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“The point is not how we use a tool, but how it uses us.”
― Nick Joaquín, Culture and History
As technology advances in complexity and scope we are always trying to cut corners and outsource our tasks to the overwhelming variety of SEO tools available on the market. Guess what: Link Building and especially Guest Blogging is the one SEO process that you should definitely refrain from automating.
Guest blogging focuses on the personal approach and as such it does take time and detailed research. While it does require creativity and patience, it is a powerful tool towards building a quality backlink profile for your site. Inbound links are an important ranking factor, part of the search engines’ algorithm. Thus you should go for a strategy that brings long-term benefits. In the case of Guest Blogging this means investing your time in building mutually beneficial relationships with bloggers. And this is something no current tool can help you out with. Here are three common misconceptions about Guest Blogging that you should cross out from your agenda:
Have you ever used a standardized template to outreach to bloggers? You must have, there are some pretty attractive ones being shared online. Did you make some changes in their format or did you just adopt the given structure as a golden rule that you follow blindly, filling in only the blogger’s name, a couple of links to their posts and your topic suggestion in the open fields? Now is the time to break that annoying habit – open up for the personalized outreach and enjoy a higher response rate, a better number of accepted guest post suggestions and approved articles. You do not believe us? Let’s see why this really works:
Bloggers are fed up with low quality content offered by SEOs – outreaching to a blogger with a standard pitch that you have borrowed online would definitely doom your efforts to utter failure. In case you did your prospecting in an ambitious way (we highly recommend that), chances are that you have selected an authority blog (let’s call it welovekitteh.com), with high readership and a regular flow of fresh content. Do you think that you are the only person that has recognized this opportunity and your e-mail is the sole guest posting application in the blogger’s Inbox? Don’t fool yourself. Jack or Jill at welovekitteh.com is dealing with tons of daily spam from random contributing wannabe writers. And now imagine that those competitors of yours have read the same SEO article that you have, and have respectively adopted the same outreach template. The time that you have saved on creating a personalized message will eventually cost you much more than you’ve initially thought. You risk having your email account included in the spam list and losing that valuable lead, or in the best-case scenario– you will simply be ignored.
In case the blogger you’ve contacted does reply to your e-mail, he will be highly skeptical of the value that you can offer and he won’t be wrong in his suspicion. Once you have used a standard template to contact him, how could he be sure that you are not automating the writing process, too? Spinning articles and excessively “copy and paste”-ing from different published opinions to the point of just passing the Copyscape tests are “black hat” SEO tactics that bloggers are well aware of and hate being fooled with.
Bloggers can read between the lines – listing the latest topics posted on the given blog and adding the cliché “I find them really interesting and educative” is simply a lazy approach that does not cover up the personalization factor in your outreach email. Bloggers sense it when you are offering them fake admiration. Empty compliments are useless – it’s better to present the blog owner with a constructive critique than to praise their site in a cliché way. At least they will be sure that you have paid attention to their blog and you have taken your time to find a weak spot in their opinions, writing or even design solutions. Compliment them by reading their blog, not by pretending to like every post they write.
Authoritative bloggers are all about sharing ideas, experiences and making new acquaintances. The benefit of being supplied with just any fresh content is meaningless to them. So if you enter the conversation with the attitude that you are making them a one-way favor, they will not buy it. On the contrary, you should be fully aware that they are also making you a favor by potentially letting you write for them. That should be well-reflected in a tone of ambition for mutual help. Most bloggers enjoy writing their personal opinions on their sites and they cherish every piece of information that they post.
Of course there are other individuals of the blogger community who are sustaining their blogs just for the sake of profit: if you outreach to such a blog owner you will be most definitely asked to pay a “donation fee” or “advertising costs”. Hence, you would have to set aside a budget for that. The good news for your budget is that you should not use these sources to begin with – paid links are not highly tolerated by Google.
Last but not least, there is another group of blog owners that are looking for ANY type of content – you should avoid these at any cost, too. Often they start a blog with the sole aim to quickly raise its rankings in order to start earning from it or to use it as a part of a “link farm”. A link from such a blog could get your rankings in trouble rather than help them. Not a good shortcut to take. But don’t take our word for it – Matt Cutts of Google can give you a piece of his mind, too.
Bloggers do share among each other the bad experiences that they have had with guest bloggers – this makes them up-to-date with the most recent tricks the SEOs are trying to pull. If you haven’t come across articles written by blog owners who express their honest anger towards some arrogant guest posting candidates, here is an interesting read by Tara Jacobsen. She shares some rather stunning outreach e-mails that she has received in her practice. Avoiding being mentioned in such “black” lists is yet another good reason for personalizing your outreach emails.
Guest Posting is a great example of high quality Content Marketing. In order to excel at the blogger outreach step of the link building process, you need to keep in mind essential marketing strategies that have proven to work overtime in attracting audiences and winning their attention. You must master the Psychology of persuasion.
Finally make sure to tell a story. Present yourself – tell the blogger who you are, how you have found the blog, how you have decided to contact them; describe the adventure you have had before you have finally come up with the idea to drop them a line.
The main obstacle that hinders people from focusing on white hat Link Building and Guest Posting is that the customization process requires a lot of time and efforts. This immediately leads to the shrinking opportunity to outreach to a larger number of blogs. The time spent on searching for the proper industry- or area-relevant blogs, the hours devoted to studying the blogs and their owners and the personalized outreach and communication process requires a lot of resources. Resources that often SEO specialists prefer to avoid investing in.
However, against the common belief, the lower quantity of outreached blog owners under the personalized approach does offer, in our experience, a higher return of investment. The higher response rate of highly customized outreach emails unanimously overwhelms the costs of the bigger effort made. Support that with high quality content and chances are that you’ve got yourself a successful Guest Posting campaign.
Link Building is a SEO strategy that has come a long way and has greatly redefined its purpose and goals over the years. As the search engine algorithms improve their spam and low quality detection, link builders are looking for a way to optimize their efforts and to elaborate their working processes. Once, forum posting and blog commenting used to bring the indispensable link juice that sites needed to raise above the competition. Today these tactics have become obsolete and everyone should work harder in their attempt to popularize their sites and increase their online visibility.
We suggest focusing on link equity, long-term value and personalization. In fact, link building has come a long enough way to seriously consider its portion in the more general marketing strategies of a company.
As Rand Fishkin at Moz sums its up – it is all about looking at the big picture and trying to optimize your Content Marketing instead of fixating on acquiring new links.
Optimizing your link building strategy is essential to adapt to the ever-changing online environment. As Matt Cutts, explained in one of his recent interviews: “There are best practices, and you need to make sure you get the basics right, but it is true that a lot of SEO is now circling back around to good old fashioned marketing.”
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