7 Essential Quality Metrics For Evaluating Publishers For Guest Blogging

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Ever since Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, declared guest blogging “done” around this time last year, the online marketing world has been rife with misinformation on the topic.

Contrary to popular belief, however, guest blogging is not dead — Cutts was simply pointing out that guest blogging strictly for links is a spammy tactic that SEO practitioners should not rely on as a link building strategy.

Thoughtful and targeted guest blogging still has value as a part of a holistic content marketing and SEO strategy, and so now is a good time to refresh how to properly evaluate publishers for guest blogging opportunities. Use the following seven quality metrics to determine which sites you should target for your guest blogging campaign.

1. Google PageRank

Google PageRank (PR) has long been a metric obsessed-over by the SEO industry. While many claim PageRank is useless, it is the easiest and most definitive sign of a penalized domain. (If the PageRank is zero, the site is likely to have been penalized by Google.)

PageRank is a number that’s assigned by Google to sites that it indexes, ranging from zero to ten. The higher the number, the more trustworthy, authoritative, and credible the website. Matt Cutts has indicated that PageRank primarily considers the quantity (and quality) of incoming links to a site.

The main challenge with measuring quality by PageRank is that Google updates PageRank infrequently (and it’s possible that we’ll never see another PageRank update again). Though I wouldn’t focus singularly on PageRank as an indicator of a good website, I always use PR as part of my overall publisher assessment efforts.

Basically, PR is good for getting a quick, at-a-glance view of the authority and credibility of a website, while also allowing you to immediately determine if a website has a manual penalty applied to it. For these reasons, it’s the first metric I consider, but certainly not the only one.

The easiest ways to determine a site’s PR are:

  • Visit one of the numerous sites that allow you to plug in a URL and check a site’s PR, such as PRChecker.
  • Install a PageRank add-on to your browser, which automatically checks the PR of any site you’re visiting.

2. Domain Authority

Domain Authority (DA) is another composite score of a site’s quality. DA is a proprietary metric established by Moz, and it’s ranked on a scale that ranges from 0 to 100. It’s a logarithmic scale, and the higher the score, the better.

It’s determined by combining all of Moz’s metrics into a single score, including total links, total referring domains, and more. DA refers to the strength of an entire domain, while Page Authority (PA) provides a similar assessment for a single page within a website.

You can measure Domain Authority using Open Site Explorer or the MozBar. It’s also part of numerous paid SEO platforms, made available via API.

I recommend that you target sites with a DA of a minimum of 40. Higher is better, depending on the context of your efforts, but 40 assures a minimum threshold of credibility and sufficient return for your efforts.

3. Unique Referring Domains

“Unique referring domains” is another metric that’s provided by Moz through the Open Site Explorer and the MozBar. It tells you, at a glance, how diverse the link profile of a particular site looks by answering one simple question: How many unique, individual domains currently link to this site? The higher the number, the more diverse and strong the link profile of the site is.

However, the quantity of referring domains doesn’t give you a good idea of the quality of those domains. The value of an inbound link strongly depends on the authority of the publisher on which it resides. In other words, 10 links from high-quality publishers such as Forbes, Huffington Post and Inc.com would be much preferred to 100 links from small, no-name publishers.

Is the site being linked to by reputable bloggers, mainstream publications, the press, and sites in its niche? If so, that’s a good indicator that it’s a solid site.

4. Alexa Score

Alexa.com is an analytics site that helps you estimate traffic to any given domain. While it’s not definitive in terms of traffic and it doesn’t provide traffic figures for newer or smaller sites, it can give you a helpful idea of how much traffic a specific site receives.

Counterintuitively, the lower the number, the better. For example, a site that ranks in Alexa’s top 1000 is an extremely popular site with very strong traffic. A site that ranks in the top 5 million sites on Alexa is a site that’s getting a steady flow of traffic.

Anything with a higher number than that is likely to send you minimal traffic, unless you’re in an extremely niche area. Since one of the primary goals of guest blogging is to reach new audiences, use Alexa to ensure your guest blog will be exposed to a sufficient audience.

5. Relevance

One of the major areas of focus from Google’s Penguin update is link quality. One factor in determining link quality is relevance to your niche.

Relevance is important to consider due to how much time you’re likely to invest in guest posting. Ask yourself, Is this topic going to resonate with the audience I’m targeting?

When you’re evaluating a site, it’s important to ask the right questions. Before we get into a short scoring tool you can use, it’s helpful to understand how the search engines score relevance.

Since it’s algorithmic, let’s do a quick breakdown of how a search engine determines relevance. Relevance is a binary discussion – is this specific site relevant to a searcher’s query or not? Factors that help correlate relevancy include:

  • Keywords
  • Meta tags
  • Titles
  • Localization
  • User intent (transactional vs. informational, for example)
  • Content type classifications

You can apply a similar perspective when you’re doing a manual evaluation of a specific site to determine its relevance. At a certain level, it’s obvious. A link from a highly ranked, but completely irrelevant site may be valuable if it’s organic and you’ve found a natural connection.

A link from a more general site may be valuable, provided that they have a category that’s a reasonable fit. But generally speaking, you should be spending your time targeting publishers that are highly relevant to your niche.

To quickly assess this point, ask yourself:

  • What’s the topic of this site? How does that relate back to the topic of my site?
  • Do we share the same or similar types of audience?
  • Is their core content complementary to your own?
  • Can you provide a unique angle on the site’s topic that stands out?

6. Audience

Earlier, I discussed how to estimate the traffic of a particular site using Alexa. It’s also important, however, to evaluate the quality of the audience.

Are they your ideal customer? How engaged are they? Are they likely to share your content and become regular readers of your content?

Below are some quick questions you can ask to help you evaluate these points.

  • Look at the few most recent pieces of published content. Did they receive comments? What were the nature of the comments – thoughtful discussions, related to the content, surface level, combative, or other?
  • Look at the social share counts for a few recent pieces of content. Are articles and other pieces of content being shared on the network at acceptable levels for your work?
  • Check out the site’s presence on social media. How active and professional are their accounts? What do their follower numbers, content, and engagement look like?
  • How much do they promote the guest posts that appear on their site, either to the community at large or through other mediums like newsletters, etc.?

The best sites are ones that have a strong and engaged audience, are likely to share your content, and build not just your links but your following.

7. Quality

The final aspect of assessing a site or blog as a potential venue to publish your content is the site’s overall quality. Stated bluntly, is this a site that you’re interested in having your brand associated with? There are a number of aspects that you can consider with respect to this question:

  • Is the site well-branded? Is it positioned as an authority site that’s creating value in its space or is it a fly-by-night marketing site?
  • Is the brand itself well-established and well-recognized? Do it have positive associations and good sentiment?
  • Who are the other brands or thinkers that are connected with the site you have in mind?
  • What’s the overall quality of the content on the site?
  • What kind of mentions does the site get in overall media, discussions, content sharing sites, etc.
  • Is the design a high-quality, high-conversion look and feel?

For a more comprehensive look at how Google defines quality, see my article, “The 12 Essential Elements of High Quality Content.”

Conclusion

Guest blogging stands to remain an important strategy for connecting your site to others in your field in the year ahead. To avoid any potential search engine penalties, it’s important that you have a strategic approach as you evaluate each site you reach out to.

Increasingly, the goal of guest blogging isn’t to build links. Instead, it’s to reach new customers, increase conversion rates, build your reputation, and increase brand awareness, credibility, and loyalty.

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