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:

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Marketing analytics tools for non-marketing uses

There’s obvious professional benefit to mastering your marketing analytics tools, from data visualization to complex statistics. You can improve your marketing programs, grow your business, and make more money. However, often we just do the same rote things in our marketing analytics. What can we do to improve our skills? How can we get better at making our analytics tools work for us?

What if we measured something else?

One of the most powerful trends right now in data collection is around the quantified self movement. This is where you track lots of different data points. I own, for example, a Basis wristwatch that tracks things like steps, heart rate, calories, etc. The watch itself comes with a halfway decent web reporting system that gives you broad information about how you’re doing. This is akin to many marketing analytics packages giving you pre-defined reports and visualizations. It’s a good place to start, but like most marketing, what if you want to dig in?

Fortunately, as with any good marketing analytics software, fitness tracking software can let you export your data. Using a free, open-source package from GitHub written by Bob Troia (aka Quantified Bob), you can export minute-by-minute information about your life from your device. Certainly, you can’t process that amount of information as a normal human and glean any insight. What you can do, however, is feed it all into your marketing analytics tools, from simple Excel spreadsheets to Big Data tools like Hadoop, MapReduce, and Watson.

For example, here’s a simple visualization of calories burned versus heart rate (top chart), steps taken (middle chart), and air temperature (bottom chart):

Tableau_-_Book2

You don’t have to be a data scientist to figure out what you’re looking at. There’s an almost perfect correlation between steps taken and calories burned, which makes base logical sense. The more you move, the more energy you use, the more calories you burn.

Here’s a more complex example, asking IBM’s Watson what influences calories burned.

Watson_Analytics

Watson obviously picked out that steps matter most, the first part of the decision tree. It then picks out heart rate as the second factor that influences calories burned. What’s interesting is how the tree splits off there. For standard “office life”, where my heart rate is between 73 and 81, skin temperature matters. Being warmer is slightly better. For exercise periods, air temperature matters, and there, colder seems to be slightly better.

Are these causal? As with all correlations, the answer is not necessarily. Causality and correlation dine at separate tables, but now we have enough data to begin experimentation. Maybe the next time I work out, I drop the air temperature even lower than it normally is.

We can do other kinds of experiments as well. If I visualize steps to heart rate as a moving average, then look at a typical day, I can see that just getting up and walking around more brings up the calories burned. Even relatively few steps keeps the engine running, so an experiment would be to try to walk around much more frequently. Instead of once or twice an hour, get up and walk around every 10-15 minutes.

What’s wonderful about using marketing analytics tools for non-marketing uses is that it gives you the freedom to explore and learn your tools in a different context. You have much more control over your fitness and activity than you do the open rate of an email campaign. You can choose to get up from your desk much more easily than you can choose to create content to be retweeted. Thus, for learning how to spot potential causality and designing experiments to establish or disprove causality, fitness is one of the many areas you can practice with your marketing tools. Then, when you go back to marketing, you’ll have an entirely new perspective and lots more experience with your tools.

Give this a try – and remember, it doesn’t have to be fitness related. You can use any data set that’s in good condition, and chances are you or your employer have all the tools you need. You could put in your income and expenses, then use your marketing analytics tools to spot patterns in order to save money. You could put in sleep tracking and see what impact a good night’s sleep has. You could track growing conditions in your garden to see if you can manipulate environmental variables like soil pH and water to get a better garden. The only limitation is your imagination.


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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.

Slide1

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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