When Guest Blogging is Useful (and When It Isn't)

by Mike Sobol September 6th, 2012 

welcome-guest

Guest blogging is a handy way to help you achieve many different marketing objectives. As a link building tactic in Specialized Drillparticular, guest blogging has received a lot more attention recently, but does that mean you should use it more often? Or are you already using it too much?

Dueling perspectives on the value of writing content for other peoples' websites make strong cases for either argument, and it's a good idea to understand them both. AJ Kohn, the wisdom behind the popular blog, BlindFiveYearOld.com, explains why he doesn't guest blog at all. Meanwhile, in an interview on Search Engine Watch, Leo Widrich proudly proclaims that guest blogging is the reason his BufferApp.com reached 100,000 customers. They both can't be right, can they? Well, neither one is wrong, I can tell you that.

What Kind of Job are You Trying to Get Done?

I've been working on my house a lot recently and I use many tools to complete various projects. One tool I happen to love is my Milwaukee Close Quarter drill. I could literally explain for an hour how much I love this drill. (That's not weird, is it?) However, it's a unique tool that is not a good fit for every job. What I love about it, others find frustrating. The drill just doesn't satisfy every possible job requirement. No worthwhile tool does.

Guest blogging is similar in that its features are ideal for helping you to achieve some objectives but not others. There are always caveats and exceptions, but here are some rules of thumb to help you decide whether guest blogging could be a useful tool for you.

Guest Blogging is not very useful for:

1. Driving Referral Traffic
Writers often dream of crowds streaming in to their sites by following their guest post byline link, though such traffic rarely materializes. The drop off from number of readers to social media mentions to referral visits is very steep. If your article is unique and interesting to the blog's readership and so is your product or service, you might get some actual visits. Note, however, that this traffic has a lot more to do with targeting your content and the nature of your business, than it does how well guest blogging works. There are other types of contenting marketing to consider.

2. Aggressively Growing Your Blog Readership
See above. If your blog is the main attraction of your website, and you need traffic to monetize your content, writing for others is not the best way to do that. Readers don't get excited about clicking over to another blog. They already read your article, and now they're done. As a blogger, you've got to focus on publishing great content for yourself. If you aren't a blogger by trade, why the concern with your blog traffic? Isn't there something else you really want people to do on your site? Maybe you need to look harder at some other inbound channels.

3. Building Your Company Brand
Your brand is best expressed on your own internet properties, social media pages and ads. While the credibility and connections that guest blogging can provide are certainly worthwhile, you aren't likely to notch a big branding win on someone else's site. Being interviewed or having your product reviewed might be a lot more helpful, since you're the main attraction. When brand-building is the goal, you need more exposures and that takes a more robust approach than one-off guest spots can provide.

4. Highly Technical, Specialized Industries
Let's face it, CERN researchers aren't Googling for replacement parts. Government entities aren't awarding contracts based on blog posts. Doctors aren't scanning blog comments for insights about drug interactions. There is still an entire world of commerce that happens outside of standard internet marketing channels, and there always will be. Not everyone needs to have a big online presence, and in those cases few blogs offer publishing opportunities that are useful to them.

Guest blogging can be useful for:

1. Industry Credibility and Relationships
Getting to know the cool kids in your niche, and being associated with them in the minds of your peers and prospects is worthwhile, if it matters to your business goals. For two of my websites, this credibility matters and guest blogging has opened doors that led to sales. For two other sites, our visitors could care less about our guest posts. Most online sales result from effective conversion funnels that don't often start with an article on another site. In other words, if relationships and phone calls matter in your business, guest blogging could be a good idea.

2. SERP Rank
Organic links on authoritative sites can and do improve PageRank of your target pages, when linked appropriately, which can improve your SERP rank, if you know what you're trying to rank for and execute a long term plan. If organic traffic is likely to be an important lead source for your site, guest blogging on high authority sites that are relevant to your own topics can provide a big boost to your traffic, without visitors ever seeing your guest posts. But guest blogging for SEO is only going to work if you take care to do it well, and have the on-site content to convince the search engines that your site should matter as much as your links seem to indicate.

3. Long Tail Keyword Relevance
This is a corollary of the previous point, but it's an important one. Your site doesn't rank in search as a unit. Technically, the pages of your site rank for certain keyword phrases. While you might be unable to rank well for the big traffic keywords in your market niche, guest blogging is a great way to home in on very specific long tail phrases and increase rank for those, one at a time. Consider reaching out to blogs that already rank for the long tail terms you want to target, and get yourself found there. No, getting traffic to your guest post is not an ideal way to start the lead funnel, but it's a building block and will help your SERP ranks down the road, if you choose your keywords carefully.

Like any tool, guest blogging is good for achieving certain objectives, not all of them. Too often, internet marketers try to use the wrong tool for the job and then blame the tool (or avoid a useful one that might do some good). Recognize the job you have to do, before choosing your tools. AJ doesn't need guest blogging to meet his objectives, but Leo found it to be quite powerful. That difference has everything to do with their very different business models. So think first about your business goals and clarify your marketing objectives before you pick any given tactic.

If you liked this, you might also enjoy A Quick Guide to Guest Blogging

Mike Sobol

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.

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4 Responses to “When Guest Blogging is Useful (and When It Isn't)”

  1. Mike Dawson says:

    Good post, but I disagree with the first point. I think guest blogging/posting can be a brilliant way of driving (very targeted) referral traffic, one of the most effective ways of doing this, in fact. It does however vary from industry to industry. And (among other factors) how relevant the post and the services being advertised were to the blog and the people who visit that blog. I've seen relatively small blogs get a large spike in traffic (100s of pageviews) after a single guest post on a high-PR blog.

    • Mike Sobol says:

      Great point, Mike. The operative word is "can" drive traffic. In fact, I drive traffic by guest blogging here at Search Engine People and have earned clients from it! I suppose it could have been put better. My main point is that when guest blogging, referral traffic is hard to come by in the majority of cases– kind of like trying to make a post go viral. You can't rely on something going viral, that's up to the audience. Similarly, you can't rely on referral traffic from guest blogging, but if you target your blogging opportunities and your content very carefully, you can improve the chances.

  2. If used appropriately, guest blogging can be an excellent tool to reach out to a new audience. It will help you introduce your products to more and more people who belong to your niche.

    Thanks.