Guest blogging is not just about SEO

Terri Harel is currently a marketing associate at StayClassy and an editor of the company’s blog. She spent the previous year as a co-founder of a Start Up Chile company, building a software product for nonprofit organizations to map and visualize their impact. Terri maintains a strong interest in and passion for activism, electronic music, traveling, political economics and amplifying social impact through technological innovation. Terri has also written on politics, music and technology in various publications.

Guest blogging had humble and respectable beginnings. Some coveted expert was willing to donate their high-priced time to lend credibility to your online publication. They generated lots of visits to your site and promoted your name and cause. Everyone rejoiced. However, somewhere between then and today guest blogging’s reputation degenerated.

The competition for online visibility became so fierce that guest blogging evolved into the web’s marketing red light district. The practice became increasingly spammy, so much so that it drove Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Web Spam Team, to declare guest blogging dead in January.

After a hot debate over his words, however, Cutts revised his statement, repositioning the declaration as “the decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO.” Emphasis on for SEO.

What this post ISN’T about:

  • Guest blogging for SEO purposes
  • Using Guest Blogs as a means to arbitrarily grow followers or traffic

What this post IS about:

  • High-quality idea sharing
  • Community building
  • Synergy
  • Collective Impact
  • Networking with like-minded individuals

First, know the value

First and foremost, nonprofit organizations should understand the value of having a blog: a medium for self-expression, crafting brand identity, demonstrating impact, demystifying operations, posting job or volunteer opportunities, profiling constituents, keeping supporters informed, and repurposing news from the sectors and regions the organization works in. Essentially, there is a nearly endless flow of potential content for an organization’s blog.

korea

Examples of different types of posts on Liberty in North Korea’s blog

In addition to leading potential supporters to your site through content, maintaining a blog brings your organization to life by demonstrating the passion, action and traction of your work. Blogging is a tool to compel and activate site visitors to become supporters of your cause or encourage current supporters to be more entrenched in your organization’s mission.

Likely, an organization will have a very small, dedicated editorial team (if at all), so it can be extremely helpful to build out a network of outside contributors who have a stake in your organization and the work you accomplish to provide new insights and voices to your media machine.

Now, grow the value

With the right mindset, guest blogging can be a great channel to create meaningful partnerships and retexture your blog. Moreover, when approached correctly, guest blogging lays the groundwork for lasting collaborative partnerships that drive social impact and amplify your organization’s work

1. Share ideas

Whether you’re writing a blog post for someone else or vice versa, you’ll have to collaborate on a topic. Simply talking to one another is a great way to generate new ideas, feel inspired by others’ experiences and boost self-confidence and validation by sharing your own. You can also learn a lot by getting feedback on your organization’s methods, projects, processes and programs.

Take the conversations around pitches as an opportunity to grow, and you’ll see that guest blogging will generate, at the very least, a personal and professional return on time spent. In building up the guest blogging program at StayClassy, I’ve immensely enjoyed talking to others about their expertise and passions, and learned a great deal on topics I wouldn’t haven’t ventured into otherwise. I’ve also been forced to explore others’ work and reflect on how I can improve my own.

Don’t focus on site visits or links or traffic – if there is some personal or professional development to be gained from a guest blogging opportunity, it’ll probably be worth your while. The authenticity with which you approach collaboration outshines reaping Internet rewards and people will take notice.

Note: This isn’t to say you should accept every guest bloggers pitch or every guest blogging opportunity, by any means. You should never jeopardize the quality of the content you publish.

Guest blogging should be thought of like collaborative art: at first it’s unclear what will result from the partnership, it’s just a desire to exchange ideas, create together and see what happens. The results can be striking, beautiful and, best of all, valuable.

art

2. Find your other half

Imagine you’re just getting to know someone. You text each other and you meet up here and there for coffee. Eventually, communication drops off because you’re not that interesting to each other or, hopefully, you’re inspired by one another and you become great friends.

Guest blogging is like texting or going on a coffee date. It’s the potential gateway to a meaningful partnership. If you feel particularly galvanized by the conversations you’re having with a contributor or moved by their posts, it might mean your organizations have some synergy. Perhaps they can come on as

 Leverage collective impact

Nonprofit organizations, and society as a whole, serve to attain high ROI on collaboration. In a 2011, two social impact consults wrote a post called Collective Impact in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. The article calls for organizations to work together, rather than in silos, to work on innovative solutions to the world’s greatest challenges.  While guest blogging itself won’t literally produce solutions to problems, it fosters a culture of community, cooperation, communication and discourse that might lead to tomorrow’s most effective social impact partnerships.

The idea has since been echoed by other development and nonprofit professionals: try here, here, here and here. 

How to start as a guest blogger:

  1. Make sure you have a well-thought out, eloquent understanding of what you want to get out of being a contributor
  2. Make sure you can commit to contributing – letting someone down on a promise can damage the potential for future partnerships
  3. Identify organizations you believe you could actually do good work with in the long-run – organizations that you are inspired by or look up to, for example
  4. Try to reach out to the blog’s editor, if they have one

How to start a guest blogging program:

  1. Figure out what you want to get out of allowing outside blog contributors
  2. Craft guest blogging guidelines to ensure contributors understand your policies and standards.
  3. Identify some writers or thought-leaders you find inspirational and reach out to them personally
  4. On your blog or on social media, post a call for guest bloggers
  5. Some questions you might consider when screening guests bloggers:
    1. Tell me a little about your self and your organization?
    2. What are your core values as an organization?
    3. What is your mission and passion, both as a person and as it relates to your organization?
    4. What experience do you have writing?
    5. What are you interested in getting out of guest blogging?
    6. What’s your schedule like? How often do you feel you might want to contribute? Is this something you’d like to participate in regularly?

Summary

Guest blogging most certainly is not dead when we consider the true value of effective partnerships. There absolutely are measurable rewards to guest blogging, like reaching wider audiences and, to some extent, potentially growing traffic to your organization’s site. However, in the context of the work many nonprofit and development organizations are doing, these considerations seem myopic. The true value of guest blogging is in encouraging a culture of cooperation and discourse – a culture that has longer-term and more far-reaching rewards to humanity as a whole.

 

 

  • Dr RWP

    Some good points here Terri. Like website links blog posts shouldn’t be just thought of in terms of “on page” SEO – but as generators of real “engagement” and real website traffic !

    • terrilee

      Thanks! Definitely agree – everything should deliver value to the reader and links should help them go down the research “wormhole” – they’ll come back and refer you if the post has helped them out.

    • I think so much of digital marketing is about creating real connections and value and that in itself will drive results, rather than trying to game everything. With my blog I don’t even think about the things I should to get the exposure for my blog. I trust that if I continue to provide insights that people like and find helpful it will naturally grow.