A 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 backlink building and the way it can help the search engines rank content better. 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 backlinks from popular sites worth it? Thanks in advance!
To Start, What Are Backlinks And How Do They Impact My Blog?
Okay, to start, I’m going to be completely honest. I don’t spend a lot of time engaging in link building activities for my blog. For those of you who don’t know what backlinks are or what “link building for SEO” 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.
NOTE: Backlinks are also often referred to as inbound links in the world of search engine optmization. They are the same thing. Essentially, just a link from one site to a piece of content on your site.
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) and has delivered a lot of good results.
Think about it. If you can write a guest post for a popular site like Forbes or Huffington Post and include at least one link to your own blog content, when Google indexes those sites, the indexing bot is going to say “hey, HuffPo links to this blog….so it must be legit, maybe I should check it out and, if it’s on-topic and good content, maybe we’ll rank it higher in the search indexes”.
Okay…Googlebot doesn’t really think or say that, but you get what I mean.
Unfortunately, I personally don’t think link-building is a very worthwhile activity any more. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t agree with the idea that Google rewards sites that are linked to by high-quality domains.
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 single minute formulating an article. writing the content, generating images, and going through the editorial process.
TIP: Setting a value for the work you do can help you determine whether an activity is worthwhile. The time it takes a blogger to write a piece of content varies depending on their style, their content topic, and their creative and editorial process. I have been blogging for more than 10 years now, so I have a pretty clear idea as to how long it takes me to write a good blog post. For me, it’s 3 hours from end-to-end. I value my time at $50/hour so each blog post costs me $150 to write and publish. If I add another 2 hours of time to try to find a location to guest blog and generate an inbound link, I am now $250 in to the process.
Personally, 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 with respect to acquisition of traffic from various sources:
Yep..that’s right. Less than 1% of my traffic comes from referral backlinks.
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 inbound links.
It just takes commitment and patience.
NOTE: I have the luxury of not having to engage in link building because I’m okay with organic being my main traffic builder. For those bloggers who are just starting out, a guest blog post can have a positive impact of kick-starting traffic to your blog by the nature of a link being included in a post that gets lots of eyeballs. Just because I don’t engage in SEO link building, doesn’t mean I don’t value it.
So, What Does Guest Blog Posts 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 valuable 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 backlink 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 single link to their site or service.
NOTE: Most links that are included within a guest post are set as nofollow links. This meas that when Googlebot indexes the guest blog post and sees the link to your site, it’s not going to follow it…kind of. It’s Google’s statement that it’s bot “generally” doesn’t follow nofollow links. That doesn’t mean it never does. In fact, Ahrefs did a great study that shows that Googlebot actually does follow some nofollow links, especially those from really popular sites. So, even if a your guest blog post results in a nofollow link, it could still be helpful to not only drive traffic from readers, but get Googlebot to check out your site.
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.
So, Is 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:
- How new is your site or service?
- How crowded is the niche that you are marketing to?
- How much time do you have dedicated to writing content for your own site?
- How much additional time do you have available for outreach activities?
- 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:
- You are a new site with relatively low traffic, AND
- The niche you are marketing to is crowded, AND
- You have dedicated enough time to write 3-4 articles each week for your own site, AND
- You have 2-3 hours each week to engage in research and outreach to influencers, AND
- 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 single 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 more than 10 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:
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.
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.
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.
If the site owner doesn’t get back to you immediately, don’t take offense. Follow up after a week or so and see if they might be interested. Maybe explain better why your proposed content will fit with their site and help their target audience.
DO NOT and I mean DO NOT send them nasty-grams. If you are looking to get your article published, being a jerk via email is the first way to get added to the trash bin. It sucks that I have to add this guidance in, but you would be surprised how nasty people can get.
Have a good bio and be prepared to show examples of your work
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.
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 If I Write Guest Blog Posts For Another Blog, 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.
TIP: Do not ever reach out to a site owner or blogger and ask them how much it will cost to get a “dofollow” link on their site. Google has clearly stated that paying for dofollow links is an activity called link-shaping and it can result in a penalty on your site and the publisher of the guest post. That is a lose-lose, so don’t bother.
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 Backlinks From One Of Those Online Services?
DO NOT BUY SEO BACKLINKS!
This is worth repeating.
DO NOT BUY SEO BACKLINKS!
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?!? What Is The Danger Of Buying Inbound Links To My Blog?
The reason is because they come with potential short-term rewards, but very, very high risk. Yes, you might generate some traffic from purchased backlinks. More than likely, though, what you’re going to generate is a hefty 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 backlinks, 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 backlink).
Thanks to Matthew for the question and I hope these tips help any aspiring guest bloggers out there.
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.