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  1. How to Become a Guest Author On Major Media Publications

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    The following is a transcript of a presentation I gave at the Neil Patel Advanced SEO Summit on April 20, 2017. I am constantly asked the question “How did you get to be a contributor at so many major media publications?” so this presentation is an in-depth look at exactly how I did it, and how you can do it too. I hope you find it helpful! For more help, see my guide, The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.

    How to Scale Guest Posting to Major Media Publications

    Hey everyone, and welcome to my presentation on how to scale guest posting to major media publications. The goal of this presentation is to give you the tools you need to get articles published on major media publications, like Forbes, Inc, TechCrunch, Entrepreneur.com, and others, which is awesome for branding, awareness, website traffic, and SEO.

    But first, a bit about me. My name is Jayson DeMers, and I’m the founder & CEO of a Seattle-based content marketing agency called AudienceBloom. I’m also a regular contributor or have contributed to a bunch of various major media publications, including Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Huffington Post, Inc, Time Magazine, Fortune, MSN.com, Yahoo.com, The Wall Street Journal, Search Engine Land, Search Engine Watch, and the list goes on.

    My company, AudienceBloom, specializes in link building. We help our clients get links and brand mentions from major media publications, and we do this by working with our clients to select publishers they want to appear in, then helping them reach out to those publications and pitch them with content the publication would want to publish.

    If you’re here because you want help getting links for your website from major media publications, I’m about to show you the exact process that worked for me to become a contributor at all the publications I’ve written for. If by the end you decide you still want help, check out our contact form at AudienceBloom.com, or shoot me an email, and I’ll be happy to help.

    I wish getting published on major media publications was as easy as just emailing an article to an editor and seeing it get published. Unfortunately, it’s not.

    Getting published on major media publications requires carefully executed strategy, which can be divided into three phases. Phase I is to establish your reputation, phase II is to get your foot in the door, and phase III is to maintain and grow the relationship.

    Phase 3 actually covers what happens after your first post is published, but it’s critical if you want to publish more than just once on a publication, and become a regular contributor, which has awesome benefits.

    As you might imagine, major media publications have no problem finding people who want to become contributors on their websites. And because they have no shortage of eager contributors, they can afford to be picky about who they work with and who they don’t. They want people with a proven reputation or specific expertise that will add value for their readership, and that means you need to start by establishing a reputation for yourself. What makes you qualified to speak or write on a given subject?

    If you can’t answer that question right now, and you want to be able to get published on major media publications, it’s time to start working toward being able to answer it.

    There are 4 steps for doing so, and we’ll go over each of them. They are defining your niche, establishing standout pieces on your own blog, building strategic relationships, and building a social following.

    Your first step may seem a bit obvious, but you’ve gotta start by defining your niche. For me, I started with SEO and have since branched out to just about all other aspects of online marketing, and even broader entrepreneurial topics. But you’ve gotta start small when you’re just starting out, and not try to convince an editor that you’re an expert on everything. Being an expert on one topic is much more believable, and will be a more compelling reason for the editor to want to give you a try.

    Get as specific as you can; for example, instead of saying you’re an expert at social media marketing, say you’re an expert Instagram marketer.

    Next, think about your specific time period. For example, will you cover the history of your niche? Or will you cover current events, or perhaps even make predictions about the future of it?

    Once you’ve defined your niche, the next step is to establish some standout published pieces which you can use as your portfolio. Getting an editor to respond to an email is already a major accomplishment, so you don’t want to fall flat when they ask you for published samples of your writing and you can’t truly impress them. Editors will almost certainly ask you for examples of your previously published work, so you need to prepare for this by establishing an impressive portfolio.

    This portfolio should eventually include works on and off your website, but for now you can start with your own blog or website, since you can control everything on it, and can make sure it looks polished.

    When you send links to your previously published works, generally sending 3 links is enough, but you want there to be more than only those 3, so that when the editor visits those articles, they’ll see there are more, which will make you look more experienced. So, aim for at least 5 to 10 standout pieces on your blog, and down the road you can supplement those with some other published works on small or medium external publications.

    So how can you know if an article is worthy of being considered stand-out? Odds are, you already know if it is or isn’t. Ask yourself this question: If your best friend was looking for advice on the topic you wrote about, would you feel 100% confident referring them to your article? If not, it’s probably not stand-out.

    Stand-out pieces are generally at least 1500 words, and include embedded supporting media such as images, videos, or infographics.

    If those articles have any comments on them, be sure you’ve replied to all of them thoughtfully and politely; this is a really good sign to editors that you will engage their audience, which drives more visits and pageviews for them.

    Finally, be sure that the articles you send to the editor show impressive performance metrics, such as views or social shares.

    Here’s one article from my company blog at AudienceBloom.com that got over 2,000 shares across various social networks. This would be a great article to include in my portfolio because it has performed so well.

    I use a plugin for WordPress called Social Warfare to display these social share counts. It’s not free, but it’s cheap – only $29 per year for one website, and I think it’s well worth it. It’s actually #26 on my list of the top 30 marketing tools I couldn’t live without, which if you’re interested in checking out, you can find at https://bit.ly/audiencebloomtools.

    Of course, getting a ton of shares on your content isn’t easy, but I’ve written an entire guide on exactly the process I use to do it. It includes free tactics and some paid ones, and has an infographic at the end that breaks down the whole process into a checklist you can use for every piece of content you publish.

    You can check it out on the AudienceBloom blog by visiting https://bit.ly/contentunleashed. After you’ve published your articles, you’ll want to use the steps I outline in the guide to get a bunch of shares and views on them.

    If you haven’t already caught on, I obviously practice what I preach about promoting my content, and I highly recommend you do the same.

    Once you’ve defined your niche and established some standout pieces on your blog, you’re ready to start building strategic relationships.

    The goals of this are to grow your reputation by expanding horizontally (because more appearance across various publishers equals a bigger reputation), to establish a credible publishing history (because many posts over time is better than one post recently), and to become familiar with different editorial processes so you’re prepared to deal with the big guns at national media publications.

    Obviously, you can’t just jump from having no reputation to a big one; you have to start from the bottom and work your way up, one step at a time. For instance, looking at this drawing, starting at the bottom step could mean reaching out to your friend who has a blog or a Youtube channel you could be a guest on.

    Moving up to the next step, you might leverage that first guest appearance to pitch an acquaintance you’ve met at a networking event or perhaps a 1st degree connection on LinkedIn who’s an editor at a small or medium-sized publication. You could subsequently leverage those appearances to take the next step up and pitch a 2nd-degree connection on LinkedIn who’s an editor at an even larger publication, and so on, gradually working your way up to national media publications.

    Another good option is to find publishers that publicly solicit guest posts, and pitch them. I Googled “publishers that allow guest blogs” and took a screenshot of the results, which you can see here. 4 of the top 5 results were lists of blogs that accept guest posts, so finding these publishers isn’t hard to do. This is an excellent way to get your name published at a variety of publishers in your niche, which is extremely helpful for establishing your credibility, authority, and expertise; the crucial elements of being able to publish at big, national media publications.

    Your social media numbers have a huge impact on your likelihood of getting consideration from editors at major media publications. Publishers want authors who can promote their own work and drive pageviews to their website, so if you aren’t on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, it’s time to get active on them.

    Post at least once a day to each one, and multiple times a day for Twitter.

    Be sure to promote your published works through your social media accounts, as this shows editors that you will essentially give them free social media promotion if they work with you – that incentive grows as your audience grows, so work on getting more followers, especially on Twitter.

    You can get more followers by following other people, since they’ll often follow you back, and simply engaging other people on these social media platforms so they have a reason to follow you and stay following you.

    Be active and don’t treat your social accounts as a one-way communication channel; engage with people in conversations.

    And of course you can also use paid ads to get more followers if you’ve got a budget.

    Of course, getting more followers on social media is much more complicated than that, so I’ve written a huge article called “101 Ways to Get More Social Media Followers” which you can find on my blog if you want more ideas. You can find it at https://bit.ly/audiencebloomfollowers.

    After completing all the steps in phase 1, you’re ready to move onto phase 2: Getting your foot in the door with major publications. Your first guest post with a major media publication will be the hardest one to get, but after you get it, it will start a snowball effect that will make the rest easier. In fact, with every new publication you land, every new subsequent one will get easier than the previous one.

    The steps for phase 2 include identifying editors at target publications, reaching out, and then accommodating everything.

    Since this discussion is focused on major media publications, I’m going to skip covering how to find publications in your niche, since there aren’t a ton of major, national media publications, and if they fit that category then you probably already know about them.

    So, assuming you already have a list of publishers you want to target, it’s time to figure out who to contact at those publications to become a contributor.

    Start by browsing the publisher’s website to see if they offer a way to pitch an article or make a contribution. If they don’t have any information on how to do so, turn to Twitter or LinkedIn and try to find out who the editors are. From there, you can use a tool to help you find each editor’s email address, which you’ll use to introduce yourself and get your foot in the door.

    Here’s a nice trick that will help you speed up the process of checking to see if a publisher accepts guest posts. You can use the Google “OR” operator along with the “site:” operator in your search query to see if a specific domain has a page about guest posts or on how to become a contributor.

    I’ve got a screenshot of an example search query here so you can see how it’s done. I tried this search query for VentureBeat.com and the first result in Google was Venturebeat.com’s guest submissions page. Clicking that link takes you to a page that provides instructions on how to get in touch with editors at VentureBeat, so that’d be a promising next step to take.

    That trick won’t always work, though. I tested it on HuffingtonPost.com and didn’t get any promising hits. That second result that says “guest post” turned out to just be a tag directory, so it’s useless for our purposes.

    However, the third result does bring up the contact page for The Huffington Post, which includes a subsection that has instructions on how to contact the editors to pitch them a post. That’s a promising lead to try!

    To be honest, though, in my experience it’s really unlikely you’re going to receive a reply if you reach out through a generic contact form. Your best bet is to get in touch directly with an editor at the publication. LinkedIn is my go-to tool for finding editors at various publications. A simple search will often turn up the right person to contact, or at least someone who can point you in the right direction.

    As you can see from the screenshot here, I did a simple search for “venturebeat.com editor” and Harrison Weber was the top result.

    I clicked on his name to see his profile, and boom, here’s his email address, listed right there at the top.

    I hope Harrison doesn’t mind that I haven’t censored his email address here, but I figure that since he has it displayed publicly on his LinkedIn page, he won’t mind. Just do me a favor and don’t reach out to him for at least a few months so he doesn’t hate me if he suddenly gets a hundred emails because of me.

    I have to admit that it’s pretty unusual for editors to make their email addresses so easy to find; I usually have to do some digging to find it. If Harrison’s email address wasn’t listed here, the next thing I would do is try to find him on Twitter. A quick Google search led me to his Twitter profile, which you can see on the right side of the screen here, which includes a link to his personal website. I visited his personal website and his email address is also listed at the bottom of it.

    So if I wanted to reach out and make a pitch to Harrison, I know how to contact him!

    It’s a good idea to repeat this process and try to gather as many editor names and email addresses as you can find at a particular publication, because if one doesn’t respond to you, you can always try another. Just don’t email them all at once – that’s a surefire way to get on their radar as an annoyance rather than an asset.

    Once you’ve got a list of editors and publications you want to reach out to about contributing, it’s time to actually reach out to them. Start with just one publisher at a time, rather than sending emails to all the editors, because with every publisher you get published on, that’ll increase your success rate on each subsequent publication.

    I’ve found email gets a far better response rate than LinkedIn messages, so go with email as your outreach method.

    The process is pretty straightforward, and I’ve got it listed here. You’re going to start by sending your initial outreach email. Assuming you don’t get a response from the editor (which is safe to assume) after 4 days, follow up with another email. Keep persisting with two more follow-ups, a week apart. You can use a browser plugin called Boomerang for Gmail to automatically remind you if you haven’t received a response from someone after a certain number of days, which makes sure you’re able to stay persistent with your follow-ups. Boomerang is actually my #1 favorite marketing tool, so definitely check it out. Persistence really is key with outreach, because it separates you from the hundreds of other people who are reaching out but never bothering to follow up.

    If, after 3 follow-ups, you still haven’t received a response, it’s safe to assume you aren’t going to get a response from that editor. Look at your list of editors and start the process over again with a new editor at that publication until you either get a response from someone, or exhaust all your options at that publisher.

    If you exhaust all your options at a particular publisher, you can either move on to another publication and repeat these steps, or you can try to schmooze with the editors you emailed on Twitter or LinkedIn so they recognize your name in their inbox, which will hopefully lead to them replying to you.

    The email you send to the editor is the most critical component to getting a reply from them. Everything from your subject line to your spelling, grammar, and formatting are going to be scrutinized by the editor, and play an enormous role in whether the editor will reply to you positively (or even at all).

    In the next slide I’ll show you an example template for a cold outreach email, but for now I’ll cover the main elements of importance.

    The subject line should be unique or simple. The body of your email should start by addressing your contact by their first name, not something generic. Then, start by introducing yourself briefly, in no more than one sentence.

    Follow that by explaining why you’re reaching out. Be humble and honest, and don’t try to put a sales spin on anything you say; you’re reaching out because you would like to contribute an article to the site, or perhaps become an occasional contributor to the site.

    Follow that by including some links to your standout pieces, and make sure they are highly relevant to the publication you’re reaching out to.

    End your email with a thank you for their time and consideration.

    Here’s an example of an email I could send to Harrison. Since I’m already a columnist at some big-name publications, I have the benefit of including that in my first sentence. Obviously, you’ll need to replace those publishers with wherever you’ve managed to get published during phase 1.

    I like to use the subject line “Introducing myself” because it’s simple and honest, but you can try other subject lines and see how they work for you. I haven’t really tested subject lines to see which ones have better open rates for these purposes, so feel free to test and see what works.

    I’ll read the email so we can all read along:

    [read email]

    I’ve found that it’s unlikely you’ll receive a response after your first outreach attempt, but you can increase the odds of getting a response by being persistent with your follow-ups. Unfortunately, it’s still unlikely you’re going to get a response (and even less likely you’ll get a positive one), even after all your follow-ups.

    But when you do get a positive response, it’s kind of like the feeling you get when you finally feel a bite, to use a fishing metaphor, and sealing the deal feels a lot like reeling in a big catch.

    A positive reply from an editor will generally be a request for pitches, or ideas, as a starting point. This is the part where you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the publisher’s website, the types of articles they typically publish, and the ones that typically perform the best.

    A tool like Buzzsumo is a great way to find out what articles have performed well for that publisher in the past. This is a screenshot that shows the results in Buzzsumo for when I searched for “Inc.com”. The results show articles published on the site, ranked in order of how many shares they received across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+, combined. Buzzsumo, by the way, is #5 on my list of must-have marketing tools, which again, you can find at bit.ly/audiencebloomtools.

    I can use these search results to propose some article titles and short descriptions for each article idea to the editor.

    After you send in your pitches, the editor will either accept one or more of the pitches, or send you some revisions on your pitches based on what they want or need. They may even ask for something unrelated to the specific niche you started with, depending on how badly they need something written on a particular topic. This most often happens when there’s some hot item in the news that they want covered from every angle possible to maximize pageviews.

    At this point, all you need to do is accommodate everything they ask for, no matter how ridiculous it seems. This is your chance to get your foot in the door; and you’ll have more flexibility and authority once you build a reputation and establish trust with the editor.

    After your first pitch is approved, write the full article, ensuring it complies with any and all guidelines they provided to you, then send it to your editor. There are three common ways editors prefer to receive articles and make revisions on them:

    The first is via direct submission, which is where they give you an author login to the WordPress backend, where you can submit your article draft directly for review. Editors will make changes as they see fit before publishing the article.

    The second is through editorial review, which is where you’ll email in a draft of your work, usually as a Word document, then receive feedback from the editor on any edits or revisions they need, which you can incorporate into your second draft.

    The third is through collaboration, which is where you’ll use Google Docs or a similar collaboration software.

    Of course, even after multiple rounds of editing, it’s still possible to have your article outright rejected. Outright rejection usually only occurs after a first draft is submitted and before the revision process has begun, but I’ve had it happen after multiple rounds of revisions, which is disheartening, but still something to be prepared for.

    Once you make it through the revision process, the editor will usually ask you for a headshot and a short author bio. Make sure you have a professional-looking headshot ready to send in, and craft your bio.

    You can see my standard bio and headshot here.

    A bio typically consists of a sentence about who you are and what you do, and I also recommend including social media links so your readers can follow you.

    After sending in your headshot and bio, it’s usually just a matter of time until the post is published.

    Once you get your first post published, you’re gonna to feel like a total bad-ass. Not only will you get bragging rights about being published in a major media publication, you can leverage that fact in your other marketing efforts.

    For instance, if you look at my company homepage at audiencebloom.com, we’ve got a scrolling banner that shows all the major media publications we’ve appeared in. It’s a fantastic way to prove your legitimacy and credibility, which can be a huge boon for your site-wide conversion rates.

    Including these logos on your contact page can also help improve conversion rates for new leads reaching out to you.

    Also, don’t forget to share and promote your newly published article on your social media accounts and any other appropriate channels you can think of.

    Content without any readers is lonely content. Don’t let your content be lonely.

    I mentioned this earlier, but for a whole bunch of ideas on how to promote your content, you can see my full guide at bit.ly/contentunleashed.

    Phase 3 is all about building on your new relationship with the editor or publication. Getting published once is great, but becoming a regular contributor or columnist at a major publication is even better. The steps for phase 3 include discovering or creating a rhythm, learning from the past, accepting direction, promoting your best work, and growing your audience.

    After your first post is published, reach out to the editor to establish a few things.

    First, your “beat,” or niche within this publisher.

    Second, how to submit ideas in the future. For example, you can ask if the editor prefers to receive pitches for approval first, or if they’re cool with letting you submit full articles for consideration.

    Third, find out how often you should pitch new ideas or submit new articles. Some publishers will allow you to send in as many as you like, and others, such as Inc or Forbes, require a certain minimum amount per month.

    Be sure to set Boomerang reminders whenever you send an email so nothing falls through the cracks. This is super important, because it’s very common for editors to just not respond to your emails until after a few follow-ups. I don’t know why this is, and it’s frustrating, but follow-up reminders will save your sanity here.

    Once you have at least 10 articles published with a certain publisher, you can start analyzing trends. Take a look at your articles and find out what topics get the most views, likes, shares, and comments.

    What post features stand out in your successful content, such as images, length, structure, or takeaways?

    How does your audience respond? You can look at comments on your posts to get a feel for this.

    Buzzsumo is a helpful tool for quickly finding out which posts performed the best in terms of social shares. It’s especially helpful if you want to compare posts across different publishers.

    You can use the “author:” search operator to filter posts only by a specific author, such as yourself, and rank them in order of social shares they received.

    This screenshot here shows my most popular posts over the last year.

    It looks like businessinsider.com and entrepreneur.com are working pretty well for me; all of my top 5 articles in terms of shares come from those 2 publishers. Three of these posts are directed toward millennials, with titles that tell you what to do in your 20s or 30s, so that tells me that much of my audience are probably millennials.

    You and your editor will be a tag-team. Your editor will love you more if your articles perform well, because it’ll make your editor look good. Their job is probably to maximize pageviews, so do what you can to help them achieve their goals, and they’ll help you achieve yours.

    Always accept any direction they give you, and don’t hesitate to ask what you could be doing better or how to improve.

    If you can build relationships with other editors or staff members at the publication, that’ll help solidify your standing as a valuable contributor in the eyes of not just one editor, but the whole team.

    If you have a piece you’re especially proud of, promote it. This’ll earn you more visibility, and will also prove to your publisher that you’re worth keeping around.

    Some ideas for promotion include immediately updating your social networks with every new post, interlinking your posts, which means linking to old posts from newer ones to boost their search rankings and direct readers to them in order to increase their pageviews, and even paid ads to drive short-term traffic to the posts.

    Whenever you publish a new article, there’s a few things you need to be sure to do.

    Fist, announce it to your social media followers.

    Next, watch for new comments so you can reply to them. Reader engagement through comments is a great way to pick up new followers and build brand loyalty.

    On an ongoing basis, keep building up your followers in each of your social channels so you can get new eyeballs on your content, and periodically ask your followers what content they’d like to see, then give it to them.

    As an example of this, in early 2016 I created a one-question survey in Typeform that asked my email newsletter audience what topics they wanted me to cover in-depth so they could learn more about. 540 people responded, and the results of that survey question are shown here.

    Content marketing, social media marketing, and brand building were the top 3 topics voted on, so I created guides for each of those on the AudienceBloom blog. I also used that information to inform the content direction I took with the other various publishers I work with.

    The survey was a fantastic way for me to get a snapshot of what my audience wanted or needed from me in terms of content.

    After you’ve developed a relationship as a consistent contributor with your first major media publication, it’s time to set sail, expand your horizons so to speak, and look for new publishers to repeat the process with.

    With experience at one major media publication under your belt, you’ll see that your success rate increases with the next, and it’s a snowball effect; the more publications you get onboard with, the easier getting onboard with the next will be.

    The only problem at that point will be managing all your relationships, ensuring you have enough time to write all that content while maintaining a high level of quality, and promoting the content. You can outsource certain pieces of this process, such as by hiring a personal editor to proof-read your work, and a social media manager to promote your work after it’s been published.

    Find your perfect balance with all the other responsibilities you have in your business, and you’ll have it made. I can tell you that this is the exact process I used to become a contributor at all the places I write for, and it’s been the single-biggest factor in growing my business. It’s content marketing at its finest, and while it takes consistency, persistence and dedication, it’s well worth it in the end.

    So to wrap up, here are the key takeaways.

    In phase 1, you’ll need to start by defining your niche, creating awesome portfolio pieces, building strategic relationships, then building your social media audience.

    In phase 2, you’ll start by identifying editors at target publications, perfecting your email outreach template, reaching out, and then accommodating all the editor’s requests until you get published.

    In phase 3, you’ll work to establish a posting rhythm, learn what works and what doesn’t from your past pieces, accept the editor’s direction, promote your best work, and nurture and grow your audience over time.

    The three tools we’ve covered in this presentation include Social Warfare, which is the plugin for WordPress that displays social media share counts on your posts, Boomerang for Gmail, which is a plugin for Gmail that automatically reminds you when an email recipient hasn’t responded to your email after a certain number of days, and Buzzsumo, which is a web-based tool that helps you figure out what content is the most popular on a particular publication or by a particular author.

    So that concludes this presentation. Thanks very much for listening, and I’ll now open the floor to Q&A.

    What can we help you with?

  2. Will Google Start Penalizing Bloggers Who Link to Gifted Products?

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    Companies are always looking for legitimate, natural ways to earn more links pointing back to their domains. One backlink from a qualified external source can be a significant boost to your domain authority, helping you rank higher for keywords relevant to your brand, not to mention its potential to send referral traffic your way. As Google cracks down on low-quality and unnatural links, we’ve been left with only a handful of legitimate methods to get the job done.

    One of these reliable methods, sending complimentary or trial products and services, has come under fire recently as Google has made a major change to its stance on the subject.

    The Method

    The method itself is innocent and fairly straightforward. You have a product, or a service, that you want to get more publicity for. You know there are tons of bloggers out there who make a living by reviewing said products and services. As an example, head to any tech site and you’ll see dozens of articles reviewing products:

    review articles on blog

    (Image Source: CNET)

    There’s significant opportunity here. The process goes like this: you make a request to a well-known blogger (the bigger, the better) and offer a complimentary product or a trial of your service in exchange for a write-up on it. Naturally, they’ll post a link pointing back to your domain. The link is important to the review, natural for readers, and valuable for both the blogger and the person receiving the link. Theoretically, it’s a perfect relationship. So what’s the problem?

    Google’s Latest Reaction

    Earlier in March, Google made reference to this practice, identifying it as an opportunity for unnatural links to develop. Google warns that such an exchange is not conducive to a healthy or valuable network of online resources for users, and cautions bloggers to engage in the following best practices:

    • Use nofollow links. Google cautions bloggers to use “nofollow” tags for any link pointing to a company’s website, social media accounts, or apps—pretty much anything that could pass any kind of domain authority. Nofollow tags immediately remove these links from Google’s consideration, rendering them completely ineffective for SEO purposes (despite retaining the value for referral traffic).
    • Disclose the relationship. This one makes more logical sense, and bloggers should have been doing this from the beginning. Whenever a company has given you a product for free or has otherwise compensated you or encouraged you to post a review, it’s a journalistic expectation that you disclose such a relationship. You’ll naturally be more biased in your writing, and users need to know what pre-existing relationships you have before writing.
    • Provide unique, compelling content. This one should be obvious, but Google wants to clarify that any product review should be a piece that’s wholly original (if not exclusive), and actually important to your users. If it’s just a duplication of something 100 other bloggers have published, it won’t be considered a “good” piece of content.

    Are These Links Unnatural?

    Taking a look at the first piece of Google’s advice, we can infer that Google views these product review links as unnatural, much like a stuffed link in a blog comment or forum post. In my opinion, comparing these two links is a little strange. Google’s argument is that the link wouldn’t exist if the company weren’t bribing the product reviewer with a free product; however, this doesn’t seem to hold in cases where reviewers review paid-for products. Imagine a scenario where a tech reviewer was planning on purchasing a new phone to review, but the producer comped the device. Is that link unnatural? Since it would exist in either case, the answer is no.

    Of course, I get what Google is driving at—if a company uses free things as a bribe to get a free link, that link definitely is unnatural. But the line is blurry, and to instantly mandate that all product review links be nofollow links seems a little extreme.

    What Are the Risks?

    As for the second two points of Google’s advice—disclosing your relationship with the company and creating unique, compelling content—you should be doing these, no matter what. They’re easy to accomplish and can only reward you. Don’t worry about the consequences of not doing them, and instead worry about the benefits of actually doing them.

    As for the first point, and my point of contention, it seems unlikely that Google’s algorithm is sophisticated enough to discern when a blogger’s review is the product of a free gift, and then pick out which links are and aren’t tagged with nofollow. Accordingly, I must conclude that it’s highly unlikely that any bloggers will be formally penalized for neglecting these nofollow tags (unless they’re engaging in egregiously spammy behavior). I’m not saying to ignore Google’s advice here, but I don’t think there will be stiff penalties for continuing to pursue and post backlinks in product reviews.

    Even though Google’s warning comes without a significant threat of penalty, it may be wise to heed its advice at this juncture. Remember, even nofollow links are inherently valuable—they’ll earn you referral traffic proportional to your audience size—and brand visibility and reputation are always good areas to improve. In short, even if you’re only getting nofollow links out of the deal, it’s probably still a valuable investment to distribute free samples and trials for the extra visibility—as long as you’re working with the right bloggers.

    Want more information on link building? Head over to our comprehensive guide on link building here: SEO Link Building: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

    What can we help you with?

  3. Q&A From the MarketingProfs University Search Marketing School

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    On Thursday, August 8th, I helped kick-off MarketingProfs University’s Search Marketing School. It was a great session with tons of questions at the end, so I figured I’d answer those questions here. Without further adieu, let’s begin!

    Audience Questions from class one by instructor Jayson DeMers: 

    SEO in 2013 – Current Trends and Future Predictions

    Q: When your website is very similar to your competitors – a generic design with similar use of images and message (words) – how do you decide on changing the design so that it becomes more interactive

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: What’s your best strategy for back links (quality back links that is)?

    A: Guest blogging. I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it at bitly.com/demers-guest-blogging

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

    Q: With regards to responsive websites. there are sites that will take your existing site and turn it into a responsive, mobile-friendly site.  What are your thoughts regarding designing a site with native responsiveness VS. these sites that will convert your existing site into a mobile site?

    A: I have never used a site that converts your existing site into a mobile site, so I can’t really speak to that from a perspective of personal experience. However, from what I’ve heard, they work just fine.

    Q: How is “quality” content determined/measured?

    A: You may find this article I wrote helpful:

    http://www.searchenginejournal.com/7-ways-to-find-what-your-target-audience-wants-and-create-epic-content/63798/

    Basically, in the end, ask yourself if your content provides significant value to your target audience.

    Q: None of our competitors are doing blogs and internally there is resistance to something that sounds “soft”.  We are a highly niche technical B2B.  Suggestions? We are doing guest blogging now.

    A: If none of your competitors are doing it, then that sounds like a ripe opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. I 100% recommend you beginning a blogging strategy.

    Q: When engaging in guest posts (external) what is the best way to ensure your activity externally is linked to your corporate online presence without overtly dropping company name or links?

    A: I don’t see a reason not to include company name (in your author bio) and a link (or multiple links throughout the body of the article). But if you’re trying to avoid that for whatever reason, then you could link it to your corporate online presence by sharing the article from your corporate social media accounts.

    Q: I recently read an article that Google requests no follow on links in press releases and guest blogs.  Is this something that may be penalized in the future?

    A: Yes, this could be penalized in the future. But the vast majority of business owners and webmasters know little or nothing about Google’s algorithms, no-follow, or anything of that sort. Because of that, it’s hard to imagine Google will dish out strict punishments for these sorts of things.

    Q: Will I get penalized by using stock photography VS photos I take in-house?

    A: As of now, no. However, Cutts stated in a recent webmaster video that he’d like to consider rewarding pages that have original images. As such, it’s probably best practice to begin using original images now.

    Q: Is there any recent research on the utilization of hashtags? Not necessarily by brands but by the Twitter “audience.” Are people actually searching based on hash tags or setting up feeds for them?  Or is it true that people are searching more naturally, for words or phrases or users?

    A: I’m not aware of any current research in this area. However, people do search based on hashtags, and many set up feeds for them (though many of those folks are likely to be marketers). But people are searching more naturally as an overall trend, and I expect that trend to continue.

    Q: What is the easiest way to find relevant hash tags for twitter and Facebook … for your particular industry

    A: I haven’t used it, but I’ve heard that hashtags.org is a good place to start. Other than that, I’d probably just do some brainstorming with my colleagues and do some testing.

    Q: How often do you suggest tweeting something? Is there value to multiple times per day?

    A: This depends on your niche/industry and your target audience. In general, tweeting several times a day is considered a good practice. However, in some niches, tweeting 50 times a day is perfectly reasonable. It all depends on how much interaction and engagement your audience is receptive to.

    Q: What about hash tags on Facebook? Seeing any traction there?

    A: I don’t have any experience with this, so I can’t speak to it.

    Q: What tools would Jayson recommend for hearing “social signals”? We used Netbase before but it’s quite pricy. Thanks!

    A: I’ve used Sendible (sendible.com) and I really like it. I think SproutSocial.com also offers the service, but I’m not entirely sure.

    Q: Is it possible for your FB page to be tracked by Google Analytics?  If so, is it possible to link to a GA account that’s already set up for your e-commerce site?

    A: Not to my knowledge (regarding both questions).

    Q: What are your thoughts about news releases and sites like PRNEWS etc..? A benefit or waste of time?

    A: I don’t think they have much inherent SEO value, but I do recommend them to my clients. Here’s an in-depth article I wrote about it:

    http://authoritylabs.com/blog/googles-matt-cutts-says-press-releases-dont-have-seo-value-or-do-they/

    Q: Ads above the fold.  What does Google consider an ad?  Something that’s part of an ad network?  Or something that simply looks like an ad?

    A: I don’t know the specific algorithm, but I’d guess that there are a number of known ad networks that leave a footprint which Google can easily identify. Aside from that, certain triggers like images that are sized like standard display ads may be labeled ads.

    Q: How to we determine “above the fold” given various screen sizes? Will responsive design address that?

    A: Traditionally, the standard monitor size for “above the fold” calculations has been 1024×768, but I found this article (http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/11/move-over-1024×768-the-most-popular-screen-resolution-on-the-web-is-now-1366×768/) which claims otherwise. Nobody knows for sure, but I’d still go with 1024×768 as the baseline for now.

    To be honest, I’m not sure how Google reacts to responsive (mobile) sites with above-the-fold violations. My guess is that they treat it the same way as they’d treat the desktop version.

    Q: He says avoid Meta tags. All of them? Title, description?

    A: I don’t mean you should avoid them entirely – what I mean is that the days when they played a critical role in the algorithm are gone. Title tags and meta descriptions should still be present and unique on every page of your site. But beyond that, spending much time on them is just a waste of time. Meta keyword tags are completely dead and should be avoided entirely.

    Q: Does “publish epic content everywhere” include PR tactics? For instance pitching bylined articles/blogs to target journalists. I assume this would be helpful as well – is it helpful even without links embedded?

    A: Yes, absolutely. And yes, this would be helpful even without links embedded, though I’d do my best to ensure the link is present.

    Q: What about a mobile home page customized with just map, call, email, etc? Then a button to continue to full site.

    A: Google may not like to rank a page highly that has such sparse content – this is a bit risky. However, I haven’t seen any case studies that indicate one way or the other. It’s worth testing!

    Q: Can you point to any research/studies on mobile SEO and the trends Jayson is discussing? The growth rates of voice search, industries, locations of prevalence, etc.? Specifically, B2B

    A: I don’t have any specific studies on-hand, but they’re all over the Web. I’d recommend a Google search and some time perusing the results.

    Q: How SEO rules in Google are different from Baidu, Chinese clone of Google or Russian clone, Yandex?

    A: I have no idea, unfortunately. I really only care about Google 😉

    Q: Does bad media/press that generates inbound links improve your search engine rankings?

    A: There’s no way to know for sure, but my thought is that it does help your rankings. Google surely would love to get to a point where it can reliably understand the context and sentiment surrounding a link, but I doubt they’re sophisticated enough for that yet, and I don’t think they’ll implement anything like that until it works flawlessly.

    Q: Why is Google Authorship important?

    A: Several reasons.
    – Allows authors to claim their content, preventing scrapers from claiming it and taking credit for it
    – Allows users to easily find more content by any single author, helping authors build a following and an audience
    – Helps establish credibility and legitimacy of content
    – It’s the first step toward verifying author identity, which will soon (if not already) be used to calculate Author Rank, which I believe will have a growing score in the algorithm in the coming months and years.
    – Websites that have it set up get higher click-through rates due to authorship markup applied in search results, which looks like a headshot of the author next to the text listing, drawing the eye and attracting clicks.
    – Increased social signals for your content from Google+, which impacts how your content ranks in search engines.

    Q: If my website makes money from ads on the site, could that hurt my rankings?

    A: Possibly. Ads are a spam signal, but only when implemented in a way that detracts from the user experience. One Google algorithm update called “top-heavy” that was released about a year ago specifically targeted sites with too many ads and images above the fold. If you’re going to use ads, make sure you do so in a non-spammy, non-intrusive way.

    Q: How do I know if my website needs to be redesigned?

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: How do I know if my content quality is good enough?

    A: Ask yourself if a major media publication in your industry would publish your content. Be honest. If not, it’s probably not good enough. Ask your colleagues, friends, or employees to read some random samples of your website content and provide feedback.

    Q: How do I find out if I have bad inbound links pointing to my site?

    A: Unless you’re an SEO professional, you’re probably going to need to find a professional to conduct a link audit for you. The purpose of the audit should be to diagnose the health of your inbound link profile and identify any links and/or domains that should be removed or disavowed entirely.

    Q: How do I get started with guest blogging?

    A: I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it here: The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

    Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

    What can we help you with?

  4. Q&A From the MarketingProfs University Search Marketing School

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    On Thursday, August 8th, I helped kick-off MarketingProfs University’s Search Marketing School. It was a great session with tons of questions at the end, so I figured I’d answer those questions here. Without further adieu, let’s begin!

    Audience Questions from class one by instructor Jayson DeMers: 

    SEO in 2013 – Current Trends and Future Predictions

    Q: When your website is very similar to your competitors – a generic design with similar use of images and message (words) – how do you decide on changing the design so that it becomes more interactive

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: What’s your best strategy for back links (quality back links that is)?

    A: Guest blogging. I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it at bitly.com/demers-guest-blogging

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

    Q: With regards to responsive websites. there are sites that will take your existing site and turn it into a responsive, mobile-friendly site.  What are your thoughts regarding designing a site with native responsiveness VS. these sites that will convert your existing site into a mobile site?

    A: I have never used a site that converts your existing site into a mobile site, so I can’t really speak to that from a perspective of personal experience. However, from what I’ve heard, they work just fine.

    Q: How is “quality” content determined/measured?

    A: You may find this article I wrote helpful:

    http://www.searchenginejournal.com/7-ways-to-find-what-your-target-audience-wants-and-create-epic-content/63798/

    Basically, in the end, ask yourself if your content provides significant value to your target audience.

    Q: None of our competitors are doing blogs and internally there is resistance to something that sounds “soft”.  We are a highly niche technical B2B.  Suggestions? We are doing guest blogging now.

    A: If none of your competitors are doing it, then that sounds like a ripe opportunity to set yourself apart from the competition. I 100% recommend you beginning a blogging strategy.

    Q: When engaging in guest posts (external) what is the best way to ensure your activity externally is linked to your corporate online presence without overtly dropping company name or links?

    A: I don’t see a reason not to include company name (in your author bio) and a link (or multiple links throughout the body of the article). But if you’re trying to avoid that for whatever reason, then you could link it to your corporate online presence by sharing the article from your corporate social media accounts.

    Q: I recently read an article that Google requests no follow on links in press releases and guest blogs.  Is this something that may be penalized in the future?

    A: Yes, this could be penalized in the future. But the vast majority of business owners and webmasters know little or nothing about Google’s algorithms, no-follow, or anything of that sort. Because of that, it’s hard to imagine Google will dish out strict punishments for these sorts of things.

    Q: Will I get penalized by using stock photography VS photos I take in-house?

    A: As of now, no. However, Cutts stated in a recent webmaster video that he’d like to consider rewarding pages that have original images. As such, it’s probably best practice to begin using original images now.

    Q: Is there any recent research on the utilization of hashtags? Not necessarily by brands but by the Twitter “audience.” Are people actually searching based on hash tags or setting up feeds for them?  Or is it true that people are searching more naturally, for words or phrases or users?

    A: I’m not aware of any current research in this area. However, people do search based on hashtags, and many set up feeds for them (though many of those folks are likely to be marketers). But people are searching more naturally as an overall trend, and I expect that trend to continue.

    Q: What is the easiest way to find relevant hash tags for twitter and Facebook … for your particular industry

    A: I haven’t used it, but I’ve heard that hashtags.org is a good place to start. Other than that, I’d probably just do some brainstorming with my colleagues and do some testing.

    Q: How often do you suggest tweeting something? Is there value to multiple times per day?

    A: This depends on your niche/industry and your target audience. In general, tweeting several times a day is considered a good practice. However, in some niches, tweeting 50 times a day is perfectly reasonable. It all depends on how much interaction and engagement your audience is receptive to.

    Q: What about hash tags on Facebook? Seeing any traction there?

    A: I don’t have any experience with this, so I can’t speak to it.

    Q: What tools would Jayson recommend for hearing “social signals”? We used Netbase before but it’s quite pricy. Thanks!

    A: I’ve used Sendible (sendible.com) and I really like it. I think SproutSocial.com also offers the service, but I’m not entirely sure.

    Q: Is it possible for your FB page to be tracked by Google Analytics?  If so, is it possible to link to a GA account that’s already set up for your e-commerce site?

    A: Not to my knowledge (regarding both questions).

    Q: What are your thoughts about news releases and sites like PRNEWS etc..? A benefit or waste of time?

    A: I don’t think they have much inherent SEO value, but I do recommend them to my clients. Here’s an in-depth article I wrote about it:

    http://authoritylabs.com/blog/googles-matt-cutts-says-press-releases-dont-have-seo-value-or-do-they/

    Q: Ads above the fold.  What does Google consider an ad?  Something that’s part of an ad network?  Or something that simply looks like an ad?

    A: I don’t know the specific algorithm, but I’d guess that there are a number of known ad networks that leave a footprint which Google can easily identify. Aside from that, certain triggers like images that are sized like standard display ads may be labeled ads.

    Q: How to we determine “above the fold” given various screen sizes? Will responsive design address that?

    A: Traditionally, the standard monitor size for “above the fold” calculations has been 1024×768, but I found this article (http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/11/move-over-1024×768-the-most-popular-screen-resolution-on-the-web-is-now-1366×768/) which claims otherwise. Nobody knows for sure, but I’d still go with 1024×768 as the baseline for now.

    To be honest, I’m not sure how Google reacts to responsive (mobile) sites with above-the-fold violations. My guess is that they treat it the same way as they’d treat the desktop version.

    Q: He says avoid Meta tags. All of them? Title, description?

    A: I don’t mean you should avoid them entirely – what I mean is that the days when they played a critical role in the algorithm are gone. Title tags and meta descriptions should still be present and unique on every page of your site. But beyond that, spending much time on them is just a waste of time. Meta keyword tags are completely dead and should be avoided entirely.

    Q: Does “publish epic content everywhere” include PR tactics? For instance pitching bylined articles/blogs to target journalists. I assume this would be helpful as well – is it helpful even without links embedded?

    A: Yes, absolutely. And yes, this would be helpful even without links embedded, though I’d do my best to ensure the link is present.

    Q: What about a mobile home page customized with just map, call, email, etc? Then a button to continue to full site.

    A: Google may not like to rank a page highly that has such sparse content – this is a bit risky. However, I haven’t seen any case studies that indicate one way or the other. It’s worth testing!

    Q: Can you point to any research/studies on mobile SEO and the trends Jayson is discussing? The growth rates of voice search, industries, locations of prevalence, etc.? Specifically, B2B

    A: I don’t have any specific studies on-hand, but they’re all over the Web. I’d recommend a Google search and some time perusing the results.

    Q: How SEO rules in Google are different from Baidu, Chinese clone of Google or Russian clone, Yandex?

    A: I have no idea, unfortunately. I really only care about Google 😉

    Q: Does bad media/press that generates inbound links improve your search engine rankings?

    A: There’s no way to know for sure, but my thought is that it does help your rankings. Google surely would love to get to a point where it can reliably understand the context and sentiment surrounding a link, but I doubt they’re sophisticated enough for that yet, and I don’t think they’ll implement anything like that until it works flawlessly.

    Q: Why is Google Authorship important?

    A: Several reasons.
    – Allows authors to claim their content, preventing scrapers from claiming it and taking credit for it
    – Allows users to easily find more content by any single author, helping authors build a following and an audience
    – Helps establish credibility and legitimacy of content
    – It’s the first step toward verifying author identity, which will soon (if not already) be used to calculate Author Rank, which I believe will have a growing score in the algorithm in the coming months and years.
    – Websites that have it set up get higher click-through rates due to authorship markup applied in search results, which looks like a headshot of the author next to the text listing, drawing the eye and attracting clicks.
    – Increased social signals for your content from Google+, which impacts how your content ranks in search engines.

    Q: If my website makes money from ads on the site, could that hurt my rankings?

    A: Possibly. Ads are a spam signal, but only when implemented in a way that detracts from the user experience. One Google algorithm update called “top-heavy” that was released about a year ago specifically targeted sites with too many ads and images above the fold. If you’re going to use ads, make sure you do so in a non-spammy, non-intrusive way.

    Q: How do I know if my website needs to be redesigned?

    A: Ask your clients, members, or visitors for website feedback. You can start by asking friends and family, too. See what their complaints or difficulties are and address those. Also, look at your competitors’ websites that are ranking in the top 10 results for your top keyword. What do their websites have or do differently from yours? You can get ideas for improvement from doing a bit of competitive analysis.

    Q: How do I know if my content quality is good enough?

    A: Ask yourself if a major media publication in your industry would publish your content. Be honest. If not, it’s probably not good enough. Ask your colleagues, friends, or employees to read some random samples of your website content and provide feedback.

    Q: How do I find out if I have bad inbound links pointing to my site?

    A: Unless you’re an SEO professional, you’re probably going to need to find a professional to conduct a link audit for you. The purpose of the audit should be to diagnose the health of your inbound link profile and identify any links and/or domains that should be removed or disavowed entirely.

    Q: How do I get started with guest blogging?

    A: I actually wrote a step-by-step guide for business owners looking to get started with guest blogging. You can find it here: The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging.

    In a nutshell, you’re going to go through a process that involves first identifying authority publishers in your space, finding contact information for their editors, then reaching out with a solid pitch for an article. The more articles you publish, the easier it’ll be to get more guest publishing opportunities. Eventually, you can work your way up to becoming a contributor at some of the Web’s top media outlets, where you can really improve visibility, exposure, and grow your business while helping others.

    Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

    What can we help you with?

  5. How Guest Blogging was Affected by Penguin 2.0

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    Guest blogging is one of the most-buzzed about content strategies in the past few years, and even though it still holds weight and has benefit, it’s likely been affected by Penguin 2.0. Because one of the main benefits of guest blogging for many writers is to get a link to their company website, Google’s is cracking down on content that seems disingenuous or of lower quality, and thus will receive lower linking credibility.

    Even though incoming links from other credible websites is always a good thing, it’s time to shift the strategy when it comes to guest blogging. There are few changes that must be made in order to make your guest posts continue to pay off.

    Focus on the Content, Not the Links

    Many have speculated that Google will begin to recognize content that doesn’t hold significant value or exists solely as an excuse to insert links. The Penguin 2.0 update included an emphasis on advertorials, which is content crafted around unreliable or unrelated links that is only posted in exchange for money.

    This means that guest bloggers really need to start stepping up their game. Every piece of guest content needs to be written as if it was a part of your graduate thesis or the featured piece of your own website. Neil Patel of QuickSpout speculates that Google will begin to recognize mentions of a company or its website on other sites, even if that site isn’t directly linking to them. This is known as a citation, and is currently thought to play a major role in helping Google understand the buzz or importance of a particular brand.

    Instead of only accepting guest post opportunities because of the potential links they may generate, he suggests not always linking to your own website in all pieces of your external content. Focusing on the exposure and credibility that regular guest posts can provide can be enough of a benefit to what your company is really looking for: more customers.

    If more customers is the real goal, and more potential customers are seeing your content (even if it doesn’t link to your website), wouldn’t that also increase your chances of more potential customer contacts? By focusing on great content that provides credibility, you are extending your reach, which will give you more opportunities to grow your business.

    Link Placement and Anchor Text

    Link placement and anchor text within content is another potential area of concern for guest bloggers in a post-Penguin 2.0 world. Solitary links in the author bio section of a guest blog post that use bloated keyword anchor text will continue to be de-valued, especially when the anchor text don’t directly relate to the guest post itself or the rest of the content on the site.

    While some guest bloggers will take this to mean that they need to start fitting in all their links inside their submitted guest content, this definitely isn’t the case. With Penguin 2.0, Google is trying to prevent attempts to outsmart their algorithm by fitting in more links to influence rankings. Instead of focusing on self-serving links in your author bio or elsewhere in your content, it’s time to focus on content quality. For those who aren’t willing to so, Google will continue to de-value their content in search engine results.

    Claiming Your Work

    Guest blogging has becoming a booming business for white hat and black hat marketers alike. However, there’s a key difference between white hat guest blogging and black hat guest blogging techniques–  claiming content as the author’s own. This is part of Google’s push on Google Authorship through Google+. By listing places you contribute to and providing you with link sharing opportunities through Google+ posts, Google is urging you to claim your own work.

    Writers who go through the process of setting up authorship are much more likely to be real people, as opposed to spammy software programs that mindlessly distribute content to as many publishers as possible and then see what sticks. Providing a genuine author for all published work will continue to become more crucial when it comes to how Google weighs the integrity of content.

    Promoting Your Work

    Social media

    Another piece of the puzzle when it comes to promoting genuine guest blogging content is social media. It’s important to build up a genuine social media network of real people, especially because it’s easier than ever to buy Twitter Followers or Facebook Likes.

    Penguin 2.0 has initiated the movement toward further valuation of a user’s individual social network and what they share online. As Search Engine Journal postulates, a smaller number of real followers will always outweigh ten times as many fake or bot followers.

    Guest bloggers should always promote all their external posts via all their available social media networks. This further shows proof to Google that you were the creator of the post and it is content you’re standing behind. An online user’s social network is one of their most important assets, so it’s safe to assume that genuine users will share genuine content.

    SEOs and bloggers alike will continue to speculate how the Penguin 2.0 update will affect them in the coming weeks. However, it’s safe to say that Google continues to stand by the fact that informative and unique content will continue to rise to the top, getting more exposure and better rankings. Key signals like authorship, better linking practices, and social media can help your guest posts continue to give you increased online exposure and visibility.

    Social media photo credit: giulia.forsythe via photopin cc

    Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

    What can we help you with?

  6. How to Maximize The Value of Your Guest Blog Posts: Part 2

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    Maximizing your blog posts

    In part 1, I outlined four powerful ways to maximize your blog posts. You can create videos, design infographics, use different facts and anecdotes from the content to create a series of social shares, and compose new content around offshoot topics to provide contextual inbound links and maximize the value of each blog post.

    In part 2, we’ll take a look at five additional ways that a great blog post can be used to generate more clout, conversation, traffic, and ROI.

    1. Guest Posting as an Expert

    Easier said than done, guest posting has become one of the toughest things to do. It’s easy to get in when you approach an emerging blog or low-quality website, but webmasters of high-quality, unique, and highly informative websites are understandably wary of granting new guest blogging requests.

    It’s quite obvious why. They have an established reputation, they value every one of their readers, and they want to push only the best content available.

    When you consistently publish high-quality posts on your blog — ideally peppered with images, infographics, videos, or other media like Slideshare slide decks — you’re building a strong portfolio that can be referenced when you pitch for a guest blogging opportunity. Remember, we talked about guest blogging when we spoke about offshoot topics (item #4 in part 1). This is different.

    The best way to maximize your blog post is by using it to pitch for a guest blogging opportunity. And what’s interesting is that in many cases, you can actually write on the same topic as your original blog post (although you’ll want to approach it from a different angle).

    2. Create Slides / Presentations

    Information that can be provided in chunks goes down well. It’s received easily. Slides and presentations are fine examples of this kind of information delivery. But of course, you’ve got to do them correctly.

    As an example, this very article could be converted into a beautiful slide deck presentation, and I could use it to share on websites that accept slide deck presentations, like Slideshare.

    This wouldn’t require much extra time to do. All the research and content has already been done. I’d simply re-purpose the content into a different format — in this case, slides — and I could then use those as a new form of content to spread the word across additional, new media channels, thereby extending my reach and audience.

    Creating slides from great content that can be cut into chunks is a seriously underrated tactic.

    3. eBooks, Reports, Emails

    Another method of re-purposing content is a surprisingly old one: create eBooks out of existing content. Tie up several blog posts around a particular topic and create a PDF out of it. Or, follow the same principle as in item #2 above (slides / presentations), and create a PDF out of that.

    This strategy can be used not just to lure more people to your website, but also to collect emails and facilitate social sharing. Interestingly, this practice has also been modified of late to create a series of posts and then send them out via email on a steady and regular basis — as weekly or daily lessons.

    Again, as an example, I could create a free nine-part course out of these two articles on maximizing your blog post, and use them as bait to attract potential customers.

    4. Do Interviews

    No matter what topic you might want to address, there are experts out there who’ve been doing it for long time, better, or in an innovative way. If you can catch up with one them and get him or her to do an interview, you’ve got another piece of high-quality content (whether as video, audio, or text) that will be helpful for your readers / target market.

    In the age of interconnectedness, Twitter, and email, there’s really nothing to stop you from reaching out to these experts. You might be surprised by how many of them are more than eager to share valuable information — and not because they want to get their names published. They are genuinely willing to help!

    I did an interview with Neil Patel discussing link building in 2013. Here it is:

    If you can do video interviews, you’ve got a gold mine: you can share the video on blogs, you can transcribe the interview and come up with a blog post, and you can also go on to create slides, short reports, and possibly even clips of edited video that are short (so people are again motivated to look at it).

    5. Generate Conversation / Debate

    This one can be a little challenging.

    Some websites use each new blog post to generate conversations on their forums as soon as it is published. Examples include AppleInsider and MacRumors, which use a comment+forum post system. You can replicate that if you have an active forum or discussion board where people take notice of new posts.

    There are other ways to generate a conversation, though. You have websites like Inbound.org (for inbound marketing-related topics) and HackerNews (which tackles tech-related topics). Almost every niche has a popular discussion board of some sort where the brightest of minds in the field meet up. Share your blog posts here, not just for traffic or links, but for genuine conversations. These can help you refine your blog posts, as well, which may be the most useful and productive effect they can have for you.

    So there you go. One blog post can actually serve as the staple for nearly a month’s worth of activity that creates enormous value around it. Ultimately, you have to keep your readers in mind every time you create something: Is it truly useful for your readers / target market without being repetitive?

    If the answer is yes, you’ve hit the jackpot.

    Want more information on content marketing? Head over to our comprehensive guide on content marketing here: The All-in-One Guide to Planning and Launching a Content Marketing Strategy.

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  7. How to Maximize The Value of Your Guest Blog Posts: Part 1

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    Creating high-quality blog posts — or any content, really — is just as important as making the best possible use of it. “Maximizing” draws a line between hard work and smart work. When you set out to produce great content that will be enormously useful to the readers (your target market), you are going to have to work hard.

    Maximizing guest blog value

     

    It can end there. But if it does, you’re not really squeezing the lemon for every drop of juice. In truth, you’d be leaving a lot on the table. With every genuine, high-quality, unique, and powerful piece of content comes a plethora of tactics you can employ to maximize its effects (ie, drive traffic, conversions, and social buzz).

    But why do that at all? It takes a lot of time to compose content in the first place. Why pile on extra work by trying to maximize the blog post after it’s already been published?

    The answer is simple:

    1)  You are creating more opportunities for content, links, conversions, conversations, and readership (all of which lead to a strengthened brand, greater trust, SEO value, and of course revenue).

    2)  You are reducing the need for “more” blog posts.

    Publishing 20 different blog posts every month is a great goal to aim for, but once you establish such a routine, it can get either exhausting or boring. Every good blog post you produce opens up various avenues for exploration. These take time and effort, but they pay off better than if you spent the same time producing more blog posts.

    So what can you do? Take a look:

    1. Produce a Video

    Videos are gold mines. If you can create simple videos relating to the content you publish, you can improve the quality of your rankings, visibility, virality, and readership. It works on a simple concept: If I show you a 2000-word blog post that scrolls for a long time, then a video associated with this blog post, you’ll probably choose the video.

    Most people don’t want to read and read and read, if they don’t have to. Not every blog post can be converted into a high-grade video, but wherever it’s possible, you should do it. Videos can be as simple as animated text against a good background. The objective is to make a media component out of your blog post so it’s easier for people to get the information quickly and easily.

    Plus, you’re going to attract links from YouTube and other video sites to which you publish your videos. And speaking of keywords, it’s easier to rank videos for certain keywords on Youtube because the competition is much less fierce than on Google.

    2. Create an Infographic

    If there’s data or statistics in the content of your blog post, there’s got to be a way to present it in an infographic. Infographics get shared, retweeted, and repinned, and are excellent drivers of traffic and inbound links.

    Here again, the combination of media (graphics) and easily-readable/digestible chunks of information helps readers to warm up to this style of presentation. So if you can follow up your blog post with a relevant infographic, your chance of hitting the social shares grows stronger.

    3. Slice Up and Share on Social Media

    It’s said that the average time a tweet is visible on a person’s timeline is about two hours. After that, it gets buried under more recent tweets. This is why you find a lot of content producers (and marketers) who share the same content over and over again. Some take it to an extreme, so that it almost becomes spamming other people’s timelines.

    When you have content — such as a blog post — that’s rich and filled with great information, you can pick various details from it to share on social media. For example, this very article you’re reading could be shared in six different ways on the same social channel.

    Each time, I’d pick a particular way of maximizing the blog post (create videos, do interviews, upload bits of content on forums for conversations, etc.) and share it along with the link to this content. It would be the same link but with different angles of sharing it.

    Through this method, I’d be helping people find this article, and prevent my share from getting buried in the overload of a Twitter or Facebook newsfeed. Each method might also appeal to a different set of people.

    This is much better than sharing the same text that goes along with the link on all social channels.

    4. Explore Offshoot Topics

    For almost every blog post that you write, you can propose offshoot topics about which to write more content that is relevant and linkable. Content agencies have used this as a method of coming up with blog post topics, but the trick is to tie things up with natural link-building.

    Suppose you’ve published a post on your blog. You can generate a few offshoot topic ideas around the blog post you just published. After you produce content relating to those topics, you can use them off-site. You can use them to pitch for guest posts on other people’s relevant websites or post them on other web properties you own.

    The trick is to link back to your original blog post contextually. This gains links and also improves click-throughs, because instead of forced or blatant branding, you are creating a contextual backlink that motivates users to check out your original piece.

    High-quality content producers understand the time involved in coming up with blog post ideas and getting them produced and published. You can either choose to rinse and repeat, or you can refine this strategy to the point where the time you spend in coming up with blog post ideas (and subsequently, the content itself) is maximized.

    By creating surrounding content and opportunities like social shares, infographics, and videos (or other media like Slideshare), you can dramatically raise the chances of your content gaining more inbound links, social shares, and readers.

    Ultimately, this will increase the brand value.

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  8. The Ultimate, Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Business by Guest Blogging

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    Many business owners are passionate about their product or service, but assume they lack the expertise in the online marketing sphere to gain visibility and website traffic.  This is a common challenge faced by many of today’s businesses and entrepreneurs.

    But in reality, you don’t need to be an SEO professional or online marketing expert to succeed with your online marketing initiative. In fact, if you have the skills to start a business, you already likely have all the skills necessary to exponentially increase your website traffic while building your brand equity for the future.

    The secret to success in the online marketing world, and the solution for business owners struggling to generate website traffic, is to establish your brand (and yourself) as a credible authority within your niche, and the best tactic for doing so is called guest blogging.

    Guest blogging has become the darling of the SEO industry, but that doesn’t mean that only SEO professionals can do it. In fact, in the competitive world of online marketing, it’s necessary for business owners to do, or risk being burned by the competitors who are.

    This article is meant for business owners who want an easy-to-follow, understandable guide to building their business online through guest blogging.

    Why Guest Blogging, and What are the Alternatives?

    It’s important to note that guest blogging is not the only tactic business owners should pursue. Online marketing is a diverse and rapidly-changing field that currently consists of tactics including (but not limited to):

    • PPC (paid search)
    • Paid ads
    • Social media marketing
    • Search engine optimization (SEO)
    • Content marketing
    • Email marketing

    With the exception of paid search and paid ads, all the other tactics intertwine and affect each other. For instance, a strong social media marketing campaign will positively affect your organic search rankings, improving your SEO. And a strong content marketing campaign will provide fuel for social media marketing and SEO campaigns.

    While paid search and ad campaigns can yield great ROI in the right situations, they usually amount to short-term gains with little or no long-term impact. A good SEO campaign, on the other hand, is like building equity in your business that lasts for the long haul. It’s similar to the difference between buying a house and building equity vs. just paying rent.

    So, why do I so strongly advocate guest blogging? Because a properly-executed guest blogging campaign yields the strongest and safest ROI while simultaneously supporting your SEO, social media, and content marketing efforts. It builds the most valuable, long-term equity in your business, and, most importantly, requires nothing more than a computer and an Internet connection to execute. This means there are no excuses; if you’re reading this, you already have everything necessary to start a guest blogging campaign and grow your business online.

    Don’t have time? Hire staff and assign them some of your duties to take things off your plate. Trust me, this is an initiative you should be making time for.

    The Benefits of Guest Blogging

    There are many benefits of guest blogging:

    • Builds and improves Author Rank (editor’s note 4/29/16: Google Authorship is no longer a thing, but it’s not known if Author Rank still is)
    • Creates links to your website
    • Strengthens awareness of your brand
    • Aligns your brand with industry leaders
    • Builds your personal brand
    • Generates leads and traffic
    • Creates social signals

    Here’s the breakdown on each of the benefits.

    Builds and improves Author Rank: Author Rank is how Google calculates the credibility of the author of a particular page, affecting how well that page ranks in search. Credible, authoritative, trusted authors receive “bonus points” in the rankings for articles they write related to their niches of expertise. I believe Author Rank will grow significantly in importance in the ranking algorithm over the next few years.

    Creates links to your website: Inbound links have the heaviest weight of all the ranking factors in Google and Bing. Inbound links are considered much like “votes” by one website for another. Links from more credible, trusted websites will be treated as more important votes, so it’s best to spend your efforts focusing on getting inbound links from authoritative publishers.

    Strengthens awareness of your brand: Every time you publish an article, you’ll get an accompanying author bio. See the screenshot below, which is my author bio at Search Engine Journal. The more posts I make at Search Engine Journal, the more exposure AudienceBloom gets there, which helps to build the brand image and awareness, driving higher-quality traffic which converts more often, increasing sales.

    Aligns your brand with industry leaders: Aligning your business name and website with brands that Google already ranks at the top in search engines is the best way to become a part of Google’s inner trust circle. This results in higher rankings for your website, driving more traffic, leads, and sales.

    Builds your personal brand: After a while, if you publish enough great content that your readers love, you’ll start to become an authority in your niche. Once you become a niche authority, this opens the doors for many more opportunities, such as:

    • Speaking opportunities at events (for which you can get paid and further build brand recognition)
    • Easier access to guest posting on more, higher-quality publishers in your industry
    • More leads from your target market
    • Higher quality website traffic

    Generates leads and traffic: Give advice or solutions to problems, and you’ll come to be recognized as a trustworthy source for further help, resulting in leads and sales.

    Creates social signals: Social signals include Tweets, Facebook Likes, LinkedIn shares, Google +1’s, and more. Together, social signals represent a quality signal to search engines, because pages that are shared and discussed more often in social media channels are usually higher-quality. They are growing fast in importance as one of Google’s many ranking factors, so it’s important to get lots of social activity associated with your brand in order to stand above the rest in search engine rankings.

    Your Step-by-Step Guide to Guest Blogging

    Step 1: Start by ensuring that your social media profiles are complete and optimized. Be sure to set up your Facebook page, Google+ profile, Twitter account, and LinkedIn profile. Additionally, be sure to include links to your social channels on your website (usually in the upper right corner) and link to your website from your social channels.

    Step 2: Write ten high-quality, in-depth, totally amazing (yes, AMAZING) articles related to your industry, then publish them on your website. I recommend publishing them as blog posts rather than static pages. Writing anything less than amazing articles won’t help you, and may actually hurt you; your goal here is to impress editors of large websites, so show them what sort of value you’re capable of providing.

    Great content has the following elements:

    • Information that’s valuable, interesting, or insightful
    • Proper spelling & grammar
    • Subheaders to segment the article, making it easier to read
    • Text formatting (bold, italics, bullet points, etc.)
    • Images or video embeds

    Additionally, longer content tends to rank better in search results; aim for a minimum of 1,000 words per article you write. For more information about how to optimize an article for SEO, see “10 Steps to SEO-Optimizing Your Blog Articles.”

    Here are 8 ways to get new ideas for articles to write:

    1. Visit Q&A websites like Yahoo Answers, Quora, and Answers.com. Search for your keyword, see what questions people commonly ask, then see if you can answer one or more of them with a new article.
    2. Find other industry blogs and read their articles to see what ideas they’ve come up with. If you can write a different take on a particular topic, go for it!
    3. Think about upcoming events or holidays and how you could tie those into your industry. If Halloween is coming up, perhaps the “Top 5 Ways a Zombie Would Invest in the Stock Market” would be a good article idea for my friend. If the super bowl is just around the corner, then the “Top 10 Craziest Super Bowl Mascots Ever” could be an interesting article that would attract readership.
    4. Think about questions you commonly hear from clients or potential clients. Can you compile them into one article that answers them all?
    5. Analyze industry news.
    6. Write about how you solved a recent problem.
    7. Think about questions you currently have, and figure out the answers to them, then compose an article which outlines your findings.
    8. Create proprietary or original data, then publish an analysis.

    Step 3: Now, it’s time to identify and contact authority publishers in your industry. If you have industry connections, contact them. Peruse your LinkedIn profile for other folks who could help as well.

    If you’re technically savvy, refer to my post “How to Find Guest Blogging Opportunities” which outlines a step-by-step process for quickly identifying publishers in your industry by using a software tool.

    For non-technical folks, start by making a list of keywords for your business or industry. For example, if you’re in the business of selling raw dog food, then your keywords might be “raw dog food,” “natural dog food,” raw food for dogs,” etc. Your goal is to figure out what queries your target market would use to search for the product or service you offer in Google. For a walkthrough on how to figure out what keyword(s) you should focus on, see The Definitive Guide to Using Google’s Keyword Planner Tool for Keyword Research and How to Identify Long-tail Keywords for Your SEO Campaign.

    Next, visit Google and search for your first keyword. Go through each of the top ten pages or so, and keep track of any websites on which you’d love to get exposure. Great choices will include websites that are well-known, get lots of shares and tweets on their articles, have a lot of traffic, and get a lot of user comments.

    Step 4: After you’ve gathered a list of publishers which would make good candidates for outreach, gather their contact information. Usually, it’s easy to find an editor’s email address on the website, but you may need to use a contact form to get in touch with someone. LinkedIn or Twitter are good sources for finding editor’s contact information, too.

    Record the publishers you have contacted in a spreadsheet in order to keep your efforts organized.

    Here’s a sample email template you can use:

    Hi [editor name or website],

    My name is [your name], and I currently write for [website A, website B, website C].

    I’m a business owner and passionate about [your industry]. I’m trying to meet new people, and build a name for myself as a thought leader in the [your industry] community. I would be honored to have the opportunity to contribute to [website]. My goal is establish my name as an expert in the industry while giving positively to the community.

    Would you please let me know if you’d be open to having me write for [website]?

    Samples of my writing:

        • Sample URL 1
        • Sample URL 2
        • Sample URL 3

    Cheers,

    -[Your Name]

    As you send outreach emails, I highly recommend using Boomerang for Gmail, which is a Gmail plugin that will automatically remind you if you don’t receive a response after a certain amount of time. This is a tool I simply can’t recommend highly enough.

    Step 5: As you get responses, agree on acceptable article titles and formats. Then write and send the articles to the editors. Remember to have your Boomerang remind you after a few days if you don’t hear back. You don’t want your articles to go to waste if emails slip through the cracks!

    Step 6: Every time one of your articles gets published, share it via Facebook, Twitter, and any other applicable social channel, then be sure to say “thank you” to the editor. Then, in a spreadsheet, record the URL of the published article. Whenever you write a new article, refer back to this spreadsheet and see if you can link to other articles you’ve written. This will help those articles get more visibility, further building your brand.

    Step 7: Continue identifying and contacting more publishers with article pitches. As you contribute to more websites, you’ll find it even easier to get on board with new ones. As you grow your relationships with certain publishers, you may request or be offered a regular contributor column (ie, one contribution per week).

    Step 8: Keep another spreadsheet that tracks how long it’s been since you last contributed to each publisher. Every time an article goes live, be sure to update that spreadsheet. If it’s been over a month since the last time you contributed to any specific publisher, reach back out with a new offer to write. This will help to grow your relationship with that publisher, opening the doors for more frequent guest blogging.

    Here are some handy Google Doc formulas for tracking how long it’s been since your last post:

    Column A: Publisher Name

    Column B: Last Post – set the date that your last post at this publisher was published

    Column C: Days Since Last Post – =TODAY()-B2

    Is Guest Posting a Sustainable Online Marketing Strategy?

    Absolutely; in fact, it’s exactly what Google and Bing have said they want you to do, according to this article:

    “[Duane Forrester] suggested contacting an authority site in your space to see if they would publish a guest article that you write particularly for them. If the authority site finds your content valuable enough to publish, that’s a completely different situation from article hubs that allow anyone to publish anything.”

    Conclusion

    I hope you’ve enjoyed this guide on building your business through guest blogging. I strongly believe it’s the most valuable tactic business owners can (and should) be using to build a sustainable online business for the long haul, while growing traffic and sales. Did this guide help you? Are you going to give it a try? Leave a comment and tell me your thoughts!

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  9. 5 Ways to Succeed at Guest Blogging

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    Guest blogging is one of the most important developments in online marketing today. With guest blogging, also referred to as guest posting, bloggers receive the chance not only to spread the word about their business, but also to provide value to other bloggers’ audience.

    It may seem that only the elite and veteran bloggers are given this golden opportunity. But don’t let that notion discourage you, because there are ways for even novice bloggers and online marketers to land a guest blogging gig.

    If you are looking for a chance to do guest posting, here are some tips to help you increase the odds of your getting accepted to appear as a guest writer in other people’s blogs.

    Choose the right blog for your intended topic and audience
    Strategy is key to getting accepted by the most appropriate blogs for your area of expertise. As always, quality trumps quantity. The game has shifted from posting on as many blogs as you can handle to posting to the most authoritative and relevant blogs in your field.

    The goal is to find the blog that is most closely related to your own in subject, but has a good pagerank, solid authority, and a respectable number of followers or readers. Go over the blog’s posts to determine its voice; in other words, how the blog owners like the posts that appear on their blog to be written. It’s also helpful to go through each post’s comments to get the feel for the readers’ sentiments.

    Write fresh and creative posts
    Now that you’ve targeted the best location(s) for your guest blogging activities, it’s time to focus on how to attract your target audience. The only sure way to do that is to compose a unique and interesting post. Your existing posts, whether on your own blog or other people’s, may not be sufficient to land a guest post opportunity if those are the samples you show potential host bloggers.

    What really counts is how effectively you can wow your target audience with the post that you propose to publish on another person’s blog. The more unique, timely, and interesting your post, the greater chance you’ll have of getting accepted.

    To determine the relative uniqueness of the topic you propose to write about, go through the blog’s previous posts to find out how much the subject has already been covered. If it hasn’t been covered at all, your chances of getting your post accepted are that much better.

    Quality as top priority
    Nothing grabs people’s attention like a post that is coherent and original. Guest posting is a golden opportunity that, if done right, could land you more lucrative opportunities as you establish yourself as an expert.

    Be sure not to submit content until you have thoroughly edited it. Don’t pass the burden of correcting errors in spelling and grammar to the owner of the blog. Run your draft by a friend or colleague whose judgment you trust. Put in the required amount of effort to make your post as spotless as it can be — chock full of high quality and interesting information.

    Provide accurate information to bloggers
    Prior to approaching bloggers whose site you would like to write for as a guest, prepare your own blog’s stats. This will establish your “street cred,” your legitimacy, for their benefit, if they’re not familiar with your work.

    But when when you do present information about your own blog, be sure you provide accurate information. Honesty will go a long way. Provide accurate stats on traffic, social media followers, and engagement, as well as conversion rate (if applicable).

    Promotion
    After doing your research, writing the post, and preparing your blog’s statistics and other pertinent information, it’s time to go for the kill: promoting your post to other bloggers. Send email to them and let them know your intentions.

    However, don’t send a message about what you want. Send a message about how you can offer value to their blog and to their audience. If you’ve gotten accepted, it’s also your duty to help the blog owner promote his or her site. Be sure to direct traffic to your guest post.

    Conclusion
    Asking to do a guest posting and getting turned down can be a frustrating experience, but getting accepted is such a blast that you will forget your previous failures. Just keep on practicing the tricks of the trade and asking for an opening, and sooner or later you will find success in guest blogging.

    If you need help finding a guest blogging opportunity, let us know and we’ll show you your options.

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  10. How to Find Guest Blogging Opportunities

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    Guest blogging, as an SEO tactic, has long been considered an expensive, time-consuming endeavor. It’s also been considered one of the safest, most “white-hat” methods of link building in the SEO’s arsenal, but over the last several years, has largely been put on the backburner as most SEOs pursued more powerful (albeit, more risky) tactics.

    But with the rollout of Google Penguin, everything changed. Guest blogging services are cropping up everywhere (including here, at AudienceBloom) as the industry begins to realize that guest blogging, as a link building tactic, is one of the few safe havens left after Penguin demolished many of the lower-cost, higher quantity tactics that SEOs came to rely upon over the course of the past several years.

    As the new darling of the SEO industry, the popularity of guest blogging is growing exponentially. But while many SEOs are just now learning about the benefits of guest blogging, many are still in the dark about how, exactly, to do it.

    There are lots of great guides available on the Web that offer nuggets of information about guest blogging, but I haven’t been able to find any that really dig deep into the most difficult part of guest blogging: Actually finding the blogs to guest post on. This guide is meant to provide a thorough, step-by-step walk-through of exactly how to find guest blogging opportunities. And I’m going to show you how to do it by using one of my favorite internet marketing tools: Scrapebox.

    Saddled with an unfortunate reputation for being a tool useful only for propagating blog comment spam, Scrapebox is actually one of the few internet marketing tools I use on a daily basis—and for only ethical, white-hat purposes.

    What You’ll Need:

    • Scrapebox (download it here for a one-time fee of $57. TOTALLY worth it.)
    • Private proxies (Get them from Proxybonanza for a small monthly fee. I recommend going for the “Bonanza” package from the “Exclusive Proxies” section.) Note: That Proxybonanza link is an affiliate link. I’d really appreciate if you’d buy through my link!

    How are We Going to Use Scrapebox to Find Guest Blogging Opportunities?

    Scrapebox will execute multiple search queries simultaneously in Google and Bing, automatically harvest all the results, and allow us to manipulate, augment, and export the data.

    For example, let’s say you want to find good guest blogging opportunities for your website about canine epilepsy. To find other websites that rank well for the term (and similar terms) which might be good targets for a guest blog post, you’d want to examine the top 100 search results for the following search queries:

    • Dog seizures
    • Canine epilepsy
    • Canine seizures
    • Seizures in dogs

    Without Scrapebox, you’d have to perform each of those searches manually (via Google.com), manually click through each of the top 10 pages, and copy/paste each URL into a spreadsheet for future follow-up. This process would easily take you at least an hour.

    With Scrapebox, you supply the search queries, and it will perform the searches, collect the URLs of the top 100 results, and supply them to you in an Excel spreadsheet. Additionally, you can use Scrapebox to automatically find the PageRank of the domain of each search result, allowing you to filter out low-PR domains without having to manually visit them. Scrapebox also offers myriad other filtering options, such as the ability to ignore results from domains that would never accept a guest blog post, such as facebook.com, amazon.com, etc. All of the above processes can easily be completed in under 60 seconds.

    Ready to take your link prospecting capabilities to a whole new level? Let’s get started.

    Step 1: Load your proxies into Scrapebox

    After obtaining your proxies, load them into a .txt file on your desktop in the following format:

    IP:port:username:password
    IP:port:username:password
    IP:port:username:password

    Here’s an example:

    123.456.789.012:01234:jayson:awesomepassword
    123.478.759.032:01234:jayson:awesomepassword
    123.446.899.012:05274:jayson:awesomepassword
    129.486.749.012:01234:jayson:awesomepassword
    176.495.989.016:01637:jayson:awesomepassword

     

    In Scrapebox, click “Load” under the “Select Engines & Proxies” area. Select the text file containing your proxies. Scrapebox should load them immediately, and look something like this:

    proxies

     

    Click “Manage” and then “Test Proxies” to test your proxies and ensure Scrapebox can successfully activate and use them.

    test proxies

     

    Be sure that “Google” and “Use Proxies” are both checked.

    Step 2: Choose a keyword that best represents your niche or vertical

    For example, let’s say I’m trying to find guest blogging opportunities for my website about canine epilepsy. I would select “dogs” as my keyword. I could go for a more targeted approach and try “canine epilepsy” or “dog seizures” as my keyword, but I’m likely to find much less (albeit more targeted) prospects.

    Step 3: Define your search queries.

    Copy and paste the following search queries into a .txt document on your desktop, and replace each instance of [keyword] with your chosen keyword from Step 2.

    Note: The following is my personal list of search queries that I use to identify guest blogging opportunities. Google limits queries to 32 words, which is why these are broken down into many chunks rather than one long query. Enjoy!

    “submit blog post” OR “add blog post” OR “submit an article” OR “suggest a guest post” OR “send a guest post” “[keyword]”

    “guest bloggers wanted” OR “contribute to our site” OR “become a contributor” OR “become * guest writer” “[keyword]”

    “guest blogger” OR “blog for us” OR “write for us” OR “submit guest post” OR “submit a guest post” “[keyword]”

    “become a guest blogger” OR “become a guest writer” OR “become guest writer” OR “become a contributor” “[keyword]”

    “submit a guest post” OR “submit post” OR “write for us” OR “become an author” OR “guest column” OR “guest post” “[keyword]”

    inurl:”submit” OR inurl:”write” OR inurl:”guest” OR inurl:”blog” OR inurl:”suggest” OR inurl:”contribute” “[keyword]”

    inurl:”contributor” OR inurl:”writer” OR inurl:”become” OR inurl:”author” OR inurl:”post” “[keyword]”

    site:twitter.com [keyword] “guest post” OR “guest blog” OR “guest author”

    Step 4: Load Search Queries into Scrapebox.

    In the “Harvester” section in Scrapebox, click “Import,” then “Import from file.” Select the file containing the search queries that you just created in Step 3. Scrapebox should then populate with the search queries, looking something like this:

    queries

    Step 5: Update your blacklist.

    Scrapebox has a “blacklist” which allows you to automatically filter out undesired search results. For example, I know that Facebook.com and Amazon.com will never accept a guest blog post, so I don’t want results from those domains appearing in my list.

    To edit your blacklist, click “Black List” from the top navigation, then click “Edit local black list.”

    edit blacklist

    After you start using Scrapebox and receiving output lists, you’ll begin to notice undesirable domains that often appear in search results. As you notice these, add them to your local blacklist so they never appear again. Here are a few good sites to add to begin with:

    Amazon.com
    Facebook.com
    Tumblr.com
    Linkedin.com
    Yahoo.com
    Squidoo.com
    Hubpages.com

    Step 6: Set Search Depth in Scrapebox

    Next, define how many search results Scrapebox should harvest for each query. You can do this in the “Select Engines & Proxies” area, in the text field next to “Results.” I generally set it to 200 or 300.

    search depth

     

     

    Step 7: Start Harvesting

    We’re now ready to start harvesting search results for our queries. Click “Start Harvesting” in the “URL’s Harvested” section.

    start harvesting

     

     

    harvester in action

    Harvester in action

     

     

    Finished harvesting

    Finished harvesting

     

    Step 8: Filter results by PageRank

     

    You should now have a list of websites that Scrapebox harvested, which looks something like this:

    Results

    The next step is to filter these results by PageRank, since we don’t want to waste our time reaching out to websites with a low PR. Scrapebox makes this super easy. Click “Check PageRank” then select “Get Domain PageRank.”

    Check PageRank

    pagerank complete

    Next, click “Import/Export URL’s & PR.” Click “Export as Excel” and export the file to your desktop. Open the file on your desktop and re-save it if need be (sometimes the file is corrupt, but by re-saving it and deleting the older version, you can easily solve this).

    Column A should contain a list of all the harvested URLs. Column B will contain the PageRank of each domain. Add column headers to column A (URL) and column B (PR).

    Next, sort column B by PR, in order of largest to smallest. To do this, highlight column B by clicking on the column header, then click “Sort & Filter” in the “Home” tab in Excel. Then, click “Sort A to Z.”

    Sort

    You’ll see a popup box asking if you’d like to expand the selection. Do so, and click “sort.”

    Expand selection

    Remove all the rows with a PR of 2 or lower. We only want to target PR 3 and above.

    Step 9: Manually Filter & Qualify the Remaining Websites.

    You should now have a list of hundreds or thousands of potential candidates for guest blog post outreach. Add two more columns to your spreadsheet:

    • Follow up?
    • Contact information

    Use the “Follow up?” column to note whether the website would make a good candidate for guest blog post outreach. If so, use the “Contact information” column to note the webmaster or author’s email address, or the URL where the contact form can be found.

    While reviewing each website, ask yourself the following questions to determine whether it’s worthy of outreach for a guest blog post:

    1. Is the website designed well?
    2. Does it have a social following? Are they active in social media? Do they have social media icons on their website? Do they have a Facebook fan count on their website?
    3. Do the other posts on the website look well-written and informative, or is this website full of spam or scraped content?

    Use your best judgment to decide whether the website is worthy of follow-up.

    You’ll also notice lots of results from Twitter (if you used my queries supplied above). Visit each tweet and try to figure out whether the author has a blog and accepts guest posts. If so, follow that author on Twitter, and then reach out politely to ask them about doing guest blogging for their website.

    Step 10: Finalize Your List for Follow-Up.

    After you’ve finished manually reviewing each website and deciding whether it’s worthy of asking for a guest blogging opportunity, save your Excel file and begin your outreach to the authors & webmasters.

    Scrapebox has several very useful “Addons” which you can access from the “Addons” menu. For link prospecting, I recommend installing the “WhoIs Scraper.” This handy tool will automatically crawl your list of links and perform a “WhoIs” lookup to tell you the following information about each domain:

    • Registration Date
    • Registration Expiration Date
    • Registered owner’s name
    • Registered owner’s email address

    You can use the name and email address information to aid in finding contact information for each of your prospects.

     WhoIs Scraper

     

    Establish and grow your relationships with each one, and you’ll be scoring guest blog posts in record time! So, are you going to try it? Leave a comment and tell us whether or not this method has saved you tons of time!

    Want more information on link building? Head over to our comprehensive guide on link building here: SEO Link Building: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

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