Guest blogging is a highly beneficial strategy when performed properly, as many marketers can attest. Moreover, it’s fairly easy to scale, to a certain extent. It’s subject to the snowball effect; the more top-tier positioning you get, the more easily you can get more, and the better off you’ll be. Growth leads to growth.
This is where automation can come in, and it’s where the real dangers lie. When people like Matt Cutts talk about guest blogging being dead, and when Neil Patel gives you a long list of items to check before accepting a guest post, they’re aimed at preventing the kind of cesspool of low quality content that churns around the ankles of every marketer. To avoid being one more sewer pipe spewing nonsense into the junk mail folders of every high profile editor out there, you have to take your automation with a hefty grain of salt.
Automation has its uses. I won’t deny that, given that a lot of what I do is aimed at helping with careful automation. However, it’s just that: careful. Automation should be saving you time while not sacrificing quality. The moment you let quality drop is the moment you land on the slippery slope to the bottom.
What I’ve done here is analyzed some of the benefits and drawbacks to automating various aspects of guest posting. It’s up to you to decide where you want to draw your lines.
Benefit: You Can Post More Frequently With Automated Pitching
Outreach is part of the difficulty of guest posting. Contacting editors and pitching your posts to them is a tedious and time consuming task, which means it sounds like it should be great for automation. In fact, there are a ton of services that will help you with exactly that.
Automatic outreach helps you reach more editors in a shorter amount of time, which means you can spend more time developing your ideas, writing better content, and generally growing your sphere of influence.
The point you have to worry about is how much you’re automating. It’s one thing to create a basic template that you customize for each individual, and it’s quite another to create one pitch and send it out to a list you scraped from other lists that were scraped from other lists down to antiquity. Every mistake isn’t just an ignored pitch, it can be a burned bridge.
Danger: Your Automated Pitches Are Impersonal and Ignored
The danger that comes with automated pitches is that you’re simply too impersonal. A good pitch has information backing it up. You learn the topics, the perspectives, the audience, and the voice of the sites you’re aiming to write for. You look for the intersection between their topics and your expertise. You find the editors and the contact methods they prefer, and you spend time researching them so you know who they are before you reach out. You find a point of commonality and mention it to gain that bit of personal relationship, that foot in the door.
Good pitches stand out from the crowd. When you’re sending a ton of pitches at the same time to different editors, you ARE the crowd. When there’s nothing to make you stand out, you don’t get a second glance.
Benefit: You Can Outsource Writing for Higher Volumes
Writing is very time consuming. A simple guest post can still take hours or days of your time, depending on how much research you’re putting into it, how well you’re crafting it, how much editing it needs, and on and on. Sure, some people can bust out a short guest post in an hour, but is that going to be your best possible work? Your guest posts should be your top of the line posts.
There are, of course, thousands of extremely talented writers out there who are more than willing to accept a little cash in exchange for a post. They’re already good at doing that research, at matching tone, at providing high quality content. That’s not really a problem, now is it? When you hire a few writers to produce your content for you, you end up with a high baseline for a simple expense.
Danger: Your Outsourced Writing Lacks a Consistent Voice
The problem with outsourced writing is not the quality level, though that can suffer depending on where you’re buying your content. I wouldn’t buy a guest post I planned to give to HuffPo from a site like Textbroker or Fiverr, you know. Buying content from very high quality writers is fine, and basically indistinguishable from other writing.
The problem is, every writer has their own quirks and their own voice. Some of them spend a lot of time disguising it, but others don’t. If you’re trying to scale up your content outreach, you need a lot of content, and are probably hiring multiple writers. Their voices will be different, and that might be obvious to someone who reads your content in different places.
Benefit: You Can Frequently Contribute to Regular Sites
One of the benefits of automation is the ability to maintain ongoing relationships with less of a hassle. You don’t need to go into a returning guest post position as if it’s a cold pitch; you can just mention your prior history – if even that – and immediately get to pitching a topic. The lower bar for pitch quality is ideal for a more template-focused pitch email.
On the other side of the coin, you can outsource writing based on existing writing more easily than you can outsource completely original writing. I’m not saying you can or should spin content for a guest post; I’m saying once you’ve laid the groundwork and created some content for a site, a writer can use that as a basis to identify what that site likes and how to write more content that fits. Meanwhile, you can use the time saved to lean into other opportunities.
Danger: You’re More Likely to Let Quality Slip
The more you contribute to a site, the more likely you are to let your quality level slip. Your pitches skip many of the formalities until you reach a comfortable level of casual with the editor, which can be fine, but only if they’re okay with it too. If they want to keep your relationship professional and you’re stretching too far into casual with your posts, taking them for granted, they aren’t going to be very happy with you.
It’s simply too easy to grow complacent with any position in life, and guest post positions in particular. The editors in charge of a publication can drop you at any time with no repercussions, even if you’ve been writing for their site for months. Automation is a very easy way to start growing complacent, and that complacency leads to lower quality.
Benefit: More Posts Means More Links Means More Growth
Many people guest post with the intention of getting links, rather than any of the other potential benefits. Traffic, after all, is often in short supply. The name recognition is hard to quantify. Opportunities aren’t guaranteed, and you can’t rely on them to count for your return on investment. Even links aren’t necessarily worthwhile, but they still exist, and even when they’re nofollowed, they’re not worthless.
Automation means you spend less time on each post, which means you’re getting more links to your site for less effort and less time. Since links are the backbone of SEO and they power the modern web, there’s no reason you wouldn’t want to get them, right?
Danger: You Slip Down the Slope of Quality
This is something Rank Fishkin covered in a Whiteboard Friday all the way back in 2014. His prediction at the time was that guest posting was going to get harder and harder, and he was certainly correct. The combination of higher standards and higher competition has been stacking up consistently year over year. It’s one of the more difficult content strategies, I’m not going to lie.
Read his slippery slope progression. He goes from a white hat marketer to a marketer discovering some easy of use hacks, to one using more total automation, to one who rationalizes black hat techniques, and onwards down the slope. It’s so very easy to let the seductive song of automation compel you to take more and more shortcuts, until you’ve become what you – and Google – hate.
The takeaway of this benefit/danger pair is that you need to set lines in the sand, and you need to abide by those lines. Don’t rationalize the next step down the slope, keep up your standards and keep up your quality levels. That’s the only way to avoid sliding all the way down, step by distressing step.
Benefit: You Get Your Name on More Sites More Often
One of the best benefits, as hard as it is to quantify, is the name recognition and exposure that comes with guest posting. When you can automate more guest posts more often, you’re able to boost your exposure and get your name on more sites, in more places, more frequently.
Think about someone like Neil Patel. He’s a household name in marketing, and he got that way because he’s everywhere. Pretty much every high profile site in marketing and in every niche he’s touched has a post he wrote somewhere on it. Did he get that far on his own? Of course not; he’s built that up on the back of tools, techniques, tricks, and automation. He’s also very good at it, keeping his techniques on the white side of the hat. He’s a household name because he made himself a household name.
Danger: You Fail to Build Real Personal Relationships
The number one danger to automation is the fact that you’re often outsourcing your outreach, which means someone else is doing the communication with the editors. You aren’t corresponding, your assistant or your representative is.
A huge benefit to guest blogging is building lasting relationships with editors in high places. I’ve known editors who left their positions, only to invite some of their favorite contributors to their new positions once they’re established.
If you’re not the one building this relationship and making this lasting impression, you aren’t going to reap those benefits. Automation has the benefit of getting you a wider scope of exposure, but not a deeper set of relationships.
Benefit: More Frequent Guest Posts Lead to More Opportunities
Every guest post is an opportunity. You never know when someone is looking for a service like yours and happens to read a post you write. You never know when someone may be looking for someone in your niche to interview, or someone who has a business proposition might stumble across your profile. The opportunities are impossible to measure, but the more chances you put out there for them to happen, the more likely they become.
Automation, of course, speeds up your saturation of the market. The more you appear to be everywhere, the more you end up everywhere. The more opportunities you seem to have, the more will be offered to you. It’s “fake it til you make it” taken to the extreme in the realm of guest posting.
Danger: Your Effort Could Be Better Spent Elsewhere
Possibly one of the biggest dangers of guest posting is putting all of your elbow grease into one basket, to mix a few sayings. Remember the 80/20 rule? Once you reach the point where you could be automating your guest posting to reach more editors on more sites with more pitches, is that really where you should be spending your energies? There is almost definitely something else you could be doing – or automating more safely – that will give you better returns. Guest posting is going to have diminishing returns once you’re trying to automate it, and not the least because of the other dangers above.
So, strike a balance. Some simple automation is fine, and anything that saves you time without harming your quality is hugely beneficial. On the other hand, it’s very easy to take it too far and ruin the whole thing.