Sunday, 10 June 2012

Things to Consider before Evaluating Guest Post Prospects

Guest posting is a great way to build backlinks, getting some link juice from authority sources, and networking with bloggers in your niche. Personally, I am a big proponent of guest posting because:

a. It is win-win for both the guest poster and the host – the guest poster gets exposure and valuable backlinks to his blog, and the host gets fresh content on his blog in return.
b. It is completely white-hat and a safe method, especially in the eye of Google.
c. It opens a whole new world for you and your blog, in terms of exposure, being able to engage with new audiences.
d. It allows you access to untapped sources of traffic.
e. It allows you to be seen as a leader and as authority in your niche. 

So in essence, it is a great practice – an invaluable link-building tactic as well – which above all, is win-win for all parties involved. However it is very easy to get wrong, because just like any other link-building tactic out there, the execution is important or you might end up doing more harm than good. Furthermore, guest blogging might be picking up right now, but what if Google introduces another update to its search engine somewhere down the road, that filters out low-quality guest posts, which in all probability will be widespread by then. This will result in blogs, who thought were building legit links, get banned, penalized, and/or de-indexed permanently.

This is pretty much what happened after the Penguin update, where a lot of blogs were penalized for ‘having unnatural backlinks’, even though they were not doing a lot wrong (seemingly), or were not involved in any blackhat or illegal link-building practices.

But coming back to the matter at hand, even if the purpose of your guest posts isn’t to build links, it is important that one considers some of its do’s and don’ts before starting off. It will aid you in making your decision easier, get you maximum return on investment (time, in this case), help you against any future Google updates, and it will also help you evaluate whether it is a high-value guest posting prospect or not.

1. For starters, check the levels of reader engagement on the blog you’re guest posting on. For this purpose, look at the traffic levels the website is getting, as well as other metrics such as the number of comments their posts get on average. A low number of comments or none at all, will in all probability point to it being a weak and/or inactive community, which will make it unlikely for your links to be seen by a large number of people or help promote your content. Similarly, stay away from a blog with too much spam in the comments section. 

2. Secondly, check the blog’s social metrics, such as the number of times the blog and each of its posts have been shared on social mediums such as Google Plus, Twitter or Facebook. 

A large number of social shares would point towards it being an active community where readers are not only engaged, they are also helping promote its content through the sharing buttons. Look at the number of people who have ‘liked’, ‘+1’ed’ or ‘RT’d’ the last 10 posts.

3. In addition to looking at the traffic and the social metrics, it is also advisable to look at the number of people subscribed to the blog. A high number of email and/or RSS subscribers is a great way to determine if the blog has been producing quality content on a consistent basis. 

Use Google Reader for this purpose, or check the website itself. However it would be a better idea to ask the blog owner to provide you with a number of total subscribers (email + RSS). If it’s a good number, he will be more than happy to oblige.

4. One of the most important things to do before you guest post is check the backlink profile of the blog. For this purpose, check the following factors: how many people are linking to the homepage, and how many to the individual posts? A high number of inbound links means that the blog is being linked by a lot of source – a clear indicator that it is a reliable and quality source of information, and precisely the kind of blog you would want to write on. 

Furthermore, it would be particularly encouraging if the blog gets a lot of inbound traffic from high-PR and authority backlinks!

On the other hand, stay away from a blog having a lot of suspicious and/or spammy backlinks, or one whose backlink profile seems suspicious in any way. Trust me, you do not want your link up on such a blog!

We spoke of how to go about conducting a backlink audit in a previous post on this blog. To check a blog’s backlink information use any one of the available tools out there. I personally recommend the open site explorer by the good folks over at SEOmoz. The free version comes with certain limitations, and purchasing the pro license is recommended!

5. Lastly, it might also be a good idea to check the content of the blog, and judge its quality your own self. Look at the posts – do the posts have clear and compelling headlines? Is the content interesting, high-value, good-quality and interesting? Is it free of spelling and grammatical mistakes? Does it incorporate images and multimedia to boost reader engagement? Is it broken down into paragraphs properly in order to make it more clear and reader-friendly? Does the website have a clear call-to-action? Does it integrate social media, and link to other sources properly, as and where required?

All these aspects are essential to the quality of a post.

1 comment:

  1. This is a very informative post from every point of view. Being an SEO, I've mostly appreciated the suggestion of checking site architecture. Unluckily, some good blogs/sites bury content far away from the homepage, sometimes so deeply that you need to go across hundreds of pages before finding content added some months before (pagination issues are quite common).

    I also loved the tip of not discounting newbies (and having published a guest post on my blog yesterday it's a proof of you actually doing what you say! ;))