A wise man (or woman, I don’t know, I wasn’t there) once said that it’s not what you know, but who you know, and this is no truer than in blogger outreach and guest posting.
Guest posting as an SEO tactic, as you may well know, has been getting a bit of a battering recently. A couple of weeks ago, Bas Van Den Beld of State of Search announced that the site (on which I’ve previously guest posted myself) would no longer be accepting guest posts. Bas explains his decision in depth in the post, but it essentially boils down to Bas getting very tired indeed of receiving mass unsolicited email pitches for poor quality posts.
State of Search is far from the first site to close ranks and stop accepting guest posts, and they definitely won’t be the last. Ever since article marketing and other such ‘quick’ link building methods lost their value as SEO tactics, the process of guest posting has been re purposed as a kind of ‘enhanced article marketing’.
The Guest Content Mass
The result of this repurposing is an ever-growing mass of identikit and poorly written outreach emails from a faceless group of different people, all demanding links back to their blog in exchange for their ‘quality content’.
Unfortunately, this ‘quality content’ is often actually ‘poor dross’, a fleeting half-hour spent bashing keys to form words that have already been spoken a thousand times before in a more eloquent and engaging manner. In the race to get as many guest posts (and thus links) published as possible, this faceless group of people has ended up creating ‘faceless content’, a series of articles almost indistinguishable from each other. If you want a vision of the digital future, imagine a thousand regurgitated eHow articles stamping on your eyeballs. Forever.
This trend has paradoxically made guest posting both harder and easier at the same time. Getting a post on a quality blog – you know, the type people actually read and engage with – is getting harder, as sites like State of Search close their ranks in favour of editorial teams and handpicking bloggers themselves.
On the other hand, the demand for a home for derivative guest blog posts has led to an explosion in the number of blogs that exist solely to provide SEO benefits to anyone with a bit of content (or a bit of cash, in a lot of instances). This makes guest posting easier but a lot less valuable – a baby step above article marketing, if you will.
That doesn’t mean that quality blogs are off the table to guest posters all together though. It just means you have to work harder to distinguish yourself from the mass of spam-peddling guest bloggers.
Building Your Reputation
The best way of doing is to build your reputation. Bas Van Den Beld refers to the fact that State of Search will now be relying on those it knows and trusts, and occasionally inviting new bloggers it deems worthy to join the party. Essentially, you have to prove yourself before you get a place in the big leagues.
Which, when you think about it, actually makes perfect sense. No journalist has ever written a piece (that they’ve copied and rejigged from another website) and sent it to the New York Times and got it published immediately. Instead, they have to prove they’ve got experience in the industry via previous work. In most instances, the editor will have heard their name about.
There are two primary ways to leverage reputation to your advantage when pitching content to a seemingly cynical blogger. The first is to provide them with examples of your previous work – for example, if I was targeting an SEO blog, I’d include links to my posts on State of Search and Search Engine Journal. This would show that a publisher of a well-respected blog has seen fit to publish my work in the past, which would pique the editor’s interest and at least get them to reply to my initial pitch.
The other way is to build your reputation enough so that the editor may have heard your name around. This is obviously much, much harder than it sounds; it involves networking (both in-person and on social media), being a prominent commenter on industry blogs and maintaining your own insightful blog. Of course, all that hard work is worth it if it gets the editor of a major blog opening your speculative email.
It was always likely to happen once major SEO blogs started pushing outreach as the principle off-page SEO tactic, but ‘guest blogging’ has gained somewhat of a negative reputation that has sites closing their borders and has made getting content onto quality blogs harder than ever. This has made reputation a crucial tool in the outreach process; make sure to use it to your advantage.