Successful guest blogging is grounded in meaningful content and human relationships. Monica Karpinski, Head of Content at Curated Digital, explains how to integrate it into your overall strategy
We always knew link-building had a dirty side, but when Google’s Penguin algorithm made it official, the game changed. No longer can we build up sites’ visibility through hordes of dodgy backlinks. Now the links to your site need to include relevant citations and to appear within the correct editorial context. The idea is that your site should earn the links it gets, making the SEO game that little bit fairer.
Guest blogging is most marketers’ answer to this. The idea is simple: find other websites which your audience are interested in and place genuinely interesting content there that lists you and your company as the author. The audience reads the piece, is exposed to your name and, ideally, clicks through to check out your site. You also get some nice link juice which can boost your SEO.
But just how valuable is having a blog on someone else’s site? It depends on the quality and size of the site (think The Guardian vs. a blog specifically about smoothie recipes), but at the end of the day, each blog post will only get you so much. It’s a bit like randomly dropping markers at different, but vaguely-related points on the internet, rather than having them work together to create a bigger picture.
What you need is a complete, integrated PR strategy which starts and finishes with what your audience is doing online. What kinds of sites are they reading? What sort of content are they engaging with? What sorts of things are they sharing? From these insights you should focus on what you’ll need to create to get a conversation going about your topic. After all, the goal of PR is to create buzz and awareness about your brand and what it does.
Create a list of sites and influencers in the relevant space and look at the types of things they are posting. What sorts of keywords do these sites rank for? And what kind of language are they using to talk about the topics they relate to? Which digital channels are the influencers most active on? You’ll need to figure out how you can create content that enhances the value of what they are already doing, either by broaching another facet of a popular topic, or by creating something that can add an additional layer of understanding to it.
For instance, let’s say you sell luxury tea (yes, I promise it’s a thing). Let’s say your audience is affluent 35 to 60 year old Londoners who have an eye and appetite for quality. They’re likely to be reading high-end lifestyle titles, to follow tastemakers and be interested in gourmet food and travel blogs. These sites aren’t focused on tea however, so they could benefit from your unique expertise in helping the audience pick the right brew for them.
What you need to do next is take a careful look at all of these sites and figure out how your specific knowledge can weigh in on what they’re writing about, and offer the reader more value. There might, for instance, be a food piece about French gourmet cheese. You might then pitch an article that gives advice on pairing the right luxury tea with the perfect nibble of cheese. Consider this against all the other sites you’ve identified: are your brand values and messaging consistent in how you approach them all?
But things don’t stop here. Is the content you’re placing off-site consistent with content on-site? What about on social? Do you have any ads running that can help generate buzz for what you’re talking about? Twitter is a particularly good shout in starting up conversations: find the right influencers and try to get them to chat about what your brand does. This will give you invaluable exposure and hopefully help you recruit from their loyal band of followers.
Your brand is visible on all digital fronts so, if your goal is just to place a blog post, you’re ignoring the potential of what you could achieve. As well as potentially missing a key insight into your audience’s digital activity — if Facebook is where they want to be, perhaps instead focus your energies towards reaching them there, rather than placing a post and hoping they see it.
Begging for a link, er, I mean guest post, won’t get you anywhere. People will only allow you to guest post where the content genuinely benefits their audience, which means you will need to research the site, your own audience, and their own audience. What you need to be doing is starting discussions — remember, there is a real person on the other end of that computer screen reading your email. Talk to them as if they are a person, not a faceless company. Plus, anyone who works in digital will be able to sniff a link-building scheme a mile away.
Guest blogging is a useful tactic, but will not succeed in silo. Cast a wider net when approaching outreach campaigns, and don’t be afraid to get creative in what you pitch to other sites. What you are doing should be of mutual benefit to both who you’re pitching to and your own site, so it’s important you keep how you can help them front-of-mind, too.