Matt Cutts has declared guest blogging for SEO dead, and a whole host of SEOs never got past the title to read his clarifications. Guest blogging, yes, was getting very spammy. It was also difficult to do properly. That said, it is still possible to do correctly and for value, if you do it right.
Guest Blogging for Links is Dead
What is your purpose for guest blogging? If all you want out of a post is a quality link from the host site back to your site, you’re going about it the wrong way. Guest posting simply isn’t the ideal way to accrue such links these days. If you want to gain a quality backlink, the best way is to write your own quality content on your own site, and then contact and encourage other bloggers to comment on your content with posts of their own. Of course, in order to properly respond to your content, they need to link it, so their readers understand what they’re talking about.
If your purpose for guest blogging is to gain more exposure for yourself and your site by way of providing quality content, then by all means proceed.
Except Not Really
Guest blogging isn’t really dead. Even Matt Cutts himself went on to further clarify his position. The problem, as with many systems in online marketing, is that low-quality posts and thin content link builders abused the system to pull in legitimate page authority when their content simply didn’t deserve it.
There’s that word again. Content. Somehow, with Google, it always comes back to content. You need content as a basis for keywords. You need content as a hub for links. You need content to legitimately sell products. You need content to successfully network with users on social media. You need content to guest blog without potential penalty.
If you’re going to guest post successfully, you need valuable content to back it up. Links are incidental. That said, you can still guest post, and you can still include links in those guest posts, and you can still pull in value to your site from those guest posts. It’s all in how you implement them.
Keep it Minimal, Keep it Valuable
Those two phrases can become guideposts for using links in guest posts. For every link you want to include, make sure it’s of minimal presence and maximum value. What does that mean?
Keep it minimal. Any link you include should be placed so as to be unobtrusive. No mid-text “and if you like this, check out our product!” links. Nothing that stands out as promotional instead of valuable.
Keep it valuable. This is really the key. Every link you include needs to be included because it provides value. For contextual links, this generally means linking back to a post on your site that further explains a point you’re making or a position you’re taking. Links for citations, links for explanations, links for further reading; those are fine. Links for promotion, links to shop pages, links to your homepage for no reason; those push the boundaries.
Author bio links have their own rules to mind, separate from contextual links.
Author Bio Links
In the past, guest blogging often limited the links you could include to your author bio. Typically, authors would use this paragraph to link to their main page, a social media page and maybe a shop page if it seemed relevant. Today, this kind of link stacking in the author bio is heavily frowned upon.
Think about it this way; if you have one link in your entire piece, and that link is in your author bio, what should you link to? You have a number of options. You could use it like a contextual link and link to a relevant piece of content. You could link to your Google+ profile to allow the host site to implement Authorship for your post. You could link to the homepage of your primary blog, to direct readers to the site you use primarily in case they want to read more. All of these are valid options.
You have one other option as well. Don’t link to anything in your author bio. Instead, let the host site write a couple sentences of introduction to your post. “The following is a guest post by Author, owner of Site, where he frequently provides great insights into the world of Industry.” It takes the link out of your hands and puts it into the hands of the blog owner. It makes the link more trusted by the blog readers and more likely to bring in traffic. Plus, it’s likely at the head of the document, not the foot.
Contextual Links with Keywords
Another common problem with guest posts in the past was the way many webmasters would write a post and submit it to dozens of blogs. Many would pick it up and publish it, not knowing that others had done so. The recipient site drew in a handful of backlinks, all from different, legitimate blogs. The problem was the content duplication issues. Relating specifically to links, contextual links with keywords as anchor text spread around like that created an unnatural link profile.
Contextual links can include keywords, but the value of doing so has declined in recent years and it may be interpreted as a spammy technique. If you use contextual links in a guest post, make sure you aren’t using the same keywords over and over in every guest post.
These days, it’s better to minimize the use of specific exact match keywords in your link anchor text. Keywords in the text are fine, but keywords in the links can cause issues. What do you link instead? Use generic phrases or the title of the post you’re linking to.
To sum it all up:
• Guest posts are still okay to use, with caution.
• Avoid cramming your posts full of links, particularly in the author bio.
• Consider limiting yourself to 1-2 important links chosen for their value.
• Try to get the host blog to link to your homepage instead of in your author bio.
• In general, avoid keywords in your anchor text.
• Make sure the guest post is published on one and only one blog.
• Above all, make sure the content of the guest post is relevant and valuable.
The last point is the most important one of all. Guest posting is only as valuable as the content you post. If your content is duplicated on several blogs, or if it doesn’t provide any value to readers, it’s going to come back to hurt you.