In January of this year, Google engineer Matt Cutts wrote an article on his blog entitled The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO in which he argued that guest blogging had become a spammy, uneffective way for blog sites to get links. Cutts’ response is based on requests like the one he cites in his blog as well as numerous questions I assume he has received on the matter. Cutts concludes that “guest blogging” [is] really “paying for PageRank”. Yet many of us have certainly read well informed guest articles on blogs at Business Insider or Harvard Business Review. Clearly, the educated voices on these publications are not spam. These voices are authoritative and provide us with a reason to return to the publications because we know we will hear a myriad of interesting and well considered opinions. In short, voices like the ones we find on authoritative blogs are adding to the conversation and providing the reader with further insight. However, given my recent consulting experiences, I cannot help but feel that Cutts’ remarks might not be too far of the mark.
But Google can’t algorithmically differentiate between guest blogs and other kinds of articles. They can differentiate however between good links and bad links. Bad links come from spammy bloggers. Good links come from quality bloggers. So, let’s ask a basic question: what is the purpose of blogging and what is the purpose of guest blogging?
1) Create authority: Blogging allows you to build your brand in an authoritative way by authoring content on what you know best
2) Provide relevant content: A good blog provides information to your readers and followers that answers their questions about your brand as well as actionable data that they can take away. Guest bloggers can provide in-depth expertise on their topic
3) Increase PageRank: Show up higher on Google search
4) Improve SEO: You include relevant key words in your content and promote it through social media, podcasts and other pages on your site.
5) Community building: You are able to build a following of people who are interested in your brand and the content you are pushing out. Guest bloggers can bring their community to the brand as well
These points were nicely summarized by Everett Sizemore of seOverflow who wrote in an article, “Our goal these days is to find the influencers in any niche and pay an expert to write expert-level content, no matter where it gets placed, to help further our clients business goals, primarily through online customer acquisition driven by good content.”
The problem though is that in a race to push out content, quality gets sacrificed and quantity becomes king. At one consulting engagement I found the head of marketing was eager to have filler on the blog although the company didn’t have relevant blog content ready. This was not actually that surprising, since blogging took a back seat compared to other social media content. Moreover, what passed for relevant and important content was not quality content. Here is one post on Facebook by a guest blogger used at this company who was trying to use social media to promote her blog on the company’s site:
Grammatical problems aside, I am not sure a company should want this level of sloppiness and its minions. Are these really the people who will spend money for the company’s products? Probably not.
Thinking this equation through a bit further, it is important to note that while high-profile individuals might attract readers, these are not really the people you care to have attracted to your brand. I am trying to argue that content and relevance should be the key arbiters of whether a guest blogger’s content gets posted – not their looks, money or title.
So, here are the questions I beg any marketing decision maker to ask themselves before bringing on a guest blogger:
1) Relevant point of view: Does this guest blogger have one? Does the guest blogger provide content the couldn’t easily be created in house?
2) Sales funnel: Are the followers of the guest blogger potential buyers of our product? By reading the blog, will this audience convert from top-of-funnel to middle-of-funnel
3) Affinity: Does the writing of this guest encourage brand loyalty and will readers come back to see other parts of the website
If the guest blogger does not prove a resounding yes to all three points, then get rid of the writer. As noted in a recent blog post on Forbes, “Google’s algorithm … doesn’t mean you should stop [guest]posting altogether. It means that you need to put effort into posting content that’s valuable in publications that reach the right audience. ” To that, I say ‘Amen’.