As a new blogger, you may be waiting for Google to send some of that sweet traffic your way. The problem is that new sites tend to rank poorly until they get backlinks. And when you look into how to get backlinks, the first thing everybody tells you to do is start guest posting.
But, it can take several hours to several days to write a single quality blog post. On top of that, you now have to beg a random blogger to accept your hard work for free. Is this really the best way we’ve come up with to build backlinks?
How Much is an Individual Backlink Worth?
Google doesn’t share its algorithm with us.
Everything we know about how valuable backlinks are is an educated guess. A guess created by either reverse-engineering the search engine results page (SERP) or by what Google Tells us about guest posting.
As far as we can tell, backlinks appear to matter quite a bit. We think this because competitive search queries tend to produce web pages with a lot of backlinks.
Take the example below for “how to start a blog,” the top two pages in the SERP have thousands of links back to those pages.
So how much is your 1 backlink from your guest post on JoeShmoesBlog.com worth? The post that you spent days writing, marketing, and trying to give away for free. The answer is “nowhere near enough to help you rank for how to start a blog.”
You simply don’t have the time to do the hundreds of guests posts needed to get your backlinks to the level that competitive queries are at. If the backlink were from a much larger site like the NYTimes or from a .gov or .edu domain, maybe that factors in. But even a great backlink is unlikely to put you at #1 for a query this competitive.
Is Guest Posting is Worth It?
Attempting to get a backlink from a low domain authority website by guest posting is a complete waste of time. But, that doesn’t mean that guest posting never makes sense. There are two situations in which it makes sense to write a guest post.
The domain authority of those websites is extremely high. To the point where naturally acquiring backlinks from comparable sites won’t be easy. Plus sites like this can send you real traffic. And worst case scenario you can put up logos on your site that say “As seen in the NY Times.”
However, many people are out there are begging JoeTalksAboutHisCat.com to take their guest post. And that is a complete waste of their time.
Pro Tip: MOZ created a statistic called “Domain Authority,” which uses backlinks to predict how well a website will rank in the SERP. Download the free SEO toolbar, then search Google or visit a website to see the site’s domain authority. Use the domain authority metric as a guide to whether a site is worth guest posting on or not.
2) The site has a large amount of complementary traffic.
If you start a blog about peanut butter and a popular jelly blog asks you to write a guest post on their website, go for it.
But, you’re writing this guest post for the incredible business exposure, not the backlink. You’re writing this to acquire new customers or followers.
How Do I Build Backlinks without Guest Posting?
When I write a blog post, I usually spend several hours on a first draft. Then I spend even more time adding images, formatting the post, adding links, etc. It usually takes me two full workdays to write one of my fantastic blog posts.
If I wrote a guest post that I put similar effort into, I’d be throwing away 2 days of my life for 1 backlink.
Which starts to seem dumb when you realize that by posting the same content on my blog, I’ll get ALL the traffic that post brings in. AND that post will generate way more than 1 backlink over time.
How Do I Write Posts That Other Sites Will Link To?
I’ve noticed the following types of content tends to get a lot of backlinks. Create more of it and you should get links to your website over time.
I linked to Moz’s free SEO Toolbar in this post already as a way to check the domain authority of websites. Free tools get a lot of links.
Whenever you want to make an argument, you tend to try to find stats to support it. People will link out to where the stat came from so they don’t look like they made the number up.
3) Extensive How To’s
Sometimes my audience needs to know how to set up a blog with Bluehost as a prerequisite to what I’m talking about.
I don’t feel like writing a blog post about something like that. So I’ll link out to any website I can find that did a good job explaining it and move on.
4) List Posts
Exhaustive list posts are very shareable. I wrote a post on 57 ways to build your own product. These posts get links because they’re a quick way to give your readers a lot of examples of something.
5) Sensational claims
Did you know that there are thousands of people living in never before contacted tribes in South America?
These people don’t know that humanity exists outside of their tribe in the year 2021. How can you not link to a story that insane?
6) Posts that appeal to other bloggers.
The cool thing about a site like mine is that I try to appeal to people who want to start a digital business. And they all have websites that can link to mine.
So be sure to link to this post! Seriously, it’ll help me out a lot.
This isn’t a complete list. But, the point is that if you focus on creating content, you’ll organically get backlinks. Over time, it’ll add up to more than the 1 link you got from guest posting.
Are There Better Ways to Build Backlinks?
If you spent an 8 hour day trying to build backlinks, you may only acquire a few links. This is why I genuinely believe you’re better off spending your time on content creation rather than link building.
But I understand the anxiety of just starting out and having no backlinks and no traffic. So here are a few ways to get backlinks that make sense.
With HARO, reporters ask queries via email. If they use your answer in their publication, they’ll link back to your website. It’s a legitimate way to get a backlink from a high domain authority website. Granted, it’s time consuming.
If you’re trying to get your blog off the ground, consider creating some YouTube videos and cross-promoting your blog with it. Sometimes YouTube videos can spread faster than a new blog and it’ll only help your blog if you put multimedia content on it.
3) Broken link building.
This is where you find sites with broken links and contact the site owner to let them know they have a 404. Then you offer a similar piece of content on your site to replace the broken link.
I consider this technique to be spam. However, I consider guest post requests to be spam as well. At least this technique won’t take as long to get a link.
Should I Guest Post to Get the Ball Rolling?
You need traffic to get backlinks. And you need backlinks to get traffic. So which comes first? This makes many people want to guest blog to get the ball rolling.
1 or 2 backlinks from low domain authority websites isn’t going to change anything for you. You should only write guest posts for high domain authority websites or amazing cross-promotion opportunities.
The best use of your time in this situation is to create linkable content targeting low competition keywords.
Download the free Moz SEO toolbar then Google a keyword phrase. You’ll want to target phrases where the top results are one of the following.
- Websites that don’t match searcher intent.
- Content with very few links.
You should be able to rank top 5 for a long tail phrase like this no problem. As those posts get backlinks, your other content will rank higher and start getting backlinks too.
It’s a difficult time period when you’re not getting traffic, but you have to be patient. Google’s job is to find great content, a lot of very smart people are hard at work to make sure the best stuff rises to the top of the SERP’s. It takes time, but it will naturally happen if you’ve got the best stuff.
How Do I Write a Guest Post?
If you found a high domain authority website or an excellent cross-promotional opportunity to guest post (Or if you’re blatantly ignoring my advice). Then let’s talk about how to guest post correctly.
1) Write the post you’re going to give away in advance.
The fastest way to pitch a post and get it published is to have it ready to go ahead of time. Perhaps some site owners will find it spammy that you wrote a post and are marketing it around. So make sure to let them know this is unique content you’re only going to let 1 site publish.
Write a post then shop it around. Target the most relevant, highest domain authority websites you can find. Start at the top of your list and work your way down.
If you’re getting to low domain authority websites like JoeTalksAboutHisCat.com and haven’t found a taker yet, simply publish the blog post on your site and move on to your next post.
2) Insist there is at least 1 link back to your website in the article’s body text
The entire point of this post was cross-promotion and to get a link back to your website. That link will be much more valuable for both goals if it’s somewhere in the article itself. Very few people click the by line of an article and Google may pass more link juice to links within the body content.
If you can’t get a single link to your website in the article text itself, I’d refuse to guest blog for that site entirely.
3) Ask if they’re interested in writing a guest post on your site.
If you’re guest posting for cross-promotion. The other site owner may have an interest in getting in front of your audience as well. Google frowns upon link-sharing schemes. But if done on occasion for legitimate cross-promotion it should be fine. This way both sites get a piece of content.