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Magnus Linklater
Magnus Linklater 29 September 2017

Finding great guest blogs for offsite SEO

As a seasoned content marketer, I’ve overseen dozens of outreach campaigns to help my clients publish articles on hundreds of websites relevant to their various business niches.

From telecoms to toilets, video marketing to forklift trucks, we’ve produced unique posts for high-quality websites covering just about every industry under the sun. The benefits of this approach to online marketing are twofold:

  1. It secures brilliant brand exposure, highlighting expertise and engaging with target audiences.

  2. You’ll gain authoritative citation links pointing back to your website, boosting SEO to give you an edge over competitors.

Essentially, search engine bots read inbound links as votes of confidence from other Internet users. In theory, the more that people cite your work, the more ‘votes’ you acquire, the better quality your content must be, so the search bots will reward you with higher rankings.

However, you can see how such a scoring system might be open to manipulation, and once upon a time ‘Black Hat SEO’ merchants would game the system by purchasing thousands of links from dodgy websites that had no discernible audience.

Thankfully, Google clamped down on link spam with the Penguin update in 2012, and there’s now much more of an emphasis on quality rather than quantity of backlinks. You should also make yourself aware of Google’s guidance on guest blogging and how to stay SEO safe.

A quality backlink can be considered as one from a trustworthy website with great content that’s overseen by an editorial process (rather than allowing for self-publishing). There should also be a focus on relevance, i.e. publishing on websites closely related to your area of business, and evidence of an engaged audience.

The key to successful outreach is finding the best, most relevant websites to publish on, so strap in for a white knuckle ride through this critical process...

High-quality website research

Firstly, it’s important to hone in on your niche. If you run an artisan beer brewery, for example, there’s no point writing an article about the best pubs in the UK, and then submitting it to a website that shares beauty therapy tips. That probably sounds like a contender for ‘obvious statement of the year’, but I’ve encountered some decidedly dodgy SEO professionals who happily sell link-building packages only to publish content on low-quality sites that have no relation to your line of business.

Ultimately, your aim should be to publish thought leadership pieces on genuine sites visited by peers and/or target customers, giving you the greatest chance of getting seen by the right people. This approach also sends the correct signals to Google, showing you’re an active voice in the market, resulting in a positive rise in your organic search presence.

Speaking of Google, the search engine giant will invariably be your first port of call when researching prospective sites. Thus, for artisan beer breweries, websites dedicated to all things hops, yeast and grain will be primary targets.

Simply typing in ‘beer websites’ returns a host of opportunities. Over 37 million search results, to be exact.

website-research-beer-websites.png

This is an incredible start, and you’re sure to find a number of good sites that welcome guest articles, provided they’re of interest and non-advertorial in tone. However, it’s likely that you’ll have to further refine your search to find the very best blogs.

For example, the top result pictured above, beerbloggersconference.org, is a US website, and a number of the other sites listed are also international. If you operate worldwide, this might not be an issue, but if your operations are very UK-focused, it makes sense to stick to publishing on UK websites. This is where your prospective customers are, and the more local you stay, the more likely you are to see a surge in local SEO rankings. We’ll come to that later.

By using Google’s in-built filters, you can choose to only display UK results. Simply select ‘Tools’ > ‘Any country’ > ‘Country: the UK’, and you’ll reduce your list to a more targeted audience.

refined-Google-searching.pngAdditionally, you can search for publishing spots using phrases like beer “guest blog” or beer “write for us”, revealing sites that may not necessarily be on the first page of Google, but are actively seeking submissions.

Needless to say, it’s imperative to check the quality of these prospective sites, asking whether they have an engaged audience (check social media), and if they post high-quality material rather than poorly written posts littered with spammy links.

Perhaps of most importance, you’ll have to check their Citation Flow, Trust Flow and Domain Authority - metrics that help gauge the overall quality of any given website. You can easily check these by downloading various SEO browser extensions.

At the end of the day, you want to focus on approaching only the most authoritative, relevant websites with sizable audiences, putting you firmly in front of potential customers whilst boosting your SEO; backlinks from highly-authoritative, closely-related websites should see a portion of their authority passing your way, and this so-called ‘link juice’ will help give you an uplift in search rankings.

Competitor analysis

Keeping tabs on your rivals has always been a necessary component of business success, and you can learn a lot from your competitors’ online strategy. Look at their social media profiles to study what content they’re sharing from third-party websites, and think about whether you can approach those websites with your own content ideas.

You can also analyse where they’re submitting their guest articles via a quick Google search. For instance, typing in ‘Magnus Linklater Bespoke Digital guest article’ returns a host of posts published under my authorship, which my rivals could use to their advantage, reaching out to the same sites, putting themselves in front of the same prospects and achieving the same SEO value, diluting my authority in the process.

Furthermore, Moz’s Open Site Explorer can be used to review where your competitors are obtaining inbound links from. You simply enter the URL of their homepage, and it’ll generate a list of websites linking their way, as illustrated below:

Moz-s-Open-Site-Explorer.png

This insight can reveal a treasure trove of relevant sites that publish guest articles, and you’ll also be able to see where competitors earn links naturally, i.e. where their work has been independently cited rather than part of an outreach article. This is the best type of link you could wish for, as it shows your work is of sufficient quality to be referenced organically.

 

If third-party sites link to your competitor’s articles from their blog, for example, you could potentially contact them, saying how much you enjoyed their post and possibly pointing them in the direction of your closely-related content, potentially resulting in them linking to you in the future.

Needless to say, when looking to boost your offsite SEO with relevant guest posts, you should ask your team members, peers and clients/customers what websites they visit, and reach out to best ones with offers of unique content - maximising your exposure with target audiences.

Local SEO

As touched upon earlier, acquiring links from local websites will help to boost your local search relevance. These days, Google’s algorithm is highly sophisticated, displaying the most relevant results based on location, as well as the text in your search query. If you were to search for ‘content marketing agency’ while in Bristol, for example, Bespoke Digital (my agency) should rank highly.

However, conducting the same search while in Manchester would return a list of Manchester-based agencies, which of course makes sense, but is still pretty remarkable when you think about it.

To raise your local SEO, you should look to contribute content to local, relevant websites, giving Google a clear sign that you’re a leading player in your area, giving you a nice uplift in local search rankings.

Reach out to local news publications, seeking out the business editor to suggest article ideas where you can share business advice. You can also look to join local business networks (you probably already belong to a few) and contribute to their blogs.

Ultimately, if a Manchester-based business acquires a backlink from another Manchester-based website, the overall Manchester-ness will be raised in the eyes of the search bots, increasing search performance for local queries.

Rounding off your list

It’s also wise to research trade shows and study their media partners, as well as trade organisations that have member magazines and connected websites.

It’s a good idea to share a target publication’s content before reaching out to them, actively engaging with them to build rapport before asking for anything in return.

When you’ve finalised your research, it’s crucial to craft article pitches that will appeal to website editors. The top sites will be inundated with offers of content, so yours has to stand out. You might be interested in reading my article on how to research a blog post for best practice advice on creating unique content that packs a punch, increasing the likelihood of your ideas getting the green light from your target sites.

 

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