Competition online is steep. To become (or remain) competitive it simply isn't enough to try and see what works. Maximizing the effects of your efforts requires reasoned planning and execution. That goes for guest blogging, too. Here's how to take a strategic approach to guest blogging, whether you've been doing it for a while now, or just getting started.
Although guest blogging can sometimes feel like you're cannibalizing your own website as you work hard to build depth and value for your visitors and search engines, the truth is, guest blog posts aren't something you give away.
Guest blog posts are investments that return value, often more than any single post on your own site can deliver-- if you make them count.
You probably already know that guest posts can:
- demonstrate your knowledge to your industry and target prospects
- reach many more readers than your own blog currently does
- build credibility through your content host's endorsement
- provide a channel for referral traffic to your site
- raise your site's authority with search engines for better organic results
Notice that guest posts can do those things for you. To make sure that they do, treat each post like a page of your site map. They just happen to live on other people's sites.
1. Organize Your Content Ideas
Good SEO starts with an organized site, so that both users and search engines know where to find what, and to determine how to rank your pages. Your site's got to flow.
Just like you build a site map to plan out the content and keywords of each of the categories and pages on your website, it's a good idea to map out the ideas you'll publish through guest posts as well.
If you were to publish the content on your own site, where would it go? What is the objective of the piece? How does it relate to your primary keywords? Your long tail keywords? The other pages on your site?
All of your content should facilitate the user experience, while also giving search engines important information about the keywords you consider to be most important. That's why you want to think of guest posts as extended parts of your site, helping to funnel referral traffic as well as link juice.
2. Identify Your Audience
You need different groups of people to know and like your website for a variety of reasons. You may have a few classes of prospects you're targeting, influencers you'd like to, well, influence, potential industry partners, referral sources and so on. Each post should be constructed with that a specific audience in mind.
Who should read this? Where will they find it online? Where should it link on my site?
Just like you construct on-site pages to meet the needs of different users, your guest blog articles will do the same. Rudimentary posts aimed at beginners might flow right to the home page, or to a resource section. More technical posts might link into a complex case study. A post about you and your experiences in business might best link into the About Us section.
Dumping all your referral traffic and link juice only onto the home page or a sales page is less likely to keep the reader around, and tells search engines that the rest of your site isn't very important.
Remember: think beyond the standard blog post to reach your audience. Would the piece work better as a series? An infographic? What about a survey of valuable resources or an interactive tool? Make the piece count, just as if you published it on your own site.
3. Choose Your Content Host Targets
When you create content that is good for your industry, I guarantee that other authoritative sites will be happy to host it, regardless of whether your own site is currently a PageRank zero and no one knows who you are.
Don't shoot low. All that work you've done above counts for something, unless you're just blogging ideas off the top of your head then pitching them to anyone who will take your posts.
If you're like most site owners, you don't have a team of white-hat link builders on the job. So you've got to focus your efforts on the sites that already have the audience you want, and carry the authoritative link juice you need. Depending upon how you weight it, one post to a relevant PageRank 5 site can be worth 600 times the link juice of a PageRank 1 site. It probably gets 600 times the eyeballs, too, not counting the additional sharing of your content that the right audience will naturally do for you.
Which raises an important point: If you could just buy 600 spam posts for cheap, should you? No. Not only will that shortcut not get you the real visitors you want, it won't impress search engines nearly as much as a handful of real pieces. (And it could put your other SEO efforts at risk.)
You can't fake the social credibility and natural link profile that will grow out of earnest publication efforts on reputable, relevant sites.
So, would you rather blog haphazardly hundreds of times, or make many fewer posts count? This is a big reason you're guest blogging in the first place. If you don't pick high value targets, you might as well stay at home to blog.
4. Follow Through
Guest blogging is part of an on-going content marketing plan which supports elements of your brand marketing, social media marketing, SEO, and yes, conversions! Consistent, purposeful production of content does a whole lot more than build links. It fosters relationships with the people who matter to your business.
If you promised a series of posts, deliver them quickly. If you committed to a regular guest spot, don't renig on it. And once you establish your level of quality, stick with it. Don't put out lousy content just for the sake of it. Let the quality of your content reflect the position you intend to command in the marketplace.
You can show people that you know how to be a leader in your industry with just one good post. Only over time, however, can you demonstrate that you actually are one. Let your finely constructed online presence prove it.
Mike Sobol is a Co-Founder of Guest Blog Genius, a guest blogging service for SEO professionals, and Content BLVD, a content marketing platform for busy bloggers and brands. Building businesses since 1999, Mike's passion is to create effective new services to fulfill unmet needs in a variety of niche markets, including internet marketing, content creation and SEO.