Guest Blogging – Once and For All, Is It OK?

Guest blogging

The answer is, as with everything on the internets, YES – as long as you don’t try to game the system.

Guest blogging was the newest thing in content marketing. Everyone wanted to do it, to build up links to their site and improve their ranking.

Here’s how it’s supposed to work:

You publish a blog from a nice, relevant (and literate) guest on your own blog to provide insight that your readers will find useful. The guest will probably also link to the post from their blog and post on social media, then hopefully their followers come on over, growing your reach organically.

It can also go the other way: you do a guest post for someone else, getting a natural brand, author or bio link back to your site. Everybody happy, no funny business.

Here’s what everyone started doing:

Many, many companies started going to SEO agencies for content mill rubbish. The idea is, some poor young writer (me, it was me) writes a piece of content that is marginally relevant to your industry.

The piece is posted on another site (could be a legitimate blog, could be a content farm existing for that very purpose) with random links back to your own site in the text and bio. A scam, in other words.

Did people really think this wouldn’t get found out and hung up to dry? It was like what happened to website meta keywords: it used to be that you would tag your site for relevance so Google could serve you up when it was appropriate.

But people started to get cocky with it, stuffing any old popular search term in there. It worked for a while. Then BOOM, Google says ‘This is why you can’t have nice things.’

“Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains.”

Matt Cutts
Search Lord at Google

So, Matt Cutts, search spam god at Google, eventually had to tell us not to do it anymore. Everyone was thrown into confusion, scared that their legitimate guest posting was going to get them penalised. In usual Google fashion, they let us stew for a while.

Then, Matt Cutts followed up with this:

“There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there.”

Matt Cutts
Sir Spam Catcher at Google

Oh, OK then Matt Cutts. Cheers.

And here’s how you can make it work for you:

1. Find partners your audience will benefit from

If your audience will gain super-great advice and information from a guest blogger, that’s awesome. If all they’ll gain is some tenuous or run-of-the-mill words, that’s not.

Your guests should be really strongly related to what you’re offering your readers. That doesn’t mean they have to do the exact same thing – it could be complementary in an interesting way.

It’s actually a really good idea to go outside the box with it. You’ll access a whole other niche that your traditional audience might not have brought you.

Examples of great partnerships:

  • DIY website and craft blogger: how to use DIY leftovers to…
  • Builders website and interior design blogger: my studio build story
  • Plumbing website and mummy blogger: 10 plumbing fixes you can do yourself

These partnerships should be mutually beneficial and are best built on good relationships – maybe you offer a service in exchange for a write-up of how it went. There is nothing wrong with money exchanging hands but the blogger has to declare when something is sponsored.

2. Use only experts

Google released its content standards in November 2015. Lots of people started moaning but most copywriters I know breathed a sigh of relief: Google is on our side and ‘Oh, I know words’ isn’t going to cut it much longer in the content marketing space.

The biggest message in the content guidelines was that expert topics require expert authors. Do not ask your Saturday admin girl to write a blog about allowable tax deductions. Do not give medical advice if you have no medical training. Do not tell people how to safely climb a cliff if you’ve passed no certifications in such an activity.

Any information you supply that people are going to rely on for their health, safety, financial security or general wellbeing needs to come from someone who genuinely knows what they’re talking about. It’s a moral issue – but also a ranking issue. Google has ways of finding you out and punishing you.

Google's rules for content quality
My ultimate test of my motivations: would I be OK with explaining to Matt Cutts what I’m doing? If your guest posting intentions are noble (giving your readers more variety, gaining expert insight, growing your reach organically), you have nothing to fear.

Would Matt Cutts approve of your #guestblogging strategy? If the answer's yes - post it. Click To Tweet