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How Serious Writers Expand Their Audiences with Guest Blog Posts

Note: While we encourage you to explore guest posting to grow your audience, Copyblogger does not currently accept guest post…

The post How Serious Writers Expand Their Audiences with Guest Blog Posts appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Should You Publish Guest Blog Posts on Your Website?

what you need to know before you publish guest posts

“Come sit down, Child. Gently put your hands on my crystal ball,” I say, directing you into my dimly lit fortune teller studio. I’m wearing a Stevie Nicks-inspired black lace shawl and gold hoop earrings.

“You’d like to know if you should publish guest blog posts on your website, yes? Let’s ask.”

My long, blood-red fingernail taps on the glass, as a thick fog swirls underneath the surface of the orb for several minutes.

“Looks like I can’t help you. Good thing you paid in advance.”

And with a swift kick in the rear, you exit the studio without an answer.

My crystal ball couldn’t help you decide whether or not you should publish guest blog posts on your site because it depends on a number of specific circumstances.

This post will help you focus on the factors you need to consider before you start running a multi-author publication. (Who knew an article could provide more guidance than a crystal ball?)

If “multi-author publication” sounds advanced, don’t worry — we’ll get started with Editor-in-Chief 101.

Editor-in-Chief 101

If a financial accountant helps you keep an accurate record of your finances, as the Editor-in-Chief of your website, you’re a content accountant.

It’s your responsibility to publish accurate content that is beneficial for your audience. You set and manage your audience’s expectations and actively craft the best experience for them.

When you first create a content-driven website, the platform may just be an outlet for your own writing, as you educate readers who are interested in learning about your area of expertise.

But as time goes on and you’ve built authority and an audience, you have an opportunity to offer your readers a new experience.

You may want to expand the type of content that you publish by bringing in other voices to your digital publication.

Here are 15 questions to ask yourself when deciding whether or not you should publish guest blog posts on your website:

  1. Will content from other writers help my audience learn more about the topic I teach?
  2. How can I produce more value for my audience?
  3. What topics would I want guest writers to cover?
  4. Could new content from other writers expose my website to a wider audience?
  5. Would I be able to offer writers more exposure?
  6. Am I able to offer guest writers any financial compensation for articles I publish?
  7. Am I looking for established experts or simply other perspectives?
  8. Will I publish writers’ drafts, or will I edit guest blog posts?
  9. Should writers format their articles to fit my publication’s style before they submit them?
  10. What rules will I have regarding hyperlinks in guest blog posts and author bios?
  11. Should I set a word count limit?
  12. Am I looking for text blog posts only or other types of media, such as infographics, SlideShares, or audio content?
  13. Will I allow writers to submit images to accompany their articles?
  14. What process will I establish for collecting and reviewing guest blog post submissions?
  15. Are there certain types of content I won’t publish, and why?

Your website represents your business, and your editorial standards will help ensure that your publication reflects well on your organization.

Editorial standards

Whether or not you publish guest blog posts on your website, you should aim to produce valuable, useful, high-quality content.

Editorial standards are essentially rules that help you establish authority and uphold your reputation as a trustworthy resource for your audience.

Many print and digital publications — including Copyblogger — don’t publish the exact drafts that writers submit. Instead, editors adapt articles so that they fit the publication.

(Keep in mind that a writer’s version of a final draft is rarely an editor’s version of a final draft.)

When you edit a guest blog post, your goal is to maintain the writer’s voice and point of view while shaping it to be an article that a reader would expect to find on your website.

If you decide to publish articles other than your own, you may not want to heavily edit the content, but here are fundamental editorial standards that are important for any content you publish — simplified into the Three F’s: Fitness, Fact-checking, and Formatting.

1. Fitness

The way someone writes on his or her own website may not fit with your publication, but if you value the information the person can teach your audience, you can revise the content accordingly to fit your editorial tone and style.

To provide supplementary information to the content your guest author provides, you may want to hyperlink text in your guest blog posts to relevant cornerstone content pages and other articles on your website — just as you normally would when you write posts.

As you assess the fitness of a guest blog post, you’ll check to make sure the article offers consistent, focused advice. You may need to delete text that goes beyond the scope of the topic and distracts readers from the main point. If an idea is tangential and doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the post, it’s better to cut it than risk confusing readers.

Also, while you might welcome other opinions on your site, content within a guest blog post may become problematic if it contradicts or disagrees with a practice that you regularly teach your readers. Look out for those red flags.

2. Fact-checking

Since your loyalty is with your readers, you need to verify that you’re presenting them with correct information. To start, check:

  • Hyperlinks. Do all hyperlinks go to the correct sites, and do you feel comfortable directing readers to those sites?
  • Sources. Does the author support his or her points with information from trustworthy sources?
  • Potential logical fallacies. If conclusions are deduced from research, is this valid information to present to your audience?
  • Numbers. Do the numbers in a post match the source of the information? For example, the author may have accidentally transcribed “62 percent of people,” when the source of the information says, “65 percent of people” or “32 percent of people.”
  • Spellings. Names of people, businesses, products, locations, and publications should all be double-checked.

3. Formatting

Think about a print magazine that you read. While it may offer many different voices from a variety of writers, each article looks like it belongs to that print publication. The same concept should be applied to your digital publication.

For example, if you always publish articles with short paragraphs of one to three sentences, it will look strange to a regular reader if you publish an article with long paragraphs of five to ten sentences that can be tedious to read on a screen.

Even though a writer may have submitted a draft with long paragraphs, it’s your job to adjust the text to match your standard formatting.

Coming soon: how to collect and review guest blog post submissions

If you decide you want to publish guest blog posts on your website, the next article in this series will outline best practices for collecting and reviewing submissions from potential writers.

You’ll also hear from other members of the Rainmaker Digital team about their experiences working with guest authors — I won’t be consulting my Magic 8 Ball. ”</p

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Guest Posting Best Practices From Copyblogger’s Guest Post Gatekeeper

gate opening to a property

Many years ago, when I began developing my personal guest posting strategy, Copyblogger sat atop my “Where I Want to Guest Post” list.

Five years later, I achieved my goal.

So, how did I spend the time between making my list and May 23, 2013 when my first blog post appeared on Copyblogger?

Rigorously practicing my writing, of course.

Although I had high hopes of guest posting for Copyblogger during the early stages of my online copy editing business, it was my rejection from Copyblogger that shaped my subsequent guest posting success.

Ironically, it also led me to my current position: Copyblogger’s Manager of Editorial Standards, where one of my duties is, yep, managing our guest author program.

A lot can change in five years. :-)

Rejection is not failure

I had been reading Copyblogger daily for two years before I submitted an unsolicited guest post via email to Sonia Simone.

Since I didn’t have any connections who could make an introduction, I opted for writing a brief and informative email with the completed post attached in a Microsoft Word document, as well as an html version in a plain text file.

It was a long shot, but I thought my post was creative. And the html, which included hyperlinks to other Copyblogger posts, could be easily transferred to WordPress. It was publish-ready, just the way editors like posts.

After two weeks without receiving a response to my all-in-one introduction and pitch email, I used the site’s contact form to follow up.

I’m horribly embarrassed to share the correspondence below, but the rejection helped my writing career grow more than if the post had been accepted for publication.

support-email

The editorial team never contacted me.

I didn’t persist and email anyone at Copyblogger again, but I didn’t give up either.

Without losing confidence in my writing ability, I accepted that my post wasn’t a good fit for the blog. This is when my outlook shifted to viewing the experience as a learning opportunity.

I decided I wasn’t ready to write for Copyblogger. There was more work to be done before the stars would align.

During the Guest Posting Best Practices Authority webinar coming up this Wednesday, October 22, at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time, I’ll be talking with Sonia (yes, the same Sonia I submitted that rejected post to) about finding the right sites for your writing and communicating with editors.

Click here to register for this Authority master class

What is your motivation for guest posting?

Even when it was in vogue to guest post for SEO purposes, I wasn’t interested in using guest posting simply to accumulate links to my website, Revision Fairy.

My objective was to expand my writing portfolio.

In order to build my digital media platform, my writing needed a presence online other than my own site. And through this presence, I hoped to introduce potential clients to the copy editing and proofreading services I offered.

You know, what Brian Clark has been talking about on Copyblogger since 2006: content marketing.

So after the rejection from Copyblogger, my next task was to find a better fit for the content I had written. Who else could I contact? More importantly, what other audience would benefit from what I had to say?

The size of the audience didn’t matter to me. Actually, I wasn’t even thinking about the term “audience.” I was thinking about people — people who could use the content I wanted to produce.

When this single factor drives your guest posting outreach, you’ll always find the best place to publish your post.

The secret to guest posting success

To reinforce the point that my desire to guest post was not about getting links to Revision Fairy, I never even included links to my site within my posts.

Because my posts weren’t about me.

They were about understanding people’s needs and why they visited a certain site. My focus was on utilizing a guest post to help those people by putting the educational information they needed on a website they read.

How could I complement the information already on a site? What knowledge or experience did I have that would add a fresh perspective to subjects discussed on a blog?

In order for an article to be a good fit for a particular site, that site doesn’t necessarily need more of the same information that the site’s regular writers contribute. Instead, the site often needs or wants articles about related topics that demonstrate expertise. In other words: original, useful content expressed through a unique writing voice.

But not too unique. Guest posting success is about striking the right balance. Unique writing is only one part of the equation because websites have established standards. You become a guest in their editorial home, and you need to adapt your presentation accordingly to ensure your text and tone matches their typical publishing style.

After balance, your next key asset is flexibility. A flexible mindset allowed me to think of other interesting outlets for my writing. I became excited about giving those sites high-quality content even if they weren’t the first choice I had in mind.

My first choice was just a starting place.

Five critical components to practice

If you’ve been creating content for your own site for a while, you may write quickly and effortlessly. You may have mastered the techniques that allow you to publish on a regular schedule.

But when you publish on a site you don’t own, you’ve entered new territory. Clear and effective correspondence with a site’s editor is a prerequisite, and your guest post often needs to look quite different from the posts you normally publish.

Here are five factors to incorporate into your guest posting strategy:

  1. Think like an editor. When an editor decides to run a guest post, she’s vouching for that writer. You want your writing to overcome any objections she may have about accepting your content. And that has nothing to do with how nice you are to her in your email.
  2. Limit small talk. Let only the writing you craft display your worth. Professionalism and friendliness are important qualities when contacting editors, but they don’t make up for subpar content.
  3. Don’t mimic. Want to avoid submitting that subpar content I just mentioned? Practice creating new discussions about classic topics, instead of regurgitating traditional advice. It takes time and dedication to fine-tune both your writing and editing skills.
  4. Become a resource. If your guest post conveys information that could have been written by any content creator, the site you submit it to will not likely appreciate it as a special article. But when an editor can only get the content she needs from you, you become a treasured resource. You might even get asked to write again.
  5. Produce stand-alone articles. While hyperlinking to sources is useful, it’s often abused and the result is confusing, unfocused writing. Consider writing your guest post like a print magazine article. When a print article resonates with a reader, she’ll tear it out of the publication and pin it up on her refrigerator with a magnet. She doesn’t need to also attach 15 other articles to complete the text.

The entitlement pit of despair

Again, you can write for your own site all day, every day if you wish, but there’s no guarantee that one of your posts — even if you believe it’s the best content you’ve ever written — is going to be accepted for publication on someone else’s site. The content has to be a match.

When you think like an editor, as suggested in tip number one above, you broaden your perspective and begin to understand the experience of editing a multi-author blog.

If you don’t think like an editor, rejection may offend you and inspire a sense of entitlement.

When you don’t trust and respect an editor’s decision, and follow up with aggressive words — restating your case to someone who has already taken time to review your initial request — you damage your reputation.

There’s a reason why you’ve never heard someone say, “That person was such a jerk to me! I really want to do him a favor now!”

In some cases, editors may request a rewrite if your topic has potential, but let them make that decision.

If you become your own editor, you begin to naturally recognize on your own when a blog post is a good fit for a site and when it is not.

And when it’s not, it’s okay. The text may have great success as part of the content library on your own site.

Study; don’t follow

I like to take the “social” out of “social media.” This nonstandard attitude highlights an aspect of communication many people forget: listening.

How much do you actually listen in social situations and how often do you just wait to talk?

Although Twitter is my preferred social media platform, it’s a space where updates could be reduced to the phrase “I have an opinion about something!” People forget the value of listening.

On Twitter, a meaningless follow with the click of a button or witty @-replies can replace a genuine desire to learn through listening.

When you want to connect with an editor, research should be your first priority. During your exploration of a person or publication, you’ll likely discover a slew of social media profiles.

But don’t casually hit the Follow button on Twitter just yet. If you already follow hundreds or thousands of people, what do you hope to achieve with this addition? Will you actually pay attention to that editor’s updates? Do you think the “follow” will make him or her notice you?

Since I joined Twitter in 2007, I’ve only followed a select group of fewer than 50 people. The individuals on my current list are people who I want to learn from, and I am willing to dedicate time to listen to their writing.

For example, when I followed Brian Clark on Twitter years ago, I wanted to study the educational content he discussed, and I valued his opinion on topics that affected my online business.

Through this process of studying his timeline, I also gained insights about Brian’s taste in movies through a mix of Fight Club, The Big Lebowski, and Pulp Fiction references.

I collected information; I didn’t attempt to force a superficial friendship to serve my selfish ambitions.

So, unless it’s a “purposeful follow,” I wouldn’t suggest following me or any other editor.

I know I have severe opinions about how people use social media, and my view of the best way to use Twitter may be extreme, but I’m tryin’, Ringo …

Guest posting is a communication exercise

It’s a process and a practice. You must accept that you will make mistakes — sometimes you won’t get the results you want. But part of the process and the practice is recognizing those mistakes, regrouping, and pushing forward another way.

The communication exercise is less about what you want and more about finding an outlet that fits your current circumstances. There’s always a form of success waiting for you at your current level.

While you may want to guest post on your favorite website to benefit your business, the effectiveness of any post is always measured by the value it provides for others.

Pitch from this place of serving. When you do, you’ll recognize a variety of possible places to publish your writing.

And your accomplishment is not only publication. You will also gain communication experience and establish working relationships that can reap priceless rewards.

As one of my yoga instructors says, “The practice is the point.”

Practice leads to payoff …

Don’t miss my conversation with Sonia about Guest Posting Best Practices during this Wednesday’s Authority master class at 4:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The webinar is free for Authority members. You just need to register here.

If you’re not a member, click here to try Authority risk-free.

You’ll get exclusive access to webinars just like this one nearly every week of the year, as well as networking opportunities, discounts, and education.

See you Wednesday, October 22 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern!

Flickr Creative Commons Image via Sarah Joy.

About the author

Stefanie Flaxman

Stefanie Flaxman is Manager of Editorial Standards for Copyblogger Media. Study her one-word updates on Twitter.

The post Guest Posting Best Practices From Copyblogger’s Guest Post Gatekeeper appeared first on Copyblogger.


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Never Fear Google Again: The Smart Person’s Guide to Guest Blogging

Image of motel sign reading Guest Enter Here

It’s simple really — at least in theory.

You run a blog and want new material.

Others out there want some new exposure.

You offer would-be contributors a chance to share their material, and in return you get fresh content, expert insight. Maybe even a day off.

But there are shadows behind the glossy exterior of guest blogging.

  • When you open up your blog for guest posts you might be immediately swarmed with spammy offers
  • You might accidentally allow worthless or shady links in the posts
  • You might even be punished by search engines like Google

What seems so simple can quickly turn into a hot mess.

So why even bother?

Because once you learn the right system to use with guest blogging, there are huge benefits available — and you never have to fear what Google might do to you.

The benefits of guest blogging

Guest blogging is a terrific means of generating fresh content on your blog.

You allow fresh voices to blog on your behalf, and you grow more diverse with minimal effort. You may know a lot about your particular subject, but you certainly don’t know everything. In fact, you may learn something by offering your blog as a platform for others to share what they know.

Guest blogging is also an opportunity to network within your community.

You might accept guest blogs on your website or you might prepare some of your own. This opens up avenues for communication between the various websites in your niche (and even out of it), and also brings you quite a few fresh eyes from other popular websites.

Guest blogging can boost your social media stake as well, since you now have a combined effort promoting and sharing material on your behalf.

If you’re the guest blogger, you get visibility. You capture a new audience, build traffic for your own website, and gain new social followers as well.

What’s not to like about the guest blogging model?

This is one of the purest forms of marketing online — true collaboration and natural back links.

The downside of guest blogging

Unfortunately, guest blogging isn’t always sunshine and roses. There is a dark side.

Potential guest posts might:

  • Inundate your inbox with requests for guest posting spots
  • Use your submit forms to overload you with terrible posts you have to sift through
  • Slip links into a post that could get your site banned or punished by Google and other search engines
  • Sound credible and offer you something amazing … only to produce a load of nonsense

Then they have the audacity to be offended when you don’t immediately post it!

And many marketers who engage in “black hat” or rule-breaking SEO methods have long turned to guest blogging as a way to game the system.

These unethical marketers are using guest blogging to manipulate the search engines and often don’t mind using illegal or spammy methods to reach their goals.

And, of course, Google noticed.

The “death” of guest blogging

A few months ago, the head of Google’s Spam department, Matt Cutts, received the sort of nonsense emails that are generated by guest blogging spammers.

He wasn’t happy.

Matt Cutts is one of the biggest names in the blogging industry, and someone dared to send him spammy messages offering shady guest blog posts? There should be hell to pay. Matt may seem like a friendly, personable guy (and he probably is if you’re not the one sending him spam), but the guest blog spam he received unleashed his own darker side.

You may remember the tsunami of chaos Cutts generated in the blogosphere with his post on guest blogging and its ultimate demise.

(The Copyblogger team immediately shot down the most troubling implications of Cutts’ initial statements, which he later assured bloggers he had never intended.)

I am thrilled by the madness. It’s making everyone pay attention to the real problem here, which is that spammy guest blogging is just that: spam.

Guest blogging itself, however, is far from dead … when done right.

Google’s position on guest blogging

It’s pretty simple.

Google has always wanted websites to:

Quality. Trust.

By following those simple, over-arching guidelines, you can feel safe no matter what Google does in the future — because they are never going to turn their back on the kind of content their users want the most.

Just be thoughtful with your links.

How to link safely in a guest post

The bottom line is this: Google doesn’t want you to engage in any unnatural link building practices.

An example of this would be a guest blogger paying to post on a high-PageRank site for a link. In this situation, the site publishing the post should use the rel=”nofollow” attribute to properly classify the link and stay out of hot water. Google explains this right here.

You also want to ask yourself these questions, as either the guest blogger or the publisher:

  • Is the domain you’re working with fully developed and “above board?”
  • Is the guest blog quality high enough to read as high-quality and suitable for your audience?
  • Do the links in the post follow normal, natural linking patterns?
  • Does every link go to a site that is valuable and relevant to the audience for the post?

Guest posts, like all content marketing, must serve audience needs first. Any SEO value must flow from that.

When Matt Cutts published his post initially, it had a different title that was designed to shock people into thinking about guest blogging. It worked.

I had several emails from people asking if they should continue guest blogging. They didn’t want to wind up on the wrong side of Google after spending weeks perfecting a blog post.

But then the title changed. Matt appeared to calm down. The world of guest blogging righted itself again.

Matt apparently realized that he overstated things a bit, and added an update:

There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

I’m also not talking about multi-author blogs. High-quality multi-author blogs like Boing Boing have been around since the beginning of the web, and they can be compelling, wonderful, and useful.

Your guest post decisions are yours

I run Guest Crew, a platform where blog owners and those looking to write guest posts come together. Like so many other platforms — forums, Skype, Google — this is a way to meet people and do business together. It’s all in how you use it.

We’ve been approached by users multiple times suggesting that we make our system all “nofollow.” Then all guest posting problems would be solved, right?

Wrong.

There is a big problem with that method: We don’t want to tell other people what they can and can’t do. We aren’t Google. And the industry appears to respect this decision. Since Matt’s rant about guest posts, Guest Crew saw a 719 percent increase in membership.

Everyone is buzzing about guest blogging. But it’s not just links and spam being discussed. People are starting to realize that there is more to guest posting than just linking strategies.

“Nofollow” links are getting some serious consideration as well, because even if they don’t provide an SEO benefit, they can still help you build the audience that will build your business.

Checklist for successful guest blogging in 2014

Guest blogging is definitely not dead, and it may see considerable improvement in 2014.

Here’s a checklist for guest bloggers (and a few relevant to publishers also) that will ensure you are submitting guest posts safely and in a way that will help you achieve your goals:

  1. Content quality. When I do a guest post — I check and re-check the material. It must be perfect before I send it out. Does the material fit the audience? Does it entertain and inform? Is my message clear and fitting for my host website?
  2. Check backlinks. Looking a little suspicious? Use “nofollow” links if necessary to keep the intent pure. Better yet, remove a link to any site you aren’t proud of.
  3. Focus on social networking. Build up your social following with guest blogging. G+ authorship is easy to claim and then add links to your Twitter and Facebook. This builds the social aspect and maximizes your guest post potential.
  4. Look for niche opportunities. Niche guest blogging is more specialized and can help to build your name and blog reputation in your specific industry — a big fish in a small pond, if you will. (And remember that useful content can be created even for “boring” niches.)
  5. Get mentions from media sites. When media members talk about you, you not only get links, but the mentions can build up status and reputation as well.
  6. Change the term. We use “guest blogger,” but why not try “contributor”? Arrange for your regular “contributors” to update your blog routinely — perhaps once a month or so.
  7. Infographics. Score some visual appeal with guest post infographics. Not only are these fun to look at and eye-catching on a website, they also broaden the field of guest blogging to designers who aren’t as strong with long written posts.
  8. Get links in the article body. Links in the body of the text are more natural, for both readers and search engines.
  9. Focus on strong sites. Post on high-quality websites and your credibility rises. Post on enough big names and you’ll soon become a big name in your own right.
  10. Write in the voice of the intended audience This may require hiring a native English writer to handle your guest blogging or editing.
  11. The final word on guest posting

    So there it is. The good and the bad of guest posting. Focus on content quality and being useful to an audience — with the long-game in mind — and you’ll be rewarded (as you always have been).

    Plus you’ll never have to fear Google.

    Try and shortcut or cheat the system, however, and you can expect to feel the Wrath of Cutts — with the full power of Google backing him up.

    What do you think?

    How has your guest blogging experience or strategy evolved — either from the writer or publisher side?

    Do you still view guest blogging favorably? Or has any of the negative chatter soured you on it?

    We’d love to hear your thoughts. Join the discussion over at Google-Plus.

    Did you like this article?

    If you found this article useful, check out this post by Sonia: The Essentials of Guest-Blogging Strategy for SEO, Traffic, and Audience-Building.

    Flickr Creative Commons Image via Thomas Hawk

    About the Author: Uttoran Sen is a content marketer and a social media expert. He is the CEO and Founder of Guest Crew. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.

The post Never Fear Google Again: The Smart Person’s Guide to Guest Blogging appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Flip Guest Blogging on its Head, With Steroids

Guest blogging was once considered a widely recommended white hat technique.

Today our monopoly-led marketplace arbitrarily decided this is no longer so.

Stick a fork in it. Torch it. Etc.

Now that rules have changed ex post facto, we can expect to deal with a near endless stream of “unnatural” link penalties for doing what was seen at the time as being:

  • natural
  • widespread
  • common
  • low risk
  • best practice

Google turns your past client investments into new cost centers & penalties. This ought to be a great thing for the SEO industry. Or maybe not.

As Google scares & expunges smaller players from participating in the SEO market, larger companies keep chugging along.

Today a friend received the following unsolicited email:

Curious about their background, he looked up their past coverage: “Written then offers a number of different content licenses that help the advertiser reach this audience, either by re-branding the existing page, moving the content to the advertiser’s website and re-directing traffic there, or just re-publishing the post on the brand’s blog.”

So that’s basically guest blogging at scale.

And it’s not only guest blogging at scale, but it is guest blogging at scale based on keyword performance:

“You give us your gold keywords. Written finds high-performing, gold content with a built-in, engaged audience. Our various license options can bring the audience to you or your brand to the audience through great content.”

What’s worse is how they pitch this to the people they license content from:

I’m sorry, but taking your most valuable content & turning it into duplicate content by syndicating it onto a fortune 500 website will not increase your traffic. The fortune 500 site will outrank you (especially if visitors/links are 301 redirected to their site!). And when visitors are not redirected, they will still typically outrank you due to their huge domain authority (and the cross-domain rel=canonical tag), leading your content on your site to get filtered out of the search results as duplicate content & your link equity to pass on to the branded advertiser.

And if Google were to come down on anyone in the above sort of situation it would likely be the smaller independent bloggers who get hit.

This is how SEO works.

Smaller independent players innovate & prove the model.

Google punishes them for being innovative.

As they are punished, a vanilla corporate tweak of the same model rolls out and is white hat.

In SEO it’s not what you do that matters – it’s who your client is.

If you’re not working for a big brand, you’re doing it wrong.

Four legs good, two legs better.

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Matt Cutts: “Stick A Fork In It, Guest Blogging Is Done”

Google — and Matt Cutts, in particular — has made a number of statements about guest blogging over the past year as the tactic has grown as a link building tactic. None of those statements are as clear as the one Cutts wrote today on his personal blog. Cutts, the head of Google’s…



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Matt Cutts Declares Guest Blogging “Done” … Are We All Screwed?

Guest Blogging is Not Dead

Matt Cutts went Richard Sherman on guest blogging today.

The gist of his personal blog post — entitled “The decay and fall of guest blogging” — is this:

Guest blogging was once an authentic way to reach people, but now it’s spammy, so we should all expect Google to start spanking sites that publish guest blogs.

In his words:

So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.

We publish articles from guest contributors here at Copyblogger. You may too on your site. You’ve probably written a guest blog post, or two, or ten. Are you screwed? Are we all?

No.

But don’t take it from me.

Guest blogging is not done

Take it from the CEO, who tweeted this not long after Cutts’ blog post started making its way through the Twittersphere:

He then expounded:

And finally, the ultimate lesson in all of this:

Build quality no matter what

Google fails as a search engine if it starts penalizing sites that deliver quality content just because that content happens to be in the form of a guest post. And we all fail as publishers if we follow a strategy of chasing hypothetical algorithm changes.

Quality will always win.

Guest blogging is not “done,” dead, or destitute. Have standards, do right by your audience, and play to win in the long term.

In short, don’t act like a spammer. And I think you know what that means.

Follow this simple rule, and you’re not screwed if you publish content from outside contributors. And you’re not screwed if you contribute to other sites.

Unless they suck. Unless they are the spammers. Then, yes, you’re screwed … but you didn’t need to hear from Matt Cutts to know that.

Update: Cutts clarifies

Matt updated his post with this:

Added: It seems like most people are getting the spirit of what I was trying to say, but I’ll add a bit more context. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

I’m also not talking about multi-author blogs. High-quality multi-author blogs like Boing Boing have been around since the beginning of the web, and they can be compelling, wonderful, and useful.

I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to “guest blogging” as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.

About the author

Jerod Morris

Jerod Morris is the Director of Content for Copyblogger Media and a founding member of the Synthesis Managed WordPress Hosting team. Get more from Jerod on Twitter and .

The post Matt Cutts Declares Guest Blogging “Done” … Are We All Screwed? appeared first on Copyblogger.

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Inside YouMoz: How To Guest Blog for Moz

Posted by KeriMorgret

Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at YouMoz? Here’s an explanation of what we’re looking for, how to put together a good post, and some frequently asked questions.

I’ve had the privilege of being at the helm of the YouMoz editorial team for almost two years now, and have been amazed and awed by the content that you all have shared. On an average weekday, we get 5-10 submissions, and we publish about 10% of our submissions. I wanted to share more about who we are, what makes for a good YouMoz post, and how to get in that top 10%.

Who Reviews Posts?

  • Miriam Ellis is a Moz Associate specializing in copywriting and Local SEO. She provides the initial review of your post.
  • Melissa Fach is a Moz Associate with extensive editorial experience in the industry. She is one of the people who will closely review your post and provide you with feedback.
  • Keri Morgret (that’s me!) I’m a Moz employee on the community team. I also will closely review posts and give you feedback, as well as do a final check of your post before publishing it on the YouMoz blog.
  • Erica McGillivray, Jen Lopez, Ashley Tate, and Trevor Klein also help with the review process as needed.

What is the Review Process?

  1. All posts are reviewed for obvious spam and if the post has already been published. In these cases, we decline the submission and leave a note for the author.
  2. Miriam makes an initial review of the post and leaves internal notes for the team. The post status changes from “Pending Review By Editor” to “Pending – Reviewed By Editor”. This doesn’t mean it’s going to get published, but please know that only about half of the submissions even make it this far. To check the post status, go to Manage Posts (visible when looking at the Moz Blog), click the Posts tab, and then look for the status and any notes from the editor.
  3. Melissa or I do an in-depth review of the post, with other people from Moz giving additional opinion or reviewing posts as needed. We’ll make a decision to decline the post, return the post to the author for edits, or to publish the post. We will either leave a note in the editor comments field of the post, or (usually) email the author at the email address on their profile with our decision.

    Don’t panic if your post was returned to you! Many of the posts on the YouMoz blog (and even those that have been promoted to the main blog) have gone through the revision process. This means we think your post has potential, and there are some things that could be improved to make it a great post for YouMoz.

  4. When a post is approved for publishing, I do one final check for spelling, grammar, valid links, image attribution, and several other details. We try to notify the author of publication at least several hours to a few days before we publish. It is beneficial for the author to be able to respond to any comments by our readers, and to promote their post (Roger will also share the post on Twitter).

What Content is a Good Fit for YouMoz?

Actionable, detailed content with references tends to do the best on YouMoz, and case studies or examples are particularly popular. Think about the readers of this post, and try to make it so this is something that the reader could take to their boss and say, “Let’s give this a try. Here’s a post where this person tried it, they got good results, and they explain how to implement it.” This post is from a security company, but a wide variety of people could follow their tutorial using Google Analytics to develop an FAQ strategy. This post used screenshots of GA to explain step-by-step what they did complete with an example to cut and paste, and provided information about how it impacted their company.

We want to publish original content that has not been published elsewhere. By original, we mean both “don’t submit an exact copy of a post that is already online” and “don’t take the outline of a post and change word order enough to pass Copyscape”. YouMoz readers are looking for new information that they haven’t already read on another site.

Include enough details so others can replicate your actions or your processes. Try to anticipate the questions someone might ask or alternative explanations and address that in your post. Here are two examples:

  • If you’re discussing a tactic that increased your traffic, include additional information that might be relevant. For example, if you’ve been revising content about pumpkin carving and state the increase in traffic is due to the authorship you implemented, yet the traffic comparison is the month of October (the end of October is Halloween in the US and when people carve pumpkins) to the month of September, readers are likely to comment that it was increased search queries that led to the traffic rise, not the inclusion of authorship. Instead, in this case you could compare October this year to the previous October, and compare pages with authorship implemented to pages without authorship implemented.
  • If you’re examining a search engine result page, include information about which search engine you were using (google.com? google.co.uk?), your location, if you were logged out (generally, it’s best to use an incognito window in a browser to help minimize personalization based on your search history and cookies), what query you ran, if you modified any parameters in the URL, if other people saw the same results, and any other relevant information.

Back up the “what to do” statements with information about “how to do”. References are often key to a good YouMoz post. You don’t need to explain how to do every single step, but give enough context and a brief explanation, then link to where there is authoritative information. A good example is this post about spring cleaning your website. If this same post with no links had been submitted, it would not have been approved. Instead, the post did well and was promoted to the main blog.

I want to write a case study, but am not able to share sales figures or visitor data. What can I do?

Find out what data you can share. Perhaps you can’t share the exact number of visits the site received or the raw dollar figure of the sales, but you can share that traffic increased by 10% compared to the previous year, or that the time on site increased. This post about opening up content on their website doesn’t have exact visitor information, but does include enough information to show that their experiment had a positive impact.

If you don’t have any data you can share as an example, consider sharing something that you’ve built to help you learn something or be more efficient. This post breaks down how the author reviewed job descriptions to build a list of topics to learn more about, and how he prioritized that list.

Google just announced that they are doing XYZ, and I’d like to write about it for YouMoz!

We usually don’t cover general industry news on YouMoz. There are a number of other blogs that are quite good at covering the latest announcements from the search engines, including Search Engine Land and Search Engine Roundtable. What works for YouMoz is a post talking about what Google is doing, and how it impacts the business, what you can do to take advantage of or mitigate the latest development, or other actionable information. An example is determining how the shutdown of Google Reader might impact your bottom line, example spreadsheets, and how to explain this to your C-level executives.

How many words should I write?

We don’t have a minimum or maximum word count. Generally posts run from 1000-3000 words, but we have published posts that were fewer than 500 words and posts that were over 10,000 words.

What about links?

Relevant links are encouraged in posts. The previously mentioned post about spring cleaning your website had a considerable number of links to resources. You can link to your own site or a client’s site in your post, if it is relevant and on-topic. In this post about lessons from a 100k pageview post, the author links to content from his company’s blog. The YouMoz is all about how that post got over 100,000 pageviews, and is a very appropriate example.

Unfortunately, we often see posts that start out “My coworkers at our Springfield SEO agency were having coffee the other day” with a link to the SEO services page of their agency and a post that has no inherit need for that link. If your post only links to your own properties, that’s going to be viewed by many users as a bit too promotional for your own site. There is a Blog Bio section of your profile where you can have a link back to your company in your bio that will show at the bottom of the post (it’s not displaying at the moment, but it will be fixed shortly).

Affiliate links are not allowed.

Do I need to have a degree in writing to write for YouMoz? What if English is not my first language?

You don’t need to have perfect spelling and grammar to have a post published on YouMoz, nor does English need to be your native language. However, we are not a college writing lab. We will give you feedback about what could make your post work better for our readers, and we will check for spelling and obvious grammar mistakes, but we are not able to go through a post line-by-line and help you rewrite it.

Give yourself plenty of time to research the post (including finding the examples, references, and images), write the post, have others review what you’ve written, then come back and look at your writing anew after you’ve had a break from it. Take in the feedback other people have given, and do one last review in a word processor for spelling and grammar mistakes. This post about Author Rank needed only two typos fixed out of 2600+ words, and needed very little work from the editors. The author later revealed that four coworkers had reviewed his post and given feedback. The post has 166 thumbs up, only one thumb down, and from the first comment had requests to promote it to the main blog.

Be aware that people from all over the world read YouMoz, and may not understand references that are regional in nature or specific figures of speech. It can be helpful to avoid some idioms, and add additional information for context.

Technical Details

Finding Images

Images are great to have in a post! If you’re not making screenshots of your own material (info on that below), please be sure that you have the right to use the images you are submitting. Here’s one post on finding photos for your blog post, including using stock photos, Creative Commons pictures, and commissioning your own photos. Including a note at the end of your post about your image sources would be really helpful! We will erase before publishing, but this saves us from having to email you asking about the image source.

Adding Images

Here are some tips that will help your image look good in the post, and minimize the amount of back-and-forth needed with the editorial staff.

Our biggest request is that you resize your browser or your spreadsheet before taking screenshots. Often a computer screen is set at 1200 pixels wide, and the site (or application) adjusts to fill that whole space. When you take a screenshot and that width and then need to reduce it to the 730 pixels wide for the blog, the image can be hard to read.

If you adjust column headings to remove extra horizontal space (wrapping the text can help), or adjust the width of your browser before taking a screenshot, it can make a big difference. The two images below are before and after examples of removing extra space in a spreadsheet. Both are the exact same width, but one is much more readable.

You don’t need Photoshop or fancy image editing tools. I’m on a PC, and use a combination of Paint and Irfanview (free) to resize images, automatically crop extra white space, and with the RIOT plugin you can “save for web” and have a reasonable file size for your image.

To insert an image in your post, you’ll first need it hosted somewhere (your own site, or a free hosting site like imgur.com (if your post is published, we’ll automatically copy your images to our CDN). In the post, click the Insert Image icon, then paste in your image URL. Your image will now appear in the post.

Formatting your post

Using headings is a great way to help organize your post! If you’re using our editor to compost your post, headings can be found when you click the paragraph icon. Text alignment is adjusted when you click the icon shown below.

If you’re accustomed to our old editor and resistant to change, you might give this editor a try. We have no relation to and do not support it, but it may be a more familiar interface for you. You can paste the source code from that editor into the source code view of our editor (click the </> button in the toolbar for that view).

Spelling and grammar checking

After you’ve finished your post and had it reviewed by some trusted people, do one last check for spelling and grammar. One method that works well to catch many mistakes is to paste your post as plain text into Word, then select the language as your local language, and make sure that “do not check spelling or grammar” is unchecked. I’ve often found that Word decides that part of the text is a different language, or that you somehow don’t want it to check all of your document. Here’s a handy page on setting your language in Word that will help you find this semi-hidden setting.

FAQs

How does a post get promoted to the main blog?

This is the most common question! There is no exact formula, but instead we look for how the community has felt about the post. Some indicators of this are the number of thumbs, the number and type of comments, reaction on social media, and post analytics. If you wrote an awesome post that got on Hacker News but didn’t get a ton of thumbs or comments on the post itself (because it was discussed on HN and those users didn’t sign up here just to thumb), we’re going to notice that and take it into consideration.

Did you know that we have post analytics that are available on every post? Take a look!

We generally promote posts within a week or two of them going up on YouMoz. We’re considering looking back a couple of months and evaluating posts that were slower to catch on with the audience but did well and were not time-sensitive. Please give us your feedback about this in the comments! 

Why do some posts go straight to the main blog?

The technical infrastructure we have is responsible for some “YouMoz” posts going straight to the main blog. For our regular main blog authors, we have special permissions for them to be able to post directly to the main blog. For authors doing just a single post on the main blog, having them submit to YouMoz and promote it right away is the easiest technical way to do things.

Why is the review period so long?

We strive to be TAGFEE in our reviews, and give quality feedback to all legitimate posts, even the ones we decline. Sometimes it takes a while to read through the post and get into the author’s head and understand where they are coming from, what they are trying to say, and compose an email back to the author explaining how their post could be improved.

The editing team has a wide variety of knowledge, but we sometimes need to send a technical post off to another Moz employee or associate for them to review. We don’t want to publish a post that has incorrect information that could do harm to a site, for example.

Various things can interfere with author communication. The email address in the profile might be sales@somecompany.com and the email doesn’t get passed along to the author, or the email goes into a spam bucket. Sometimes we have posts that are 90% there and just need a couple of small tweaks, and we never hear back from the author for whatever reason.

Sometimes we’ll be short an employee because of a vacation, we’ll launch a new product, migrate domains, or need to email every single Moz user and answer their questions. Sometimes, it all happens in the same week. The awesome thing about this team is that we’re cross-trained and can pitch in to help each other. At times, it means we’ll have a bunch of people tackle YouMoz and the review period is nice and short, and at other times it means that we need to devote our energies to other tasks and the YouMoz queue grows again.

We Want You to Write for YouMoz!

Are you ready to write a post? We hope you can take what you’ve learned here and decide to Submit a YouMoz Post!

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How Guest Bloggers are Sleepwalking Their Way into Penalties

Posted by James Finlayson

How do you get links in a post-penguin world? For far too many the answer seems to be, exclusively, guest posting. Today I’m going to give you four reasons why I think this tactic is as dangerous as those it replaced.

Note: I’m not about to say that ‘all’ guest posting is bad – in the same way not all directories are automatically spammy. I’m also not about to say ‘all’ guest bloggers will be penalised. What I will do is point out the dangers of guest posting as Google becomes increasingly intelligent; and what you can do to avoid them.

Link Quality

Penguin really hurt sites that relied on low-quality links. Many have responded by setting a minimum domain authority threshold when prospecting. To keep the process efficient they then remove sites with a DA over a certain level – seeing these as less likely to accept content.

No new site owner ever sat down and thought ‘hmm, well I best not link to buybluewidgets.com today, my domain authority’s only 28 – I’ll wait a few months’. Equally, the reason Mashable's not linking to you isn't because your DA has yet to hit a magical level. If you offer something of value links naturally come from a huge variety of high, medium and low quality sites. High quality links are rare naturally, that’s part of what makes them so valuable, but they do occur. As a result, a completely natural link portfolio looks something like this:

A natural gently sloping curve peeking around a DA of 35

I’ve now started to see new sites, fresh out of a ‘successful’ outreach campaign whose link portfolio looks like this:

links only appearing within a short band of DA

There’s little way that this could have occurred un-engineered and, if it’s obvious to us then it’ll be obvious to Google too.

"Mass guest posting is dangerous because it creates an unnatural looking link quality graph." [tweet]

Link Type

Conventional wisdom tells us that directories are bad, blogs are good and academic links are amazing. Tools like Link Research Tools and Linkdex allow you to break up your competitors’ links by type – if SEO tools can do this then so can Google. I took a vertical at random and wasn’t surprised to see this:

A lot of directory links, but also some forum links and, to a lesser extent, blog and news links


It’s not unusual to find sites with a huge percentage of their links coming from directories and these are sites we currently think of as having engaged in low-quality link building. So your site proudly strides in to the market and builds this profile:

Almost entirely blog links, standing in stark contrast to the rest of the industry.

I’m not saying that you need to replicate the industry standard – that’s not going to put you ahead of your competitors. I am saying “A link profile made up of only one type of link looks unnatural – whatever those links are.” [tweet]

Link Location

Google devalued footer links because they’re too easy to game. Google devalued sidebar links because they were being purchased en masse. Are links in author boxes next? When you’re consistently relying on links in guest-post author boxes you’re building a very obvious footprint. Due to the author box’s proximity to the author markup, relatively standard layout and positioning on the page it would be incredibly easy for Google to algorithmically target them in the same way it did sidebars and footers.

When a link’s in the middle of a post there’s an assumption that it’s there because it’s relevant. When a link’s in the author box it’s rarely there for the benefit of the user – it’s the writer’s payment for the post. It’s a box in which the author advertises themselves. So it could be argued the author box is a form of paid advertisement. How long until Matt Cutts does a video saying those links should be no-followed?

That’s all before you consider that the link’s in a box that gets skipped over by readers. That means you can expect virtually no traffic from it. Wouldn't it be better to be building links that drive traffic as well as rankings?

Anchor-text-heavy links in author boxes look fishy, even to non-marketers; let’s stop building them.” [tweet]

Authorship

Google’s really started to push authorship as an important signal. So, many guest bloggers have used their own name (or repeatedly the same name) in each of their guest posts to build up their authority. This has led to a great new form of competitor link-building. If you’re an agency, this creates a competitive issue:

typing in an SEOs name with "guest blogger" surfaces far far to many guest posts

Whoever you are, this creates two other problems:

  1. Your competitors can Google your name and easily find your link-building efforts – no SEO tool necessary.
  2. Whichever domain you’re building links to has a large number of their links coming from a single author.

Every SEO knows how important domain diversity is; having a large number of your links coming from a single author is the authorship version of putting them all on the same domain. Assuming all other factors are equal (including average link quality), which of these do you think Google would be likely to rank more highly:

Site A has more links, but very few authors writing about it. Site B has fewer links but many many more authors writing about it.

In real life it’s natural to assume a company that has lots of people talking about it is more important than one nobody's heard of – that has very few people mentioning it; shouldn’t Google follow the same principal with linking authors?

Let’s assume Google gets smarter still. On your Google profile there’s a nice box for you to enter your employment history. What if Google used that data to make a graph similar to this?

What percentage of your links are from your employees? What percentage of your links are from self-professed content marketers?

Search engines see links as an indicator of quality because they’re essentially recommendations. If most of a company’s recommendations are coming from its own employees would you trust them? You’d probably just ignore those recommendations. What if Google decided to discount all links created by a company’s own employees? Simpler still, what if Google decided to ignore all links created by SEOs where those links are in articles that aren’t talking about SEO? Google’s collecting all this data now, why wouldn’t it use it?

One person authoring the majority of your links looks like link building – because it is.” [tweet]

Fundamentally, this all comes back to Dr Pete’s Top 1 SEO Tips For 2013 – diversify. Each of the issues is a problem of oversimplifying the link building process. I’m convinced that taking a holistic view to inbound marketing not only provides the highest ROI, but will increasingly become the only ‘safe’ way to aggressively grow a company’s reach online.

Takeaways:

  1. Don’t rely on any one type of site for a majority of your links; build links of all types into your plans.
  2. Be aware of the quality of links you're building, but make sure to keep the overall portfolio looking natural.
  3. Don't use a single author for all your content – vary it between different, real, people. When using external writers, use their authorship to help further vary the mix.
  4. Split up different parts of a client’s campaign between different team members; that way there should naturally be a slightly different approach applied across the client’s links.
  5. Oversimplifying a link building process may make it faster, but the footprint it generates also makes it riskier.

Have you begun to scale back, or even phase-out, guest posting? Let me know in the comments below.

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3 Quick Ways to Find Hidden Guest Blogging Opportunities

Image of Coin Operated Binoculars

Guest posting is a great strategy for building an audience — no doubt about it.

If you regularly write guest posts for legitimate blogs that feature quality content, your posts can be an amazing source of traffic and inbound links.

Guest blogging just works … when you do it right.

But finding quality guest posting opportunities can be a chore. Everyone who needs guest posting gigs is searching Google for terms like “guest posts.”

That means the bloggers that rise to the top of that search are completely inundated with guest posting requests. Your request will probably get lost in the shuffle.

Your job is to ferret out the guest blogging opportunities that no one else knows about.

Here are three quick ways to do great research that will move you one step closer to those powerful, yet lesser-known opportunities.

Topsy

I love Topsy.

I use it to come up with new blog post ideas, but you can use it to find guest blogging prospects as well.

Topsy searches the social web (Google+ and Twitter) for popular topics. By doing a search for “guest post” and limiting your search to articles shared within the recent past, you can find new guest post possibilities before your competition does.

If I wrote a cooking blog, I might search Topsy for ["guest post" cooking] and use the left sidebar to narrow down the results. I can ask Topsy to show me the links that were shared on Twitter within the last 13 days, and sort the results by date. At the time of this writing, Topsy showed me 37 results for that particular search parameter, and that means 37 new prospects who might be willing to publish a guest post from me.

Topsy also gives you social sharing information at a glance. By examining how many times each blog post was shared on Twitter, you can ascertain which opportunities might translate into the best exposure for you and your brand.

Google+

Although Topsy does search Google+ for shared topics, it does so very poorly. The search that I ran above (for a guest post on cooking) showed me only three links shared on Google+, even using the “all time” filter.

But when I run the same search using the actual Google+ interface, I get a lot more results. That means more guest blogging opportunities for you — and probably in places that no one else is looking.

Once you find some good bloggers to connect with, you can use your Google+ account to comment on the articles, then add those bloggers to your circles. This a great way to connect with your target bloggers in a non-threatening, gentle way.

Then you’re set up well to build your relationship with them via social media interactions. A solid relationship with a blogger means that when you do finally reach out to him or her to ask for a guest posting gig, they’ll recognize your name — and that means you’ll be considerably less likely to go straight into the circular file.

Bing

Yes, there is another search engine!

Bing attracts about 165 million searchers every month, and is often listed as the second-largest search engine in the world.

Here’s why you should care about Bing — the Bing engine ranks their search results differently than Google. Why is that important? Because you can use the same search strings in Google and in Bing, and you’ll find vastly different results.

This means you can find some hidden opportunities for guest posting that your competition hasn’t discovered — because they’re not looking in the right place.

Searching the phrase ["guest post" cooking] at Bing brings up over a quarter of a million results, and in most cases, the overlap with Google results is pretty minimal. The top 20 results for that same search on both Google and Bing only show two overlapping results.

Over to you …

So, those are just three quick ways to find unique, out-of-the-echo-chamber guest blogging opportunities.

It’s important to research places like this for many reasons, not the least of which is finding and connecting with the new generations of writers and content producers coming online every day.

How about you? Are you spending time with any lesser-known outreach tools or communities?

Here’s you’re chance to drop them into the comments below, and make them just a little bit less lesser-known. ;-)

About the Author: Rae Hoffman (AKA “Sugarrae“) is a veteran in the affiliate marketing space and the CEO of PushFire, a digital marketing agency that provides SEO and PPC management services.

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