This guest post is by Traian of Pitstop Media Inc.
Almost every article written after the infamous Panda and Penguin updates has suggested guest posting as a viable and effective technique to increase authority with search engines, improve organic search visibility, generate leads, and build authorship.
As you can see, there are quite a few benefits to guest posting, but you have to do it right—start small and then grow big.
What most people don’t realize is that it’s almost as easy to go wrong with guest posting as it is with any other content marketing technique. There is no guarantee that just because a website is accepting guest posts, it is reputable or credible.
It’s also now evident that Google has no love for low-quality sites and inbound links from them.
So, when it comes to guest posting, you have to ensure that you associate your name and brand with authority, or at least quality, sites only.
If you want to guest post the right way, you need to know from the beginning that it’s a time- and resource-consuming process. But it’s also one of the best investments you can make to build your reputation online.
Evaluating guest posting opportunities
Finding the most valuable guest blogging opportunities on high-authority sites takes time. You have to nurture a relationship with the blog owner, and that means human interaction, not automated emails.
But if you’ve just started building your reputation, you can’t approach authoritative bloggers yet, because you’ll have no evidence of what you can write about, or how well. If you approach them at this stage, you will probably get a low response rate.
Instead, focus on blogs with small and medium levels of influence (Twitter followers, blog subscribers, likes, +’s and so on).
Contrary to what many believe, finding such guest posting opportunities does not have to involve hours of research. When approaching small blogs, you don’t have to put yourself through the cumbersome process of pitching your guest posts to famous bloggers in niche-related blogs. You will get refused, but it won’t hurt as much as being refused by an online influencer.
Once you build a bit of a reputation and learn from your mistakes and feedback, you can gradually approach the bigger players.
For the lowest hanging fruit, register on popular sites like MyBlogGuest and BloggerLinkup that offer members a platform to announce niche-specific guest posting opportunities and to solicit proposals. Keep in mind that these are also populated by offers that are not worth considering.
Once you have shortlisted a few guest posting opportunities with influence, the next step is to make sure that the site you agree to write for is credible.
The following checklist will help you determine their standing.
Check the site’s integrity
While you cannot guarantee that a website will always stay online, or that a link from it will never be de-valued, there are precautions that you can take to minimize the chances of those things happening.
- Check the website’s PageRank. Don’t automatically dismiss lower PR sites. Sites with low PageRank (below 3) should be checked for other metrics. Dismiss anything that’s not ranked, has a PR of 0, or gray PR on the toolbar.
- Ensure the website is backed or owned by an organization/individual with a physical address.
- Ensure the website has clearly stated editorial or business objectives.
- Ensure the website has a clear design and a sitemap.
- Ensure that the About page clearly states who the owner is.
- Check site:sitename.com in Google to see if the site is banned from the SERPs (no results means a Google ban).
- Check for the site/business name. If it’s not showing, there’s a problem.
- Ensure that the website is not a blog network. Blog networks don’t usually have contact details and viable About pages.
Look for social signals
Check for the website’s presence on social media sites. For instance, it should have an active Facebook page with a decent number of Likes, and the owner should have a respectable number of Followers on Twitter and/or G+, and/or have an active LinkedIn profile.
Of course, these are no guarantees of credibility, but they can certainly be considered points in the website’s favor.
Find the number of RSS subscribers
To accomplish this, either refrence the data displayed on the blog, or identify the number of subscribers using Google Reader (this is not as accurate a method, though).
To use Google Reader: login, go to Browse for Stuff, and then Search:
For an in-depth article on how to find this number you can read the article Using Blog Subscriber Metrics for Better Outreach Decision Making.
Check content quality
A look at the top two to three posts hosted on the website will give you an idea of the blog’s quality. If most of the posts look spammy, are badly structured, or are just generally low quality, you should be wary.
Also, if you see more ads than content on the website, it’s a good idea to give the site a miss.
Check competitive data sources
Try Compete, Quantcast and Alexa, but be aware that none offer completely accurate data. Look for absolute numbers, but also for trends.
This alone will give you a lot of information and help you decide whether or not the website is worth guest posting on.
Trending shows that this site is growing (wonderful, that’s our site J)
Alexa.com reveals metrics like:
- Social Reputation: the number of inbound links a site has
- Time spent: how long visitors stay on the website, and how many pages they view
- Demographics: the profile of visitors that frequent the website
- Keywords: the list of keywords that people have used to search for the website.
The demographic and keyword information will help you decide if a particular site’s visitor base matches your blog’s target market profile.
Visitor time investment and social reputation will give you further clues about the quality of the website.
It’s worth the time
Putting every potential guest posting opportunity through the full checklist might sound like a lot of work. But, in practical terms, all you’ll have to do is this:
- Enter the website name +Facebook/Twitter/G+/LinkedIn to check social signals.
- Check if the website has a working About page and a contact address.
- Spend five minutes reading through the website’s content.
- Enter the website URL into Alexa.
The whole process won’t take too long. In any case, it’s better to spend ten minutes on the checklist, than to waste hours writing for a website that is penalized or banned, or doesn’t have an audience.
This comes last on the list, but it’s actually critical. Every interaction with a site owner has to be recorded for future reference. Nowadays I use Buzzstream to keep track of my guest blogging initiatives. I used to use Excel but things get very complicated very quickly.
This article is just the tip of the iceberg for guest blogging, but it should at least provide a quick checklist for selecting the right guest blogging partners.
Writing the content to win them is the other part of the story and one that’s been covered here at ProBlogger many times.