Why Guest Posting and Blogging is a Slippery Slope – Whiteboard Friday
Posted by randfish
While guest posting can be a wonderful way to build your authority and earn links, it takes a huge amount of effort, and it’s easy for marketers to start slipping down the “Guest Posting Slope of Madness.” One of Rand’s predictions for marketing in 2014 is that Google will begin to crack down on low-quality guest posts, and in today’s Whiteboard Friday, he clears up some of the misconceptions that can lead to a downhill slide.
Whiteboard Friday – Why Guest Posting and Blogging is a Slippery Slope
For reference, here’s a still of this week’s whiteboard!
Sarah: Howdy Moz fans. This is Sarah Bird, and I am the new CEO and that’s why I am doing Whiteboard Friday. Today, we’re going to talk about guest blog posting because that’s SEO. Okay, so the first thing you have to do is think of something [Rand guides Sarah aside] …
Sarah to Rand: But I’m the new CEO, and that means I do the …
Rand: Howdy Moz fans, and welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday, which I will still be doing for, well for a very, very, very long time to come I hope. Today I wanted to tackle a tricky topic. I know it’s going to be a controversial one because a lot of folks in the SEO space do a lot of guest posting and guest blogging, but there’s a challenge here. So I made some predictions last week, a couple weeks ago now, in the new year about what 2014 will bring.
One of those is that I predicted that Google will be taking some webspam action, essentially the Webspam Team will be building an algorithm to target guest posters, people who do a lot of guest posting and a lot of guest blogging at scale to get links back to their site in order to rank. This is a very common strategy that many, many folks use, and here’s why it’s a slippery slope.
So oftentimes we start up, up here. You’re sort of super white hat, and “Oh, yeah you know I’ve got some great stuff to share, but my site doesn’t get all that much traffic so maybe I should go and see if Huffington Post or Mashable or maybe the Moz Blog or any of these sources will take it because I have a great post.”
Hey, what do you know? A lot of the time if you have something relevant and useful and great to say and you have some great ideas to share, some great visuals, some data, fantastic. You can get those guest posts on those big sites. Then you start to slide down the slope a little. You think, “Oh, yeah, that Huff Post piece went really well, and hey, I got a link. I got a live link out of it. Maybe that link will help me rank a little better, boost my authority, and I don’t know, that’s kind of nice. I should do some more guest posts and get more links. Maybe I’ll find some sites that can send me some traffic and boost my profile and authority out in the sphere and get a few more links.”
This is still totally, pretty much fine, pretty much okay. But then you slide down this little slope. There’s this devious little part right here, between the I’m doing this for kind of authority boosting and traffic sending reasons and I’m just doing this for the link.
So you slide down the slope, and then you get, “Oh, man, finding decent sites that will take my guests posts is really hard, and I keep having to write really good stuff and come up with new ideas because they all want unique content. You know what? Maybe I’ll just start going to any places that I can go where I’ll get a link. Then eventually you slide down into this sort of total black hat territory where you are, “You know, I bet I could scale this and even automate it. I’m going to use a team of outsourced writers, and I’m going to use a team of outsourced placement specialists. I’m going to write some little thing to scrape through the links I download from OSC from my competitors and scrape through the Google results and find any place that’ll take a guest post, who’ve taken five or more with spammy anchor text before, because that’s what I want.”
Oh, brother. That’s why I call this the guest posting slope of madness. Madness! It is madness, because think about what happens here. Essentially you’re going down this slope, and maybe you’re seeing results, more and more results, but you don’t know whether these links and these links that you’ve slid down into are actually really helping you or whether the authority and the profile that you’ve built from these good ones and all the other good marketing activities and the things your product is doing and your brand is doing are helping you, and you might think these are. So you keep doing them and then bam! You get smacked by a Penguin or the guest posting algo or whatever it is that comes next, and you have to go and try and get these folks to remove all these links, you have to disavow them, you’ve got to send your reconsideration requests, you’re out of the search results for weeks or months at a time, usually months, sometimes years.
What have you done to your site? What have you done to your SEO? What if you had taken all this effort and energy and put it into just doing this stuff and then once you built up this authority doing most of the posting on your own site where people would be linking to you?
One of the frustrating things about guest posting that people forget all the time is that when you are putting content somewhere else, especially if that’s good content, especially if it’s stuff that’s really earning traffic and visibility, that means all the links are going to somebody else’s site. Somebody else is earning most of the attention awareness, and granted some of that is transferring on to you and that’s why we do guest posting. But you have to be aware of that, and that leads me into some flawed assumptions.
Flawed assumption number one: More links are always better. This is not the case. This is not the case. I have seen many, many sites with just a few, a handful, a few dozen to a few hundred great links far outranking their brethren with thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of links. All links are not created equal.
Less editorial restriction is better. When you’re guest posting you’re like, “Oh, they’re so picky, these editors. Man, they want me to jump through all these hoops. Let me find some place that’ll just take whatever I’ll throw them.” Guess what? If they take whatever you’re throwing them, they’re taking whatever the rest of the Internet is throwing them, and we all know what the rest of the Internet looks like.
Number three: The link matters more than other factors, other factors like traffic and influence and credibility. Also not the case. I’ll be totally honest. I will take a great guest post that refuses to link to me or that only no follow links to me if I know that 5,000 or 10,000 people are going to read that piece and a few hundred people are going to re-tweet it and a few hundred people are going to like it on Facebook, because that is boosting my influence and my authority, and that is creating all kinds of things that will have second order effects that impact my SEO and my broad web marketing far better than just a link.
When should you guest post and blog? Well, like I said, if you’re trying to reach that new audience, that new audience that another site or page or blog has captured, great. Guest posting is a wonderful choice. For example, let’s say here at Moz we’re trying to reach into the design community. We might go to some wonderful web design sites, Smashing Magazine, for example, and say, “Hey. Would you guys want maybe a good resource on SEO for designers?” They might say, “Yeah, great we’d love you.” Perfect. That’s a perfect marriage there.
In addition to creating a relationship with another organization through content, I also love this. This is a great way to build some early stages of relationship with another company before you do a formal partnership, and it helps to see whether there’s kind of an overlap between your two organizations’ audiences, such that you might want to do a deeper kind of relationship, maybe a sponsorship or an investment together, project or product together.
Quick note here. For your marquee content, your best stuff, I strongly — see how I’ve underlined strongly — strongly suggest using your own site. Reason being, if you’re going to put wonderful stuff out there, even if you think it could do better on somebody else’s site, in the long term you want that to live on your own site.
The last note I’ll make is that Google’s Webspam Team has been telegraphing for nearly a year that they are coming after sites that are using guest posting tactics at scale. You’ve heard comments from Google’s Head of Webspam, that’s Matt Cutts. You’ve seen comments on the Google Webmaster blog. You’ve heard them talk about it at conferences. If you’re not getting the message, they are sending it directly to all of the folks in the SEO world that guest posting and guest blogging are targets for webspam in the future.
So just be very, very careful please and stay up and don’t fall down this slippery slope. All right everyone, thanks so much. Take care.
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