I’ve often been asked about guest posting for SEO purposes. I always said that it was less than ideal, but when at an agency I couldn’t really say that it shouldn’t be done.
After being in-house for a year and a half now, I’m putting my stake in the ground.
I do not think that enterprises should be guest posting for SEO purposes.
Before we get going, allow me to draw a distinction between “amplification”, which is spreading the word about content you’ve produced or something you’ve launched, sometimes via guest contribution, and “guest posting ” as most SEO’s think of it, where you write content specifically for a site for the purposes of a link that hopefully will pass some link equity.
Here is why I think “guest posting for SEO” for enterprises is a waste of time and better-used resources.
Enterprises have an audience already
An enterprise company isn’t an enterprise without an audience and revenue, full stop. It depends on the business model and the needed audience is commensurate to your margins and expectations, such as from investors or the public markets, but the point is that an audience already exists.
An enterprise is rarely concerned with following the advice of many marketing “experts” to make influencers feel special, because enterprises are busy getting to scale and then increasing that scale ever faster. If you’re truly solving a problem, then many of your customers will become your advocates anyways. Once you get to a certain scale, then influencer marketing through guest posting or otherwise is ineffective anyways.
Enterprises have resources others don’t
Enterprises have many different departments or capabilities – Marketing, product, sales, analytics, etc. Each of these areas fills a very important role in their own right, yet together they can do so much more than they can do themselves.
Because enterprises have access to resources that others don’t (and btw you should read this article about why some founders stay at enterprises after their startup is acquired), the potential to have the whole be more than the sum of its parts is enormous if you can only get the parts working together effectively.
The best marketing is a great product.
This is something my old boss used to say all the time. What she meant by this is, I think, a couple things. First, if you don’t build a product or create a service that resonates with people that they want to spread to their friends (such as Zillow’s Zestimate), your product won’t grow like it otherwise could.
Second, without a great product your marketing team is flying blind. PR exists to amplify what is already happening at a company. You can’t produce great coverage and audience (notice I’m not mentioning links for SEO here) without doing interesting things on the product side that inform the content you are producing.
You won’t build a massive audience through guest posting
If you’re a small company in a niche, you can build the beginnings of an audience through guest posts on hyper-relevant blogs. If you are an individual who is starting to build their presence online, there is no better way to start building your audience than a) doing cool things, b) writing about them on your own website, and c) finding sites read by your ideal audience and figuring out ways to add value to that site. Sometimes you have to play the long game (I have sites I’ve been targeting off and on for years that I still haven’t had content on), but landing that worked-for pitch and column feels so damn good.
This works differently for enterprises though. If you’re a media company needing to 10x your audience so you can dominate a multiple hundreds of millions of dollars a year vertical, what will guest posting get you? At best, it will get you some links and maybe intros to bigger sites which eventually become the big sites. But if you’re writing content specifically to get a link, when all this great work is going on around you, are you really working along inside the strategy of the company as a whole? Maybe you’re working towards the audience goal because links can mean better rankings and more traffic, but are you contributing to the larger vision of a sustainable brand and business that the external world can’t ignore, and are you getting it in front of a relevant audience? Maybe, but not likely.
If you say “but my PR team won’t allow me to outreach content to smaller sites!”, then you have a much bigger problem on your hands and you need to ask yourself if you’ll really be able to be successful at that company. Sometimes it’s a matter of building slowly and proving the value (and that they *should* trust you to do outreach to non PR targeted sites). Sometimes you’ll realize that things will never change and it’s time to make a change.
Google shouldn’t reward guest post links anyways
Since I’ve been in growth marketing, Google has tightened down the rules around links. It’s harder to build links that help your traffic. And to be fair, I do not believe that Google really wants to reward guest posts for SEO.
What Google wants to reward is good marketing. Good marketing is not 500 words of unique content written for a random site. Good marketing is taking the work already being done at a company (that hopefully you have helped influence and steer) and getting that in front of new audiences. It’s not “thought leadership.” It’s actual leadership because you’re doing the big work and that is what people care about.
Good marketing is amplifying the things already being done that are worthy of earning eyeballs.
Amplification, not guest posting
Enterprises need to shift their SEO team thinking from “guest posting” to amplifying content that is produced by the larger team.
Remember the distinction between guest posting and amplification:
Guest posting = writing content for external sites with hope of earning an equity-passing link for SEO purposes. This content often has minimal brand quality control and does not further the company’s much bigger strategy.
Amplification = providing extra firepower, often through unique content, to further push a large piece of content produced by the larger marketing or product team. The goals here are eyeballs, referral traffic, and new users (who hopefully become paying users).
Here is how I’ve structured it in the past.
- Whole team (including product) brainstorms ideas
- This included SEO, PR, content, email, and data science
- Settle on a few ideas, start to get to work to validate the idea
- Once you find the hook, content team gets to work producing it while the outreach team starts identifying and contacting sites (I call them Tier 2 and 3, if Tier 1 is what PR goes after) that might be interested in what you are putting out.
- Line up placements and how you’ll get your coverage there. This could involve creating content internally to contribute as a guest to those sites.
- Rinse, repeat with the next piece.
This is amplification, not “guest posting”. It’s strategy, not tactics.
Want to build your company? Invest in strategies, not tactics. Tactics come and go. Strategies persist even as tactics change.
Why am I writing about this strategy and distinction? Because it’s really hard to build and execute on well. We definitely didn’t fully crack the code on it, but we made huge headway in the last year and a half..