Every year marketers begin to ask if guest blogging has really died and gone to SEO heaven. We ask if it’s now overkill to spend the time and energy to get our content on external sites. Since we repeat this process annually, it may come as a surprise that guest blogging was actually declared deceased almost four years ago when former Googler Matt Cutts declared guest blogging as dead in 2014.

But this overstatement shouldn’t be taken so black and white. Cutts didn’t mean that writers and marketers should never write content for outside publications again (or that there weren’t any benefits for it). He simply meant that writing guest blogs to get links in the bio section or within the text has been too overdone.

The Benefits of Guest Blogging in 2018

However, explicit do-follow links aside, there are still some concrete benefits to guest blogging on major publications and industry sites. Besides being able to share your knowledge and expertise, it also gives you some credibility and wider exposure to an audience that may have not seen your work previously.

Even when you don’t place self-serving links in your guests posts, or get a do-follow website link in your bio, guest blogging can still drive traffic and leads to your website and social media profiles. Once potential clients see your expertise in a certain subject, they will be more willing to contact you about their own needs. When you use guest blogs as a “strong handshake” or great first impression of you and your company’s knowledge, the potential client is already more willing to work with you.

The Need For High Quality Content

With every year, Google’s search algorithms (and users!) get smarter and have less of a tolerance for low quality content that is simply slapping words on the page to get something out there. Search engines and users alike are now expecting more from us as writers and content marketers.

Writing high quality, useful posts that actually attempt to educate the reader and keep their interest are what get the most traffic and engagement. It should no longer be the goal of guest blogging to write a 500-word post that has a few of your target keywords (and hopefully links!) included.

In order for guest blogging to still be an effective digital marketing strategy, it’s important to focus on the content quality. Not only will you be more likely to get your posts published on higher caliber websites, but you’ll also get more out of it through leads or social media engagement (e.g. people asking questions about your post or wanting to know more about your expertise in a certain topic).

More Appropriate Outlets

In addition to creating useful content, getting the highest quality industry or business websites to publish your work is key to having a successful guest blogging strategy. Online publications that get thousands to millions of views per month are likely getting inundated with guest blogging requests, and most of them are low quality or form-generated emails that don’t directly speak to what the publication is about.

To have your pitch for submitted content stand out, you can either get a referral or submit a detailed pitch that would be hard to say no to.

Referrals continue to be one of the best ways to get business. If you want to write for a specific outlet, check your business network to see if there’s anyone who can introduce you to the managing editor. Review recently published work on the site to see if there’s anyone you know, or search for the publication name on LinkedIn to see if any of your connections on there have listed it as a place they are published. Depending on the size of your network, you may also find a connection to give you a referral by asking your Facebook friends or Twitter followers if they are able to introduce you. It’s best to always send a thank you note or small gift after they refer you as a sign of appreciation.

If you don’t have a referral from someone who is already writing for the site, send a detailed pitch to the contact email listed as accepting pitches. Keep it concise but specific to that outlet (don’t use the same form email for all the outlets you pitch to). In addition to briefly stating your own experience and links to your related published pieces, give them two to four topic ideas that you could cover for their publication. Do some research to find topics they haven’t covered recently and that usually do really well for their site. Finally, be sure to address your email to a specific person when possible, instead of “Dear Editor.” You can use an email tool like Email Hunter, LinkedIn, or the masthead information on the site’s About or Team page to find the actual name of the editor who will likely read your pitch.

Length is Helpful But Not Required

Sites have varying word count requirements, so make sure you pay attention to any editorial guidelines when writing your pitch. Studies and expert opinions about content length have shown that both shorter content and long-form content do well, so it depends on a lot of factors. Namely: topic, average article length currently on the site, and whether or not length is actually providing more interesting information or not.

It’s not useful to users or search engines to write longer content simply because you can. If your content is going to be over 1000 words, make sure that it is providing useful information, not just trying to fill up space.

Step up Your Graphics Game

Finally, you can step up your guest blogging in 2018 strategy by creating better media to go along with your posts. Stock photos are still useful for many pieces of content, but if you have posts that need better graphics, spend the time to create it. Tools like Canva and Infogram make it easy to create high quality, custom graphics for your content without needing a graphic designer.

Creating custom graphics for your external content can help you stand out amongst other experts and get more interest and engagement.

Through higher quality content that helps educate and engage users, you can still see lots of benefits from guest blogging for years to come. As long as the focus is on content excellence, not links, your thought leadership through content can help you get more traffic and leads.