This morning, many SEOs have woken up to the startling realisation that they have been caught out by Google’s latest penalty banning guest blogging. To some, this has come as a complete surprise, whilst other agencies, who had taken heed of Google’s warning signals, knew this day was on the cards. For those SEOs who have been listening to the tides of change, this penalty was not a case of if, but when. As Matt Cutts simply declared in his post:
‘Back in the day, guest blogging used to be a respectable thing, much like getting a coveted,respected author to write the introduction of your book. It’s not that way any more.’
‘Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains. We’ve reached the point in the downward spiral where people are hawking “guest post outsourcing” and writing articles about “how to automate guest blogging.’
This blog post was originally going to be about ‘faux bloggers’ and how to stay clear of paid for blog posts (or links). Coincidentally, my blog post couldn’t have come at a better time!
Banning platforms such as MyBlogGuest is a bitter pill to swallow for many SEOs, but it paves the way for Digital PR to really shine within the search industry. Digital PR needs to play a bigger role in building a brand’s online presence organically if SEOs want to make a genuine transition away from spam-led tactics.
To the SEOs that feel they are stuck between a rock and a hard place, Digital PR is their answer, though it is not something to be taken lightly. Where SEO is more discreet, taking on a brand’s online publicity comes with a lot of responsibility. It needs to be about building that brand’s profile and engaging with their influencers, and not about link building. The perks of getting a press release placed might result in increased website traffic, but this should not be the focus.
When I first entered the world of integrated digital marketing, I was surprised to see some agencies treat MyBlogGuest as a legitimate form of Digital PR. As a PR myself, who has more experience online than off, I had never come across guest blogging platforms like this – until I started working alongside SEOs.
Guest blogging platforms go against everything that a PR is taught. I still cringe every time I read an article about placing content on a blog for link building purposes. PRs do not create or publish content; they create stories on behalf of brands with a specific angle – and distribute these via press releases. It’s up to the journalists or blogger to decide whether the story is newsworthy, and report on it. Believe it or not, a PR hit is a hit even when a link is nowhere to be seen (SEOs reading this will probably be reaching for a paper bag right about now).
There is no control over what links will be included when a journalist or blogger is talking about a brand, and there is definitely no control over what they choose to say about your client’s brand. Digital PR cannot control, it simply influences.
What to understand about PR
First and foremost, PR stands for public relations. As a PR, it is your role to create a press list of high quality ezines and bloggers who match the industry your client works in, and speak to them one by one. When I say speak, I mean getting on the phone or sending over an email introducing who are you are, what client you work on and the latest products or services your client has to offer.
The first conversation a PR has with a journalist or a blogger should be seen as the spark to a great working relationship. If they need high res imagery or more brand information, you give it to them. It’s the PR’s role to supply as much information as they can in order to make the journalist or blogger’s life easier.
Paying a blogger to post a piece for a client is not PR. When I receive emails from bloggers or ezines asking for payment to cover ‘some of your lifestyle brands’, I immediately say no. PR is about starting natural conversations that are in line with consumer interests. If the post is bought or the endorsement paid for, it delegitimizes the conversation.
The blogs that are littered with paid for posts are the sort of blogs to steer clear of. Just because you are not using MyBlogGuest, doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods yet.
You need to look for ezines and blogs that have their own authentic subject matter and will only report on what they see fit for their blog and for their audience. This brings me to my next point:
Guest blogging is not dead
Forget everything you have learnt about guest blogging and adopt the PR way of guest blogging. Do not seek bloggers for guest posts; look for bloggers who would benefit from working with you and your client. Collaborations are not just about you.
If your client is a thought leader in their field and they can add value and insight to a particular topic, you already have your angle. ‘Speak Available’ press releases are a way you can reach out to ezines and blogs that write in the same field. Opening a conversation about a possible commentary post or interview opportunity is the first step to putting your client’s voice on a powerful title.
Beware not to make it look or feel like you are using a publication as a soapbox to elevate your client’s brand. Again, it needs to relate back to the journalist and the title.
Lazy can be a harsh description, but sometimes as PRs you will be asked to write a complete article for very well known online titles. This is normally down to a sparse editorial team or a tight deadline that has to be met. It has happened to me in the past and I have seen it happen to PRs who work mostly online regularly. In these cases, you need to position yourself as a ghost writer and write about a topic or area just like a journalist would, without heavily promoting a product or client. Do not litter the article with lots of links, and make sure the content has never been used before.
What makes a good guest post?
1. The platform is suitable.
The blogger or ezine needs to be reputable. They need to be a genuine site that doesn’t accept paid for links or blog posts. You will find these sites are lower quality and do not offer any clout.
2. It has something original to say.
Repurposing content is not PR. Guest blogging or getting a client to guest post needs to involve supplying the online title with something original and completely customised to them.
3. If it doesn’t feel natural, then it is going to look like spam.
Research and then research some more. If the blogger isn’t speaking about the client or the industry the client is in, then a guest post or an interview opportunity is going to feel very unnatural. An ill match between copy and platform will look like spam. And it definitely won’t make PR ripples in the blogosphere.
As Matt Cutts issued his latest update earlier this week, it is expected that more agencies and brands will still be affected. What we should all learn from this next chapter of SEO is that a new era of Digital PR is at hand, and it couldn’t have come at a more important time.