Guest blogging has had a tumultuous life cycle. Hot one day, and then cold the next–no one seems to know if they should really be guest blogging or not.
Wait, didn’t Matt Cutts say that it was dead?
Yes, for SEO, but that doesn’t mean that it is really dead, does it?
Here’s the thing. Since the beginning, there has always been two different kinds of guest blogging.
There is the lame kind that Matts Cutts has declared dead. These are the spammers, the folks that see guest blogging as a tool to build linkbacks to their website and nothing else. Let me remind you about some of the methods they use. They look like this:
These aren’t really guest bloggers. They are blog hijackers. Their emails are lame, their topics are weak, and the writing…Oh, *od the writing.
Matt Cutts is right in that blog hijacking needs to be dead, but did he really have to go and throw all guest blogging into the mix?
Guest Blogging Can Be Good. Right?
The second kind of guest blogging, as you can imagine, is the good kind. This is the kind of guest blogging that you do. Right? (…Right?)
This form of guest blogging is about a lot more than a simple linkback to some sketchy site. It is about audience, respect, and the genuine sharing of information that the web has made possible. These writers appreciate a link to their blog, but it isn’t why they get up in the morning. They are trying to build an audience, and blogging on someone else’s blog helps them do just that.
Who can blame them?
This kind of guest blogging isn’t dead. It is the ideal form of guest blogging, and Matt Cutts is actually saving it.
How Matt Cutts Saved Guest Blogging
With every good thing there is at least one bad thing that comes with it. Life is full of tradeoffs.
With email, we got spam. With the browser, we got pop-ups. With Twitter, we got direct messages. For every channel that can be used for good, there is a way to abuse it and use it for something bad. There are always opportunities for spammers to spread their spam.
Matt Cutts is trying to scare them off. He is doing exactly what we need him to do.
Since the beginning, spammers have been using and abusing guest blogging because Google was telling them that it would help. Linkbacks were so obviously tied to search rankings, and guest blogging was an easy way to get those linkbacks. Google was, essentially, enabling them. In January, Cutts put a stop to it. He told them that rather than helping them, guest blogging was going to start hurting them.
He was trying to scare spammers off, not you. He was trying to tell you to keep going. He was secretly whispering to you “guest blogging isn’t really dead, I am just fixing it for you.”
By scaring away the riff-raff, he is creating a panacea, a solution to the endless emails promising free content for links, a solution for an endless supply of poorly written posts. The spammers will go away, and we real bloggers can finally get back to work.
All I can say is thank you, Matt. Thanks for killing guest blogging so that we can finally start fresh.
Learning How To Guest Blog, Again
So, if the death blow from Google is really more of a starting point rather than an ending point, where should we go next? It only makes sense that we redefine the rules and learn how to guest blog all over again.
Rule #1: Guest Blogging Is For Serious People
The first step is to realize who guest blogging is for. No longer is it for semi-pro SEOs and link builders.
Instead, it is for those who want to better establish themselves as experts in their field. It is for bloggers who take what they do seriously, and do it for the love of creating and sharing great content.
Rule #2: Guest Blogging Is For Building Your Reputation
Guest gives us a chance to write in front of a new audience.
This gives us the ability to earn their trust and respect directly, by appearing on a blog they already trust. If we blog well, we may be able to keep their attention over the long term on our own blog. Guest blogging isn’t about SEO anymore (although there are still benefits). Now, it is about building trust and reputation.
Rule #3: Guest Blogging Is For The Audience
The beauty of the guest post is that we are able to take someone else’s audience and make it our own. It is the perfect give-and-take.
As writers, we get attention and exposure to a new audience, and as blog owners we get fresh content that will hopefully engage and excite our audience. My own guest post about long-form content, over on the Spin Sucks blog, is a great example. I was able to establish my role in content marketing while encouraging a lively debate and discussion. It was a win for everyone.
Rule #4: Guest Blogging Isn’t For Links
If you are only worried about links back to your stuff, then guest blogging simply isn’t for you. Move on.
Rule #5: Guest Blogging Should Come With Simple Expectations
If we are going to be participating in guest blogging, we need to know what to realistically expect from the experience.
Huge traffic? Probably not.
Fame and fortune? Certainly not.
Trust and value? Yes please.
Guest blogging is no longer about the quick win (with super-sized links!!!!). It is now a long-term tactic. It is really about personal brand building more than anything else, and that means that we need to go into it with simple expectations instead of grandiose visions of traffic and ‘Google juice.’
An Aside On How To NOT Find Guest Blogging Opportunities
With all of these changes to guest blogging, does it change how should we go about finding new guest blogging opportunities? Well, yes.
A colleague once shared one of her secrets for finding guest post opportunities: saved Google alerts. These simple alerts monitored Google results for new pages with the “write for us” in the title or url. First of all, this is a pretty brilliant little hack. Second of all, it is a good indicator of how guest blogging became broken.
Now, while I trust that this particular blogger wasn’t using this method inappropriately, you can imagine how it could be easily abused. I have these alerts set up for myself and get results returned to me each week. Almost 100% of the time, the results mean nothing, because they aren’t related to what I know. The audience that reads these blogs simply doesn’t care what I have to say. I’m not a good fit, so I stay away.
But that wouldn’t necessarily stop the spammer.
This method clearly explains why I’ve received hundred of guest post pitches that are in no way related to what we actually do or write about (legal tips? hair plugs? really?). Alas, the spammy guest blogger doesn’t care. They are just responding to their latest Google alert.
Things have changed, and it is no longer OK to let Google choose where and when we will *attempt* to guest post. Rather, we need to take a new approach.
Mastering The Art Of The Cold Pitch
As a guest blogger, your goal should be to provide your host guest blog, and their readers, with immense value. There are many who advocate sharing your best work with your guest blogging counterparts. After all, the better your post is, the more trust and benefit you’ll build.
One of the major ways to make this effort worthwhile is to target the right blog with your efforts. Rather than just spamming those Google Alert contacts, why not try something a bit more precise, like asking for guest posting opportunities where they don’t actually exist?
Stick with me…
Some of my most successful guest posts have come from blogs that were not asking for guest bloggers. One example of this is a post I did for Ash Maurya and his Practice Triumphs Theory blog. I knew I had an article that would fit in great with his content and his audience. I also knew that there would be some good crossover between his audience and my own. Of course, Ash wasn’t really looking for guest posting authors. What was I do to?
I wrote up a simple email, pitched Ash the idea, and anxiously awaited the reply. The reply came, and the post was live in less than a few days. Why did this plan work?
Cold pitching is not my favorite thing in the world, but with guest blogging it can actually work pretty well. The thing to remember is that most bloggers receive dozens of cold pitches for guest blogging opportunities each day. We need to send ours in a way that actually resonates with our audience.
Step #1: Know Who You Want To Target
The first step to great cold pitching is to find blogs where you can provide great value and a great return. Don’t be shy–put the best-of-the-best on your list if they belong there. The main question is to ask where you can best contribute value.
Step #2: Know They Want You To Provide Them With Value
You have to know (and tell them) what’s in it for them. How will your guest post help them with their goals of growing and maintaining an audience? You can’t let them think that you will be the only one benefiting from the experience.
Step #3: Prove That You Aren’t Crazy
One of the biggest problems with cold emails is that they don’t often convey a high degree of trust. Why should anyone trust you? You need to build that trust and worth ASAP. This should probably go beyond a fake comment about “how much you enjoy reading their blog.” Get real, fast.
Step #4: Always Include Links
Sometimes people get worked up about links in email, but I don’t think it is the general reaction (or a reasonable one). Include a few links to help establish your credibility. If you’ve guest posted on some pretty well-known blogs be sure to name drop, and make sure you include a link to the actual post itself. They will click it, and they will use it to determine if you can or can’t do what you say.
Step #5: Always Include An Idea
I immediately discard guest post request emails that don’t include at least some sort of post idea. I expect that guest bloggers will have a few ideas in mind for my blog because they’ve actually read my blog. If they don’t, why would I bother? You have to prove that you understand what I and my audience want to read about.
Step #6: Short Is Good, Except When It Isn’t
The least impressive cold emails are they ones that insult my intelligence. These are the one- or two-sentence emails that try to illicit a response through brevity and intrigue. Don’t do this. Don’t be long-winded either, but do what it takes to communicate your idea directly and clearly. It gives you credibility.
Step #7: Be A Human, Not A Template
There must be a few hundred blog posts out there that provide a template for how to cold pitch a guest blogging opportunity. Don’t follow them. These fill-in-the-blank templates stick out like a sore thumb. You should have a good formula for your pitch emails, but always write something custom and personal. You might be surprised at how much better it works.
So Yeah, Guest Blogging Is Back In Style
I have this tree that grows in my backyard flower bed. It is a stray, presumably brought on by the huge elm tree that is growing in my neighbor’s yard. Each spring, I cut it down. By the fall, it has inevitably started growing again, completely avoiding my subtle clues to just go ahead and die. Each time it kill it, though, it comes back a little weaker than it did the time before. It’s shorter, thinner, and usually at a funny angle – as to avoid the dead branch stumps that preceded it and were cut down in their prime.
It seems silly, but guest blogging is a lot like that little tree in my flower garden.
The spammers will come back, they will send up shoots, and we will have to cut them back down again each time. In between prunings, we have the opportunity to redefine what guest blogging really means, what it is, and who it is for. In my flower garden, I can’t really help it that the stupid elem tree keeps growing back each year. I can, however, make a big impact on how the flower garden itself looks, despite the stray tree.
We can do the same with guest blogging. Let’s redefine it while we have the chance. You never know what may grow next.