How to Get Maximum Link ROI with Guest Posting
Guest post by Ken Lyons of Measured SEM.
In my last post, I talked about how you can use Ontolo for finding some sick guest posting prospects. In this post, I'm going to go over some ways to evaluate and qualify those guest posting prospects to find sites that are worth publishing content on.
Now, just because a site accepts article submissions doesn't mean you should post there. When qualifying a guest posting prospect, my priorities are:
- Links: If you hadn't heard, inbound links are pretty important. More, quality links help you rank higher and climb the TrustRank ladder.
- Traffic: Is the site well-trafficked? Nothing lights up a client's eyes like a nice spike in referred visits.
- Brand Awareness: It's a hard metric to measure accurately (a rise in branded queries is one signal), but a well-placed post can be a big brand boost for your client.
I put links first on the list because that's where I place the most value. I mean, let's get real: guest posting IS trading content for links. Generating traffic from a post and getting it in front of as many eyes as possible are important components of guest posting too, but for me it's all about the links.
So for the purposes of this post, I'm going to talk about some ways to qualify guest posting prospects to make sure you're maximizing your link building potential.
Evaluating the Link Potential of a Blog Prospect
When qualifying guest posting opportunities, I highly recommend you visit the site of each blog prospect. If you're simply compiling huge spreadsheets prospects and never actually visiting the website, you're doing yourself a disservice because you're unable to effectively evaluate and gauge its link potential.
So when appraising a guest posting prospect, I like to look at a basket of link data points which include:
1) Do they link? Okay, let's start with the basics. If they don't link, then what's the point? Many sites accept guest submissions and don't link because it's part of some lame "editorial policy," which often means that they've hired a dopey and misguided in-house SEO who's worried that if they link out they'll "lose all their link equity!!"
2) Do they nofollow links? Careful here. Make sure you have your nofollow detector on when evaluating these sites because more and more sites are slapping a nofollow tag on author bio links. And I'm not talking about scraper sites or article directories here either. I'm talking legit publishers.
NOTE: The Ontolo tool filters out nofollow sites for you and allows you to search prospects by "followed links," which is real time-saver.
3) Do they permit anchor text? There are plenty of blogs that will ONLY allow a hyperlinked URL. In my experience, the more authority a Web publication has the stingier they are with links. Often times, the "no anchor text" policy only becomes evident after your guest post runs. So make sure you inspect author bios to see what you can and can't do with links.
4) How liberal are they with links? So the standard policy for most guest posts is giving one to two links in the author bio. I've found sites that allow three or four or even five links in the bio (spammy-looking, perhaps...but I'm not concerned with aesthetics when I'm building links). On rare occasions, some sites even allow links to your site or blog within the post (so long as they're relevant), which is like winning the link lottery.
Now if a published DOES permit links within the body content of post, but DOES NOT permit links to your site in the content, there are a couple of sneaky ways to get around this:
- Sorta' sneaky: Link to posts or guest posts you've already written and published on other sites that link back to your target site
- Super-duper sneaky: Create a shell site (or use an existing Web property you own other than the site you're linking to in the author bio), throw up a piece of relevant content on it, link to that shell content from the guest post then link to your target site from the shell site...oh, kinda like this.
Sure, these are indirect links to your target site, but, hey...indirect links are better than no links.
5) Are older, archived posts still indexed? So your links aren't going to pass much "SEO value" if the archived pages disappear from Google's index. To uncover any indexation issues, run some queries on a handful of the older, paginated guest posts? Do the URLs still display in the index? If not, think twice about dropping a guest post on the site.
What's Next? Score Your Prospects
When evaluating the link potential of guest posting prospects, I would highly recommend keeping notes in your guest posting spreadsheet and scoring prospects on a scale of 1 to 3 or 1 to 5, based on their link potential. Scoring sites is really helpful when you need to prioritize your efforts. For example, if you're on a limited budget, you'll want to target sites that score higher than others.
Ken Lyons is the co-founder of Measured SEM, a search marketing agency in Boston, that provides a range of SEO consulting services, including link building, strategic guest posting and content marketing, and conversion rate optimization.