Oh, guest posting. Where did it all go wrong? Once, you were the fresh-faced poster child of ‘new SEO’, the post-Penguin answer to all of our ranking dreams. Now, you’re tainted and broken, sullied by an unrelenting stream of spammy posts, terrible pitches and faux article marketing campaigns.
Guest posting for SEO purposes is far from ‘dead’ but it’s fair to say that its reputation has taken one hell of a battering over the past year or so.
The decline in quality of the average guest post submission once Penguin hit and guest posting was promoted as a ‘tactic’, combined with the torrent of submissions faced by any webmaster with a half decent site has led to disillusionment across the board with guest posts.
This disillusionment doesn’t just affect ‘bad’ guest bloggers either; it affects us all. State of Search recently closed their doors to guest bloggers for good, and they won’t be the last site to do so. As guest posting becomes more and more associated with spammy tactics, the pool of quality websites to which quality writers can pitch their SEO-inclined content is shrinking rapidly.
In retrospect, that was always going to happen. During my very brief time as a freelance journalist, I had one major article published and a couple of reviews. That one article was an interview piece that took me just over three days to complete.
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By contrast, an SEO embarking on a guest posting campaign is expected to get quality articles published on quality websites on a regular basis, while only receiving a very short amount of time to work on said articles. If you work for an agency, the number of articles you need to produce is doubled, if not tripled.
Writing that amount of articles is going to have a massive effect on the quality of the articles you produce, as well as leading to the kind of identikit outreach emails we’ve all come to know and love (?).
This was certainly the case for me. Now, I love writing. I wouldn’t be a copywriter otherwise. But recently, it’s become clear that I simply can’t get the results my clients deserve simply by writing guest posts to pitch to bloggers. Instead, I needed to take a different tack. I needed to do outreach – without guest posts.
So, here’s my guide to getting links via outreach without having to email six bloggers a day pitching a guest post.
Fixing a problem
I’m going to shut up now and let you marvel at this frankly wondrous piece of link building magic by Chris Dyson at Roots Web Solutions via PointBlankSEO. Chris was facing a blogger who wanted to charge $170 for a single blog post and a client who couldn’t justify that kind of expenditure. Luckily, Chris noticed that the blog had a terrible header. Instead of paying for a blog post, Chris decided to instead offer to design a new header for the blogger, which worked out significantly cheaper, and arguably provided much more value than a guest post.
It’s ridiculously simple but remarkably effective. I want to cry because I didn’t think of it but also applaud because it’s so genius. Not only did Chris get a link without having to type a single word of blog post, but he also saved his client $170 AND got a juicy link too. Chris, I salute you.
So, the next time you’re looking at a potential outreach lead take a moment to step back from the content itself and consider ways you’d improve the site. If your guest post pitch fails, make some suggestions. As Chris proves, you don’t even need to have the resources in-house to carry it out.
Use your client’s assets
It’s strange that SEOs usually consider ‘good writing’ as the primary asset at their disposal when it comes to outreach. I’d say that’s only true for about 10% of companies, to be honest. A much stronger asset, and one that’s much easier to pitch to sites and bloggers, is the company’s services or products.
There’s a bit of a grey area surrounding the sending out of products for review in exchange for links but then again, what isn’t grey with Google? Sending out products for review, or offering a free service is an effective way of gaining links and one which is bound to get you more responses than a half-hearted post written in an hour.
In some instances, you might not even need to send out a product. If you’re working for a washing machine manufacturer, you could provide a blogger with some pre-release details for a news story. Tell someone something they might not know about you. Basically, inspire them to write about you rather than telling them to!
Sometimes, you don’t even need to send out a product to get a write-up. I recently got in touch with a science blogger on behalf of a t-shirt company I work for and she was so impressed with the t-shirts the company produced that she did a write-up without requesting any kind of compensation.
If you sell a high value product that wouldn’t be economically viable to send out en masse, try and find something else unique about your company. Is there a particular story that might interest people? Is there a remarkable employee on your books? Intrigue people and inspire them, and the coverage will soon flow.
Helping the press
As someone who trained as a journalist for three years, I can tell you from experience that journalists in the 21st Century are extremely strapped for time and often have to rely on press releases and product reviews for their stories rather than good old fashioned investigative journalism.
This presents an excellent opportunity for brands; send a newsroom (local, especially) a press release or product and you’re bound to get some kind of coverage. You might not get a followed link (and, after the Interflora debacle, that might not actually be a bad thing) but the coverage could inspire sales and traffic.
The other route, a one less travelled but possibly more valuable, is to provide a reporter with material for their articles, such as quotes, interviews, etc. Try and get your client into the contact books of journalists everywhere; make them the go-to-guy (or girl) for comments on a particular topic.
Another option for pursuing this route is to use Help A Reporter Out, a fantastic site that sends out regular journo requests that anyone can respond to. There are some potentially great links to be had, and the work required for them pales in comparison to writing a post from scratch.
Become a contributor
Okay, so this seems like a massive contradiction and depending on how you define it, being a contributor IS guest posting. But hear me out.
There is a fundamental difference between a guest poster and a contributor. A guest poster is someone who is invited to post on a site but isn’t affliated with the site; they come, they post and then they maybe come back again sometime in the future but probably not. They get an author bio that tells everyone they’re a guest. Think of it as being like a freelance job.
A contributor, by contrast, is someone who regularly posts on the site and thus has the editor’s seal of approval. Getting a contributor slot on a site is pretty much guaranteed links for the rest of your life (or at least as long as you write for said publication!). More importantly, it lends more credibility to you as a writer and the business you’re promoting.
Sites with regular contributors tend to be of a better quality too, as they’ll have a dedicated editorial team. Having a team to review your work will improve the quality of your writing, while your contributor status will mean you can create series of posts rather than the odd one-off. It’ll improve the quality of your content, and give you regular links.
There’s also the possibility of gaining even more linking opportunities from becoming a contributor to a site. You might get asked for interviews from bloggers, or to contribute to other sites. Essentially, you’re reversing the outreach process and letting people pitch to you.
So those are just a few of the non-guest post approaches to outreach. Have you had any success with any of them? Are there any other methods you’d share?