Did We Really Need Matt Cutts To Tell Us Crappy Guest Posts Are Bad?

A blog post this week from Matt Cutts stating that guest blogging was dead had the SEO industry up in arms. His previous couple of posts had gained between 14-30 comments; this one received 401 comments at the time of writing. This surge of interaction with the post led to Matt Cutts making a seemingly small amendment to his post title to make it specific to SEO.

This blog post has sparked quite the debate here at Inbound but all agree with the fundamental message Matt Cutts is spreading; crappy guest posts for the sole purpose of link building are not only a waste of the writer’s time, but they are also a dangerous waste of the client’s budget. We all knew this though right? If this has come as a shock to you, you’re in the wrong industry my friend. However, whilst articles for link building alone have been given the official axe by Mr. Cutts there are so many other benefits, if you do it right.

In this post, I want to take you through a couple of methods and goals when it comes to guest posting, and more broadly, content marketing here at Inbound. I’ll be expanding on the process of having another website involved in the marketing efforts of a brand. As my client base is largely female-centric brands, I’m going to draw upon my experience in this market for the purposes of the article.

Method – Reviews For and From the Target Audience

Where appropriate, my clients will set aside a number of items that can be sent out to bloggers to review on the site. Once we have the products in place that we are able to gift, I’ll begin to research the bloggers relevant to their market and will conduct little audits of their blog to determine which bloggers have the most potential value.

It’s here I must stress, I couldn’t give two hoots about the domain authority of their site. What I’m looking for is a passionate blogger that writes beautifully and genuinely influences their following. To ascertain this I’ll head to their social accounts and comments sections to get a feel for how their audience interacts with what they are saying. I’ll take design into consideration also, this is predominantly because I feel it showcases how committed they are to their own blog and their audience through providing a great user experience.

I’ll then approach them and offer the product. I don’t set out rules or regulations on specific anchor text or pages they need to link to, in fact I won’t even mention links. Why? Because if all I care about is the link then I’m not contacting them for the right reasons.

Goals

Ultimately, I’m seeking positive reviews for my client’s product that increases brand awareness in a community already connected with their market. If a link comes along with this then that’s a bonus.

My Key Takeaways for Reviews

1) If the product receives a negative review this is still hugely valuable to the client. . Ultimately if you’ve chosen the right blogger, their primary concern will be to entertain and educate their following and not to please you. Word of mouth is a powerful thing and if the product is not satisfying the demographic, fundamentally something needs to change at the centre of that brand.

2) When auditing blogs to establish a connection, I’ll ask myself the following question; “Would I be happy to receive a citation from this blog” – if the answer is yes then it’s a blogger worth pursuing.

Method – Feature Articles and Press Releases

I’m incredibly lucky to have a client base where I have a genuine passion and understanding for the market. I know the audience because I am the audience, I’ll spend my spare time consuming the same content as the rest of the target demographic and this gives me a great advantage when writing for my clients.

I’ll take a hairdressers I work with as an example. I recently wrote a feature article where I spoke about my bid to shake off my frumpy style in 2014. Nothing in the post was fabricated and I was able to write honestly about the hairdressers because they are my chosen salon and I decided that as part of my “revamp” I would go for a shorter haircut. I went to my client for the haircut and thus they were included in the article in a very natural and truthful way.

We’ve seen fantastic results from press releases, some come with a link back to our client and some don’t. The link is the cherry on the top when it comes to PR; we never expect it and we never tell the client to expect it. A recent example of this was two citations in Hello Magazine online for a client. The press release concept was put together from the client themselves which added a huge amount of value to the piece; a genuine industry professional giving their expert opinion on a news story that impacted their market. The result was national exposure for their growing brand. They were elated with the citations alone.

Goals

Brand awareness and trust in the people behind the brand. Wholly and completely.

My Key Takeaways for Features and Press

1) Press Releases are at their most beneficial when the client is actively involved in the concept. The client needs to buy into any concept you are putting forward and be more than happy to put their name to the finished piece because it has the personality and opinion of the brand running through it as a consequence of their involvement.

2) A feature article should come off the back of a desire to be featured on a specific site. The days of the blanket pitch are over. Make your connection with the site and discuss your ideas with them before writing.

3) If you’ve pitched your idea, written the content and the connection has faltered resulting in the article not getting published, never leave it languishing in a file on your desktop. If you’ve poured your heart and soul into the piece (which of course, you have) then you should make sure it’s out there for others to read by uploading it as a blog post (or series depending on length) on the client’s own site. If written for the right reasons, the objective of the article is for others to have the opportunity to read it and therefore your goal has been met.

Reaching a wider proportion of your client’s demographic through insightful, passionate writing on another relevant site will always have abundant benefits. Writing shoddy nonsense with a link bunged in somewhere along the line is more than useless, it’s also damaging. Now I would be lying if I said I have no interest in links because of course we do. Next time, I’ll be discussing my current strategy for link building and my ultimate goals when it comes to achieving links for my clients.