Getting Out of the Guest Blogging Bubble

Matt Polsky

Guest blogging is the most widely known tactic to legitimately build links from authority websites; however, while guest posting has its benefits, it also has its negative connotations.

As inbound marketers, we need to not just get ahead of the curve, but stay ahead. What I mean is that smart – or scared – webmasters will soon quit accepting low-value works, yielding to columnists over one and done hits.

Take State of Search for example. To preserve quality, Bas van den Beld has eliminated guest post requests in general, opting only for guest posts from people that they approach, and not the other way around, which can be chalked up to spam tactics and pitches that have polluted the industry as a whole.

So, as more sites take on practices like State of Search, where will that leave the rest of the SEO industry that leans too heavily on guest blogging?

Building Relationships

After Penguin 1 and a barrage of unnatural link warnings, following with the recent Penguin 2, "Relationship building" has continued to be the SEO buzzword of 2012-2013.

From a link builder’s perspective, I can’t be mad at that phrase or even discount it. I mean, after all, it is 100 times easier to get someone to link to you or do what you want if you know them or have a personal repertoire with them.

If that’s not enough of a reason, then think of the extra traffic, conversions and social signals that can be acquired from a solid stance on building relationships via social media.

However, the hardest part of building relationships isn’t the process behind it, or even getting the buy-in, but the fact that SEOs are notoriously complacent with sending out hundreds of pitches a week, wanting the quick win over the long-term benefits. We have gotten stuck in our own bubble or circle and won’t branch out.

For example, at SearchLove Boston this year, Wil Reynolds asked the crowd if anyone had been to a PR, design or ad conferences, and number of hands that went up really didn’t surprise – which was a grand total of two. We’re stuck in our own bubble!

If you’ve ever trained a link builder or are a link builder, think back on the training. What did you teach/learn? How to do a VLookup or make a pivot table? Both of which can be taught in a day; however, did you ever think about how to teach relationship building? Probably not. Now guess why? Short answer is, because you can’t effectively teach someone how to be personable or how to be genuine if their personality doesn’t allow it.

Get Out of Your Bubble

Let’s bring out another buzzword – “paradigm.” It’s about time we shift it. Forget about the 20,000 contact boxes and random Whois emails you’ve been sending and learn what it takes to become a relationship builder.

Start being a personable communicator, not a stalker. Start with getting on their radar through social, not cold calling out of the blue or sending emails. A first-touch email is as good as gone. Think of how many emails you open from anonymous senders compared to how many tweets you check.

And when prospecting on social, use FollowerwonkTwitter’s advanced search tool or Google+ native search bar to find people who are truly relevant to your niche or your client’s niche.

When contacting, be genuine and sincere, and before hitting send, ask yourself what you would think if that contact wound up in your inbox. Some good rules of thumb to follow are:

  • Be genuine and approachable: Don’t lie, but be open and honest with people when building relationships. If you’re in it only for the link, they will see right through you.
  • Engage users: If you write for a blog, moderate the comments. Otherwise it shows zero amount of enthusiasm or passion, and you may find it difficult to get another shot.
  • Creep, Creep: Don’t be pushy when building out relationships. That’s only going to scare someone away or tick them off.

Overall, forget about the single one and done link, but search for opportunities that lead to columns that provide users value over and over.

As Ed Fry said on the Moz Blog, “Link building isn't really link building. It's relationship building. Links are just the proof of the relationship, as are the tweets, likes, sales…”

So, as a final thought, while Google’s prerogative continues toward eliminating spammy, manipulative tactics, it’s important to remember that no-value, one-and-done guest posts could actually hurt your efforts – as said by Matt Cutts in the video below. And, looking a few steps ahead, the only way guest blogging as an SEO tactic is going to remain successful is by creating relationships with industry influencers in your niche.