[Answered] Are Guest Blog Posts Even Worthwhile Or Am I Just Giving Away My Content?

Great question came to me yesterday regarding the activity of link-building through guest blogging. Thought this answer might help those out there who are wondering whether back-link building is even a worthwhile activity anymore.

Hey Sean – Thanks for all the guidance you provide through your articles. I have a small blog and want to grow it and I have read a lot about back-link building. I’d like to get more referral traffic, but I’d rather focus on writing for my own blog, rather than giving my content away to others. Am I being selfish about my content? Are the back-links from other sites worth it? Thanks in advance!   –Matthew

The Background On Back-links

Okay, to start, I’m going to be completely honest. I don’t engage in back-link building. For those of you who don’t know what back-links are or what “back-link building” means, this concept refers to the proactive activity of searching out high-quality web sites and identifying ways to get the author to create a link to your site or article. The idea is that if a high-quality site links to your content, Google is going to reward you with the potential for higher ranking for your content. Historically, it has been a pretty fundamental activity with regards to search engine optimization (SEO). Unfortunately, I personally don’t think it’s a worthwhile activity any more.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I don’t agree that Google rewards sites that are linked to by high-quality domains. I have no doubt that if Darren Rowse at ProBlogger put a link to my blog on his home page, it would help my traffic greatly. The problem isn’t one of value…it’s one of time. Between my family, running a digital marketing agency, and writing for my own personal blog…I just don’t have a lot of time to spend sending tons of emails out to influencers and bloggers to try to get them to link to my content. Even at a 25% open rate and a 5% click rate…I might only get a couple responses and that’s before I even spend a minute formulating an article and going through the editorial process.

Instead, I would rather spend that time writing helpful articles for my own blog and letting organic search do the work. Want to see what I mean? Here’s what my Google Analytics looked like last month:

My Google Analytics Shows That I Have Very Little Referral Traffic

Yep..that’s right. Less than 1% of my traffic comes from referral back-links. Not really something to brag about…just imagine what my traffic would be like if I did spend time gathering inbound links. The point, though, is to show that you CAN generate traffic to your blog without spending a ton of time building links. It just takes commitment and patience.

So, What Does Guest Blogging Have To Do With Back-link Building?

The best way to get someone to link to your site is to offer them something of value in return. Emailing a blogger and asking them to “swap links” or “add you to their blogroll” is a thing of the past and just doesn’t work. Instead, if you offer to write a piece of content for them that would be interesting to their audience, then it’s a win-win situation. You write an article that is informative to their audience and you get to include a back-link in the article to your site. Make sense?

I accept, and appreciate, guest posts here at SocMedSean.com and most of my guest bloggers have delivered some great content. In exchange, I allow them to include a link to their site or service. Most of the time, I even go a step further and include a link to their Twitter handle or Facebook page to help generate some social media following. Again, their article helps my readers and I give away a little bit of this site’s “link juice” to help them with their authority.

But Do You Think Guest Blogging Worth The Time And Energy?

Sorry to give the traditionally wishy-washy answer, but it really depends on you, your site, and the time you have available. The factors I would consider regarding guest-blogging are:

  1. How new is your site or service?
  2. How crowded is the niche that you are marketing to?
  3. How much time do you have dedicated to writing content for your own site?
  4. How much additional time do you have available for outreach activities?
  5. If an opportunity arises, how much time to you have to write for others sites?

Turning those into a decision tree, if the following is true:

  1. You are a new site with relatively low traffic, AND
  2. The niche you are marketing to is crowded, AND
  3. You have dedicated enough time to write 3-4 articles each week for your own site, AND
  4. You have 2-3 hours each week to engage in research and outreach to influencers, AND
  5. You have 2 hours each week to write and edit 1 guest post per week

…then guest blog.

I know, I know…it’s not as simple as that formulaic response. But it’s a good place to start.

For me, I get stopped at step #3 every time. I currently don’t have enough time in the day to dedicate to writing 3-4 articles each week for my site. I try…but I’m not there. So, for me, I’d rather focus all energy that would be spent in steps #4 and #5 writing helpful content for my own site, knowing that it could take 1-2 YEARS before I see ongoing organic traffic from the posts. I’m patient that way…and after 8 years of running this blog, it seems to pay off.

Do You Have Any Tips For Someone Considering Guest Blogging?

Definitely. Having worked with a lot of content writers, both in my professional career and for this blog, here are my best tips:

  1. Know the audience of the target blog – People ask all the time if they can contribute motherhood articles or a blog post about yoga to SocMedSean.com. I always politely respond, but ask them if they are able to adjust their content to meet my audience. Usually, those topics just aren’t of interest to my readers.
  2. Research and propose topics in your initial outreach – Showing me that you already have done your homework and have identified gaps in content that my readers might like is a great way to start. I might ask you to adjust the topic a bit, but that’s okay.
  3. Be Flexible – The site owner should have editorial guidance over your content. That means they might help you shape it to be most beneficial to their audience. Be open to suggestions or edits.
  4. Have a good bio – Why should people read your post? What experience do you bring that makes you an authority on your topic? Make sure your bio reflects that and share it with the site owner. Also, if you have previously-published examples of your work, share those, as well.
  5. Write unique content – Don’t ripoff articles or spin them from previously written posts. Don’t plagiarize. If you reference “studies” or “surveys” be sure to link to them. References in your article should be to authoritative sites that are widely recognized by the audience, not some shady biased underground site with an agenda.

But Aren’t I Just Giving Away My Content?

Sure, that’s one way to look at it.

The other way to think about it is that you are purchasing a link from a site that has better domain authority than your current site. You’re “buying” the link using your content as the currency. So, keep that in mind. If you are asking another blogger or influencer to link to your site and you present them with crappy content, it’s not a square deal. Put your best effort into it. Write something that will resonate with their audience and be shared across their social media channels. Who knows, it may not only drive traffic to your site, but expose you to potential new followers in the social space.

Okay, Then Why Don’t I Just Buy Back-Links From One Of Those Online Services?

DO NOT BUY SEO BACK-LINKS!

This is worth repeating.

DO NOT BUY SEO BACK-LINKS!

Do not buy them in a house, do not buy them from a mouse. Do not buy them on a plane, do not buy them on a train. Do not buy them EVER EVER EVER EVER…even with green eggs and ham.

Don’t buy them from Fiverr. Don’t buy them from Black Hat World. Don’t buy them from that guy who emailed you about how he can increase your PR standing from 1 to 4. Don’t buy them from .edu sites or .gov sites. JUST DON’T BUY THEM EVER!

But, Why Not?!?

The reason is because they come with potential rewards, but very, very high risk. Yes, you might generate some traffic from purchased back-links. More than likely, though, what you’re going to generate is a penalty from Google, which is exactly the opposite of what you were trying to accomplish. Google is smart and getting smarter. They have engineers who are highly-trained and who are paid a lot of money to find ways to stop people from tricking Googlebot. If you think some dude on the internet is going to outsmart Google and then sell their back-links for $5 for 50 back-links, you’re wrong.

Also, don’t give your credit card number to a Nigerian Prince who will pay you back on some future undisclosed date.

I know, it’s tempting. I have had to ward off that voice in my head more than a couple of times. But stay strong. Don’t waiver. Write content that is good. Be helpful. Be responsive to your audience. They will appreciate it and show it to you with return traffic (and maybe a back-link).

I hope that helps! If you have a tip for others who are considering guest-blogging, definitely share them in the comments. If you have a question about digital or social media, just ask via my contact form and ask away.

Cheers!

–Sean

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