For an SEO-enthusiast, checking Matt Cutts’ blog is not unlike checking the weather. You don’t have to do it, necessarily, but it’s nice to know which days you’re going to want to bring an umbrella.

Of course, the weatherman isn’t always totally accurate. There was that one time he called for a foot of snow and all we got was a drizzle.

Whiteboard Weatherman

If you’re one of those folks who like to stay on top of the SEO forecast, you’ve probably seen Cutts’ post last month called “The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO.” It was pretty anxiety-inducing; it’s hard to hear, verbatim, that “if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should stop,” right from the horse’s mouth. “Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done”; Cutts goes on, “it’s just gotten too spammy.”

But I think it’s the next part that we really need to pay attention to: “In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.”

So, you mean, you wouldn’t guest blog without doing it right? Shocker. The weatherman might as well have told us that it’s going to be hot near the equator.

I have to disagree that guest blogging is “done,” “dead,” or “too spammy,” as Cutts argues. The fact of the matter is that, yes, spam is going to be spammy, but guest blogging is rampant with opportunities for those of us who truly want to reap the benefits. It’s all about doing it properly. Here’s what defines good guest blogging – a practice that, I think, will never truly die:

  • Increasing brand awareness. Does your brand have a unique voice? Does your company have something unique to contribute to the industry? Is it entertaining? If you’re guest blogging on a site whose audience is well within your brand’s industry, and your blog post gives the audience something to remember your brand by, you shouldn’t have a problem.
  • Being authoritative. Get your facts straight. Be thought-provoking rather than obvious. Use statistics and numbers to reinforce your points.
  • Building relationships. Get to know the others in your industry, and collaborate rather than compete if need be. Build relationships with bloggers and see if you can pitch a series of blog posts rather than a single post. Use LinkedIn and Google Plus to get to know other people – people who want to give you guest blogging opportunities rather than people who need to be convinced.
  • Give and take. If you’re not sure how to build relationships, start by trading opportunities. Let a name in the industry blog for you, once in a while.
  • Not having your eye on the prize (links). Remember that links will come naturally if your content is good.
  • Be an expert, not a guest blogger. Know what you’re talking about before pitching an idea; don’t do it the other way around.

And if you want to take guest blogging opportunities on for your own blog, use the above as guidelines to find quality contributors. Valuable guest blogging is all about building relationships, which goes both ways.

Google’s recent Penguin Update redefined the basics of SEO link building. Prior to the update, sites linking to yours weren’t an issue. However, with guest posting becoming increasingly popular and more and more people engaging in it, link spamming has increased and Google has jumped on it, penalizing sites with unnatural links in posts. Now, SEOs and webmasters are hurrying to find ways to fix the link issue and prevent their sites from being hit.

Google refers to the unnatural linking in guest posts as link schemes and defines them as follows:

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.

While we recognize that businesses selling links and sites building spammy link profiles are practicing bad SEO and applaud the Penguin Update for penalizing them, what about those of us who are just looking to guest blog — you know, those interested in creating well-written and relevant content that will be posted on another site?

It’s not the end of guest blogging
Don’t be discouraged! Guest posts can still be a useful and legitimate way to get your content hosted on another site with a backlink, expose your content to the online community, and even connect with other bloggers. In short, Guest blogging can still go a long way in your link building efforts. Google doesn’t want to do away with guest blogging — it just wants to make sure that you’re following the best linking practices.

A guest blog shouldn’t just be a few hundred words stuffed together without any clear purpose or understanding of the subject matter, with a link or two shoved in seemingly at random. The most important factor in a guest blog is relevancy. That goes for both content and links.

Guest blogging best practices
Here are some important guidelines that you can follow to ensure that your guest post doesn’t get hit by Penguin:

  • Post to sites that are relevant to the industry you are writing about. Avoid over-diversified sites.
  • Avoid posting to low-quality blogs or websites (the site should have a strong domain authority).
  • Don’t use exact-match anchor text and make sure it looks natural — use long tail words or a call-to-action phrase.
  • The page you link to should be relevant to the hyperlinked phrase.
  • Don’t post to blog networks or article directories.
  • Make sure your title is unique (type it into Google to ensure that it hasn’t been used).

Tools to help you spot and remove bad links
Whether Penguin sent you a warning about your links or you want to check and ensure that they are safe, Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO are two of the most effective free link tools for analyzing backlink profiles.

With Google’s increased scrutiny of link profiles, there is some debate on whether or not guest blogging is beneficial to businesses. However, if done moderately with the right partners, guest blogging can be extremely valuable. Guest blogging isn’t only a link building tactic; it’s also a great way to build your credibility, your community, and expand your customer base. When you decide to guest blog for someone, it’s important to put your best foot forward to produce high quality content. After all of your hard work, you don’t want the result to be posted just anywhere – which is why it’s vital to find a guest blogging opportunity that fits your needs and will be the most successful.

When guest blogging, it’s important to consider your audience, as well as the tone of your content. The difference between a conversational tone and a more scholarly article will define what type of blog your piece will be hosted on, which can help you to narrow down your options.

Below are five steps to finding the right guest blogging opportunity.

  1. Search for potential blogs to host your content on
  2. The easiest way to start off is by using Google Blog Search. Try using some version of [inpostauthor:guest "keyword"] or [inurl:guest "keyword or topic"] and see what comes up. If you find that the results are few and far between, try using a broader keyword. There are also a variety of guest blogging platforms on the web that allow you to meet up with other bloggers.

  3. Check for domain authority and link profile
  4. Credibility and quality go hand-in-hand, but sometimes it may be a little difficult to tell how authoritative a blog is simply by looking at it. To get a clear-cut answer, you can easily take a look at the blog’s domain authority and link profile. You can do this by installing the SEO Moz toolbar onto your browser or typing the URL of the blog into Open Site Explorer.

  5. Check for engagement
  6. Social media is an important aspect of choosing a blog, and is a tell-tale sign of the blog’s engagement of its readers. Search for posts and look for comments readers have left, as well as options to share via various social media outlets like Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. Take a look at their Twitter page and see what kind of following they have and how often they interact with their followers. The more interaction, the better!

  7. Begin building a relationship with potential blogger
  8. Once you’ve found a blog that meets your criteria, building a relationship before proposing a guest post is key. Share their posts, comment on their content, and interact with them via social media.

  9. Reach out to blogger with guest blog proposal
  10. Let them know why you think it’s a good fit for their blog and tell them how you can help promote the post on your end.

Guest blogging is a powerful aspect of content development that is designed to connect with people, build relationships, and find qualified leads for your business. By finding the right opportunities, you can rest assured that your time was well-spent.

Guest Blogger MM BoxThe door shuts, the drinks are gathered and before the first trash bag hits the can, the hosts of the party are already talking about their guests. “Did you see the shirt Bill was wearing?” “Did you notice how much Jack was talking?” “Don’t you already miss Michelle?”

The world of guest blogging is a lot like the social world we live in today. You may get invited to a party once, but if you leave a bad impression – you probably aren’t going to be welcomed back. So, how do you get your hosts to miss your content? It’s all about minding the P’s and Q’s of guest blogging.

Follow the House Rules – Is there anything worse than a guest who shows up and gets a little too comfortable with the phrase “make yourself at home?” While you certainly don’t want to completely change your writing style to appease the needs of your host, you should view the guidelines or parameters that a hosting site has put forth. Stay on topic, meet their word count and ensure your information is valuable to their audience. Mutual respect is essential to building strong blogging networks. A disregard for the rules is as annoying as a guest commandeering your iPod doc to blast the latest Nickelback hit.

Don’t Bring Unannounced Friends – While follow links may be a great friend in link building circles, they aren’t invited to most guest blogs without bringing something to the table. Much like a party that only invites guests who bring something for everyone to enjoy, most blog hosts won’t allow random links. And, guess what? That’s the way it should be. In the same way you wouldn’t show up to a party with a few unannounced friends, don’t provide a guest blog with some unwanted links. Instead, add links that boost the value of your content.

Confirm the Theme in Advance – Have you ever felt the chill of showing up to a Halloween party in a costume only to find out that it wasn’t a costume party? What? Just me? Anyway, matching the theme of a party is just as important as matching the theme of a guest blog. When your content is submitted for posting, there shouldn’t be any surprises. By confirming the theme of your piece in advance, you won’t metaphorically be left at the doorstep in your Raggedy Andy costume.

Socialize – Throwing on the headsets and playing round after round of Call of Duty is a great way to eliminate any possibility of appearing on future guest lists. Who wants to spend time with an antisocial person? This same concept is perfect for the guest blogging community. Not only should you look to provide engaging content that starts a discussion in the comment section, you should also work to promote your content. While you will certainly enjoy the increased number of eyeballs reading your content, your host will greatly appreciate the increase in quality traffic to their site.

Much like the unwritten rules of social etiquette, the guest blogging experience requires certain courtesies. Be respectful of your host, mindful of your readers, and follow some good old fashioned common sense. Following certain standards will build your reputation within the blogging community. It won’t be long before word spreads that your content is the life of the party.