Utilizing Guest Bloggers – an SEO’s Advice
Blogs can be an SEO goldmine, but it can be a major challenge to write enough quality material to attract and retain enough quality visitors to generate positive return on the time invested. Which is why opening your doors to allow writers not employed at your organization to contribute to the blog is such an attractive concept. The idea of getting quality content without doing the work of creating it yourself is super intriguing, no?
Pros and Cons of using contributing authors
- More content – Ten authors can produce more content than one.
- More ideas to learn from – More authors results in more topics covered and more writing styles. The editor can see which techniques and topics best resonate with the audience and result in better engagement and more inbound linking, social sharing, and conversions.
- More time for the editor – For blog editors who write the majority of their blog’s content, additional writers means the editor can spend less time writing and more time on improving the interface and planning, curating, editing, and promoting the blog. In other words, for editors who spend a significant amount of time writing, bringing in more authors allows the editor to be an editor.
- Built-in article promotion – Authors often promote their own content. Established authors will likely promote their contributed articles on their own blogs and social networks, building in automatic inbound links and social mentions and opening the blog to the authors’ fan-bases.
- Editing is time consuming – Managing a blog and proofing and reformatting articles takes a lot of time.
- You may have to upset a few authors – If every guest author totally had their way, every article they contributed would be an advertisement or mini link farm. In addition, some people just ‘don’t write no good’. You will have to say “no” a lot, and you will have to make edits that some authors may not like. Be prepared for this.
- You will lose consistency – Sites that open themselves to contributed and user-generated content generally sacrifice consistency of message. Writing styles, lingo, and the actual messages in the article will all be different from what you’re used to generating, and editing the content to be 100% consistent with your own content is typically impractical. Experiencing a loss of brand control is inevitable.
- SEO article spammers – Once you allow outside authors to post external links, the links will likely show up on SEOs’ radars as they perform competitive link analysis. You may become an article spam target. Article spam can become time-consuming to screen out and detrimental if you don’t screen it out.
SEO Article Spamming
That last one deserves more than a single bullet. I’m talking about the typographical symbol, of course. Blackhat SEOs LOVE to contribute “articles.” Contributing articles with contextual links is a great tactic to build strong links, and is utilized by many whitehats, including myself. It’s also a tactic commonly abused by blackhat SEOs, whereby they send out loads of poor quality or non-original content to anyone who might be foolish enough to post it. Editors need to be hip to article spam tactics so that they don’t waste their time or wind up posting poor or duplicated content. To help screen such spam, keep an eye out for the following 3 red flags:
- Duplicated content: Many spammers will send the same article or quickly “spun” articles (“spinning” quickly changing the title and a few words of an existing article to make what appears to be unique content). Use a tool such as Copyscape to screen out duplicate content.
- Machine generated content: Many spammers will send out machine generated content that may initially appear to be decent, relevant material but turns out to be gibberish should you actually read through it. In general, if the article looks and smells like crap, it probably is crap.
- Automated emails: Most spammers won’t spend the time to write a personal e-mail or message when initially contacting you. If the email or initial contact message is not specific and could apply to anyone, or if the author does not identify him or herself (or provides an alias), you may have been contacted by a spammer.
Ways to recruit guest authors
There are many ways to attract and utilize contributing authors. The methods you employ should compliment your overall blogging strategy. Below are just a few ideas:
- Start within your own organization. Most organizations I’ve worked with have considerable untapped resources in the form of articulate employees who are experts in the field that are not being utilized to write for the blog.
- Reach out to established authors. If you encounter quality writing relevant to your blog’s subject matter, look up the author’s other works and forge a connection if that individual’s content would make a good fit for your blog. It may take a while to develop a working relationship, but it can be time well spent.
- Connect with other bloggers in your industry. In many instances, a competitor may not want to help you out. However, if you have a local business, there may be hundreds of non-competing bloggers in your industry outside your geographical area. So if you’re Joe the blogging plumber from Cleveland, research other national plumbers, Google “plumbing blog”, and forge a connection with other plumbing bloggers to recruit them.
- Content exchange. Kill two birds with one stone by contributing an article to someone else’s blog in return for utilizing their content. This is an awesome win-win situation.
- Make an “open call” and spread the word. Established brands can often attract very strong contributors merely by posting a “Want to Write for Us?” page and linking in the right spots on their website and social media properties. This is also a great place to define and set expectations in terms of formatting, topic selection, self-promotional limitations, etc…
- Launch a user-generated content contest. Sometimes the line between guest blogging and user-generated content is blurred, and that can be just fine for you. There’s millions of ideas here, from photo and video contests to stories and educational content and more. This is also a great social media tactic, but it may require a strong social presence and/or a good deal of promotion to get the word out.
- Post it to the classifieds. If you’re willing to pay for good content, there’s no shortage of authors looking to get paid. For a cheaper method of recruiting expert writers, consider targeting universities.
So should you use guest bloggers?
Augmenting your writing department (which may very well consist of one person – you) with multiple contributing authors can turn your blog into a link baiting machine and a powerhouse viral content generator. Or it can turn your blog into a giant spam target, dilute your brand, or waste your time. It is a strategy that is more appropriate in some situations than others.
The changes of your guest blogging program being a success go up considerably when you:
- have soundly identified that putting more resources into your blog is worthwhile.
- do not have the current resources in your staff to realize your blog’s full potential.
- are in need of writing from industry experts or need more creative inputs.
- are not overly reliant on your blog as a platform to promote the unique skills and expertise of your staff.
- understand guest bloggers’ needs.
- understand article spamming.
- have strong enough brand and/or website authority to be able to attract quality writers and/or you have strong enough recruiting or networking skills to compensate.
- have strong editorial resources in terms of time and skills (both proofing and blog management skills).
- clearly define and communicate what content you hope to receive, in terms of topic selection, writing style, formatting, article length, self-promotion limits (# of links per article, author byline limit, brand mentions), etc…
- clearly develop, define, and communicate benefits to potential contributors. (Will you tweet about the articles? Feature articles on main blog page? Provide an author biography page?)
- are able to forge a win-win environment.
Is guest blogging the right strategy for your blog?