Guest posting as a link building SEO tactic has been around for many years. Over time as Google has changed how they use links to evaluate content or cracked down on link spam, the practice has become a topic of debate in the digital marketing industry. And with Google’s July 2021 update focused specifically on backlink and other link abuses, you may be tempted to give up on creating guest content altogether.
However, using guest blogging is still an effective SEO strategy. Below we dive into how to use SEO content to improve how you approach it, as well as how to do it correctly.
Remember SEO Blogging Fundamentals
When you approach writing a guest post for another website, approach it just like you would your own articles. Basic SEO blog writing fundamentals like the ones found in this article from Search Engine Journal always apply, whether you’re writing for your own blog or someone else’s. The following tips are examples of Google search optimization best practices for creating blog content.
- Use keywords – One to two are enough, but don’t keyword stuff your guest blogs. Use natural variations, and related keywords will help prevent that from happening. Plus, it will make your guest blogs more engaging for readers.
- Use headings and subheadings – They help search engine web crawlers like the ones used by Google understand your blog post. They also make your articles easier to digest for readers. Furthermore, chunking your guest content into snackable sections also makes it convenient for repurposing by the website owner.
- Use meta descriptions – Meta descriptions are the short summaries you see under the title link to a search result. They’re usually between one and three sentences. You also want to include your main keyword or keywords in your meta descriptions.
- Use alt image text – Alt text is used to describe images in your blogs. It’s another tool that helps web crawlers and it makes your posts accessible to people who are visually impaired. You shouldn’t keyword stuff your alt image text, but it’s ok to include a keyword in your alt image descriptions if it’s natural to do so.
- Use appropriate link anchor text – You should link to other high-authority websites, However, it’s vital you make the anchor text for your links SEO-friendly. This article on anchor text from the SEO experts at Moz recommends that it’s:
- Relevant to the page you’re linking to
- Not keyword dense – meaning no keywords to very few keywords
- Clear, concise and not generic language
Think beyond keywords and links
According to SEMrush’s Melissa Fach on guest blogs and SEO, Google has been trying to get content creators and SEO professionals to stop focusing so much on link building and keyword optimization for nearly a decade. Instead, they want to emphasize web content in search results that match their mission to provide high quality, useful, accurate and informative content that matches searcher intent.
Most Google algorithm updates and search models from Panda to Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers(BERT) and others have had the goal of weeding out thin content from the search engine results pages (SERPs) or improving their search engine’s understanding of context and search query intent.
- Searcher Intent – Look at your SEO guest blogging strategy from Google’s stated mission and focus on searcher intent. Focus on creating guest content that answers search queries, answers common customer questions, addresses pain points or solves a widespread problem. Put yourself in your target customers’ shoes when you write articles for yourself or other websites.
- Google Search Quality Ratings – In 2015, Google released the first version of their Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines, and in 2020 they published the newest version. The purpose of the guide is to help Google’s Search Quality Raters clear requirements for evaluating search engine and search result quality. Google uses people as evaluators as part of its stated mission to provide useful, relevant and informative content in its search results. There are two main factors in every version of the publication that you need to pay attention to when you’re approaching SEO and guest blogging.
- E-A-T – Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness is a content standard Google uses to help them provide high-quality pages in their search results. They want to provide their users with content written by subject matter experts that their readers can trust. In terms of guest blog posts consider the topic of the website or blog as well as the area of expertise it covers.
- YMYL – Your Money or Your Life is a content standard Google uses to evaluate if a page’s content might adversely affect a user’s “happiness, health, financial stability or safety.” They apply this standard to topics such as health and safety, finance, news, the law and government, shopping and groups of people. When you approach providing guest content, you need to evaluate the topic and the website to help you decide who should write the copy. Can you write it or do you need to hire or interview an expert or experts to help you create it?
Use guest posting topic strategy
We could write an entire article on how to go about finding and choosing online publications and blogs to pitch guest content to. Briefly, stick to websites in your or your clients’ niche. Bear in mind that larger publications might be tougher and might not accept guest content submissions. They also usually have specific content goals and campaigns planned out months in advance.
Once you have identified the sites you want to contact about guest blogging, do your own research in the following areas:
- Follow the blog site’s guidelines – It’s your job to search for a blog’s guest posting guidelines and follow them. If a site doesn’t have any posted guidelines and you can’t ask them in advance, look at about three to five blog articles to get an idea of formatting, length and image requirements.
- Don’t rely on the online publication for topics – Use the same SEO tools and tactics you employ when you approach topic research for your own blog. Look at the sites’ blogs you want to target and find content and topic gaps between them and their competitors. Companies like SEMrush and Ahrefs have tools to help you find topics and keywords, including to perform competitive analysis.
- Choose evergreen topics – If possible, try to choose topics that remain relevant over time. It’s ok if some things change, including statistics, procedures, laws or trends. Once your guest article gets published, continue to track it and inform the publisher via email whenever you notice any potential updates they might want to add.
Avoid guest posting pitfalls
Over time how Google and online publications in general approach guest posting has changed. Well-known sites in your industry that used to seek out guest content may have stopped accepting submissions, including via email outreach. And Google often alters their guidelines for how to use links in guest articles. Pay attention to their announcements.
Beyond staying on top of Google’s changes and improvements to how they index and display content in their SERPS, there are some practices that will harm your SEO rather than help it. To help you avoid any mistakes, don’t fall into any of the following guest posting bad habits:
- Spamming blog editors – Don’t use form email templates to pitch guest posting to webmasters, blog editors and company SEO or marketing teams. Your email will usually be ignored or reported as spam, and you’re doing no favors for yourself or your brand’s reputation. Instead, focus on building real relationships with editors and on personal communication with them.
- Don’t pay for links – Link building schemes, exchanging backlinks and purchasing links are all things you should not be doing as part of your guest content SEO strategy. It’s better to invest in creating a team that does white hat link building or outsourcing the task of link building to an agency. Over the years, Google has gotten very effective at rooting out this kind of content and their most recent core algorithm update at the end of July 2021 was designed to help eliminate link spamming. You can find out more about this update here, and for more information on Google linking best practices, see their article here.
- Don’t ignore publication website quality – Don’t pitch a guest post to a website just because it’s in your niche or related to a client’s area of expertise. Analyze the quality of the site and don’t submit blog articles to them if you discover issues such as bad reviews, poor content quality that either doesn’t cover topics or contains lots of errors in grammar and spelling, uses keyword stuffing, or has deceptive design elements and a poor user experience.
Despite Google’s ever-changing guidelines, including on how they look at links, guest blogging is still an effective aspect of any SEO strategy. Educating yourself in how to research and approach online publications, staying abreast of Google updates and announcements and using the same SEO fundamentals you employ on your own website will ultimately help your guest blog efforts to succeed.