In almost every survey on link building methods, guest blogging ranks among the top three most popular choices. One of the burning questions that many business owners and SEOs want to know is “How effective is guest posting in 2020?”
What is guest blogging?
Guest posting, or guest blogging, is publishing content on a third-party website and linking back to your own website from that content. The process is usually initiated by the guest author pitching a website a content idea, or the hosting website asks a guest author to contribute content.
A brief history leading up to guest posting in 2020
In 2010, it wasn’t uncommon to see a 300-500-word article that linked to completely unrelated content. Like every link building tactic that worked to improve ranking, guest posting was heavily abused with low-quality guest posts because it worked where you could publish any piece of content and like to any type of website.
You might land on a post about banking trends that had a link to a cookware website. To top off the terrible contextually unrelated link, the article would offer little to no value to anyone who even bothered to give it a read. And yet, the cookware website would rank highly from the link regardless of the lack of contextual relationship and low-quality content.
The effectiveness of low-quality guest posting was for the most part eliminated in a series of Google Updates. The Panda update enforced better quality content. The Hummingbird update allowed Google to understand the context of a page more accurately. The Penguin update killed a lot of the link building manipulation that people were using to achieve high rankings.
It seemed that guest posting was one of the few methods of link building that wasn’t completely doomed by Google. Then the cryptic message from ex-Google employee Matt Cutts, who headed the web spam team:
Despite the ominous warning about guest posting, it has continued to prove effective over the last few years. One of the most recent success stories that were solely based on guest posting is Adam Enfroy’s story and his short rise to riches.
Guest posting has its success stories
In a 15 day experiment, Adam was able to secure 8 high-authority guest post links to his website. Although he continued to publish over 80 guest posts in a year’s time, his blog traffic increased to over 200k/month and his website hit a record high revenue of roughly $30k/month.
The most recent update was that he was able to get as high as $80k/month this year. So what’s the debate about the effectiveness of guest posting? Well, it’s not entirely a clear cut and dry case about how Google is viewing the SEO value of guest post links.
We’ve seen numerous warnings about guest posting
SEO software giant, SEMRush announced that they would be launching a guest posting service that would identify websites willing to accept guest posts, write the articles on your behalf and publish them with a link back to your site.
It was made clear by John Mueller that this service violated Google’s best practice guidelines in that it was essentially a service that accepted money for links.
That’s an unnatural link – the kind the webspam team might take action on. https://t.co/kfQQithCnK & https://t.co/q5GmAxx2YM have more. Making sure the links use rel=nofollow / rel=sponsored would still allow sites to get visibility without having to worry about manual actions.— ? John ? (@JohnMu) June 3, 2020
Whether SEMRush saw it the same way or not, they kiboshed the service as it was clear there would be penalties issued. This controversial service rehashed many of the questions, doubts and fears about how Google views guest posting.
The other thing is that because this is so old, we have a lot of training data for our algorithms. I wouldn’t be surprised if the largest part of those links are just ignored automatically. If all that work is for ignored links, why not just do something useful instead?— ? John ? (@JohnMu) June 14, 2020
He further indicates that there is a problem with the system for guest posting for links that improve SEO value. If you’re the author of an article and award yourself links to your own site, how can that possibly be viewed as earned links?
The part that’s problematic is the links — if you’re providing the content/the links, then those links shouldn’t be passing signals & should have the rel-sponsored / rel-nofollow attached. It’s fine to see it as a way of reaching a broader audience.— ? John ? (@JohnMu) June 11, 2020
Hence the guest posting dilemma regarding whether guest posting for links improves ranking or has any SEO value.
Does guest posting work as an effective method of building links in 2020?
The short answer to this question is yes, guest posting is and will remain an effective method of building links. The longer answer is that it depends on what goal you hope to accomplish with your link building since some guest post links have less SEO value than others.
Guest posting is confirmed by Google to be good for branding and search visibility.
Guest posting will always remain an excellent way to gain search visibility and brand your business. Google has agreed on this. There are guest-posting sites that have a large readership and will send tons of referral traffic to your site (assuming you write a great article).
According to Google’s best practices, you can drive traffic to your site through guest posting and linking to content assets on your site with nofollow links. This will increase search visibility and attract backlinks to your outstanding content. In theory.
Guest post links are being devalued under certain circumstances
The reason for doubt in the effectiveness of guest posting are speculations on the SEO value that is gained from a guest post link. But what about when your website is mentioned in someone else’s guest posting article?
How does Google know whether your site is being used as a resource, or whether you’re awarding yourself links from your own guest posts?
To get the most SEO value out of guest post links it would seem that you’d need to mentioned or not be attached as the author of the guest post. The following is a detailed guide on how to guest post in 2020 and beyond.
How to effectively build links using guest posts in 2020
Many different guides will tell you much of the same information on how to go about the process of pitching and writing guest posts, however, it should be clear about what will really move the needle from your efforts.
Keeping in mind what has happened this year, it would seem to me that the most effective method of building links by guest posts cannot be done alone. You need either a) the help of a personal influencer network b) strategize how you acquire your guest posting links by avoiding the author link in the bio or c) Guest post for nofollow links with the goal of referral traffic to pages that people will link to because they have present high value as a resource worth sharing and referencing.
Form a PIN
A typical link strategy doesn’t end with one link to your website. In most cases you’ll need a few different websites linking to your page to get it moving in rank. If you’re going to be actively guest posting on a few different websites seek out those whoa re also guest posting actively.
Contact good authors or content writers who publishes content in your niche. Propose that for every link you send to their website, they send one to yours. This way you’re able to maximize on the number of links you acquire per guest post.
If you have 4 or 5 people you work with that means you would include 4 or 5 links in a guest post article to each of their websites. That also means for every article you publish, you would receive a link from your article, plus 4 or 5 links coming from your personal influencer network.
Working with a PIN makes guest posting more efficient and it builds valuable links that Google won’t devalue from the association of you as the author.
Avoid the connection as the author of a guest post
There are many websites that have manipulated guest posting by using fake names to make it appear that someone else is linking to their site. This circumvents the connection Google makes to you awarding yourself links in a guest post and results in a link that has more SEO value for your website.
I’m not recommending using fake names, merely stating a fact. This is also a reason why link building services will get you results as well as hiring a freelance content writer.
Google’s principle behind links as a ranking signal is based on the concept of votes and/or referrals be websites that have the credibility to impact your authority. By this understanding, guest post links to your website have SEO value as linked mentions.
Choose website’s where a nofollow link is valuable
It’s a hard pill to swallow, however, since John Mueller has recommended that all guest posting links be marked as nofollow but the upside is you have to consider guest posting on sites with relevant traffic. This perspective forces you to consider what websites have traffic that’s actually good for your website-all SEO metrics aside.
Why is this a good thing? Instead of posting to a website because of its authority, you’ll be looking for websites with real traffic that are highly targeted to your content. This is one of the best reasons to go after a link in the first place.
Keep in mind that Google has also stated that they are treating the nofollow attribute as a recommendation. Whether that means SEO value could be awarded or not isn’t clear. The fact that Google wants to have the option may point to some future changes in how links are viewed.
How to land a high authority guest post in 2020 and beyond
It seems like a lot to digest, but the truth is that guest posting is still working as an effective way to build links and get your website more search visibility. In order to have the most impact as a link building method, you want to stick to the websites that will have the most positive influence on ranking and referral traffic to your website.
Set your standards for quality guest posting websites
If you follow a set of guidelines for how to guest post, you can streamline the process of finding websites, pitching and writing content.
The first area that takes a large amount of time is prospecting your websites. Establish a minimum domain authority for the websites that you intend to pitch. The domain authority isn’t the most important aspect, but it can be used as an effective filter for sorting out who you spend time prospecting.
An effective tool for identifying a website’s domain authority is the Mozbar. It’s free to download as a browser extension and all you need to is an account on Moz (also free). This allows you to see the page authority, the number of links, domain authority and spam score directly from the search results.
Another valuable tool to use is SEMRush for identifying the organic traffic a website has flowing through it. This is important because it cuts through the vanity of domain authority and tells you whether the website is ranking for organic keywords and driving traffic. This is important if you’re going to benefit from any referral traffic offered by guest posting on the website.
In the following segments, you’ll learn how to prospect potential guest posting websites, pitch the editors and write guest posts that improve your search visibility.
How to find websites that accept guest posts
There are three ways to find websites that accept guest posts; browse published lists of websites that appear in the search results; search using command operatives and plain old outreach.
There are literally thousands, if not millions of websites that accept guest posts, but not all of them will be good for your website. For a guest post to have a positive influence on your business, it needs to improve the authority of your website and/or send you traffic that engages with your content.
Browse published lists of sites that accept guest posts
If you simply type in the search phrase “[your keyword] websites that accept guest posts” you’ll produce a lot of search results of published lists of guest posting sites related to your keyword. This isn’t the best way of finding guest blogging prospects, but it can definitely help identify some high authority websites that would be beneficial to your content.
The benefit of using a published list to prospect websites is that it’s already made for you, so it saves time searching. You can cut and paste the list to an excel sheet and work systematically through the list. Working on a spreadsheet allows you to make notes as you go.
The downside to using a published list is that it can be inaccurate with the information it provides. Many of the websites may have changed their guest posting policy or may no longer exist.
Some of the websites may not even be related to your industry or niche.
Regardless of the results you find, you’ll still need to qualify any potential prospects according to your own set of standards for quality. This can be done equally as effectively by using command operatives.
Search guest post sites using command operatives
Command operatives can be used to instruct Google to search for specific websites that contain keywords in specific places. To find relevant guest posting sites you can use the commands inurl and intitle to find websites that have your keyword in the URL or the title respectively.
One of the most popular command operatives used to find sites that accept guest posts is looking for the words “write for us” in the url or the title of the page. Adding the keyword in front of the search string makes the results keyword related:
[your keyword] + inurl: write for us
[your keyword] + intitle: write for us
Here’s an example of a command operative you could use to find a dog training website that accepts guest posts:
Dog training + inurl:contributor
This method is preferable because more often than not you’re getting websites that are actively accepting guest posts. If you have the Mozbar setup, you can quickly browse through the websites that meet your minimum DA.
Plain old outreach
The goal for every website owner is to achieve a level of search visibility that allows more potential clients to find their website. Considering that publishing SEO content is one of the best methods for driving targeted traffic, it’s reasonable to pitch websites that aren’t publicly offering guest posts as well.
Most editors and website owners will publish content if it benefits their audience and represents an asset to their content strategy. Don’t limit the websites you pitch to just those that publicly accept guest posts. If there are websites you know that would make a huge impact on your search visibility, add them to your list of prospects and make them an offer they can’t refuse.
How to pitch content to editors and website owners
The email you send to editors will likely determine whether your pitch gets any attention or is handily ignored along with the rest of the guest posting requests. In order to craft the ultimate approach to a high authority website, you need to make a really good first impression. Here are some tips to improve the acceptance rate you get from high authority websites.
Make contact before pitching
If you really want to make a good impression, do some research on the website that you’d like to get your content on. Find out who the content editor is, or people in charge that could help you get published, like the owner or executive officers.
Linkedin is pretty good for finding out general details about a company. You can find just about any company on Linkedin and once you do, click on people to see a list of the staff working there. Pick the most appropriate person/people to make contact with before sending them a “cold outreach email”.
You can vary this tactic by commenting on articles on the company blog or on guest posts when you see them. Follow the company on social media and make comments and share their posts. Your efforts will surely be noticed when you’ve made four or five attempts to comment and share their content.
By making yourself more familiar you improve your chances of your email being noticed and taken more seriously than the rest of the email from other gust authors.
Read a few articles from the prospective blog
You can’t craft the perfect pitch without reading the blog itself. In order to offer something of value, you need to figure out what that is for the blog you’re pitching. One of the top reasons articles are rejected (other than low quality) is because the content isn’t a good fit for the website.
Read a few articles to get a feel for the content being produced along with the style, tone and topics that match your prospects’ blog.
Create catchy headlines
Think about it. The first thing you’re presenting to an editor is the possibility of writing an article based on the headline. In order for there to spark any interest in your article, your headline has to instantly appeal to the editor.
There’s a lot of rehashed content that lives on the internet so try not to be boring by putting a twist on your topic. For example, instead of Website Traffic Creation, try using How To Generate Explosive Traffic To Your Shopify Store.
The second title is more descriptive, more focused and more interesting than the first. Brainstorm title ideas by writing down a list of 20 different headlines. You can use tools like Coschedule’s headline analyzer to gauge how effective it is. Or just apply some headline strategies that are known to improve click-through rate.
Include a brief outline of your proposed article
Include, at a minimum, four to five bullet points on what you plan on discussing within your proposed article. This gives editors a sneak peek at the content you’re going to send them-which hopefully makes your article more appealing.
Include some title options
It’s best practice to send along a few other title options of another article idea you’d like to write about. Not every website owner will want the exact article you’re pitching. Giving them a few other options opens the door to more ideas, rather than shutting down your pitch completely.
Always include a few links to writing samples
Even if you’ve never published a single guest post, you can include links to content on your own blog. This establishes some credibility and proves to the editor that you’re capable of putting together a good article.
If you have previously published articles, send links to your best work on the most well known websites.
Write an article that will represent your business
Upon acceptance, write an article that will be an excellent representation of your business. Approach guest posting the same way you would write an SEO optimized blog post for your own website.
It’s not just about getting the link. The goal is to attract readers to click-through to your site. Whether you get a high volume of traffic from the article or not, the article itself is a form of advertising your company and teaching people what you offer as a business.
This is a form of branding for your company so treat it as a presentation to inform, enlighten and engage your readers.
Quality is key
To get the most of guest posting, you need to commit to publishing quality content on the hosting website as well as your own. There are no shortcuts to this. In order to get people to click on a link that goes to your site, they have to read and trust the content your publishing as a guest author.
Once they’re on your website, the content on your site needs to be link-worthy and should engage your ideal audience. The ideal outcome to guest posting is twofold; you receive traffic interested in what your business offers; you receive traffic that likes your content so much they share it within their network and link to it in their own writing.
To do this, make sure you’re publishing well researched, well-written content that links to content assets on your website.
Don’t forget your PIN
Remember to add links to your personal influencer network in order to get links from them.
Link to internal articles
It’s not always required but it’s always a nice touch to include a few internal links to the hosting site’s content. It shows you’re interested in improving their blog and that you’re willing to help out where you can. Building relationships with the editors and website owners you submit to can go a long way in your link building career.
8 benefits of guest blogging
#1-Increased referral traffic
As a guest author, you have the opportunity to publish an article on a website within your niche, with a link pointing back to your site.
A link on a popular blog site provides you with targeted referral traffic. These visitors are obviously interested in reading your content if they read your guest post and clicked on your link.
Keep in mind that the number of visitors that click through to your site largely depends on how much traffic the hosting site receives.
#2-Provides a targeted audience
Guest posting puts your content in front of readers who are interested in your niche. Aim to publish a guest post on a site that your potential clients visit. By limiting your guest posting prospects to highly relevant sites within your industry (or a direct parallel) you improve the impact your link building strategy has on your ranking.
This also improves the chances your guest posts will be read by visitors interested in the solutions your business offers.
#3-Promotes better branding
This form of link building is considered a branding opportunity because it allows you to demonstrate the expertise of your company. Problem-solving content can be a powerful way for people to learn about your business and compel readers to click through to your site.
A well-written guest post can communicate to people how your company is capable of solving problems related to their own. Successful guest posting strategies promote awareness of your brand and establish thought leadership within your industry.
As a guest author, you are allowed the opportunity to tap into a third party’s traffic resources. Many blogs have a subscribership/email list that receives every new article that gets published.
Your article gets sent to that audience and you can get your site in front of a whole new network you wouldn’t have normally had access to.
A link from a guest post will pass authority to your site when it’s acquired correctly. A major reason for posting on a blog site is to gain access to traffic that is a good match for your website. The relationship between your site and the guest posting site should be clearly identifiable.
Acquiring links from sites within your niche will improve your site’s credibility and ranking ability if they are followed links and preferably awarded by anyone but yourself.
Its best practice to link to the inner pages of your site with anchor text links.
In fact, you enhance the optimization of your pages by using your target keyword in a select number of your anchor text links.
This creates stronger relevance signals for keyword related searches.
Typically you want to use exact match anchor text sparingly to avoid any signs of rank manipulation.
Using a good blend of long-tail keywords, brand links and naked URLs is the best form of implementing a safe backlinking strategy.
The strength of a backlink profile plays a major contributing role in the ranking your page receives for your target keyword. Quality links will go a long way for moving the needle in the competitive placement of your page.
The more high-quality sites that link back to your page, the more authority and ranking ability your page accumulates.
High authority domains have more impact on your domain authority and ranking ability. The more popular the blog site, the more traffic and the more authority that is passed through to yours.
#8-Builds more entry points to your content
The more links that lead. to your website the better. Each link you build creates a bridge allowing more visitors to find your website. As long as you’re linking from relevant content on websites that receive a healthy flow of traffic you’re improving the number of entry points to your content.
As a method of link building, this is among the most popular because it allows you to cover the basic three essentials of acquiring quality links.
Links are most beneficial when they are:
- Highly relevant to the content hosting the link. Since the article is being written on behalf of your company, it’s obviously going to have strong relevance to the content in which you’re linking.
- The health of the site in which your link resides is another criteria for acquiring a quality link.
- Choosing websites that have established traffic and strong readership is the third part of the criteria for acquiring quality backlinks.
Make the most of a linking opportunity
Although the linking criteria will differ from site to site, be sure to fully understand what the site is allowing in terms of providing a linking opportunity.
A contextual link is the most valuable type of link you can acquire because it provides a reference to related content. As far as search engines go, the sole purpose of linking is to share content that is deemed worthy of sharing.
If the editors allow you to link to your site within the body of your article, take advantage by linking to the inner pages of your site. Your links should be natural, meaning they are not forced and are referencing a relevant page on your site.
Try to incorporate as many relevant links to previous guest posts since you can build on their authority and boost the value of the links to your site.
Answer comments and responses
Respond to any comments or questions your article generates. User interaction provides good ranking signals that give your article more traction in the search results. Many webmasters will actually ask you to respond under penalty of having your links removed from your article!
6 Tips & Tactics For Guest Blogging
#1-Summarize your article with subtitles
Use creative subtitles to separate your article into segments that give the reader an accurate summary of what your article is communicating. Many people (editors included) who read online tend to scan through content and if your subtitles can paint an attractive or interesting enough picture you can capture their attention to read further.
A good article will segment your thoughts and ideas into easier to digest blocks of text. The added ease of comprehension is an asset to any article and makes your article a more attractive possibility for publication.
#2-Use Grammarly to proof your article
This app is extremely easy to use and highlights all of your spelling and grammatical errors. The corrections are as simple as hovering over the highlighted text and clicking on the option that is the most suitable correction.
This app is functional on an HTML editor or Google Docs, which makes it ideal for blogging. There is nothing more unprofessional than spelling mistakes and poor grammar. Use a tool like Grammarly to eliminate those errors. and raise your level of professionalism.
Even if you’re a great writer this tool will catch a lot of mistakes you might otherwise miss. Your writing becomes much more appealing to editors when submitting content for publication.
#3-Use images & media at every opportunity
It should go without saying how important images are to incorporate in your articles. People retain 60% more information when there is an image to associate with the text. Since some blogs will require images for your article and in most cases, they will add images to your article, you can save them time and include them yourself.
Make your article more enticing by posting some related images to prove points or illustrate examples. If you don’t own the rights to the image be sure to credit the source of the image with a link or proper attribution.
#4-Read a few articles from the blog
Many blogs have a specific style that can be discerned by reading a few of their blog posts. Get a feel for that style so you can incorporate it within your content. If you can nail the blog’s tone and format you’ll always be invited back to write gain for the blog.
#5-Read the guest posting guidelines for each submission
There is always valuable information that each site will offer in their guest posting guidelines-which is different for every blog site.
The linking policies are a major issue that should be understood before you pitch or submit an article to a site. If they are only offering nofollow links, it may affect your link building strategy as well as your contribution to your PIN.
Some sites will enforce strict protocols when accepting submissions. There are sites that won’t consider your article if you’ve missed one of their requirements. Editors will literally dismiss your article without notification.
For every website you consider, read the submission guidelines as a non-negotiable part of your routine. It will save you time and resources in the long run by having a clear idea of what you’re getting as well as what you need to provide.
When done correctly, guest blogging is one of many strategies for building backlinks that are considered safe and effective for branding, improving authority and building the strength of your backlink profile.
As long as guest blogging continues to get great results within an SEO campaign it will remain one of the most popular methods of link building in 2020 and beyond.