Hello and welcome to another edition of Tutorial Tuesday! Today we’ll be going over how to track a competitor’s guest posting campaign using only advanced search modifiers in Google.
For a list of the common modifiers (and example on how to use them) check out Jon Ball’s post here.
Although Matt Cutts warned against guest posting for SEO, there’s still tremendous value within guest posting as long as you’re ensuring relevance, authority, and value to users. Like all SEO and link building tactics, if you attempt to scale and let quality slip, you’ll be less than happy with the result.
One link building authority I admire, who has been prolific in guest posting (and blogging) is Brian Dean of Backlinko. His posts are always extremely relevant, authoritative, and useful to readers. If you’re interested to read about link building, I recommend checking out his site.
For this example we’ll sniff out Brian Dean’s previous guest posts and track them in a Google Doc.
Step One: Document Creation
Although it doesn’t have to be a Google Doc, you need to have somewhere you’re recording information as you find it. Otherwise you’ll lose track and the information will be lost.
Even if you’re not planning on following in your competitor’s footsteps, you never know when the information might be handy. Better to write it down as you work and have it forever than decide you need it and have to repeat all your work.
Here’s what my Google doc typically looks like when I’m tracking a competitor:
As you can see there’s a variety of pertinent information worth tracking:
- The website
- The URL of the post
- The date
- Link placement
- # of links
- Anchor text usage
- # of posts
- Domain and Page Authority
- Social shares (via the new Mozbar)
- Search traffic (monthly, pulled from SEMrush).
At the very least I would recommend tracking the domain of the website, the URL of the post, and the date. This will allow you to quickly relocate the post at a later date, if you need to find the information again.
Step Two: Creating a list of potential search terms
Once you’ve created a document for recording whatever information you find, it’s time to compile a list of potential search terms that will allow you to suss out guest posts done by your competitor (or relevant third party).
For Brian Dean, there are a variety of potential search terms worth using:
- Brian Dean
- @backlinko (twitter handle)
- Guest Post
- link building
- content marketing
- written by
No single one of these terms will be effective for tracking a campaign by themselves, but all might be helpful as you introduce advanced modifiers into your search.
Let’s jump into actually using advanced search to find guest posts by Brian Dean across the web.
Step Three: Author Page Search
My favorite search for tracking guest post campaigns is to search for the profile page of the author. The reason it’s my favorite? Because the best websites will typically create author pages, whereas less than reputable sites won’t. So it’s great for finding the best websites to contribute to, fast.
Here’s the search used:
Pretty straightforward search, and you can see that there’s a slew of good results right away.
- Content Marketing Institute
- Search Engine Journal
- Search Engine Watch
- Boost Blog Traffic
Not a bad start - that’s 8 high authority blogs right off the bat.
Let’s try another search.
Step Four: Page Title Search
Websites will sometimes list the author within the page title itself to signal to readers that the content is from an outside contributor.
We’ll also search for any urls with his name, as guest posts will sometimes have the author's name in the URL. Then we’ll include the exact match “SEO” since Brian Dean is a common name - we want to narrow this down to SEO material. Last but not least we’ll remove Facebook and Twitter from the results so our search isn’t cluttered with social junk.
This search will also find any interviews, features, or spotlights.
This result mostly reveals the numerous interviews Brian Dean has participated in. We see him featured on:
- Advanced Web Ranking
- The Daily Interview
- Hit Reach
- Visible HQ
- Reddit r/BigSEO
- Blogging Tips
- Lean Mean Marketing
And on the list goes.
Step Five: Author Bio Search
One thing I’ve learned about guest posting is that authors very rarely fully change their author bio when posting across various sites. If they do change their bio, it’s usually only piecemeal.
This means that all we need to find the authors work, anywhere they’ve given him a bio, is exact match search his bio in Google.
Brian Dean is the rare exception to this rule. He’s done a fantastic job consistently changing his author bio, from site to site.
However, there is biographical information that he (nearly) always lists in his bio: he’s the owner of Backlinko. So we’ll take the most pertinent biographical information and search specifically for that:
This brings relevant sites that Brian Dean is featured on. However, for this exercise we want to find guest posting opportunities. Let’s narrow it a bit more.
Step Six: Limited Accreditation
There are hundreds of blogs that are starving for content, and more than willing to trade a link for decent content.
Many of these blogs give limited accreditation: a simple paragraph in the content mentioning who it’s written by, maybe italicized, maybe not.
You’ll want to examine these sites closely to ensure quality - the last thing you want is a link from a spammy site. However, there are many blogs that use limited accreditation that are still extremely link worthy.
Here’s our search:
Once again we see many of the websites from before, however this time there are a few websites that provide minimal biographical information as well. Sites such as:
- Point Blank SEO
- SEO Hacker
Step Seven: Experiment
The real secret of using advanced search modifiers in Google is experimentation. Testing what works and then adapting your terms and modifiers will always be necessary, depending on what specifically you're searching for and what you're looking to accomplish.
The goal for us in this circumstance is to find as many real guest posting opportunities as possible. That doesn’t mean you should pursue quantity over quality in your guest posting - but you should be aware of all your opportunities before you begin.
You want to find the best partner for your content possible. Look for authority, an engaged audience, and potential customers.
Keep experimenting, try out different modifiers, and don’t forget to document any guest posting opportunities you find!