Cover Your Tracks: The Patterns of Guest Posting En-masse

One guest post is never enough. An agency may place 10s - if not 100s - of them a month.

In fact, for some websites, their entire linking strategy consists of just guest posting.

However much some may turn their noses up at this, if you’re just after volumes of respectable links -with control of anchor text - there are few better tactics.

The problem is that, as soon as you create and scale a process, you’re going to start leaving patterns.

And these patterns could well serve as clues for search engines on the look-out for people out to manipulate the SERPs.

This post is heavily indebted to James Agate, who has already commented on the expected crackdown on guest posting in 2013.

If you want to carry on using these tactics with a minimum amount of risk, you’re going to have to be extra careful to cover your tracks.

Let’s look at what the common footprints you leave when guest posting en-masse.

(And as James has reminded me, remember it’s a combination of these signals that could cause problems, rather than standalone features.)

1. Links to the same site, several times

As someone who sees a lot of guest posts, one easy-to-spot characteristic of lower-quality posts is those that link to the same website several times, either through the post, or just in the bio.

For example:

This is a guest post by Online Leather Wallets. Your one-stop shop for wallets, leather wallets and black wallets.

There’s a bit of a primal mentality here on behalf of the guest poster: you’ve worked hard to secure the opportunity, you don’t want your link juice flowing out to other websites.

And if, God forbid, you are paying the website owner to host the post, there’s a chance they’ll only allow one link anyway (a counter measure to stop you linking to several clients).

If this practice is to continue to exist and be effective behind Google’s back, then there needs to be a trade-off. Webmasters shouldn’t take a draconian approach of ‘one link and one link only’, guest posters shouldn’t abuse being able to link to several clients.

Solution: If you’re placing content that has been written with only links to your client’s site, read through and look for places where it may be relevant to link out elsewhere. The right choice will also enhance the credibility of your post.

2. Duplicate author bios

In the words of Michael King:

You’d be amazed at how often you’ll be able to see a link builder’s roster of clients just by searching for their author bio.

Again, if the pattern is easy for you and I to spot, you can bet the brightest computer scientists in Silicon Valley won’t have much trouble finding it either.

Google has already demonstrated they’re prepared to punish agencies deemed to violate their Webmaster Guidelines. Aggressive guest posting could well be perceived as violating these guidelines.

Solution: Don’t be lazy. Mix it up. It’s easy to just copy the same bio each time. Create new personas, new authors. Even if you outreach with your standard name, ask for the post to be accredited to somebody else.

On a side note, this is actually a good technique for sniping competitor’s links. Copy and paste their author bio in Google inside inverted commas. Often it’ll return a list of sites they’ve guest posted on and that you can too.

3. Does the post have an author?

James Agate has speculated that something as simple as a post being authored by ‘ADMIN’ could be perceived negatively.

Google is big on authorship. There’s a huge drive to understand the relationship between web content and its creators.

If they can see a clear author on a blog, they can decipher the value of the content that author produces.

And if there’s a constant stream of guest posts going on to a site all authored by ‘ADMIN’, then you can see why alarm bells will start ringing in the GooglePlex.

There’s a wider issue here of not so much looking for ‘low quality guest posts’, but looking for lower quality sites in general.

If a site has authors, then it’s an indication there are real people behind the site that care about it. Sites that people care about tend to be of value to the intended user. Value for the intended user means value to Google.

Solution: Target websites with a clear author, or who mark-up new authors. If they don’t, but you still want to guest post, encourage webmasters to put the process in place.

Image credit: Rubber Dragon on Flickr