Reverse your guest blogging strategy

Rusty

Guest blogging as a marketing strategy has been relatively simple up until this point. You write for other blogs, send them your post (which invariably contains one or more links to your website), and if they publish it, you get credit from search engines for an additional link to your website.

The purpose of guest blogging is to generate links. Links create authority which signals Google that your site is worthwhile. Earning Google’s favor means better performance in unpaid search, which in turn means more traffic to your website.

Just about a year ago, Matt Cutts, the webspam emeritus at Google, made the following statement:

“Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.”

The real goal of guest blogging isn’t more links. It isn’t better search engine performance. The real goal of guest blogging is increased traffic to your website, achieved through multiple intermediate steps.

Here’s something to consider. What if, instead of pursuing lots of intermediary steps, you went straight for the final goal of increased traffic? How would your marketing strategy change?

Chances are the few blogs you chose to write for would be highly targeted. They’d be sites that have the audience you want, and the site would be willing to give you relatively free rein to submit content that generates clickthroughs to your site. You’d be behaving as though Google didn’t exist, which is aligned well with Google’s web quality guidelines.

Extend this concept even further. What if you reversed the process of guest blogging? What if, instead of you submitting content on other peoples’ sites, you aimed instead to invite them to your site? You’d reverse the process of placing content other places and instead opened your doors to others. At first glance, this might seem to be self-defeating. It’s not; in fact, it’s an incredible way to build links in a more reliable fashion. Why? If you choose your guest bloggers well, they will bring their own audiences and direct attention to the content they created on your site. Paradoxically, by giving up space and audience on your website to someone else, they can bring you even more audience, not to mention lots of new links.

For example, a few years ago, I invited 11 friends to blog here while I was on an extended leave of absence. Each of those 11 blog posts drove tons of new visitors at the time, and each has dozens of links to them from external sources that continue to feed my website’s SEO value to this day. Was that more impactful than me just getting one link from an external website? You bet.

Here’s the catch: to make this work, you must give more than you get. Promote your guest bloggers’ posts on your blog as rigorously, if not more so, as your own. Shine the spotlight on them. Give them clear, equity-passing links in their posts. Only when you give more than you get will you reap the long term rewards. You can’t approach reverse guest blogging from a scarcity mindset.

Rethink your guest blogging approach. Does it make more sense now to pursue the end goal directly – traffic – than through a series of indirect steps with the hopes of obtaining favor from an algorithm? I’d argue yes.

And if you missed the excellent series, here are the posts:

Other posts in the series:



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You can’t sell airplanes in AdWords

How much risk does your product or service entail?

Some products have low risk to them. A consumer can try a different flavor of gum at low risk. A B2B vendor can order a new kind of thumb drive at low risk.

Other products are riskier. Signing a new marketing agency can be risky, especially if they demand an unbreakable annual contract. Buying a new CRM is risky. Selecting a college is risky.

As risk increases, our willingness to take a leap of faith diminishes. Our buyer’s remorse for a new brand of soda lasts only as long as it takes for us to spit it out and throw it away. We’re comfortable making that leap. Our buyer’s remorse for a house, a car, or a college can last our entire lives, so making that leap requires much more trust.

If our willingness to take a leap of faith declines as risk increases, why do we ask people to take big leaps in our marketing?

For example, I’ve seen AdWords ads trying to convince people to buy a new SaaS-based service right in the ad. Click here and buy now, only $1499 a month! I’ve seen auto dealers run banner ads with eCommerce hooks in them. These are risky transactions!

The higher the risk, the higher you need to aim in the funnel to get any kind of conversion. Got a new pack of gum? You can ask for the sale inside an email or with a media placement. Got a new college? You can’t even ask for a lead. You’ve got to start by building awareness and trust.

You’re not going to sell an airplane in AdWords.

Take a careful look at the advertising and marketing you’re doing and place yourself in your buyer’s shoes. How much risk are you asking them to take? If you don’t know, assume that the leap of faith is greater than you believe it is. The reality is that as marketers, we have great difficulty thinking like our audience. To mitigate that, we’ll need to experiment by marketing higher up in the funnel.

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If you’re currently running transactional campaigns, experiment with lead or list generation campaigns. If you’re running lead generation campaigns, try branding campaigns. If you’re currently running branding campaigns, try awareness campaigns.

Measure with care! You may find that the higher-level campaign performs much better than your existing campaigns. That might mean that your product or service is riskier to your buyers than you believe it is.

Risk, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. We can’t tell our buyers that we’re less risky than their current choices. We can only market to them in the way they’re most receptive to our message.


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The Devil You Know Metric

Satan

There’s a phenomenon in the field of marketing analytics that is vitally important for you to understand because it showcases why people make the choices they do about metrics. I’ve no doubt you’ve read stories of people using or misusing a particular metric in ways that would seem almost comical if they weren’t so sad.

For example, a friend recently said that their mostly-clueless CEO read about social media influence scores while on a trip. (This is what we jokingly call airplane magazine syndrome in marketing) When he came back to the office, he made the bold, clueless declaration that his marketing staff was incompetent because very few of them had influence scores higher than 40, which was apparently the recommendation in the magazine he was reading while traveling. He then went on to make the proclamation that the company should fire any employee who didn’t have an influence score above 40.

I didn’t point out the irony that the CEO’s influence score was in the single digits.

While funny (at least if you didn’t work for this guy), this story highlights what I call the Devil You Know Metric. In the absence of other, better metrics, people will choose to focus on and rely upon the metrics that they do know and understand, even if the metrics are completely irrelevant and misleading.

We’ve seen this happen time and time again in the digital marketing field. For those who were around in the early days of search engine optimization, there was an almost fanatical devotion to Google’s PageRank metric, which assigned a logarithmic score of your website’s relative importance from 0 to 10. Companies, empires, and fortunes were made and lost with PageRank, marketers would base advertisement rate cards on it (“get links on PR6 web sites!”), and a marketer’s credibility hinged on whether his websites scored well or not.

Fast forward to today, when we have things like Klout scores, Twitter scores, Kred scores, PeerIndex scores, Facebook Talking About This, you name it. This time it’s called social media marketing instead of search engine optimization. These Devil You Know Metrics are still rooted in the same lack of understanding and over-reliance on too-simple answers, rather than digging into what’s really valuable.

Beware of this trap! If you can’t connect a metric to an end business objective in a reasonably logical fashion, then remove it from your portfolio and don’t depend on it. If you don’t understand what the ingredients are that make up a metric, don’t rely on it!

Understand what you’re measuring, and embrace the wisdom of my friend Tom Webster: bad data is worse than no data. With no data, you’ll be cautious and observant. With bad data, you’ll recklessly charge over a cliff, thinking you’re going the right way. Avoid the Devil You Know Metrics, and do the work to find what metrics really matter to you.


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