You’re probably wondering why you’re reading an article about guest blogging in 2023. Aren’t we all tired of this tired old marketing tactic?
Well, yes and no. The purpose of this article is not to convince you that guest blogging is effective. There are many proofs and case studies already online, and if you still don’t believe it then nothing I can say will change your mind.
However, if you do think that guest blogging is useful for SEO and lead generation purposes then this guide will show you how to be more effective at guest blogging in 2023 – from finding the right targets to getting your guest posts accepted at high authority publications.
- How Effective Is Guest Blogging in 2023?
- What Are the Unspoken Rules of Guest Posting?
- Guest Blogging Is a Mutually Beneficial Relationship
- How to Start Guest Posting for SEO
- Locating High-Value Blogs to Contribute to
- Google Advanced search operators.
- Google Author search
- Leveraging your Connections.
- So How Do You Do Guest Blogging?
- How Do You Write a Good Guest Post?
- Free Guest Posting Sites vs Paid Guest Post Sites
- Avoid These Mistakes When Guest Blogging for SEO
- 1. Neglect Technical SEO.
- 2. Use Exact-match anchor texts.
- 3. Acquire Low Quality Links.
- 4. Drastic increases in backlink profile
- 5. Rigid Author Bios.
- 6. Focus on acquiring home page links.
- What’s Next?
How Effective Is Guest Blogging in 2023?
Guest posting is a controversial topic in the world of online marketing. Some people think it’s a great way to get your name out there, while others say it’s just a waste of time.
The truth is that guest posting is not universally good or bad—it depends on the content you create and how you use it to promote your brand.
While there is a divided opinion about whether guest posting works, marketing heavyweights like Neil Patel and Brian Dean guest post regularly. Neil Patel has written over 1000 guest posts, which have brought thousands of high-quality visitors to his blog. Brian Dean has published over 200 guest posts, some of which still drive traffic to his website today. Over the years, guest posts have generated hundreds of high quality links to their websites.
One or two Google employees have stated in the past that guest blogging is against Google’s policies for natural link building. But today, people realize that what Google dislikes is paid or sponsored guest post links, irrelevant links, and thin or spammy content—not legitimate content created by credible businesses as part of an organic outreach strategy designed to drive traffic back towards their own websites with valuable information that adds value for readers.
What Are the Unspoken Rules of Guest Posting?
1. Your guest post is highly relevant to the host’s audience. The host website creates content for your own audience, so there is some audience alignment.
2. You’re not trying to sell anything with a guest post. Guest writing is most effective when the buying cycle lags, and it can be used to build an email list for your campaign whether B2B or B2C. However, you shouldn’t out-rightly put up sales pitches in your guest posts.
3. Guest posts should be as compelling as the content you put up on your own blog.
Guest Blogging Is a Mutually Beneficial Relationship
Editors or content managers may want to consider involving guest writers for a number of reasons.
1. Expert content. One of the most important benefits of guest blogging for editors is that they can get out of the picture for a while and allow niche experts to address their audience.
2. Establish relationships with other brands. A guest post is a great way to build relationships and connections with other bloggers, podcasters, and other online marketers.
3. Free content. It can be draining to create high-quality content, especially when you have to do it alone. You can hire freelance writers, but if you’re on a budget, guest blogging is the way to go.
The fact that there are measurable guest blogging benefits for both parties doesn’t mean you should accept every guest post from any Tom, Dick, and Harry. In fact, if you’re an editor who wants to keep your content high-quality and relevant, you should define what a high-quality guest post looks like for your audience.
Guest posters, on the other hand, shouldn’t pitch every website for a guest post. You want to guest blog on websites that are of interest to your target audience.
How to Start Guest Posting for SEO
One of the reasons guest writing may not work for you is because you don’t really have a strategy. Many people who guest blog don’t even have concrete goals for writing guest posts. They just want to appear on as many websites that accept guest posts. This is a helpful strategy if you’re a freelance writer looking to prove your worth. This is because through guest posting, you can demonstrate that you can write about complex topics in a wide variety of industries. But for a business, this approach is not smart.
First, you need an objective – what are you trying to do? Knowing your end goal would drive your approach to identifying publications, pitching, and sometimes even writing. For example, if you’re looking for traffic or brand awareness, you really wouldn’t care if all you get for guest posting on a website like Forbes is a no-follow link.
This is because the website would probably generate some referral traffic to yours. If you wanted SEO rankings, this blog post (even if it’s the finest you’ve ever written) might not really move the needle for you. On the other hand, getting published on Forbes creates some social proof that leads to more linking opportunities for you.
If you are guest writing for SEO purposes, one of the things you will need to figure out is not only how to get published, but also how to incorporate your anchor link naturally so that it fits with the context of the article.
In short, here are the questions you should ask when creating a guest posting strategy:
- What are our goal(s) for guest posting?
- What websites should we target? (What are the major criteria to look for?)
- How do we get our guest post accepted? (What value can we offer them and their readers?)
- How do we promote each guest post once it has been published?
- If you’re trying to get subscribers, what’s the offer and why would anyone click through?
- Who handles what? (who handles writing, pitching, designing etc.?)
- For SEO, what are the major pages we want to build a link profile for?
Locating High-Value Blogs to Contribute to
If you want to build backlinks through guest blogging, you need to consider three factors:
1. Relevance. Of course, the website might not necessarily be in the same niche as yours, but should speak to your audience.
2. High Domain Authority. DA should be higher than yours. However, experts recommend having a varied link profile. You don’t want all of your new links coming from high DA guest posts on 70+ DA websites. That would send a signal that you aren’t building links naturally.
3. Traffic. A website with a total monthly traffic of 20, but a domain authority of 40+ is probably not a suitable target for a guest post.
There are two ways I do this nowadays.
Google Advanced search operators.
Here’s how I do it:
I start with some of the highest average monthly search (highest MSV) keywords on my Google Keyword Planner (KP) domain search results (10K+).
Then I use any of these strings to find lists of websites that publish guest posts. Note that some websites that do not accept guest posts, would gladly welcome a link exchange. From the KP results, I choose and use keyword variations in this manner:
(Keyword) + “guest post by” (past year)
(Keyword) + “contributing writer” (past year)
(Keyword) + “guest article” (past year)
(Keyword) + “guest post” (past year)
(Keyword) + “This post was written by” (past year)
Past year denotes that results are streamlined to the last 1 year. I want blogs that are consistently updated and have accepted at least 1 guest post in the past year.
Google Author search
Check out prolific authors in your niche. Pick up a snippet from their author bio. Search this snippet in Google to build up a list of places they’ve written for.
Here’s how I do it:
Create a list of websites that accept guest posts in your niche.
If they have dedicated author pages, use the following string to get a list of their authors.
site:abc.com * “author at abc”
For example, site:getresponse.com * “author at getresponse”
If they don’t have dedicated author pages, go to their blog page, check author bios and note posts from writers that are not directly affiliated with the brand.
Once you have a list of authors, copy the first few words from their author bios, then paste those into the Google search bar. Do that for each author to find other publications that have featured their work.
But I have to make sure they accept guest posts. You can check using the Google search string:
site:abc.com “guest post” OR “write for us” OR “guest author” OR “contributor article”
If this doesn’t work, check their blog. They probably accept guest posts if they have 5 or more different writers writing for them. But that’s taking a wild guess. This is why you need to send a feeler email first.
Leveraging your Connections.
Give out compliments and reach out to people in your niche who are creating lots of value. Social media has made this easy. You’re not sending a guest post request email now, you’re just trying to open up lines of communication. This makes it easier to get your pitches accepted later on.
This was how I got published on Influencive and Inman when I hadn’t been published anywhere else.
So How Do You Do Guest Blogging?
You can’t get all your guest post pitches accepted, but doing your research beforehand will help you minimize rejections.
After figuring out which websites you want to guest post on, the next step is to figure out what their audience wants. This step will set you apart from the myriads of guest writers who give out fake compliments or just send generic pitches. I do believe in building a relationship via social media. However, this works only when you genuinely put effort into building the relationship, not because you’re seeking to gain a link.
Most people can easily spot fake compliments. They do not help your chances of getting a reply. Instead of sending fake compliments or wasting time on people’s social feeds, try the following:
1. Send a feeler email
Introduce yourself and your unique value proposition in your feeler email. Maybe offer to write a comprehensive article on a keyword that one of their competitors rank for; offer to replicate an article that performed well on their site or see what they’re currently writing on, and offer to create an article on that.
Don’t waste too much time here: Lead with a good pitch and screen out websites that do not accept guest posts. You also do not need to trail people on social media. If you want to give out a compliment via social media, make it a genuine, non-cringey compliment, without any expectations.
2. Find topics for guest posting
Now let’s see how to find topics for guest posting. Find out what topics:
1. Generated the most monthly traffic for them in a specific time period
2. Have generated the most backlinks in the past year or
3. Have generated the most shares in the past year.
You could also research one of their competitors, and check out the above.
Then check out LSI keywords and search out subheadings to generate topic ideas. Of course, this can be tricky sometimes since the topics you write on have to be contextually relevant to your target page i.e. the page you hope to link to.
But even when there are no direct linking opportunities to your own page, if you do a good job the first time, you have won the trust of the editor and can always contribute another article (if all works out well).
3. Send a stellar pitch
The end goal of your guest posting efforts is to be published in a big-name publication. That won’t happen if you keep sending generic pitches. In 2013, you could get away with templates like this:
Today, you wouldn’t. Many editors wouldn’t even look at them twice because they’re too generic.
This was one of my most effective pitch templates. I’ve since improved it. Despite a couple of typos in the email, it got answered the same day.
Note these two things when sending guest post request emails:
1. Make sure you’re pitching the right people. Ideally, look for blogs and businesses that have managing editors, content directors or marketing directors. You wouldn’t want to be pitching CEOs because there’s a high chance you’ll get your email in the thrash. But where there is no one managing their content, you should approach the CEO. Don’t reach out to a sales executive, a web developer or an accounts manager because there’s a high chance they aren’t interested and they can’t make the decision.
2. Do not write long emails. No one likes them. Before I used to take the stance that it’s not ideal to send full articles off the bat. But I think this is the best way to get your articles published fast as it eliminates a lot of the back and forth. But you want to do this selectively (with websites that will boost your rankings and does accept guest posts). The caveat is: don’t send full articles right off the bat when you’re not even sure the website accepts guest posts, make a small opening request like, “how about I send over some ideas?”. Personally, I wouldn’t send ideas unless I’m sure the website will accept my guest post or give my ideas a fair trial.
How Do You Write a Good Guest Post?
Check out their blog requirements or style guide before writing content (or at least check out one of their recent posts).
- What is their ideal blog post length?
- Does their blog have a particular tone?
Since you’re writing for people in the same or similar niche, you probably understand their needs and how best to reach them with your writing. Nevertheless, writing in a conversational, laid-back style is always more effective.
Also, make sure to link to some of their own internal content in the guest post to improve dwell time.
Free Guest Posting Sites vs Paid Guest Post Sites
In this article by Bruce Clay titled “Paid Guest Posting is Bad for Business”, he points out that Google isn’t actually against guest posting but against link building schemes without any regard to user experience. For paid guest posting sites, the barrier isn’t relevance, quality, or user experience. But it’s all about the highest bidder?
So, you should be wary of hosting your content on these sites and of hiring link building services that aren’t interested in creating useful content. Guest posting is primarily about adding value to others’ audiences. Your main purpose shouldn’t be building links. If, however, you end up with a link and hundreds of new visitors, you earned it.
Experts agree that it’s wiser to pay for editorial oversight (hiring and managing high quality writers in your specific niche) instead of paying for a guest post out-right.
Avoid These Mistakes When Guest Blogging for SEO
Here are some common pitfalls to avoid when guest blogging for SEO:
1. Neglect Technical SEO.
Technical SEO is critical to your rankings. Technical SEO involves optimizing your site for speed and user experience both on desktop and mobile devices. If you don’t do a good job of technical SEO, your website becomes difficult to crawl by search engines, your click-through rate decreases, and your bounce rate increases. Overall, your rankings will drop regardless of the number of backlinks you have.
2. Use Exact-match anchor texts.
Google still uses anchor texts as ranking signals. But there is a fine line between optimized and over-optimized when it comes to choosing anchor texts for guest posting. Before the Penguin update, exact match anchor texts were in vogue. In 2013, after the Penguin update, Google said “links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites” is an example of an unnatural link that violates their guidelines. Many websites using these types of anchor texts for link building saw their rankings drop drastically.
Over-optimized anchor texts are based on keyword-rich phrases. You should be wary of using them in guest posts. According to Gotch SEO, the safest anchors (if you have a branded domain) are branded anchors. Most big brand names have a high percentage of their links coming from these types of anchors.
In order to diversify your link profile, you should use more descriptive anchors (or partial match anchor texts). Additionally, you should link out to relevant pages on your site, not just the home page, using keyword variations. Nathan Gotch of Gotch SEO offers this advice on the use of exact match anchors: When you want to use an exact match keyword, your keyword should be near the anchor, but not within your link.
3. Acquire Low Quality Links.
A link gives Google more information about a page, and what kind of authority the page has on a topic. There are a lot of things Google considers when assessing the value of a link but the two major things are authority and relevance. Authority identifies the worth of the link and relevance identifies quality. Ideally, a high quality link is one that’s built on a relevant, high authority website. For this kind of website, everyone and their family members can’t get in because they usually have specific requirements.
Before 2013, people used to build PBN links, directory links, forum links, comments and blogger links. And these worked well at the time. Nowadays, these are considered low quality links, and they’ll have no direct ranking benefits. A low quality website is usually a generic site that’s not super relevant to your niche and has no or very low bar on guest post acceptance e.g. links on “submit a post” pages.
There are also medium quality websites. For example, a link you build on an industry news website that has a slightly higher domain authority than yours.
If this was a big industry news website with a high domain authority, then you’ve built a high quality link that is sure to affect your own rankings. Getting featured on a website like Forbes, a national news website that is not highly relevant to one particular industry, you might get a slight increase in search rankings. These have lesser SEO impact compared to a highly relevant website (keep in mind that most major news websites do not offer do-follow links).
4. Drastic increases in backlink profile
Link velocity is an influential factor when looking to build links through guest posts. While a steady increase in new links is positive, a sudden jump is not.
The trend of link growth indicates the interest your domain garners on the web compared to competitors. If your link velocity trend jumps too fast, Google may suspect algorithm manipulation. On the other hand, if it grows too slowly, your rankings decrease. While there is no absolute right number of links per month per industry, it might be worthwhile to take a look at some of your competitors. This will help you to determine an ideal frequency.
5. Rigid Author Bios.
Author bios matter as a guest blogger. This might be the only place you get to promote your business or add your contextual link. I just recently found out the importance of varying your author bios when guest posting as a way to improve author E-A-T (Expertise-Authority-Trust).
Note that, author bios should be between 50-100 words, and should be written in third person. You can use copywriting AI tools like Copy.ai to generate compelling and short author bios.
6. Focus on acquiring home page links.
Since most paid guest posts and sponsored posts link out to home pages, it can be inferred that one of the ways Google detects an unnatural link is whether that link points directly to the home page instead of a contextually relevant page. However, to vary your link profile, you want to have some home page links, especially via quotes, using tools like HARO.
So if you read this guest blogging guide to the end, you probably know the right way to find guest writing opportunities. You also understand the precautions to take for guest posting SEO. Unless you are a guest writer, you are probably unaware that guest writing can take a lot of time from writing to outreach to back-and-forth editing. Get in touch if you need help with guest blogging.