You Need To Stop Writing Bad Guest Posts

Google's Hummingbird algorithm change is bad news for guest posts, but SocialTimes Editor B.J. Mendelson has some advice to help you weather the storm.

Earlier today, I was trying to figure out when and for whom I wrote my first guest post. I know I was blogging on and off before blogging was even a word. I know my first regular post as a staff writer came back in 2004 for (the very Not Safe For Work) No. I’m not linking to it. It’s a porn site. I’m not really sure why a porn site wanted someone to review new albums for them, and I honestly don’t remember, but that’s where I started writing for other people. So I guess you can call those guest posts, since they were unpaid and I was using the reviews to get myself exposure, which eventually lead to a job freelance writing for Wonka Vision Magazine. If you have any idea what Wonka Vision Magazine is, let me know. I want to shake your hand. They were a nationally published music magazine that started out as a fanzine distributed around Philadelphia, and eventually, parts of New York and New Jersey, which is how I came across them.

Anyway. Enough about me. Let’s talk about you. Some of you may have been guest posting for as long as I have. Some of you may be new to it because of the term “content marketing”. Like “inbound marketing”, “content marketing” is a nauseating buzzword that’s being thrown around by the same jerks who were trying to rip people off while posing as “social media experts”. Hey, can you do me a favor? Slap the next person you speak to who refers to themselves as an “inbound marketer” because holy crap does that need to stop immediately. We are all marketers. Just. Plain. Marketers. Nothing more. Nothing less. Putting a dumb term in front of the word marketer doesn’t make you any better or worse than anyone else. It’s just a sleazy way to build up traffic and sell products you may not need.

As I’m sure you’re aware, Google made another change to their search engine recently. It’s the next installment in their well intentioned, but often quixotic, quest to stop crap from surfacing so highly on their SERPs. That’s Search Engine Results Page, for those of you not down with the lingo of SEO Practitioners. “Humming Bird”, which Google dubbed the update in order to give it a cute name so people can’t get too butthurt about it, allegedly puts the focus on longer, original, content that’s geared toward the site that content runs on. So, in other words, if you’re one of those people who posts stuff for The Huffington Post thinking that’ll give you exposure (LOL), and then you go and post that same blog post on your website, you’re not going to see much benefit from doing so. (For more on why blogging freely for HuffPo is stupid, read Social Media Is Bullshit. No use in repeating an entire chapter here.)

So that change alone is pretty significant because that has been a common practice since at least 2008. But the more important change is actually the one having to do with content geared toward the website it runs on. In other words, you can’t just write a bunch of random crap anymore, throw in your keywords, and hope that those links and feature on that website are going to do your website any favors. IF Google is telling the truth (and IF the amount of +1’s don’t nullify any other factor in how they rank articles), you need to rethink your guest posting strategy.

Yes. Guest Posts are a great way to help fulfill other goals. They’re really good at moving books (authors, take note), and you can make a decent argument that any exposure is good exposure. That’s only true to an extent, but when you’re first starting out and have a limited budget, guest posts are a huge help.

It’s just that the SEO benefits of it are starting to go away, and that’s not only true for you. It’s true for sites like SocialTimes. We can’t run crap that ran anywhere else because it doesn’t help us in terms of SEO. We also can’t run bad guest posts that are designed just to push keywords that are beneficial to you and are not tailored at all to our audience. That’s not fair to the readers.

Not that we would run that kind of thing to begin with. I’ve said no to A LOT of pitched guest posts lately for those reasons: They don’t serve our audience / don’t fit the style and tone we’re going for (social media and online marketing without the bullshit), they don’t do anything but regurgitate stuff that’s already out there and that you already know, and we’re not in the business of publishing stuff just to help you rank better.

Trust me when I say this: I’m always a little late to the game. Story of my life. I’m a deliberate thinker and I take my time before making any important decisions. Other site editors have probably already started to implement policies that will change what sort of posts they run in the future, making it THAT much harder to get something published. So don’t take my word for it. It’s time to adjust your guest posting strategy. Not because we’re saying it here at SocialTimes, but because now everyone’s saying it.

Want To Write Guest Posts That’ll Continue To Get Results? Do This:

1. Before approaching anyone about writing a guest post, hang out on their site for at least two weeks. Comment on the stuff they post. Take notes on their tone and use of language. As an example: You will NEVER see SocialTimes use “content marketing expert” or “inbound marketer” without derision. Not as long as I’m the Editor. This is also true for “social media guru / rockstar / ninja”. We want to tell people how to do stuff without any BS, and nonsense buzzwords are a big part of the BS we want nothing to do with. If you follow the site long enough, you’ll see that and be able to tailor your pitch accordingly. The tone of your post HAS to fit the tone of the site and meet the audience’s expectations. No excuses.

2. Don’t write anything less than 800 words. I used to have a rule that all blog posts should be a maximum of 500 words. That rule is now obsolete, just like this guy. Although it’s true traffic coming from the search engine may not stick around long enough to read the whole thing, the audience that comes back every day and clicks on stuff (i.e. the audience that actually matters if you’ve got stuff to sell) will. Hummingbird seemingly rewards longer content, and I suspect anything too short might get flagged as crap and not rank as well. So if you’re going to write a guest post for someone, make it awesome, and push past 800 words. If the site owner wants you to change it for any reason, get them to split the article and run it as a part one and two, but trust me. IF they’re aware of the recent algorithm changes to Google, they’ll want the longer content and ask you for it.

3. Don’t bother stuffing your keywords into the post. I’ve been having this debate with SEO practitioners for at least two years now. But. Since Google is now limiting the amount of search term data people can see, the way we think about keywords is going to be obsolete in a matter of time. So sure, use one or two of them that are REALLY important to you, but don’t push it. If the content is solid and people share it, then the odds are the article will rank better, and if the article ranks better and links back to you, it’ll elevate the standing of whatever it’s linking to.

4. Finally, you can’t just write a guest post and leave it up to the site to promote for you. The odds are they won’t because a lot of them push out at least sixty posts a day now. So you have to have a plan to promote your post and do so quickly and efficiently once it is out in the wild. Time is a factor in Google’s algorithm, so are social shares. If you can get the article a lot of quality attention quickly, it’ll rank better and you’ll see the residual effects, but don’t publish and pray because that ain’t going to work out for you anymore. Those days are over. Even if you get your stuff published on a place like, you can’t count on them to do anything for you. They probably won’t. So, you need to have a plan to promote your content.

For further tips and information on the changes concerning guest posts, watch the video above with Matt Cutts from Google’s Web Spam team. I included it here for a reason.

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