Contributed articles form important parts of the media strategy through which B2B companies project thought leadership. Valuable opportunities are missed, however, when there is no deliberate choice made on which media outlets offer the best opportunities to bolster the company’s SEO.
Contributed articles in trade and business media are a fixture in most B2B thought leadership programs. More often than not, I have observed, their contribution to the company SEO’s efforts is a mere afterthought. There is often no analysis of how the articles can contribute to the SEO effort, let alone any SEO benefits integrated in the objectives of the contributed articles program.
It does not need to be that way, however; a careful assessment of how media outlets perform on two variables will go a long way in designing a contributed articles program that also serves SEO goals.
A tale of two metrics
Let’s first take a look at two variables that are important in gauging the degree to which backlinks from contributed articles can boost a company’s SEO efforts.
Domain Authority (DA) is a metric that predicts a website’s ability to rank. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 100 and has been developed by Moz. Other providers have developed similar metrics. Ahrefs calls its own metric the Domain Rating (DR) score and yet another provider, SEMrush (used by Detavernier Strategic Communication), uses an Authority Score.
All mentioned metrics work with algorithms that first and foremost assess the overall ranking capabilities of a domain through an analysis of its backlinks and referring domains. Which of the different metrics you use to gauge any website’s domain authority (I take the liberty to use that non-capitalized term now to label the entire category) does not matter too much, but it is recommended if you are going to benchmark different media websites, to use the same metric for all of your measurements.
Below, I listed the score of three media websites on the three aforementioned metrics in order to give us an idea on how scores on website authority differ between MOZ, Ahrefs, and SEMrush.
Dofollow / nofollow links
A site’s domain authority will provide you with an indication of the strength of that website in the sense of its potential to enhance the SEO of any site it links to. But for that link to be of the most value to the site that it links to, it needs to pass PageRank signals, and in order to accomplish that feat the link needs to be a “dofollow” link.
In how Entrepreneur explains the benefits of its new Leadership Network it is clearly explained that any links in its contributed articles are nofollow. That level of transparency is an exception to the rule however; more often than not you will have to discover yourself whether the links in either the body of the article or the bio box are dofollow or nofollow. A simple way to figure this out is to take a look at the code of a handful of contributed articles on any media site and search on the term “nofollow” – any nofollow code will always show up next to the links that are nofollow.
For anyone who is intimated by code, or just wants a more convenient solution than having to conduct word queries in code, there are solutions that are a little bit more handy – one example is this plug-in for Chrome that automatically puts a red border around any nofollow links.
Once the values on both metrics (a score on 100 for domain authority and a binary 0 or 1 for dofollow links) for the outlets you consider pitching contributed articles to are measured, you will be able to gauge which media outlets are conducive to being of great help in supporting your SEO efforts and which titles are not. The higher the domain authority, the more a website will contribute to your SEO effort (if it allows dofollow links, that is).
All of the above seems a matter of simple math, and it is to a large extent, however, two important caveats are warranted.
Although dofollow links from high authority domains will give a major boost to your SEO effort, this does not mean that there is anything inherently wrong with nofollow links. Nofollow links make up a natural part of the inbound link profile of even the most reputable websites; they actually account for 20 to 40 percent of all backlinks to pages that rank on the first Google results page.
The point being made here is not to shun nofollow links at all expense, but to be considerate in the trade-offs you make. And in order to be considerate, you need to be knowledgeable about which sites help you accomplish your SEO goals the best. There can exist more than one good reason you might want to accept a nofollow link from a site, which brings me to the second caveat.
The choice of which outlet you will want to place your contributed article in ought not only to depend on the degree to which a website will bolster your website’s SEO. If a website is poised to help you reach your target audience successfully, or if a website has a great brand (often media outlets will either tick neither of these two boxes or both of them), then by all means, do not disqualify the outlet because you are not getting a dofollow link.
It is a reality for most thought leadership programs that publishing contributed articles in nothing but marquee media titles is neither realistic nor necessary, and it is where you leave the highest tiers and the opportunities available to you are no longer “no-brainers” that the data collected on domain authority and the type of links become useful.
Finally, a parenthesis on contextual links. A link in the biographical field of an author will always just link to the company homepage. A contextual link is a link that is placed in the body of the text. Contextual links are very useful for any back-linking strategy because they allow you to link to pages of your website content that are optimized for certain keywords. Not all outlets will allow for contextual links to your own site – editorial guidelines or a representative sample of recent articles from other authors will quickly make clear what editors find acceptable.
In order to be able to make good use of the opportunities offered to place contextual links in your contributed articles, you will need to know where you want to link to. But in order to do that, you will need to have in place a solid keyword strategy with your cornerstone content identified. All of that will be the subject of a future article.
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