, etc.).
Then, again, if you outsource your guest posting to someone else, whether it is a freelancer, an agency, or a specialized online platform, you have to make sure they know what they’re doing. And, of course, if the only experience you had with guest blogging was spammy and low-quality sites, you will be convinced that this SEO tactic can only result in problems without much else to do. By low-quality sites, I mean those that have:
- Low basic SEO indicators, such as traffic and its cost, DA/DR, etc.
- More outbound than inbound links (this probably means that they publish almost any content).
- A dedicated “Write for us” page that has all the information and prices for submitting a guest post.
What makes for an effective guest blogging strategy? Here is what the experts have to say.
For this stage, you must deliberate about your search for high-quality sites that will let you submit a guest post. Here’s what you should look for: the domain authority, the relevant industry and their guest blogging history. Sites with a high DA rating in your niche will give you the best quality links and boost your search rankings. Otherwise, you will get the opposite results.
Now, the main question is, how do you find those relevant and valuable prospects? There are a couple of ways you can do that:
- DIY. Of course, as with anything else, you can roll up your sleeves and do it yourself. One of the difficult parts is finding the appropriate pages that accept guest blogs. Some options are analyzing where your competitors get the links, looking for reputable sites in your niche, and finding websites with the “Write for us” section. Then, you can gather those and reach out to them.
- Hire your own team. This is one of the best options, yet there is a huge BUT – you need big budgets. If you do, you can stop reading this blog right here and hire SEO analysts, outreach specialists, professional copywriters, PR experts, their team leads, etc. If they have a proven experience with great results, you will be golden (in theory).
- Hire a freelancer. This is a budget-friendly alternative for those who don’t want to do guest blogging themselves and can’t afford a full-scale SEO team. Still, if you ever had an experience hiring freelancers, you know that it might not be as easy as it seems. Finding someone who can do exactly what you need is pretty hard. Yet, nothing is impossible, so Upwork and Fiverr are waiting for you. Please remember that if something looks too good to be true on those sites, it probably is.
- Use directories with guest blogging sites. Imagine if you could simply insert all your search requests, including niche and DA and get a full list of potential pages where you could submit a guest post. Sounds like a dream for everyone who knows all the difficulties of finding the right prospects. Yet, guest-blogging services like this actually exist. And the beauty of them is that you get connected to outreach specialists who have established bonds with the sites you select. Besides, Adsy, for example, allows you to choose from several people who can contact the potential prospects in your name.
Whatever you pick, remember that your guest blogs should not be a part of your race to get as many backlinks as possible. They should provide value and be relevant to your business.
The word “tactical” evokes images of battle-ready and skillful maneuvers by warriors in combat gear engaging in some high-stakes action. The same can be said for your pitches during your guest blogging outreach (with a little less dramatism). You’ve researched and narrowed down the best likely prospects and even have the content topic ideas. But how do you get those sites to publish them? Your next step is to reach out to the potential target pages via email or social media. Take the time to grasp how to dominate their inbox with this powerful email marketing audit checklist that can open doors for more opportunities.
You want to be persuasive, stand out and be simply irresistible in your pitches. Ensure you share your ideas for a future blog post, explaining why you think their readers will benefit from that information and why you are the best person for the task. You might find many templates online, but this easy solution might not be the best. For example, Alexandra Tachalova thinks it’s better to go for a more personalized approach that shows your true interest.
Content quality is often repeatedly mentioned in blogs that explore ways to earn links from other sources, and that’s because it works. And there is no way you can skip this step. Content may or not be the king but the texts you write are the king, the queen and the royal family. This is why you need to invest time and resources in doing the necessary research that will help you create memorable content. And as much as you can share something new. How? Invite someone for an interview, conduct even small research among your clients/followers, or talk about your real-life case.
You also want to ensure that people will feel something after reading your texts (it is a hard part). Erica Schneider recommends that your content elicits some form of emotional response from your audience. If your readers can connect or identify with your post, it leaves a lasting impact and makes your brand more relatable and special. And, of course, if we’re talking SEO, emotions alone won’t get you far. So, don’t forget to optimize your content and choose your headlines wisely, as 85% of titles in the top five Google search results feature keywords.
You might wonder what this tip has to do with effective guest blogging. Yet, if you are targeting some of the best guest-blogging sites, you must understand that the website owners will check who you are and what your company does (if they read your pitch). Sometimes, you might not get a response simply because your online profile doesn’t look appealing or doesn’t show your expertise. It is just an impression that has nothing to do with reality, but what we post online matters nowadays, whether we like it or not.
There is another great bonus you get when improving your social media presence. Some websites, podcasts or YouTube channels can reach out to you themselves. Everyone talks about personal brands this much today because it is a real deal. People love true personalities. So, the better image you create, the more opportunities you’ll get. Don’t try to be picture-perfect, though.
Whatever you think about guest posting, it can be an ace up your sleeve or a complete disaster that will harm your overall SEO efforts. As doctors love to say – everything is fine in moderation. Treat your guest posting the same way, and you will never be spammy or go against Google policies.