A new decree by Google guru Matt Cutts sent a shiver through the world of digital PR and SEO last week. Cutts blasted the practice of guest blogging, calling it a tactic that has become too spammy and writing that “guest blogging is done.” But hold on just a sec – that sentence requires some clarification. And it doesn’t mean that guest blogging is a bad marketing strategy.
It’s important to understand that Cutts was merely talking about guest blogging as a link-building strategy. Specifically, the title of his post is The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO – he’s talking about guest blogging (drafting apost to be published on a website other than your own) purely as a link-building tactic. Cutts writes:
“… a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains…. So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”
Really, what Cutts is saying in his post – and what Google has been pushing for the last couple years – is that content must be high quality. It should not be stuffed with links and placed on websites that exist purely to raise the Page Rank of contributors. Rather, content should be focused on delivering value to the reader.
This is such a basic premise that it’s almost painful to have to write it. However, there are plenty of marketing professionals that have been immersed in SEO for the last decade that they look at content through a Lewis Carroll-esque prism. For a long time, SEO was about gaming the system, finding the loopholes in search engine algorithms and doing everything in your power to take advantage of those loopholes in order to rise on SERPs. Google has been aggressively fighting that strategy over the last several years. This is good news for everyone – or at least us humans who read things on the Internet to try to educate ourselves.
There’s some level of logic for websites that rely upon CPM-based advertising (i.e., media websites) to try to goose their pageviews with bad, link-stuffed content; simply, the more pageviews they have, the more money they can charge their advertisers. However, for most organizations that are executing a content strategy, pageviews shouldn’t matter. Particularly for B2B firms the sheer quantity of website visitors has almost no bearing on whether your business succeeds or fails. What you want is the right people (we’re talking about prospective customers) visiting your website. Yes, the numbers matter, but they must be a secondary concern to producing great content.
So here’s how you make guest blogging work for you – be authentic. Don’t worry about link-building. Instead focus on trust building.
When it comes to raising profile, demonstrating expertise, and positioning your organization as a thought leader, guest blogging still works. It works for the same reasons that PR pros have been placing bylined articles for decades. In fact, it’s pretty much the same thing.
The key is to treat guest blogging – and all content creation – as more of an art than a science. Focus on delivering insanely great quality, not on the sheer mathematics of it. We need less quant, more Hemingway.
So don’t create content to appeal to search engine algorithms. Create it for humans. Content marketing should be solely focused on building trust with the audience; that’s how you gain their attention and respect, and move them along the sales funnel. Remember – the world is flat and your customers can purchase from anywhere around the globe. They need a reason to believe that you can deliver for them. They’re searching for someone who knows what they’re doing.
And that’s why you launch a content strategy – to demonstrate expertise and build trust with the audience. Not to build meaningless links.