You might remember way back in 2014, when Matt Cutts, then head of Google’s web spam team, announced that “guest blogging is done”.
This announcement came just two years after the Penguin update, aimed at those sites seen to be adopting spammy SEO practices to rise in the SERPs. While it didn’t target guest posting specifically, it was indicative of Google’s tougher stance on SEO tactics designed to influence search results.
With Google continuing to warn against guest posting, will it still be a viable link building tactic in 2021?
Quality links that are sustainable and affordable
In link building, quality will trump quantity every time.
Quality links are sustainable, continuing to add value over time, rather than simply a brief spike in your organic traffic followed by a slump.
Sure, you could build hundreds of links on PBNs.
But these fall far short of the kind of quality afforded to us by links built through guest posting (and can cost a pretty penny on the higher end of the scale).
The cost of setup and the time invested in building your PBN can be several times that required for a good guest posting campaign, and often delivers far fewer links than a solid guest posting campaign could.
Yes, building quality links at a larger scale through guest posting is challenging—but not impossible! Ultimately, guest posting gives you more, better quality links at a fraction of the price.
E-A-T your way to better links
You likely already know the value of E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness) for SEO. These factors indicate to Google how they should value and rank a website or brand, and span a variety of elements, from well-researched onsite content to accessible and quick-loading web pages.
But offsite factors also influence these signals, in particular author profiles.
Guest posts lets us set up author profiles on established sites, especially those in niche fields such as pharmaceuticals or technology. These author profiles (containing a backlink to the expert’s brand site) communicate to Google that site’s E-A-T value.
While E-A-T isn’t a direct ranking factor in the same way that page load speed is—expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness are rather more intangible than technical elements.
But Google does use its Quality Raters in tests to determine those elements of E-A-T which are tangible—such as author profiles, which demonstrate your E-A-T to Google (and its users).
E-A-T also hinges on high-quality backlinks. While they are not explicitly mentioned in Google’s Search Quality Rater Guidelines, industry experts have said that links and mentions from authoritative and relevant websites do play a role in boosting your site’s E-A-T—as ever, high-quality links always win out over those of poorer quality.
As with all guest posting, this emphasises the exchange of value. Our experts add value to the web with their content, and in return get a value-adding link from a strong relevant domain.
Relevant links on relevant domains
One of the most important factors to consider when building links is relevance.
Winning a link to a SaaS product page on a domain with high metrics and traffic is all well and good, but if that site has nothing to do with your target page? It’ll have less value as a result.
Guest posting lets you build relevance for your links with a greater degree of control than other link building methods.
Take Help A Reporter Out (HARO) opportunities, for example. A journo puts out a request for a comment from an industry expert, and you provide one from your clients in return for a link on a good and often relevant domain—simple, but not a guaranteed link.
Indeed, while these are big wins when they work, you’re competing against countless other marketers and SEOs for a single opportunity—it’s a tough gauntlet to face.
Guest posting reduces that competition, focusing on a value exchange with far less competition.
Guest posting also lets you target the right audiences for your link. As our Head of Outreach Laura so rightly says, links are there to be clicked. Winning a link on a relevant site puts your client in front of relevant, qualified leads, increasing the value of your link as a result.
Guest posting remains the best way to do this. This kind of outreach lets us target relevant sites with relevant titles that attract the right audiences for our clients—no small feat.
It puts you in the driver’s seat
Another benefit of guest posting is that it gives us far greater control over the links we build.
The best backlink profiles are a diverse mix of anchor texts: branded, exact match, partial match, generic, and so on.
When you rely on links built through other means—natural, PR opportunities, and so on—you have considerably less control over your anchor text. Landing a placement through HARO, for instance, generally only results in a branded anchor.
But guest posting lets you build a backlink profile that caters to your client’s needs. A new website will require mostly homepage links with branded anchor texts, for example, as it is essential to remain as natural as possible and slowly build site-wide authority when dealing with a small backlink profile.
A more established domain, on the other hand, will already have plenty of backlinks so over-optimisation is less of an issue. In this case you can be slightly more targeted with your link building and maybe focus on a specific internal page with anchors that are slightly more keyword-focused.
Beyond this, guest posting also lets us choose the annotation text surrounding our link.
As confirmed by Google, the copy around our link acts as a signal to the algorithm, informing it about the target page’s content and relevance. Writing a guest post lets us provide the exact annotation text we want for our link, increasing its value and helping clients build backlinks that add genuine value to their domain.
In essence, guest posting is a link building strategy that puts you (and your clients) in the driving seat.
Guest posting is in Google’s best interests
For Google, it is in something of a bind.
Links are a key indicator of a website’s value—they always have been, and always will.
But if Google wanted to swap that for a different search model, the chances are that this new type would be so much more open to abuse than links are.
Sure, the web has its fair share of spammy links. But Google’s come a long way, and it knows links. As a result, links remain a safe bet.
Even with its advanced algorithms, Google doesn’t have the time or resources to weed out artificially-built links, certainly not at the kind of scale that would make guest posting inviable.
This is why Google will continue to preach that guest posting is a bad idea and won’t work—it’s in its best interests to do so.
The best it can do right now is to simply stick with links as an indicator of domain value and do its best to disregard manipulated links.
That’s not to say we, as SEOs, can build links without care or regard. It’s still vital that we focus on genuine exchanges of value, on links couched in high-quality and well-researched content.
Don’t believe the naysayers! Guest posting is, and will remain to be, a viable link building tactic well into 2021 and beyond. It’s sustainable, affordable, and adds value, and is something everyone should build into their SEO strategy.
Want to start building links for your brand but don’t know where to start? Give us a call.