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Attorney Website Design Blog

Friday, March 7, 2014

Guest Blogging 2.0

For years, guest blogging was promoted as a way to get inbound links to your site, increasing visibility with the blog’s readers and also with the search engines. If you have a website, you’ve probably been contacted by a professional (in all likelihood, an SEO consultant acting on behalf of the professional) offering to share his or her expertise on your blog; they promise a high-quality, original post for absolutely nothing. What’s the catch you ask? The return was simple – a single link, or multiple links, back to the writer’s website.

All for a single link?
To understand why guest blogging gained such prominence in the world of SEO, you must first understand PageRank. Quite simply explained, PageRank generally measures how many, if any, websites provide a hyperlink back to your website. In essence, search engines interpret these link-backs to your website as an endorsement of your website’s credibility and relevancy. All other things being equal, a website that has “link-backs” from many other highly ranked, relevant sites will rank better than a page with no "link-backs." Realizing that most reputable sites don’t link out to sites that they have no relationship with, the world of SEO began to gravitate to guest blogging as a way to secure inbound links by providing a webmaster with an informative post that would help to fill their site pages and provide “value” (although this is very questionable with many guest posts).

The Google Crackdown
While it was championed as an SEO strategy over the past few years, a recent post by Google’s Matt Cutts entitled “The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO” explains the dark side of the practice. In this article, he explains that it has become an increasingly spammy practice and Google has taken note. Cutts warns that you shouldn’t rely on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy (and of course, don’t hire anyone who includes this in their grand plan for your success). Similarly, you shouldn’t include any guest posts from individuals that you don’t personally know, regardless of how nice a free article might seem.

Does this mean you should refrain from guest blogging?
No, but you do have to be smart about it. If you are tempted to write a post for a third-party blog, take a step back and ask yourself the following questions:

Are they selective about who can post? If not, don’t waste your time. It’s probably not a very high-quality site.

Does the site closely align with your area of practice? If you are a bankruptcy attorney, writing an article for a site that covers foreclosure defense makes logical sense. Writing an article for a divorce site isn’t a logical option.

Are you actually interested in getting in front of this site’s readers? Remember, you’re not writing for the search engines so it’s imperative that your objective be to get in front of that blog’s readers. Get some demographics on the sites readership before you commit to anything.

Should you find a third-party blog that focuses on a subject matter, and has a following, that makes sense for your practice, keep the following in mind:

As with all blogging, write for your readers. This is blogging 101; don’t be self-promotional, be informative. This means no keyword stuffing, and no tooting your own horn. These folks probably don’t care how much you’ve recovered for clients. They do care about their own legal issues. Constantly ask yourself, what value can I provide to them?

Be smart with your linking. It’s fine to include a link to your website in the “About the author” byline or even in the post (if for example, you’re linking to a great article that you wrote on the subject at hand). However, if you are doing this, make sure to also include at least one link to another website with information on the subject matter. This indicates to the search engines that you’re not just trying to promote your site with the post, instead you are genuinely trying to guide the visitors to valuable, relevant information.

Don’t engage in a link exchange with guest posts. If you are posting to a colleagues blog, don’t simply swap posts on any given day (e.g. You write a guest post for your local CPA’s blog on Monday and that same week, rather than post to his blog, he shares an article with your readers). The search engines will likely see this as a link exchange and may actually penalize you.

Should we be heed Cutts’ warning about guest blogging? Yes, but unless you’re using guest blogs as a way to build your inbound link strategy, you probably shouldn’t lose any sleep over it. Guest blogging can still be a great way to get your name out in the community and share your expertise, just be smart with where you post and be highly selective of who can contribute posts to your blog.

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