Truth be told, guest blogging isn’t dead, but Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, warns “If you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop.” Cutts moves on to slam guest blogging as a link building strategy and tells us “it’s become more and more spammy.”
At one time, guest blogging was a gem, but practices such as paying for PageRank, and inserting spammy links – behind the author’s back – have made the practice dirty. These are but a few of the shortcuts used to game Google’s indexing that Cutts eludes to in his article. Additionally, other less dubious practices have fallen away because of Google’s continued algorithm updates too. For instance, Google doesn’t tell us which keywords are working, and which are not. That said, the old practice of putting keywords at or near the front of a headline to be found easier is a moot point. So, why worry about where you put keywords, or if you’re using an exact keyword phrase?
Besides, Google understands synonyms. Now, when a search is done, Google is learning what words mean. So, it’s not important to use exact match keywords, and similar combinations to get your content indexed in the right place. The best thing to do is stick to your topic.
So is guest blogging dead? No. It’s actually becoming a much more powerful public relations tool, if you follow what Cutts recommends, “In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well.” While I think this is an extreme statement, it goes without saying, relationships have become intimately important to Google.
That’s where public relations professionals excel – building relationships. Once you have that established with a blogger, and you have successfully pitched an idea, then what? Let’s start with the headline.
Make Headlines Clear and Concise
You’ll find a lot of advice about headline writing on the web. One piece of advice I’ve found is to write Buzzfeed-inspired headlines, such as, “Five Secrets Your Financial Planner Is Hiding from You.” The headline is clear and concise, but if you don’t deliver on that promise, over time your readers will ignore you. These bloated headlines get tiresome and people will perceive you as the person who cried wolf one to many times.
Instead, the most common headline readers appreciate is the “How-to” or implied “How-to” headline. This type of convention immediately alerts the reader something could be learned from a post that starts with “how to.” It also gives you the chance to add a benefit to the headline that serves as a hook.
For instance, in my headline for this article, “Write Guest Posts that Google and Your Audience Will Love” I give the reader a benefit, but also state clearly what content the reader can expect to receive. This is an example of an implied “how to”. I just dropped the first two words to be more concise. You can too.
Write Like a Journalist
There is much to be said about this style of writing, but there are several fundamentals you should know. It’s important to write content in the inverted pyramid style because this helps readers get the information they need fast. This also means that your first or second sentence should be the lead. Secondly, you need to solve a problem for your reader. For instance, since Google’s clamp down on guest blogging, this post is designed to give you the basic framework to continue using guest blogging and still get indexed for search. Finally, write with the reader in mind. Make sure you’re using plain English and common words – clarity comes from simplicity.
Don’t Forget Lists; People Love Them
If someone tells you list posts are scourges of blogging – that no one reads them, no one likes them — it’s false. Good House Keeping, the famous women’s magazine, has a corner on list articles. All you have to do is read the headlines on the cover. Here’s one: “Simplify Your Life: 3 Easy Ways to Get Organized.” This might seem to contradict what I said earlier, but let me clarify. List posts that give readers what they already know are useless. For these to work as guest posts, it’s important to give the reader something new. Teach them or reveal something they didn’t know before. You do that, and they’re hooked.
Admittedly, there’s more to great writing than I can cram into this post. However, it is important to remember, Google hasn’t killed guest blogging. Its move has made it better. Now guest posting is about building relationships, delivering content that helps people, that answers their questions, and giving readers the tools to be better. And that’s awesome.
This guest post was written by Rodger Johnson. Rodger helps global brands use social media and public relations strategy to build better community, recognition, and deliver bottom line results. He has managed over 100 publicity campaigns, led a publicity team for Author Solutions Inc., a Penguin Random House company and launched an award-winning social strategy for the world’s largest medical device manufacturer for people with diabetes.