Higher Education SEOLink Building

Why Guest Blogging is Not Dead in Higher Ed

By January 28, 2014 No Comments

The search marketing world has been on fire lately after Matt Cutts, Google’s head of spam, published this Tweet:

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It’s a bold statement, and I’m sure it stopped many of us in our tracks as we were sipping our morning coffee.  It definitely caught my attention.

To quickly summarize the blog post Matt’s Tweet referenced:

“if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop.”

He goes on to explain, noting that like most other effective SEO tactics in the past (think blog comments or forum profiles), people are taking advantage of guest blogging and it’s now a breeding ground for spam.
You know what?  He’s right!
Like any effective SEO tactic, people started gaming the system.  It was only a matter of time before Google started cracking down.
But, answer this: how many of us didn’t already know this?  Between Matt Cutt’s previous blog post along with some notes from Rand Fishkin, it was very clear that this was coming.
So where does that leave us in the higher ed marketing world?  Should we ditch guest blogging altogether?
Well, yes and no.
In my eyes, Matt Cutt’s focus on the “death of guest blogging” is centered around those who are utilizing low quality, low relevance guest blog websites and networks in an effort to generate as many links as possible.
While I can understand why some marketers were seeking these sub-par opportunities, I don’t really think this recent rant on guest blogging from Matt Cutt’s applies too heavily to us in higher ed.  Why?  To be frank, we don’t have to seek out these low quality websites to publish our guest posts.
We are fortunate to work in an industry with reputable clients who are trusted and sought after for their thought leadership and ideas.  A lot of bloggers and publications will jump at the opportunity to feature content created by most colleges and universities.  That said, we must begin to shift our focus on landing big wins, seeking opportunities to secure placements in major publications and/or influential websites in our programmatic niches.
The reality is, we live in a very different SEO world than most other industries – even if you’re working with a small or lesser known university.  Yes, our industry is extremely competitive but due to the brand power that we represent and the simple fact that we have a .edu in your URL, we aren’t always forced to seek out the easy targets like other industries.
Guest blogging was one of the last forms of effective link building that was both scalable and cost effective.  Until recently, it was totally acceptable tactic that worked well.  It still does work, but only if you’re smart about it and seek opportunities that don’t fall into the quality standards we’ve become accustomed as of late.
The unfortunate reality in search marketing as a whole, however, is that it isn’t getting any easier or any less expensive.  If you have been using guest blogging as a way to generate link volume, you probably should start looking into alternate opportunities to generate links.  It would be wise to lower your dependency on guest blogging overall, and if you’re pursuing low quality placements I’d avoid those all-together.
We’re in the midst of a very interesting and challenging time in search marketing.  Visual content is becoming the cornerstone of most marketing campaigns and to be effective, more time and resources are required to create the results you need to be successful.  As education budgets continue to decrease, it’s really going to make search marketing interesting in the higher ed world.
So no, guest blogging is not dead.  When utilized correctly it remains an effective avenue to generate high-quality links, referral traffic, establish thought leadership, and expand brand recognition for your college or university.  We just have to approach the tactic in a different manner and pay close attention to where we’re publishing content.
Moving forward, guest blogging won’t be as quick and easy as it was in the past, but it’s still worth it if done correctly.  You might be surprised where you can get some traction.

Takeaways:
  1. Guest blogging isn’t totally dead in higher education marketing.
  2. Stop looking at guest blogging as a way to generate link quantity and start focusing on quality – it will pay off.
  3. Lower your dependency on guest blogging, and balance your strategy with infographics, surveys, video, interviews, and other high-quality content.  Find out what you target audience responds to and run with it.
  4. Get the help of a PR professional and a strong writer to craft highly targeted pitches for your guest posts.
  5. Seek out the “homerun” placements – you’ll be surprised what you can get.


Clayton Dean is the Co-Founder of Circa Interactive, a San Diego-based digital marketing agency that specializes in higher education.  Connect with Clayton on Twitter: @CircaClayton

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