A couple of years ago, the Internet went bananas over the news that guest blogging – formerly a top SEO strategy for backlink building – would be penalized moving forward. You can see the fallout even today, reading posts like this one on major blogs. The shift from “guest blogging is great!” to “guest blogging will destroy your site” was abrupt and disastrous for some SEO companies that relied on it as a link building strategy.
Today, long after that bombshell went off and the fallout settled, where does guest blogging stand? Should you allow guest bloggers? Can they hurt your site?
You want to be an industry authority to which others turn for information. This makes guest posting a great means to growth. When important people in your industry post on your blog, your blog becomes a great place to turn when new information is sought. This is how, for example, Moz has become the giant is has; even now, they accept guest posts from anyone in the industry with the proper credentials.
You want to build exposure from other industry sites. Typically, when someone guest blogs on a site, they then link to that post. They want to share it with their fans, after all. This means when you get a guest post, you get a link along with it. This is valuable, but should not be your sole purpose in accepting guest posts.
You legitimately want to network and share the opinions of others in your industry. Sometimes you’re just in it because you’re passionate and you think it would be awesome to have connections in your industry. In these cases, guest posts are great.
You aren’t big enough to attract anyone of value. This is a major problem a lot of new, young blogs have; they want guest posts to build authority, but the guests just won’t waste their time on a site that gets 100 views a month.
The people who want to guest on your site only want to do so for links. Any time you get an email asking you to publish a guest post in exchange for a followed link, just delete it. That’s what got guest posts penalized in the first place.
The be clear, guest posting was initially penalized because of people using it solely as a means to build links, typically with stolen or low quality content. High quality guest posts can be very valuable, even today.
If you want to publish good guest posts, you need to do it properly. Fortunately, that’s not as difficult as it sounds. Formerly, the number one roadblock to proper guest posting was the idea of having to implement some kind of Google Authorship for your guest bloggers to allow them a bit of name recognition on your site. Since Google killed that program, you don’t have to worry about it.
You should, however, follow these tips.
1: Don’t label your guest posts as guest posts. Try out this thought experiment: what’s the difference between a guest blogger you just contacted, and a contributor who only shows up once a month? The answer is basically nothing. They both probably write for other sites, they both have posts to share on your site, and they both have names for you to attach to their content. There’s literally no reason to flag the post as a guest post.
2: Audit the content. The content you publish on your blog should be held to a high standard. In fact, guest posts should if anything be held to a higher standard than the posts you write. You need all of the content on your site to be as high quality as possible.
While you’re at it, you should also take a look into the publication history of the author. Make sure they have a bit of name recognition. At the very least, make sure that when you search their name, the content that comes up is of similarly high quality.
Most of all, make sure the content you publish is not copied or stolen from another source. Posting a guest written piece may not penalize you, but publishing stolen content most definitely will.
3: Audit any links. Before you publish a piece of content on your blog, pay special attention to the links. Every link should fall into one of three categories. First are the best, high quality links you want to leave in. These go to reputable sites and may be left as followed links if you want.
Second are the links that aren’t quite as recognizably high quality. Maybe the destination page is alright, but you don’t know it. Maybe the page is good but the rest of the site is more questionable. Maybe it’s fine, but you just don’t want to pass PageRank in its direction. In these cases, keep the link and nofollow it, or remove it entirely.
Third are the bad links, shoehorned in either as self-promotion on the part of the guest author or obviously spam. Remove these entirely, if you want to accept the guest post at all. These links can be grounds to reject a post.
4: Require an author bio. Since you’re not flagging the post as written by a guest author, you need to make it look as though the author contributes regularly. Typically, this means an author bio box at the bottom of the page. Link to an author hub with rel=”author” code, as a central index for any posts written and accepted by that author.
5: Invite well-known guest bloggers. Every industry has their prolific writers. Identify them and invite them to write for your site. They might have an old post just waiting for a home, or they might have an idea begging for a place. They’ll be great for name recognition.
6: Don’t be afraid to say no. You’re never in so desperate a situation that you can’t afford to say no to a guest blogger. Their post needs to fit with your site and meet your quality standards. If it doesn’t, tell them, tell them why, and give them a chance to fix it. If they can’t, or if they disappear, you have no reason to post the article.
7: Don’t create author accounts on a whim. Author accounts are inroads to your site, and you should never create them for your guest authors. Only create them for in-house writers, and even then, only if you’re not running everything through a central CMS. Typically, everything can be published under a central admin account, and the author bio box serves as identification.
8: Own the content. No matter who writes the content, the moment it’s posted on your blog, you need to own it. Make this clear in your guest post submission guidelines or contract. Any time an author maintains control over content on your site is a liability. Don’t let it happen.
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