The world of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has evolved exponentially. Ten or fifteen years ago, all a webmaster had to contend with was metadata: page titles, keyword tags, some on-page content, and the like. But with each new year comes a greater complexity to Google’s and Yahoo’s search engine algorithms, which make it more challenging for small businesses to compete with the vast content stores of large regional, national, and multinational firms; to say nothing about the millions of small, one-man or several-person companies in existence around the world.
Search Engine Optimization Today
Over the years we have seen SEO tactics like keyword stuffing, article spinning and syndication, backlink profile optimization, blog commenting, automated link building, optimization of on-site copy, link wheels, article prisms, and even outright renting or purchasing of links. And while the search engines do put a lot of weight on these off-page link building efforts, they have had to continually modify their algorithms to ensure that their users are receiving as high-quality a search product as possible. After all, with SEO work comes a sometimes unfair advantage to inferior websites that rank higher than superior websites due to effective SEO techniques. This can result in less effective search results for the end user.
While many SEO techniques are employed these days, few hold water. Web marketers have to come to grips with the fact that search engines are more and more about quality versus quantity. Whatever adds quality to a website should be kept — not only for the search engines, but for the online readers, too — and whatever looks, feels, or acts like spam (or, really, anything useless at all) should be done away with.Building 10,000 links on 10,000 different forums back to a single websites (called a “money site” in SEO vernacular) doesn’t add value. In fact, if the same keyword is used in the anchor text, it can actually result in an unnatural link profile penalty. But creating new, quality links to the money site from relevant niche websites does help, and so too does contributing Wikipedia articles or Squidoo lenses or Hubpages pages which link back to the money site. The higher quality and value that these off-page and on-page SEO mechanisms provide, the more links will naturally be built back to them, and the more powerful those links will be to the money site. Quality begets quality, and this begets higher Search Engine Results Placements (SERPS).
Guest Blog Posts: Quality and Value
One of the most effective forms of off-page SEO is that of guest blog posts on relevant niche websites. Guest blog posts are blog posts, but instead of being published on a webmaster’s money site, they are published on other, related websites. The links provided within the body or bio block of these articles link back to the money site and act as highly effective votes for the money site. These can become some of the most effective, valuable, and authoritative links that any website has linking to it.
• Quality: These guest posts must be of a sufficiently high quality to warrant the website owner agreeing to publish them. Likewise, by the content being of a high quality, these website owners will likely want you to submit more content, and their readers will comment, socially share, and otherwise link to the posts. By commenting, sharing, and linking to the guest post in question, the links back to your money site will become that much stronger.
• Word Count: When trying to convince a website owner to run a guest post that contains links (an activity worth something, particularly to SEO-conscious website owners), it’s important that your guest post be worth their time. For my blog at http://prisoneducation.com/prison-education-news/, I really don’t like to publish anything below the 500-word mark. This feels like the sweet spot for my readers. But more important than my personal preference is the SEO value and reader value of the blog post. My readers want something long enough to be worth their time, and search engines view longer content as more authoritative. Play it safe and only submit guest posts that have at least 500 or 600 words. Better yet, set the floor at 650 words. This will keep everyone happy, search engines included.
• Links: The point of guest posts is twofold: one, to introduce your website to potential readers, and two, gaining valuable niche links back to your website. These links could be embedded in the body of the article (which is probably more valuable since they are viewed as editorial links) or in the About The Author box at the end of the post (probably less valuable, but still acceptable and common practice). Without links back to your money site, the guest posts are simply free content that is being given away. In that case, you might as well use the blog posts on your own blog so that you are gaining the SEO value of new content.
Finding Suitable Blogs
There are two common ways to find suitable niche blogs to make your guest blog post submissions to. You can delve into each blog’s Page Rank, Domain Authority, Alexa rating, and website search ranking. Or, you can simply Google or Yahoo your key term(s) and see which websites outrank yours. Explore each website to see if they have a blog, active or not. Repeat this process until you have 10 or so niche related blogs identified. This list will become your roadmap. It might not be a bad idea to create an Excel spreadsheet to keep this information all in one handy place.
Querying Website Owners
With your list of related blogs handy, start your research phase. This includes reading a post or two at each blog and analyzing it for style, topic, and format. Now, write a guest blog post for that particular blog. When drafting the post, don’t forget to make it a quality post, at least 500 words in length, and with a link or two back to your website embedded within it.
With this blog post in hand, email the webmaster or website owner. Explain that you would like to make a guest blog post submission, and include the guest submission below your email. Many website owners are wary of opening attachments, so simply post the complete text of the guest submission below your introductory email. And that’s it. If they like it, they will publish it. If they would like revisions, then make them. And if they turn you down, you can probably tweak the post and submit it to the next blog on your list.
One common courtesy to employ when a guest blog post is published is to share the blog post via your social media channels (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, StumbleUpon, LinkedIn, etc.). This can easily be accomplished by clicking on the various Share icons below the published post. Not only will the blog owner appreciate your thoughtfulness, but this will also help promote others doing the same, which will make the website owner that much more interested in your content in the future.
While not a requirement of guest blog posting, creating relationships with relevant niche blogs can make guest posting a breeze. When the webmaster is familiar with you and your work, he or she will be more open to your regular submissions. This makes gaining high quality, relevant niche links very easy.
Fostering these relationships is as simple as making quality guest submissions, sending a thank-you email once each guest blog post is published, and repeating the process. The blog owner will be grateful for the quality content, and you will be grateful for the relevant backlinks.
The Future of Search Engine Optimization
The future of SEO is unfolding with each new algorithmic update made by search engines. It’s clear that Google, Yahoo, and the other major search engines are spending a significant amount of time, money, and energy on algorithmically quantifying what they view as quality content in an effort to render the best possible search results for their users. This involves not only ascertaining what leads to a quality website, but also what looks spammy or low quality.
A case in point of low-quality sites being dropped are article directories. Five years ago they were huge, a staple of many SEO seekers. But today, their SEO-value has been significantly devalued due to abuse. Software programs came into being that would not only spin an article (digitally blend it to create unique, yet low quality versions) and submit them to thousands of article directories, but they now can even steal others’ articles and spin and submit those. And all of this can be done in an automated fashion at very low cost. This type of thinking will lead to future devaluation of other easier SEO techniques, making them ineffective and potentially dangerous to engage in.
Long story short, the future of SEO concerns quality content. While many past, current, and future SEO tricks will fall by the wayside, guest blog posting will not because it is an SEO tactic based upon quality and value. And by sticking with quality and providing value, your content will always rank highly, and the links created from these off-page quality guest post submissions will result in very high quality, relevant niche links back to your money site, which, in turn, will assist your Search Engine Optimization efforts and business goals.