One of the ways to help improve your ranking with search engines, and especially Google, is with inbound links – those links that point back to you. Creating inbound links to your company website, blog, or portfolio is difficult to do without guest blogging. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear an audible groan of dismay from many of you reading this article. Yes, guest blogging (publishing articles on other blogs) is not exactly the easiest or quickest SEO task on your agenda. It takes hard work and really only gives you great results after you have acquired a good build up of publications.
And then there’s the problem of knowing how to go about guest blogging legitimately without Google mistaking your efforts for spam and dropping your rank. I have seen many a company honestly try to build up inbound links through guest blogging, but because they didn’t quite understand the rules, they ended up losing almost all of the ground they seemed to gain once Google rolled out the 2012 updates.
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So, to help my fellow freelancers avoid this crushing devastation from Google, I have narrowed down the following discussion to the most important things that anyone needs to know before beginning a guest blog campaign. There are other factors, of course, but the following 5 steps are the ones that are the most important for getting the best (and safest) SEO results when it comes to posting on guest blogs.
Find the Right Guest Blogs
Guest blogging takes a lot of time, patience, and even money if you hire help. So don’t waste your efforts on something that won’t be worth it. The right guest blogs will first of all be relevant to your business. In other words, a blog should be related to your industry, and its visitors should include your target market. Second, make sure the blog has the right set-up for guest posts. There should be no mention of the word "guest post" or "guest author" or "guest" anything anywhere on guest posts. The page should simply have an author name (sometimes along with your company name) and/or a bio section.
The other big consideration when choosing a guest blog is the amount of monthly traffic, the page rank, and possibly the Alexa rank (although this is not quite as important as the first two points). The higher the amount of monthly traffic and the higher the PR (page rank), the more exposure you will receive and the more shares possible. Alexa rank is the opposite, of course – the lower the score, the more traffic a blog has. Now, keep in mind that really popular blogs can be harder to get approval for article topics. For instance, a blog with a 4+ PR, 10,000 unique visitors, and <50,000 Alexa rank will be very competitive in the guest blogging arena. This is why you may want to start with easier guest posting opportunities. Or you can focus on the lower ranked blogs but hire a third party for the higher ranked blogs.
Avoid Dangerous Anchor Text
Adding in anchor text could be called "dangerous" in light of past Google updates. Many blogs were punished for allowing irrelevant links in posts, which is why blogs that allow guest posts should not allow links unless they are highly related. For instance, links are necessary when citing a reference or listing a resource. Use this same criteria for including a link that leads back to your site. Only list it if your site can legitimately be claimed as a resource or a reference. If you are able to legitimately include a personal link, then be sure to let readers know that this is your company (this is why many companies hire a third party for guest blogging – so that the writer can include the link as a resource or reference link without the need to claim any connection, making the link itself more credible).
With every new post and guest blog site, make sure to use different anchor text. For instance, you may want to push the keyword phrase "children’s water shoes", but to do so without getting punished by Google, you will need to change up the phrase. Try "water shoes for children", "children’s shoes for water", or even "water proof children’s shoes".
If you are the author of the guest post (you do not hire a third party), then be sure to mind the anchor text and links within your author bio as well. Write a unique bio for every blog and change the anchor text and links. For instance, one bio may use your company name as the anchor text with your home page as your link. Another may then include a link to your services page with "provide water shoes for children" as your anchor text.
Work in Co-occurrence
The magic of co-occurrence is that it helps to build your page rank without any links. Co-occurrence is simply when an author mentions a brand name along with keywords that Google associates with that site. For instance, you or another author may use your company as an example in a post titled "Choosing the Right Charity for Your Small Business".
In this article, you may mention that your company, Water Shoes, Inc, donates half of its proceeds on children’s water shoes to provide shoes for 3rd World countries. There is no need to include a link because Google will see this association and attribute it to your website – if you have optimized your own website for these keywords, that is. The other beauty of co-occurrence is that it often sounds much more natural than trying to fit in a link with a keyword you’ve rearranged a million times.
You may wonder how readers will be able to find your company, though, without a link. Obviously, if you wrote the article, your website will be in your author bio. Or a 3rd party author may include a "Resources" section at the end of the article with your website link included. And if somehow your website link does not get included at all in the article, remember that those who are reading your online article more than likely know how to Google a company to find the company website in a matter of seconds.
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Use Social Signals to Determine Amount of Posts
With all guest blogs, there’s a point that you reach where your posts no longer positively effect your website. For most blogs, three is the most you will want to contribute, with as little as one for very low ranked blogs. If you get too many incoming links from the same source, Google looks at these links as less relevant. A variety of links from a variety of sources is what you need to really help boost your standing with Google.
However, there is an exception. If the blog gets a lot of activity and your posts on the blog always seem to garner lots of social media activity (tweets, retweets, +1′s, shares, likes, etc.), then this would be reason enough to keep blogging for this post. Links that are from "Social Signals" are highly relevant to Google, since Social Signals are "organic" links. As Google sees it, almost any link coming from social media is pure, simply because most people won’t share information that would reflect badly on them. Most people share links that truly interest them, or that they think would interest their connections.
Leverage Social Media to Build Reputation
For the same reason as described in the previous section, make sure to leverage your own social media accounts in conjunction with guest blogging. Any time one of your guest posts is published, be sure to share it with your connections. Now, keep in mind that not every post may be appropriate or relevant for every social media audience. On Twitter, you may have a different group of followers than you may have on Google+ or Pinterest or Facebook. And even if a post is relevant to all audiences, there may be different times of the day that you want to release the mention.
With Twitter, you can even get away with posting links more than once, especially if your followers are from all over the world. Another consideration with Twitter is that you may acquire several hundred new followers in a month, so you may want to repost links from last month that they may not have seen. With other social media, such as Facebook, this excessive activity would result in mass unfriend-ing and unliking, however.
In my own research and experience, the above steps were the ones that I found to be the most important when it comes to my guest blogging activities. However, you may have a different experience or opinion – or fact even! If so, please share below, since we are all on the same side in this "search engine game", and just the slightest bit of educated advice can go a long way to helping us all become winners in this online marketing trivia.