Attorney bloggingI decided to write this article after seeing uproar in several online attorney forums during the last ten days of January, 2014. Attorneys, and the internet in general, have concluded that one should never again guest-post on another’s blog due to statements made by the head of Google’s web spam team, Matt Cutts. This reaction is based on a widespread misunderstanding of what Matt said and I’m writing this article to help attorneys clarify that guest posting can still be good for their online marketing.

As I just mentioned, attorneys seem to believe that they should neither guest post nor allow guest posting on their own blog after a January 20th, 2014 blog article that was written by Matt Cutts. In the article Matt explicitly stated that people should no longer see guest blogging as a way to get back links for the purposes of boosting SEO.  Stating that someone should not post out of hopes of meeting one particular purpose does not mean, however, that people should not guest post at all. Let’s take a closer look at guest blogging as a practice and at what the leader of Google’s web spam team has consistently said on the topic. You will see that guest blogging can actually be of great benefit to your law firm.

Guest blogging can be an important component in a law firm’s marketing plan

The idea of guest blogging is simple. If someone has a blog then they can have another author write an article to appear on that blog. While the concept is simple, it’s important to understand why one might want to guest post or have a guest post on their site. It is also important to understand that there is a right way and wrong way to go about it, which I discuss in the following video.

Guest blogging should be thought of in the same sense as guest speaking. I recently did a guest post for another legal marketing site on the subject of gaining back links. It provided benefit to me by exposing my writing to a new audience and it provided benefit to the other website through my writing content of value to its readers. This is the type of guest blogging can be of benefit to attorneys. By way of comparison – if you are an attorney practicing bankruptcy law then you might be invited to give a talk to a large body of people interested in the topic. Doing so is great exposure. Such an opportunity helps you get your name out and can lead to more clients either directly or indirectly. Similarly, if you are a bankruptcy lawyer asked to write an article that will appear on a widely followed financial planning site then it gives you a chance to be seen by many people who would not know of you otherwise. Guest blogging, therefore, can be the same type of “guest appearance” that attorneys have been doing for years on television, radio, and seminars. Doing so is great exposure.

Attorneys must understand that Google’s view on guest blogging has remained consistent

It must be understood that there is a right way and a wrong way to guest post. If someone has something to say that is truly of value to another’s readers then the first person’s post can make a good guest article. It must be understood however that a good guest post means that the guest is considered some type of authority; you wouldn’t, after all, hire a guest speaker who wasn’t considered some type of authority in his or her field. It is also important to remember that the person who owns the site must be receiving content that is specific to his or her audience. This is the right way to guest post and to receive the benefits of exposure discussed above. This exposure can result in the guest writer receiving links to his or her own website, in an indirect way, as increased exposure means more people will become interested in the guest and these people may link to the guest’s own site.

There has been a rise in poor guest blogging over the last few years. Many people have engaged in practices that they attempt to call “guest blogging” as a way of getting back links to their site. What these people will do is write one article and email it out to many people and ask that the article (which includes links to the writer’s site) be included on the email recipient’s blog.  Obviously this content is not written for any one site’s audience in particular and such content is often of low quality. Those engaging in this practice aren’t doing so for the type of exposure I discussed above; they are doing so as an easy way to get backlinks to their own site. Google began warning about this practice as far back as 2012, as shown in this video:

Did you notice that Matt did not discuss back links as one of the “benefits” of correct guest blogging in that video? What he did say was that many people were going about guest blogging incorrectly as a way to attempt to get links. This is because the great benefit of hosting a prominent blogger as a guest, or writing on someone else’s blog, has always been to gain exposure – it is not something that any serious blogger does for simply gaining a link.

Google issued a second and third video, essentially saying the same thing, from 2012-13. In December 2013 a fourth video was released which again discussed the advantages of blogging the “right way” and why going about it the “wrong way” is a poor practice:

Did you notice that the message of what is and what is not appropriate did not change from 2012 to late 2013? The only thing that changed was that a larger number of people were engaging in “low quality” practices as a way of trying to get links.

On January 20th, 2014 Mr. Cutts wrote a blog post in which he said that “…if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.” The internet took these words to mean that people should stop guest blogging altogether even though the statement is directed at those who are guest blogging “as a way to gain links.” The hysteria that stemmed from these comments ignored the fact that Matt’s article is consistent with what he and Google have been saying since 2012.

Matt’s article makes clear that legitimate guest blogging will not be considered spam and provides the types of benefits I discussed above. He actually says in the article that it is acceptable to allow a guest post if “…you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well.” This statement is clear once common sense applied; would you invite someone to come speak at a convention if they didn’t have a reputation as an expert or if you didn’t know them personally? Of course you wouldn’t. This gets back to the point of “credible” guest blogging, which is the right way to go about it and to gain exposure.

Interestingly, due to the public uproar over the article, Matt later placed an “added” section at the bottom of his article in which he stated:

“I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.”

Putting all this together is simple. Guest blogging has always been a great way to gain exposure. Doing so, however, solely for the purpose of getting links is non-productive and the processes one would have engage in to get a significant number of links from incorrect guest posting is going to be considered spam.

Attorneys engaging in quality guest blogging can receive great benefit to their law practice

The exposure that a lawyer may gain through guest blogging is invaluable. An important first step, to gaining this opportunity for exposure, is to establish yourself as a prominent legal blogger on your own website. As I mentioned in my Blogging Basics for Lawyers series, you can become a respected legal blogger by making the content of your law blog valuable. It is also important to remember that attorneys should update their blogs frequently. Engaging in these practices will get your “blawg” noticed by a wider audience and, before you know it, guest posting opportunities will begin to arise. These will be invaluable to your practice and the process of building a better blog on your site will net you more clients along the way.

What are your views on guest blogging? Would you have an expert post on your blog if it was of benefit to your clients? Feel free to chime in through the contact form below.