Not so long ago guest blogging was very much the belle at the content marketing ball. Everyone was at it, heralding it as the future of SEO and a strategy that Google may finally approve of for boosting search rankings and building brand awareness.
Of course where potential success goes spammers follow, and after months of abuse by content creators and blog owners alike all looking to make a fast buck, the reports of guest blogging's demise have been circulating for some time.
However guest blogging can still form a valid and effective part of your content marketing campaign, helping you to build your site's back-link profile while reaching a fresh and relevant audience, as long as it is done correctly.
So if you've spent hours putting together incredibly well written and informative content that just isn't delivering results in the way you hoped, what are the signs that you're doing something wrong?
#1. You've written the content before finding a home for it.
Your fingers are numb; your brain hurts and your eyes are strained. It's all been worth it though, because now you've got an impeccably thought out and intricately researched guest post that is going to really pique the interest of your target market... now all you have to do is find somewhere for it to be published.
It is a mistake that so many people involved with content marketing make but one that can have seriously detrimental effects on the chance of you publishing your guest blog on a truly great site. It's kind of like chiselling a peg and then going off to find a hole to put it in.
Limiting yourself to more generic and less fussy (which, by the way, isn't a good thing) blogs isn't the only problem though.
Trying to write a guest post that is time-sensitive when you don't know where it is going to be published - for example commenting on a recent news event or expressing an opinion about the latest innovation or break-through in your particular field - runs the risk of becoming outdated before people have had the chance to read it should finding a suitable home for it prove difficult.
#2. No blog owners respond positively (or at all) to your outreach.
It seems like a mystery. They say they accept guest posts, your company specializes in a product or service that would appeal to their readership, so why aren't they responding to your e-mails?
If you find you're getting nothing but negative responses - or none at all - from blogs that are relevant to your industry then it could be that you simply aren't going about your outreach in the right way.
Perfecting the skill of crafting effective guest blog outreach is tricky, and requires a combination of good manners, a straight forward explanation of what you're offering and a demonstrable knowledge and interest in the website and industry in question.
Dana Forman, who runs her own fashion blog, wrote this awesome post showcasing some of the various outreach e-mails she has received from brands looking to work with her. It critiques them in terms of what they do right or wrong from an actual blogger's perspective and is well worth a read if outreach is something you have struggled to do effectively in the past.
#3. Your content isn't generating many referrals.
This could be a sign of one of two possible issues. Firstly, it could be that the blog you have posted on simply doesn't have a large readership or what readership it does have isn't relevant to your products or services.
This is why it is so important to thoroughly prospect a good location beforehand to ensure that you are posting your content on sites that are going to help generate traffic for your own website.
But what if you have posted your content on a well trafficked and relevant site? In this case it unfortunately may mean that you content isn't doing the job of holding the interest of the reader. So what can you do to change this?
Images and videos make a huge difference to the engagement of readers with a post. Content with images receive 94% more views than content without them, and it is undoubtedly also the case with videos. If it adds value to the content and gives the reader a break from reading text then it will prove to be a winner.
2. Stats, graphs and headings
Sometimes the very sight of paragraph after paragraph of text is enough to put a reader off a piece of content, so find ways to break up the prose to ensure it is as appealing to the eye as possible. Headings are the easiest way to achieve this, but inserting statistics and graphs can be very effective, while making the content more informative at the same time.
3. Quotes, surveys and polls
Trying to make a point but don't have anything to back it up? Why not ask some people in the know within your industry or conduct a survey to prove your argument? Not only does it add authority to your post but it also adds that extra angle of interest for the reader.
Another problem could be where you are placing the back-link to your website. It is standard practice for many content creators to place the link in a by-line or author bio, however these are often skipped over by the readers, much more so than when a link is within the main body of the content.
#4. Your content isn't receiving many social shares.
If no one is 'Liking', Tweeting or '+1'ing your guest blog then it could be another sign that your content isn't engaging the reader enough or that the blog you have posted on doesn't receive much traffic.
If the issue is the latter then you just need to be more choosy with your guest blog outreach, however creating genuinely great content that people want to share is altogether more difficult, though there are some general principles that you would be bearing in mind.
1. Does the content have value?
This value can come in a number of forms from entertainment to utility, but in both cases you need to understand what your audience is looking for.
2. Go against standard convention.
It's easy to rehash an old idea or follow along with the status quo, but for content that is really going to gain an interest, 'disruptive ideas' are perfect for generating a social buzz. Challenge the received wisdom within your industry with new or even controversial ideas. Alternatively, simply finding a fresh angle on an old idea can be enough to spark a sharing frenzy.
3. Tell a story.
We all respond to a great narrative and your guest blog doesn't necessarily have to be straight down the line. Drama and emotion can be provided by a story - both ingredients that will get your content shared.
Regardless of what you may have read regarding guest blogging not being the future-proof online marketing tactic we once thought it was you will always reap the rewards of fantastic content in whatever form it comes in.
John Rooney is a Content Marketing and PR Executive for UK-based legal services provider. In this role, John is responsible for conceiving and executing content marketing campaigns as well as supporting with PR initiatives. He also blogs about movies and films over at Think Outside the Box