A client emailed me this weekend with a message about a potential guest blogger for their website. The blogger’s proposal was written concisely, the objective clearly stated, and the message illustrated a basic understanding of the client’s website initiatives. However, we turned the guest blogger down because the individual’s experience did not reflect any affiliation or relationship (direct or indirect) with the organization’s industry and market.
About a week ago, Matt Cutts addressed the issue of guest blogging for links in a Webmaster Tools Video. While Cutts acknowledged the value in building out a search presence through guest blogging, he stressed that this can also be taken to extremes. Marketers who look to do the “bare minimum” for writing requirements, or who simply outsource post creation, will not find similar value in terms of search engine presence.
The growth in guest blogging outreach and the notion that guest blogging alone will benefit SEO illustrates the evolution of marketing tactics meant to deliver short term value.
We’ve seen these tactical SEO initiatives before, in other manifestations like:
- General Web Directories
- Article Spinning and Article Directories
- Link Exchanges/Reciprocal Linking
- Blog Commenting
- Thin Content Sites
The problem with all of these examples is in the subjectivity of what makes these tactical initiatives valuable. I can find quality exceptions in all six of the examples listed above.
One guiding principle comes to mind when evaluating whether or not an SEO tactic will work for our organization or our clients. Will this SEO tactic work within the marketing strategy of the organizations involved?
SEO and (B2B) Marketing Strategy
A common rhetorical question in SEO is whether or not a proposed tactic will impact SEO AND user. While this can make sense, what’s more important is how an SEO tactic can impact or be a part of the overall marketing strategy.
To address this in context of the six examples above:
- Does the web directory have business/industry relevance? Is there an opportunity to generate quality leads through directory inclusion?
- Does the website accepting articles have its own (successful) marketing strategy and plan for building out its business?
- Is there a business or industry relationship that makes an exchange of links valuable? Examples might include strategic partnerships, sponsorship, or organizational affiliation.
- Are you/your organization creating blog comments that add value to the specific blog post discussion or just posting for potential link reference?
- Does your blog have its own blogging strategy and are you building a reputation within the industry with such a strategy?
- If you’re using microsites, do they have a specific tie-in to strategic marketing initiatives (i.e., lead generation, product marketing, or specific marketing segment)?
Think Through the SEO Tactic as It Relates to Marketing Strategy
When faced with a new (or newly proposed) SEO tactic, my recommendation is to think through how this tactic can benefit overall marketing strategy. Don’t focus solely on the tactic. Instead, focus on how you can integrate SEO into overarching marketing initiatives.
Some examples or considerations:
- If you’re targeting links, how can SEO support or benefit company communications and public relations?
- How will content generation tie into branding and product marketing initiatives?
- How will IT improvements and recommendations benefit the business, in terms of tangible business goals?
Tactical SEO initiatives need to be executed to improve traffic and keyword visibility. But these tactics might ring false if the search engine marketer is not tying them to overarching marketing strategy.
Final Thoughts About Guest Blogging
As Cutts indicated in the Webmaster Tools video, guest bloggers with significant expertise, or those writers with demonstrated credentials looking to build their authority by getting published in relevant third-party sites, can contribute greatly to SEO initiatives link acquisition.
Some of the things I would evaluate when reviewing a guest blogger:
- Evaluate the individual’s social media presence, particularly LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+.
- Check out the person’s writing history in other sites and blogs.
- Evaluate the organization the blogger represents for industry relevance.
Bottom line: Guest blogging on another site, or accepting a guest blog on your site, should have meaningful impact for your organization as well as the other blogger’s. If done correctly, with appropriate marketing strategy in mind, guest blogging can be a win-win for both organizations as well as the individuals involved in the process.