Those who appreciate the benefits of outreach and collaborating with high-authority websites to produce guest articles will be aware of the SEO value that comes with building healthy backlink portfolios.
While it’s undoubtedly great PR for you to be featured on top quality websites, additionally, search engine bots regard backlinks as a form of recommendation.
Thus, the greater numbers you acquire from leading websites pertinent to your business niche, the further “recommended” you become, and a consistent approach can result in substantial improvements to search engine rankings.
Google is on an eternal quest to be regarded as the gateway to the internet, the go-to resource for all search queries.
Thus, they only want to list the best, most trustworthy websites at the top of organic search results, ensuring a good user experience that keeps people coming back.
In order to maintain this quality, using backlinks as a barometer of excellence has always been considered a logical approach.
If one domain has twice the number of inbound links as a competitor - twice as many “recommendations” - then it stands to reason that their content must be better, meaning Google will reward their site with higher rankings.
However, it’s easy to see how such a rating system could be open to abuse, and “black hat” SEO merchants used to create hundreds of dodgy links from “thin” websites that acted as link farms.
They had no discernible audience and housed poor quality content, but linked here, there, and everywhere to manipulate the backlink currency.
Thankfully, in 2012, Google’s Penguin algorithm update clamped down on this issue, punishing websites that previously enjoyed success with link manipulation, restoring faith to how websites are ranked by giving more weight to the quality, rather than quantity, of links.
It was (theoretically) no longer possible to buy your way up the SERPs with unscrupulous link building tactics, and a genuine shift towards earning backlinks from trusted publications, closely related to the industry you operate in, took hold.
Google’s 2017 Reminder on Link Building
For the main part, Penguin has been excellent at improving the quality of Google searches, tidying up the grey areas to make the state of play increasingly black and white.
Yet, some practitioners of the SEO dark arts are still trying to game the system, forming “article marketing” campaigns where duplicate content (or near-duplicate content with minimal tweaks) is published on multiple websites, acquiring multiple backlinks without adding unique value.
One can see the perceived benefits of this activity - “sweating” content till the very last drop is drained, achieving widespread exposure with zero effort, getting tons of backlinks without bending over backwards.
But this SEO strategy is fundamentally dishonest and adds no value to the wealth of content on the internet, so Google frowns upon it.
Earlier this year, Google published their reminder on link-building in article campaigns, spelling out their stance on SEO spam.
Thankfully, they don’t discourage outreach and guest blogging on the whole, particularly when articles inform and educate.
At the end of the day, they welcome quality content that delivers value and is in line with the searcher’s intent, offering actionable advice to resolve search queries, and this is why outreach should be a central element of your integrated content marketing strategy.
However, the search engine giant is sufficiently concerned about these shady tactics and felt it necessary to re-highlight them:
1. Keyword-Rich Anchors
The wording of links (the anchor text) pointing to your site is an indicator of what your content is all about, and search engine bots use this signal as a shortcut to understanding, and subsequently ranking, your web pages.
For example, if Ninja Outreach hoped to rank highly for the phrase “outreach,” you’d expect to see variations of this term throughout the backlinks in their guest posts, perhaps pointing to service pages.
However, if you were to read the following sentence in a guest post, the link would certainly stand out:
“In order to get noticed online, it’s essential to prioritize outreach, ensuring you achieve brand exposure on the very websites your target customers are visiting.”
Seeing that in a guest post would definitely be a big red flag, suggesting the writer is overtly trying to rank for “outreach.”
So instead of promoting service pages (which could be viewed as an advertorial tactic), a more organic way of operating would be placing links to your relevant onsite blogs, adding value by pointing people in the direction of insightful further reading.
This would be a much better, less spammy use of anchor text:
“In order to get noticed online, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the multiple benefits of outreach, ensuring you achieve brand exposure on the very websites your target customers are visiting.”
If the blog posts you link to contain links to service pages, the proverbial “link juice” should still flow throughout your website, improving your overall search engine performance.
Focusing on long-tail anchors also appears more natural, whereas singular words stick out like a sore thumb, and it’s still possible to incorporate your target phrases into long-tail text, boosting your keyword relevancy for a wide range of related terms in an organic manner.
2. Republishing Content Across Multiple Websites
Where to begin? There are multiple adverse implications of littering the net with duplicate content, damaging your reputation and harming the SEO of your website, as well as those you submit copies to.
As mentioned earlier, Google’s raison d'être is to display the very best content at the top of search results, so if multiple sites publish copied or near-duplicate material, this will obviously cause confusion for the bots, ultimately meaning they’re likely to ignore your articles full stop.
Whether you’re an innocent newcomer to outreach or an unscrupulous marketer attempting to manipulate search algorithms, the main thing to keep in mind when creating guest posts is that word again: value.
If you publish the same content time and again across the web, with the primary intention of building backlinks, are you ultimately creating value for the wider internet community?
In a word, no, particularly if you’re also reaching out to websites that aren’t in any way related to your line of business.
To send the right relevance signals, it’s essential to target industry influencers for outreach, and offer them unique, exclusive content that adds value to their readership.
There’s a huge difference between bombing the net with “spun” content (making minor tweaks to save you the labor-intensive effort of writing brand new material) and repurposing an article by tackling it from a fresh angle, or discussing different examples to highlight your points.
There’s likely to be an upper limit as to the extent of new content you can consistently produce, but copying and pasting only amounts to time wasting, as you’ll risk the cold shoulder from Google once they catch up with you.
On the other hand, Google will also be suspicious if you only obtain backlinks from extremely high-authority sites.
The advantages in targeting premium sites are clear - they have engaged audiences and you stand to gain from their backlinks (recommendations) passing “link juice” to your website.
However, having a backlink portfolio that only consists of links from premium sites will look unnatural in the eyes of search bots, another red flag that suggests you’re trying to game the system.
Thus, it’s advisable to vary the websites you submit guest posts to, looking for a healthy mix of middle-to-high domain authority (DA) and trust flows (TF) - two of the metrics to bear in mind when managing your backlinks.
INSERT SCREEN SHOT OF NINJA OUTREACH,
HIGHLIGHTING WHERE TO FIND DA AND TF SCORES
Variety is the spice of life, and it’s important to share the love rather than purely looking for backlinks from top tier publications, showing you’re interested in adding value to sites that have good (rather than exclusively excellent) metrics, especially those that are very targeted to your business niche.
It’s also wise to target a range of local and national publications as well.
3. Using Cheap Writers Who Don’t Have Expertise
A roadblock that frequently stops hard-pressed marketing managers from outsourcing their content writing is the expectation that nobody outside the business could possibly “get” the business, and therefore be capable of producing quality output that frames the company in the best possible light.
This may well be true for the majority of cases, and Google is clearly wary of letting down their users who click-through to a webpage that contains poorly written and inaccurate content.
If you hire cheap writers (you can find sites advertising $5 writing gigs), you’ll be laying the foundations for failure, putting your company’s prestige on the line, and Google will soon notice if you publish articles citing outdated or incorrect information, or, again, containing swathes of duplicate text.
It’s imperative to check the work of hired help, having an editorial process in place, scrutinizing sources and ensuring they’re well-briefed to create truly valuable content.
Professional writers should follow a clear research process when creating blog posts, helping them to write with confidence and authority, no matter how challenging the subject may be.
Neglecting this critical procedure will inevitably lead to low-quality content, and if you build backlinks based on bad writing, you’ll be setting yourself up for a fall.
4. Heed Google’s Advice or Pay the Price
If you want to see the benefits of inbound links, it’s essential to generate them in the correct manner, or else you run the risk of Google penalties.
Failing to toe the line means your website could be severely demoted in search rankings, and it’ll take much time, energy, and effort to restore Google’s faith.
You can no longer get away with blasting out 250 woolly words, packed with keyword-rich backlinks, as there’s no way your content could possibly say anything meaningful in so few words. Such a strategy will certainly set the alarm bells of Google search bots ringing.
Ultimately, if your outreach strategy is solely focused on generating backlinks, you’re asking for trouble.
Every guest post you contribute to third-party publications must add genuine value to the readership, providing unique insights, subtly promoting your business by way of actionable advice.
So stop looking for backlinks, and start thinking about how your guest articles can actually help targeted audiences.
Only then will you truly see the full potential of outreach marketing.
Magnus Linklater runs UK content marketing agency, Bespoke Digital, specialists in outreach marketing strategies. With 15 years’ experience in SEO and content, Magnus has long been an advocate of the “quality not quantity” approach to link building.