Let’s pretend I’m a car engine expert.
I invented a breakthrough kit that, when applied to any car engine, doubles the horsepower.
I’ve been invited to give the keynote presentation at an industry conference in Detroit.
I get on stage and begin with rudimentary details on how car engines work.
Of course, my audience knows about engines.
But now I share details of the research my team did.
I give away some secrets that car owners can use to improve the performance of their engines.
I close the keynote by profiling an early customer who used the kit a day before a local race, and took home the top prize!
My closing slide lists my company name and website.
I get back to the office and the phones won’t stop ringing.
The sales team spends the next two weeks taking orders.
My keynote presentation was a success.
An Alternate Universe
Let’s imagine an alternate universe.
I have the same expertise, the same breakthrough kit.
I walk on stage in Detroit and talk enthusiastically about my new invention.
In every other sentence, I name-drop my brand or product.
In this alternate universe, a third of my audience may get up and leave.
They came to learn how to make their cars run faster, but instead got a product pitch.
This alternate universe reminds me of guest blogging and contributed content.
That is, while guest posts should help solve a problem or answer a question, they often focus on plugging a company’s product.
Understanding the Author’s Motivation
I understand this phenomenon, because I share the same goals as these contributors.
Search engine optimization is very important to me.
In internal planning meetings, a question that often comes up is, “How can we get more inbound links?”
As a contributor to external sites, one solution is for me to find key phrases in my contributed articles, and link those back to relevant pages on our site.
And this is where I slip into that alternate universe of the name-dropping keynote presenter.
In an article on how to stop flailing with content marketing, author Michele Linn characterizes this guest blogging strategy as “trying to game the system instead of being helpful.”
Linn continues, “While I understand the value of guest posting at authoritative sites, if your main focus is getting a backlink to your site, the article already seems insincere.”
Guest Blogging: My One Piece of Advice
If there’s one takeaway from this post, it’s this:
When guest blogging for an external site, write solely for the audience and not for yourself.
I provide this advice to you as a reformed name-dropper.
I’ve had submissions rejected because “it was too promotional.”
While there was useful content in my guest blogging submissions, my intention was not pure.
The moment I focus on phrases to link back to my website, I compromise my relationship with readers.
If I set my mind free from linking strategies, I’ll create better content.
And really good content is what wins the day. It trumps inbound links.
I can’t remember the last time I read a contributed article and clicked on a hyperlinked phrase that pointed back to the author’s site.
If, however, the author provided great advice, helped me solve a challenge I’m currently having, or made me think differently, I’ll seek out the author and ask for a call.
And isn’t that far more meaningful than an inbound link?
Guest Blogging Closing Thought
The other way to think about guest blogging is to align your goal with the site that’s publishing it.
Sites put their readers first, and so should you.
When objectives align, the site is more inclined to share, plug and feature your submission.
And that’s a win, win, win for the site, the audience and you.
P.S.: About those SEO considerations…stick with this same approach about writing for your audience, and if you do that well enough, you’ll gain inbound links without asking for them.