Hi guys. This is another pretty straightforward update – the techniques we discuss in this post aren’t complicated, it’s just a matter of whether you’re willing to put in the elbow grease to make it work.
If you haven’t been following along with the case study, here are all posts in order:
(Password for all posts is NoHatDigital)
In this week’s post, we’ll be discussing contributor accounts – how to get access to them, and more importantly, how to use them in a way that’s scalable.
Because this update involves sites that belong to other people (not just LearnU), out of respect for the owners/people who have the accounts, we’re not going to include specific examples about what contributor accounts we’ve used (and plan to use going forward).
What is a Contributor Account?
If you’re familiar with white hat SEO at all, you’ve probably already heard of contributor accounts. There are loads of good guides to guest posting out there, but most of them only give passing mention to contributor accounts. Most of these guest posting tutorials will suggest that one of the ways you can find guest posting opportunities is to search “become a contributor” – but they don’t really explain in detail how contributor accounts differ from basic guests post.
Basically, a contributor account is an account that you have on a third party site that allows you to contribute articles (usually subject to editing/approval). Some contributor programs will have requirements where you need to write at least X articles a month. There are also typically going to be rules about the number of links allowed, the quality and uniqueness of content, and rules about being overly promotional.
Why Focus on Contributor Accounts?
In our opinion, it’s worth focusing your efforts specifically on finding contributor accounts rather than just looking for guest posts. A guest post is a one-off – you send in your post, it gets accepted and posted. You’ve gotten a white hat link and hopefully the post will drive some referral traffic to your site as well. But then the next time you want to want to get another link, you have to repeat the process all over again, especially if the site you’re linking to is a different site.
Contrast that to getting a contributor account – sure, it may take more work upfront to apply for one, and the standards might be a bit higher than what you’d expect for a guest post – but once you get that account, it’s an asset that you can keep going back to.
As long as you’re not linking to low quality sites (e.g BestEarPhonesCenter.com), and as long as what you contribute actually adds value, you can keep tapping the same contributor account over and over again – and you get to use that contributor account on many sites, not just on one site.
An Example of a Contributor Post
Here’s an example of what I suspect is a contributor post on business.com
In this article, there are multiple links to news sites and authority sites, but all these links are to deep internal pages. There is only one link to a root domain, and that also happens to be the only link to a site that I’m not familiar with (a link to a business called RedBooth). Also, if the the author was just linking to relevant resources, there’s no reason to link to Redbooth but not to Skype – which suggests he’s placing the link here intentionally.
Also notice that the Author runs an SEO agency of some sort – this pretty much solidifies my belief that this is a contributor post.
(Mr. Al Gomez – if you’re reading this by some miraculous coincidence, sorry for calling you out…)
Don’t Phone it In with your Contributor Posts
Another trend we’ve noticed in our use of contributor accounts is that the posts we submit have the ability to generate significant referral traffic. Typically, contributor account programs exist on sites that are pretty large – which in turn usually means that the sites get a lot of traffic, and do reasonably well in search engines.
If you’ve ever spoken to a White Hat SEO specialist, you might’ve heard the following question:
“Would you want this link if google didn’t exist?”
While we don’t necessarily disagree with the sentiment in all circumstances, when it comes to looking for the right kinds of contributor accounts, it makes sense to at least consider this question.
Imagine we’re living in a post apocalyptic world where there’s no google (but for some reason there’s still internet in general). In this situation, you’d want the following:
Access to contributor accounts on sites that have a strong base of visitors
Contributor posts that are engaging enough to get users to click through to your site (or opt in/sign up to something)
Now, take a step back from this dystopian future and consider this:
Contributor posts that you submit get posted to well established sites that Google (probably) likes.
That means that your contributor posts have a good chance of ranking if you target the right KWs.
This is the step that we don’t see that many people take into consideration. Forget about your own site for a second. Imagine you’re just a freelance writer who wants his/her content to get noticed. How would you drive traffic to your writing?
Well, one of the ways you could do it is by doing proper KW Research.
It doesn’t make sense that people are willing to do thorough KW Research for their own sites that are unlikely to rank for big KWs, but when they have access to a large property that has a ton of clout with Google, they throw all the principles of KW Research out the window and just focus on getting their links in.
Also, don’t forget that if you create content that drives visitors to the site, you’re maximizing the chances that you get to maintain the relationship and keep using the contributor account – in the long run, everybody’s happy.
Also, you should keep in mind that we tend to view web traffic through an SEO lens, but this principle applies to any source of traffic.
If the site you’re contributing to is a social media darling, try to contribute a piece of content that has a chance of getting shared.
If the site that you’re posting to has mostly Direct visitors (e.g a loyal following), try to put out content that speaks directly to this audience.
Approach each contributor post as if your site can only generate referral traffic. Your goal should be to drive as much traffic as possible to the contributor post itself. That means putting out high quality content, engaging users, and optimizing for search or social.
How to Make Friends and Influence Google
At this point, you might be thinking that this contributor account strategy sounds neat, but it doesn’t sound scalable – which is typically the issue with many white hat strategies.
In some ways you’re right – it’s difficult to manage many contributor accounts at once, especially if they all have minimum contribution guidelines. Our solution to this is to spread the burden of contributor account management across a number of people.
Most of you probably know at least a few other people who’re interested in online business. By tapping into these networks and coming up with equitable partnerships with people you know, you can expand your access to contributor accounts without actually needing to manage them yourself.
In broad terms, this is how it would work. Let’s say you’re in a Skype group with 4 other people who’re all interested in online business. Approach them, explain the contributor account strategy, and suggest that each person try to get access to at least 2 contributor accounts, and that all of these accounts will be shared across the group, and that you’ll post content on behalf of each other (provided the content is up to par)
That’s 10 large sites that you can post content to.
In fact, if you’ve already been involved in online business for any significant length of time, chances are somebody you know already has access to a contributor account or two. Ask around, find out what those accounts are. Then get access to one or two yourself and offer them access to yours – chances are, they’ll reciprocate.
If you’ve got the budget, another way to scale your access to contributor accounts is to use high quality VAs (who can write well) and get them to apply on your behalf. You can offer a bounty on each site that they manage to get an account for, and offer monthly payment for maintenance on those accounts (if there’s a minimum content submission requirement). Obviously, this method is reserved for those who’re comfortable with the expense level involved.
Starter list of Contributor Programs
Here’s a short list of contributor accounts, mainly in the business/entrepreneur niche. Keep in mind that if you’re managing multiple sites, the more generic the niche of the sites that you get accounts to, the better.
HuffPo Blog Submission (Build rapport with the editors and you can become a contributor)
Huffpo Specific Sections (For outreach to specific section editors)
We reiterate that out of respect for the people who have accounts and the owners of sites that we have contributor accounts on, we’re not going to give any specific details of what sites we’ve posted on (or plan to post on), so there aren’t any specific examples for LearnU in this post – but hopefully, you’ve got a pretty good idea of what our contributor account strategy is, how we approach it (do KW research and create good content!), and how we scale it.
That’s all for this week. Stay tuned for next week – we’ve brought on a social media expert to give us some tips on social media (specifically Facebook) strategy for LearnU. I’m learning a lot from this guy, and I’m sure you will too.