Does Guest Blogging Really Work? – A Live Case Study

Now that Guest Blogging has become an SEO’s weapon of choice, there has been a substantial increase in the level of outreach that is currently being undertaken on a day to day basis (and subsequently a decrease in the quality of outreach and content) but the question at hand today is, does guest blogging really work and if done corrently how effective is it?

The Challenge & The Benchmark

Starting from the 7th of January 2012 I will attempt to write 30 guest posts over the course of 60-90 days (although 20 will probably be my limit) and have them all published by the 7th of April. All content will be unique and anchor texts will be diversified. I will be completely transparent with regards to all the posts and they will be available to read below.

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Directory Submissions – Is It Time To Call it a Day?

The Wonderful World Of Directories

Have you ever been searching for a link building service and come across a pitch similar to this? “What if I told you I could submit your website to hundreds of on-topic targeted directories, increase your organic visibility and bring in a boat load of a traffic all for the low low price of $9.99”.

Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is…

But It Used To Work!

 

Indeed it did and in certain cases still does, but so did keyword stuffing, spamming and other techniques that are long defunkt. Google has started the equivalent of the crusades on spammers and those who don’t start utilising other strategies will find that not only are their sites no longer ranking, but they could end up doing damage to websites they are attempting to rank.

Stop Submitting To General Directories & Start Thinking About Citations and Other Strategies!

 

I’m by no means implying that all directories have lost their value. Local citations are as important as ever and submitting your business to Yelp, Qype etc will result in an increase in visibility and traffic, but these directories are offering a valuable service to their visitors. DirectoryXYZ123.com with 1,300,210 sites in the queue with a PR0 probably hasn’t seen a real visitor in years.

If your website doesn’t have a physical address then local directories simply aren’t an option, however that doesn’t mean there aren’t other strategies available to you. Those who have been in the “SEO game” for a while know that links mean power. This does, and will for the foreseeable still ring true but the rules have changed. Quality is a metric that is now substantially more important than quantity. Through experience I have managed to achieve page 1 position 1 results on a medium difficulty term on the back of 2 hard earned links through guest posting and manual outreach.

Intensity Of Review Process ≈ Quality Of Site

 

Of course there are exceptions to the above rule and it refers directly to sites that have been contacted through outreach rather than “inbound marketing” *cringe*. Directory submissions, blog commenting, forum posting and other low level strategies usually have an incredibly low barrier to entry. Getting your site listed in traditional directories is usually achieved in one of three manners:

  • Free Submissions – Usually takes 1 to 365 days for approval in a fifth level subdirectory that Google hasn’t spidered in 3 years
  • Reciprocal Links – Usually takes 1 to 7 days for approval in a third level directory that has a PR0 but is cached
  • Paid Submission – Pay anywhere from $1 to $300 – Usually takes 12 to 48 hours for approval in a top level directory that has a PR6 that has been achieved through PR manipulation (exceptions are Yahoo directory etc)

Compare this process to submissions to one of the major local directories:

  • Standard Listing – Submit local business details, phone call to validate listing and a hard-sell but a free listing with a backlink and local citation within a week
  • Featured Listing – Submit local business details, phone call to validate listing, no additional SEO benefit (for the most part) from the listing, but a promise of additional visibility over those searching for services

Matt Cutts On Paid Directories

While I usually take everything Matt Cutts has to say with a pinch of salt, this video pretty much mirrors my thoughts on the current status of directories. If you’ve got a few submissions, it’s nothing to worry about, but when your backlink profile consists of 40%+ directory submissions, it’s time to stop!

What About DMOZ & Yahoo Directory?

 

SERoundTable recently published a post pointing to a post on Webmaster World questioning the value of a DMOZ link. Back in 2006 I was a DMOZ editor and can vouch for the fact that a listing on DMOZ would result in a substantial increase in visibility, not to mention the high quality referral traffic that had insane conversion ratios! Another benefit to DMOZ was being listed in all the clone sites including the Google Web Directory (RIP).

It seems though that even DMOZ has had its 5 minutes of fame and the strength from this particular directory is not what it once was. Google actually dropped Yahoo and ODP from their guidelines back in 2008!

The Yahoo directory poses a different dilemma, the £299 fee is quite substantial and while I’m sure it still offers some power, that money could be better invested in a content marketing strategy, on-page content, or a PR strategy. It just strikes me as a lazy-man’s way of building links when a number of other strategies have since been created and discussed with the public.

Why You Need To Pull Back On The Submissions

 

Have you ever seen those ads that offer 100+ PR1 links for $9.99? Mass directory submissions and sporadic bursts of submissions to xyzbestdirectory69dude.com are along the same vein. The release of Penguin and by a similar merit, Panda, has meant the cost of SEO and digital marketing has increased substantially. Sites with long term goals need to invest properly in their online marketing strategy or face the wrath of Google.

I cut corners on my own affiliate sites which you can read about here and more on Penguin here but have since invested my time in content strategies and building relationships with other webmasters to secure the future of my online properties.

If that’s not enough to convince you then what about…

Penguin Penalties!

Mass directory submissions on exact match (over optimised) anchor text were one of the major contributions to sites that received a Penguin penalty. Add to that the fact that Google also deindexed a large number of free-for-all directories, and even ones that were supposedly of a higher standard which were listed and even recommended by SEOMoz were removed from the index.

Conclusion

 

Ultimately, whether you decide to utilise directories anymore is up to you. I highly recommend keeping local directories as part of your online & offline strategy, and submission to DMOZ is still part of my agenda, as are a limited number of highly targeted and well maintained directories, but the time has come for directories to go the way of mass article marketing submissions.

Have you seen a negative trend in your organic visibility because of a directory submission campaign? I’d love to hear your thoughts on directories. Do you still use them, or have you embarked on a directory removal campaign due to a penalty?

Looking At The Future Of SEO – feat. Penguin & Panda

Disclaimer: I may have had a few beers while writing this so please forgive any grammatical errors – my opinions are my own and aren’t a reflection of the company I work for. I welcome any comments, questions, queries or arguments that debunk any of my statements, hell who doesn’t like a good debate?

The Face of SEO Has Changed / SEO Is Dead

Stop, just stop. It’s been just over two weeks now since the latest versions of Panda and Penguin have been released and the usual traffic driving blog headlines have been thrown around like confetti. The usual scaremongers are capitalising on Webmasters that are unable to decipher what the latest updates are chasing and while I admire these individuals, it’s become a bit predictable.

SEO is not dead, the rules haven’t changed, but the goalposts have been moved and those that were participating in link building activities that weren’t in alignment with Webmaster guidelines have been punished.

Now I’m not one to judge, as I’ve seen some of my sites been penalised, some due to using services off of Fiverr that were less than kosher and others through various blog networks, however it’s because I’ve been engaging in these various activities, that I’ve been able to see first-hand what it is that Google is penalising and in certain cases how to get around it.

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The Rise Of The Guest Post – White Hat Ethical Link Building

The Evolution of the Guest Post

Guest Posting is a strategy that has been evolving over the past few years, there are traces of guest post tutorials stretching back to late 2007 (if you can find some before then please leave a comment as it be great to see just how far guest posting has truly evolved). It is promoted by SEO evangelists worldwide and is becoming a common strategy for in-house and agency SEO’s alike.

Why Should I Give My Premium Content To Other Sites?

The effectiveness of guest posting is akin to none, not only do you attract new readers and subscribers to your blog as well as the site you’re ultimately promoting, but you are also building ethical long-term links from authoritative sites which will lead to an increase in organic visibility and as a bonus, assuming you’ve written this post and it’s been published on a site with high levels of traffic you will be receiving targeted visitors which may end up converting.

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The Methodology Of Setting Link Building Goals

Clear your mind, I’m going to take you on a journey into the psyche of a link builder – In this post I’m going to be covering the reasoning behind setting link building goals – how to set realistic targets and to finish off I’ll be giving you my personal link building worksheet! (If you would like to download the linking worksheet I use in this post please scroll to the bottom of the page for the download link!)

Before undertaking any link building campaign you need to ask yourself a few questions:

  1. What am I trying to achieve by building these links?
  2. Do I have a budget for this campaign?
  3. Is this a long or short term strategy?

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