When it comes to guest blogging, the dream of many marketers is to write for the most popular blog in their niche, generate a solid flow of traffic, get a big boost in subscribers, and maybe even achieve an overnight rise to stardom. Unfortunately, while that might have been easy several years ago, it is almost impossible today. Most people guest blog for referral traffic and subscribers, but I guest blog for inbound links; for good reason, too.
The idea of guest blogging these days usually consists of writing a guest post for a very popular blog, generating a lot of referral traffic, and repeating the cycle. Unfortunately, this method is so overused that it is hardly as effective as it used to be. The true benefit of guest blogging, rather, is inbound links.
Why Guest Blog for Inbound Links Rather Than Referral Traffic?
When people guest blog with the goal of referral traffic in mind, their thought process goes something like this ...
I'll get my article published on a blog that generates a lot of traffic, and as a result, people will click on the links in my post, driving referral traffic back to my website or blog. Through this new traffic, I'll generate more readers and subscribers!
Sounds logical, but the fact of the matter is, many people think this tactic will generate much more traffic and subscribers then it actually does, and they fail to effectively capitalize on the true benefit of guest blogging: inbound links. When you blog for inbound links, on the other hand, there's a much smarter thought process ...
I'll get my article published on a blog that aligns with my expertise, and through careful optimization of the anchor text and pages I link to within the post, I'll have control over a few inbound links that will help boost the search engine optimization of the pages I'm linking back to on my website. I may attract some immediate new traffic and subscribers in the process, but the true benefit will be from the long-term search traffic I'll generate!
A Personal Case Study
To prove how much more effective guest blogging is for generating inbound links instead of referral traffic, I conducted a guest blogging experiment 6 months ago. I’d always been a believer of the idea that writing guest posts for popular blogs is the way to go, and I’ve had a few highly successful guest posts in the past. The idea for the experiment was to write 31 guest blog posts focused on improving search (not referral) traffic to a few quality articles and specialized landing pages on my site. Of the 31 guest posts that were submitted, 28 were published, and a large percentage of them were published within a week of when I submitted them. The focus of the challenge was to see how effective guest blogging is for inbound links, and determine the impact those links had on search traffic. The guest posts were submitted to smaller blogs with an Alexa rank of 50k to 400k and a maximum PageRank of 4.
The result of the challenge was an increase of 100+ daily visitors from search just 10 days after the challenge, and a total increase of around 60,000 visitors from search just 6 months after the challenge. That works out to be around 2,000 visitors per guest post in 6 months from publication, when the highest I’ve ever gotten from any guest post on a big blog is 1,500 visitors; and these days, I get less than 10% of that from most big blogs.
Remember: what I’m talking about is the number of visitors from search engine traffic. All the guest posts combined sent me fewer than 150 visitors from referral traffic. So the idea isn’t to drive referral traffic, but rather to attract more search engine traffic in the long run, built up through the authority the inbound links in the posts generated.
To better understand what I mean, here are my search traffic screenshots before and after the challenge.
6 Months Before the Challenge
6 Months After the Challenge
Sure, a number of other factors may have influenced my search engine rankings after the challenge, but the impact of those 28 guest posts shouldn't be discounted when you consider a few factors:
My blog posting frequency reduced significantly after the challenge.
I never took any active measures to build inbound links to my blog after the challenge.
I never made any changes to my blog, SEO-wise.
The landing pages and blog articles I optimized for within those guest posts now generate a lot more traffic than they did before the experiment.
Considering all the above, it's fair to say that an increase in traffic of up to 200% in 6 months is noteworthy. This experiment certainly makes a strong case for why marketers should guest blog for the inbound links, not the referral traffic.
4 Advantages of Writing Guest Posts for Links, Not Referral Traffic
Writing for inbound links is smarter than writing for referral traffic for so many reasons, but here are some of the top ones:
1) It's Met With Enthusiasm
Remember that many smaller blogs out there are extremely hungry for content. If you're willing to put in the time to create valuable content, it's often met with much excitement from blog managers who are already scrambling to meet their content creation goals. Another benefit of writing for small blogs is that, because these bloggers are always looking for content, the turnaround time is short, usually taking just a few days to get your guest post published. This is the complete opposite with more popular, established blogs.
2) The Results Scale Over Time
Although you are sometimes able to convert a percentage of referral traffic into subscribers, when you guest blog just for referral traffic, that traffic will eventually die down after a few weeks. Guest blogging for inbound links, on the other hand, is much more scalable in the sense that you can generate results from your efforts for months -- and even years -- to come. If you've optimized your guest post effectively for search (more on that later), the results can increase over time. In my own case, search engine traffic kept growing consistently for weeks, until I achieved a 200% increase in search traffic growth in 6 months.
3) It's Targeted
When you guest blog for referral traffic, only a percentage of the people who read your guest post and visit your blog will be interested in your content. But when you guest blog for inbound links, the traffic you generate through search is much more targeted. People are using search engines to find solutions to their problems, and are in the right frame of mind when they come across the pages you optimized for in search -- because these pages directly cater to what they were searching for.
4) It Can Be Implemented on a Wide Scale
As you know from my personal experiment, I was able to get a large number of guest posts published in a short amount of time. This was only possible because, as I mentioned earlier, the turnaround time when targeting smaller blogs is much shorter than when targeting bigger blogs. In fact, if I had been writing for bigger blogs, many may not have even accepted guest submissions in the first place.
In other words, you can get more of your content published in less time when writing for smaller-scale blogs, and this means more inbound links. While inbound links from less authoritative blogs aren't as valuable as inbound links from more popular, higher PageRanking blogs, the ease and scale at which you can implement a guest blogging strategy that targets smaller blogs makes up for it.
A Note About the Importance of Relevancy
Guest blogging for inbound links isn’t any different from link building. In fact, it's one of the most effective forms of link building. So how should relevancy -- in terms of the topics of your articles and the anchor text of the links in your articles -- factor into your guest blogging strategy? Here are a couple of things to consider as far as relevancy is concerned:
Write About Relevant Topics
When writing for another's blog, the topic you write about is of utmost importance. The idea here is to write a lot of thematically relevant articles that are both relevant/helpful for the audience of the host blog and supportive on your link-building efforts. By “thematically relevant,” I’m referring to content that ties your industry focus with that of the other blogger. For instance, a post entitled, “How to Market Your Business on a Low Budget,” might be a great article for a marketing blog, but it will still provide powerful link-building opportunities for a personal finance blogger.
Make Sure Anchor Text Is Relevant
What about anchor text relevancy? How relevant should the anchor text of your inbound links be? It goes without saying that your anchor text should be as relevant to the keyword you want to rank for as possible in order to craft effective inbound links. Never try to fool readers -- or Google -- using false anchor text as a means of including a link that might not otherwise be relevant. In fact, Google is rolling out another algorithm update in the coming days that will penalize you even more than they have in the past for this activity. Not only will this make your inbound links less effective, but it will also make you look spammy, undermining your credibility to readers.
How to Find Quality Blogs to Target
If you've decided to ramp up your guest blogging strategy as a way to generate more inbound links, you'll need an adequate source of blogs to target. So how do you find the right blogs to write for? Using a combination of tools, metrics, and research into the blog's target audience, you can master the process of identifying quality blogs to target.
Let's start with the tools -- here are some great ones to help you identify blogs to target in your guest blogging efforts. As you build out your list of blogs, conduct some research into the blog's target audience to make sure you can create content that would be both beneficial to that particular audience as well as support the keywords you're focusing on in your link-building efforts.
4 Tools to Identify Blogs to Target
Alltop is my favorite online blog directory due to the quality of the blogs you can find there. As I mentioned earlier, links from higher PageRanking blogs are more valuable than links from less authoritative blogs, and Alltop contains a quality list of some of the best blogs in every niche. The key to finding blogs via Alltop is to search for the main keywords in your industry/niche, or more specific keywords if your niche is bigger (e.g. “health” or “family health” respectively for the health industry).
One reason I love using Technorati's blog directory is because of the sheer number of blogs it lists. Technorati literally contains over a million blogs under a variety of industry/niche categories. You can also find more relevant blogs by entering specific industry keywords in Technorati's search box. Just note that the search function allows you to search for either individual posts or blogs as a whole, so make sure you search for “blogs” to generate the best results.
Google is the biggest search engine online, as well as the best friend of any guest blogger. You can find hundreds of blogs online via Google by searching for a list of relevant keywords plus your industry or niche. Some search functions I'd suggest include:
Write for us + industry/niche
Guest blogging + industry/niche
Contribute blog + industry/niche
Submit article + industry/niche
Submit guest post + industry/niche
Guest post + industry/niche
Guest posting + industry/niche
For example, in my own case, I would probably search “write for us + guest blogging," considering the fact that my niche is “guest blogging.”
This is the biggest guest blogging directory online, as well as my favorite guest blogging site. It consists of a community of tens of thousands of guest bloggers from all over the world. Furthermore, if you're looking to source guest contributors for your own blog, you can also include a list of criteria you want guest bloggers to fulfill before contacting you.
4 Metrics to Use to Evaluate Potential Blogs
Once you have a list of potential blogs, you should conduct some additional analysis to identify which blogs are worth targeting. To make your life easier when evaluating potential blogs, I suggest you install the The PageRank Status Plugin, which displays the Google PageRank and Alexa Rank of any website, both important metrics we're about to discuss. (Note: You'll need a Google Chrome browser to install it.)
There are several different metrics you can use to determine which blogs to target and how powerful the inbound links you gain from them will be. Most of these metrics are used and trusted in the SEO world, and you can set your own values depending on your goals.
Alexa Rank: Although Alexa may not be the most accurate website ranking system, it can be a very effective metric when it comes to guest blogging for inbound links. Most blogs with a good Alexa ranking also have fairly good search rankings, and it is a metric you can trust when it comes to looking for authoritative blogs. Any blog with an Alexa Rank of 400k or lower (by lower, I mean 0–399,999) is a good bet.
Google PageRank: Google is the biggest search engine online, and it sends more than 90% of search engine traffic to most websites, so what better metric to use than the one it created? PageRank (a Google ranking factor that ranks web pages by how many other pages link to it, and how reputable those pages are) can be very effective at helping you determine how authoritative a website is in search engines, so consider any blog with a PageRank of 2 and above.
MozRank: This metric from the team at SEOMoz is becoming popular lately, and with good reason. The MozRank of a blog is determined by a lot of other SEO factors, but the end result is a pretty accurate SEO measure. In my own opinion, any blog with a MozRank of 3 and above is a good blog to start with.
CustomRank: This is a new metric that is also increasing in popularity, and it can be calculated using the tool at CustomRank.com. The CustomRank score of any website is calculated based on a lot of other SEO metrics, including the site's loading time, the domain authority, the Alexa ranking, the domain MozRank, and other factors. I think it is the most objective of all the metrics listed, and any site with a CustomRank score of 30 or more is a good place to start.
How to Optimize Your Guest Post
Optimizing your guest posts for search is the single most important part of guest blogging for inbound links. When it comes to guest blogging, blog managers understand that the trade-off for accepting guest submissions is an inbound link or two back to the guest blogger's web property of choice. After all, they're getting free content for their blog without having to put in the effort to create it, so they should be happy to give you a couple of inbound links.
As a guest blogger, this means you have some control over the anchor text and URLs for those inbound links within your posts. As you write each guest post, include a few links to the web pages you want to rank in search (and ultimately drive more search traffic to). Include these links as anchor text using the keywords you want to rank for in search engines. Check the blog's guest blogging guidelines to see how many inbound links it allows per guest post, and if the blog doesn't publish any guidelines, stick to 1 in your author bio/byline in addition to 1-2 within the body of the article.
Remember, this is your opportunity to craft your perfect inbound link, so make sure you think carefully about the pages you link to and the keywords you want them to rank for.
The following would be a great inbound link for a guest blogger from HubSpot who wants to generate more traffic to http://www.hubspot.com/lead-generation-marketing-hub by ranking for the keywords lead generation, used here as the anchor text of the link.
3 Tips for Effective Link Building Within Guest Blog Articles
Use Keywords as Anchor Text: Don't use weak anchor text such as "click here" or "read this article." For the best SEO benefits, the anchor text of your inbound links should consist of the keywords for which you're trying to rank, and they should link to pages on your website that are about/include the same keywords.
Link to Sub-Pages on Your Website: Unless you're trying to improve the ranking of your homepage for a particular keyword, the URLs in your anchor text should be to sub-pages on your website, depending on what you're ultimately hoping to drive more traffic through. Use the opportunity to improve the search rankings of important pages on your website such as specific web pages, landing pages, canonical blog articles, etc.
Make Guest Blogging Part of Your Overall Link-Building Strategy: Let your keyword and URL choices for your inbound links support your overall link-building strategy. Are you trying to boost the search engine rankings of certain pages on your website for particular keywords? If so, you'll want to be sure to target blogs for which you can naturally create content around these specific keywords.
What to Do After Your Guest Posts Are Published
While we haven't discussed much about the pitching process or the content creation aspect of your guest blog articles in this post, these are certainly very important parts of any guest blogging strategy, so don't overlook them. Be sure to establish an organized process for tracking outreach and progress, craft smart pitches to blog managers, and create high-quality content that caters to their audience. To learn about these steps in more detail, check out this blog post.
Once you've been successful in getting your guest posts published, don’t stop there. The more successful your guest posts are, the more powerful the inbound links within them will become. Promote your guest posts as you would articles on your own blog, sharing it via your social media accounts and linking to it in other articles on your blog to increase its chances for success.