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Last year Guest Blogging was the buzzword in SEO. Since Google made the algorithm change, forcing SEOs to look for unique and relevant content to aid their ranking efforts, so-called professional guest bloggers arrived in droves and every SEO agency started offering guest posts, content exchanges, blogger outreach (and any other way of putting it) as an additional link building exercise.

As a blogger myself, I have no trouble with people making a living from writing and I embrace the changes imposed by Google to ensure content on the web is of a high standard, is unique and is relevant. I understand that for SEOs to acquire natural links, they need to start thinking outside of the box. However, that out of the box thinking seems to have gone amiss with guest blogging, there’s serial misuse of the practice across the web, and this general bad practice amongst SEOs (who’re still trying to con the search engines and have now taken to practising not only black-hat SEO but have extended their reach to content as well) is now impacting brand reputation.

For the purpose of this blog, I’m going to avoid getting into the link building debate, yes we understand that guest blogging for SEO is born out of getting a portfolio of backlinks, but as a Content Marketer, there’s far more benefit than just a link.

For a marketer, guest blogging provides a unique way to extend the reach of their business, build advocates for the brand and showcase their knowledge. Content exchanges have been commonplace for years now, mainly between high profile professionals who wanted to provide their audience with new content from a respected source. However, with SEOs utilising it as a mass link building exercise, things can and are going wrong.

A simple Google search of ‘Bad SEO Outreach’ or Bad Guest Blogging’ will bring up plenty of examples where either the content supplied is badly written and completely irrelevant to the intended publisher or the initial outreach email is poorly written.

As a result more and more sites are closing off their guest areas completely.

Mashable 404

When reaching out, SEOs need to bear in mind that the way they do it and who they do it with, can impact their brand reputation. To help you avoid any bad PR and limit any damage to your brand as a result of your blogging efforts you should consider the following before starting your guest blogging program…

Websites – While SEOs will often look for websites with high authority and good domain rank, Content Marketers need to probe further. It doesn’t matter how good your content is, if it’s on a shabby website then it reflects badly on you and your brand. Things to check: Where will your post sit? How often is the site content updated? How good is their content? How often are they allowing guest posts on their site and what brands are they working with? Is the site relevant to your business? Could you create content that’s relevant to their audience?

Social Media– Once you’ve found a website that you like the look of, check out their social media presence. While their website might look the business they may fall down with their social sites, alternatively if they’re active you may want to try and wangle a blog mention to extend your reach. Its also worth using your listening tools to look at sentiment, you should be able to find out what customers really think of them. Things to check: What social sites are they on? How regularly do they update their content? Do they often mention other brands? What’s the general sentiment around their posts? How engaged is their audience?

Outreach – The way in which you contact a potential blog is one of the most important parts of outreach, furthermore it’s the one area where, if done wrong, it can seriously affect your brand reputation. Rand Fishkin dedicated a Whiteboard Friday to the art of creating the perfect outreach email to try and help people avoid some of the common mistakes. Things to check: Have you done your research? Do you know who to address the email to? Is it personal and friendly? Have you made it clear what you want? Have you made it easy for the recipient to get more info? Is it concise?

Receiving Content – There may be times where the blog wants to do a content exchange and provide you with some content to put on your blog. Usually if you’ve contacted the blog initially then you’ll know whether or not you want to receive this, if the request has come through other channels though, you’ll need to do a bit of research to ensure that the content doesn’t look out of place on your site and in turn damage your reputation. Things to check: What’s the company about? What’s the general sentiment around the brand? Is the company a good fit with your brand? What content do they want to send you? Is that content relevant to your audience? Is that content a good fit with your brand? Is that content of sufficient quality?

If you start taking all of the above into consideration before jumping into guest blogging then you’ll be better placed to create a combined SEO and Content strategy for outreach. Remember, times are changing -it’s not all about links anymore – brand credibility, quality of content and content relevancy are all things to consider when building a guest blogging program.

Finally, don’t be afraid to say no, you don’t have to work with everyone anymore.

AUTHOR: Harriet Rhodes
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