Apply the Golden Rule to Guest Posting
“One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.”
The Golden Rule is a great to apply to your entire outreach process. From your writers and the people you are outreaching to, all the way to the content you are pitching, using the Golden Rule ensures that great content is produced for great sites, resulting in quicker responses and better return on investment for your client or company.
Minor rant on guest posting
As a whole, search marketers are known for taking a good marketing tactic and overdoing it to the point that the search engines stop trusting the signals. Think about it: directories, commenting, sponsorship, articles, blog rolls, footer links, and more.
Outreach is not a tactic; it is a relationship building strategy that has been around since we could communicate with each other. Guest posting, which is the standard product of outreach, is the tactic. Sadly, guest posting is on the border of being seen as poor a tactic as the ones above.
None of the things I listed above are bad, though. Not one. If each of those tactics were treated with respect when used for a client (aka if the Golden Rule is applied to them), they could be useful marketing tools. Here are a few examples.
- Directories. A good directory that is helpful to a searcher is a great place to be placed and have a link to your website. For example, there is a grass fed beef directory. Does everyone need to be in that directory? Nope. But for people looking for farms that humanely treat their cattle and feed them naturally, it’s a great resource.
- Commenting. Most of my site’s links are from commenting, but I don’t try to link that way. What happens is I get a number of followed links on strong pages because I added thoughts to a well shared and commented on post. The comments are random because I don’t comment for the links. Once you start *thinking* about it, it becomes an overused tactic.
True online marketing happens when good tactics are used as a part of the company’s day-to-day activities, not as a part of the strategic marketing plan.
Disclaimer: This part is negated if you are the writer of the content you are pitching to the people you build relationships with. You would, of course, treat yourself the way you want to be treated.
I know many companies that have staff writers and outsourced freelance writers to produce content. Please treat these talented professionals as you would want to be treated if you were asked to write the content.
Application of the Golden Rule: Pay them the wage you would consider worthy of the time and effort needed to make the content perfect for the site in question.
You’ve spent so much time and effort to identify and build the relationship with your contact; you want the content to match that effort. The best relationships with the influencers of the web take time and effort, and you need the best content for those relationships.
If you are building relationships, or just emailing bloggers of sites that you don’t deem worth this investment, do you really want a link from them? Do you really want your brand to be a part of their site? If they are worthy to get a link from, if their site and community are strong, they should be worthy of your best content. To get that, you should be treating the people writing and developing that content like the talented people they are and paying them for that talent.
Action: Pay writers a decent wage, not $4-6 per 250 word article.
Application of the Golden Rule: Give the writers the resources they need to create great content including the best information, time and contact with the site owner.
The best guest posts are personal and relatable; your audience knows something is genuine when they read it. The best content is created when the writer is in on the process. They need as much detail as they can get, including the site, topic, audience, and so much more. The best way of getting them this information is to put them in contact with the site owner directly. While I recommend having the writers as a part of your company, I know it’s not always possible.
If you can hire them, internal writers know your company and products, and can easily be introduced after building the relationship with the site owner. When that isn’t an option, ensure the writers have complete information and plenty of time to write a great article. If you want to take it a step further, consider getting your writer involved in the pitching process. It’s amazing how much better the content is if the writer is the one chatting with the site owner and community.
For those of you wondering what type of information to give a writer, here are the points most important for freelance writers:
- Article title
- Description of topic – Use this to give the writer the an idea of the piece as you see it in your head.
- Where (what site) the article is to be used?
- Author attribution - Informing the author if they are to be credited allows them to know now personal the post should be and if they can use it in a portfolio in the future.
- Purpose of article – Use to describe the goal of the article for the reader.
- Sample work/similar articles – Provide URLs of other articles which you would can be used as resources or guides.
- Research advice - Give the writer exact sources to use or general guidance. We sometimes use this to tell them what to avoid.
- Audience - Demographics and other information on the audience of the site like location, age, sex, social group, level of knowledge of subject matter, actively seeking content or reading in passing, etc.
Treating the site owner the way you want to be treated seems like common sense, but this can come in many forms. You want to treat them as yourself throughout the whole process, and that means in all communication, the content you send them, the links you include, and where that link is placed.
Want to hear it direct from the source? Shara from Mommy Parks recently gave her perspective.
The form of contact
Application of the Golden Rule: Don’t send, call, or tweet until you’re sure it’s something you would want to hear.
You might contact a site owner by email, social media, phone, or meet them in person. No matter how you (or your employees) are contacting them or how far along you are in the relationship, think about how you communicate. The best way is to research the person before you contact them. Remember door-to-door salesmen? That’s what this feels like:
There is a better approach when tweeting. As my co-worker Geoff puts it, read the blog first before you reach out. And treat them as human beings. Don’t use templates, use your own personality.
Application of the Golden Rule: Don’t send out content you wouldn’t put on your own site.
I have seen advice before to use your best work for your own blog which is good advice, but that doesn’t mean you send out poor material to other sites. Site owners have worked hard to grow their site and community. For many of them, it’s their full time job. If you want a high rate of return on the content you send out, honor that work with something you and they can be proud of. Don’t make your writer do 5-6 posts a day like this poor guy.
The link and link placement
How do you spot a guest post? There is link a in the bio of the writer with exact match anchor text. Maybe there is a single link in the top of the post with exact match anchor text. There are many ways to spot a guest post that is poorly done, but stay away from the most distinct signs:
Link in the bio with exact match anchor text
Fix: If you can only get a link in the bio, don’t make it exact anchor text. No matter where they are, only put in links that make sense. The only links that make sense in the bio are to the writer’s site or company homepage. Not the link you want? Maybe you need to post that content elsewhere, or forego the perfect link until you’ve built the relationship up.
Exact match anchor text to a commercial site with no context
Fix: If you do place a link to a commercial site, client or not, ensure that it makes sense to the context of the post. If you as the reader came across that link, is there some reason to click on it? And is the corresponding page something that is useful to them? If not, don’t add the link. Only link to things that make sense and are helpful to the reader. This means talking to the client and making their landing pages great before you start outreach and guest posting.
One link in the post to the author’s company site
Fix: Make sure you are linking to resources that are right for the content and users. Balancing links to your site and other sites not only looks more natural, it really is more natural. Don’t be afraid to link to what is necessary. Remember that guest posting and outreach is not just for links, it’s for branding, sales, and word of mouth.
The final application of the Golden Rule is to the readers and community of every site you work with. As a member of the SEOmoz community, would you be happy with a post written by someone who doesn’t respond to your comments and questions? What about someone who includes links to things that make no sense in the context of the article you’re reading? SEOmoz has a high bar of content for YouMoz, so that doesn’t happen here.
The best guest posts you can get are those on sites with a great community. A good community means that there is value in the site and they are probably a well-ranked site. I haven’t found a study that proves that a strong community means a strong site, but I am debating doing a study myself, so watch this space.
Regardless, it’s a good rule to respect the readers as if you yourself were a reader. Think about what you would want to see as a reader. Give them that and watch your brand grow in the community, the guest posting opportunities grow, and your revenue grow in return.
Do you have any other applications for the Golden Rule when it comes to content and outreach? Leave them in the comments below!