How to Explain to Your Boss You Got 5,000 Shares on TechCrunch, Kissmetrics, and HubSpot (But Didn’t Improve a Single KPI)

In the past few months, I’ve written posts for sites like TechCrunch, Kissmetrics, and HubSpot. Collectively, these have garnered over 5,000 shares so far.

Yet when our PR manager recently asked me how guest posting improved my blog KPIs, I thought about it, then admitted, “Well, it doesn’t.”

Despite reaching a huge audience, my guest posts had nearly no impact on improving a single one of my KPIs, which include increasing organic traffic to the blog, improving engagement metrics, and increasing our number of subscribers.

Sure, we became a blip on the radar of some influential people, we got 15 seconds of Internet buzz, and a whole lot of traffic — albeit, highly unqualified traffic.

I was forced to ask myself:

If the value wasn’t measurable, what exactly did I see in guest posting, and why was I continuing to do it?

Here’s what I realized in my attempt to explain it to my PR manager, my boss, and myself…

Why didn’t guest posting improve my KPIs?

The easy answer is, because guest posting for the sake of increasing marketing metrics doesn’t work.

My goal with guest posting has never been to improve SEO with link-backs and stealthily placed keywords, or seek to grow viral articles that would be forgotten just as soon as they were read.

This argument isn’t new. No doubt we are all familiar with the longstanding arguments about guest posting for marketing…

Some, like Matt Cutts, argue vehemently that guest posting is dead, while others point out that guest posting does still have value, just not when it comes to SEO.

Many marketers have seen firsthand how guest posting can be a powerful strategy for many people. I’m not one to disagree.

Some of my biggest marketing idols, like the lovely folks at Buffer whose guest posts earned them their first 100,000 users, show that guest posting can definitely result in measurable marketing success.

But this model isn’t going to last for long.

The current method — guest posting on reputable blogs to drive traffic back to your site, grow brand awareness, and perhaps earn some links along the way — has been dying out for quite some time.

We all know it, but no one wants to face the inevitable.

Just as we call once-popular SEO practices spammy as soon as Google rolls out an update telling us we’ll get penalized, so too have we begun to realize there’s something wrong with our current guest posting system.

Guest posting was once a very successful tactic, but it’s quickly becoming a cookie-cutter recipe, spiced up with varying degrees of growth hacky tricks (some of which, like the Skyscraper technique, are notably very good).

The pattern of working up the totem pole to earn spots on blogs with bigger audience and higher Google authority may be holding strong for some people, but history proves when the entire herd starts doing something, it quickly gets old.

Plus, as people become increasingly numb to content and search engines increasingly smart, it’s harder and harder to rise to the top.

With such a deluge of content, marketers are scrambling for ways to stand out.

Make content shorter! Bite-sized is the way to go! Time to bring in the long-form! Pack in the videos and photos!

People are blogging, Tweeting, and contributing more content than ever before, but much less of it makes an impact.

We need to stop trying to beat search engines and fight an uphill battle against an onslaught of content and start considering really, sincerely, and truly, what content is means to us. Especially when it comes to guest posting.

Guest posting isn’t a chance to increase your marketing metrics: It’s a chance to put your absolute best thoughts on display.

You see, shares and traffic are nice, but they’re also temporary — 15 seconds of internet fame may give you a feeling of making big impact, but it’s just a drop in the bucket.

Shares and traffic are nice, but they’re also temporary.

A great piece of work isn’t something that checks off boxes to beat out one million other nearly identical posts trying to check off the same boxes.

One incredible guest post that people can’t stop sharing is better than 100 mediocre posts to “build brand awareness.”It all gives me the feeling a whole lot of people are putting a whole lot of time into a backwards rat race.

It’s increasingly important to write for the right reasons. It’s time to re-assess how we collectively measure the value of guest posting.

Today’s public is getting wiser — people (and search engines) are looking out for sleazy links and forcibly placed keywords.

It’s a sign of where the future of content is going:

We tried the cheap and dirty methods, the gold-mine rush towards as much content and links as possible, and now we’re coming full circle back to where newspapers and other forms of journalism have been for a long time.

The content that prevails is made by people who create for the sake of creating, because they love the process, and are going to, in the long-run, see the most return.

So what can I say, confidently, that I got out of guest posting?

While my posts may not have improved our blog KPIs in the short term, attaching my name to something I believe in and worked hard on will pay off in the end.

On a personal level, I wrote valuable content not for the sake of writing valuable content, but because I wrote with things I believed in fiercely and wanted to comment on and share.

One of the biggest things I got back by guest posting was, cheesy as it sounds, the good ol’ fuzzy warm feeling of giving something that helped people.

The emails, LinkedIn messages, and Tweets I received where people were truly interested by what I had to say, and told me it really impacted them, that’s what I got.

Also, it was the impact that it had on the company as a whole: Our sales team actually liked what we were doing, even going so far to say that it was helpful for them to use with our customers.

Other employees began to feel involved and invested in our content effort. With a desire to get more experts within the company writing about topics that mattered to them, we began reaching out to people in various fields — data analysts, designers, product managers — and asking them to guest post. (Stay tuned for their posts on great blogs like The Next Web and Marketing Profs).

This encompassed our desire to really get the experts writing about the topics they loved, rather than asking a team of content writers to scourge Google and come up with something.

Seeing people in the company actually understand and get involved in our content marketing was a huge win — both for the marketing team and for those who have been writing guest posts about topics they believe in.

But my manager doesn’t care about unquantifiable good feelings.

So, we did actually drive some quantifiable results: a big brand reached out to us to co-host a webinar, Entrepreneur picked up a post and shared it on their site, and we’ve gotten a handful more fans.

Additionally, we’ve gained valuable contacts with brands we admire, which have in turn helped us contribute even more of our knowledge with the world, whether through partnerships, webinars, or simply friendly contacts with influencers who love what we produced.

It looks like guest posting does have measurable impact after all.

But I stand by my belief that what’s most important from guest posting isn’t measurable.

In the age of the internet, blogging and social media have become our form of digital conversations. In these conversations, guest posting is an opportunity for people to reach a wider audience with ideas they’re passionate about.

If they like what you’ve got to say and learn who you and your company are in the process, awesome. But those who go into guest posting with the goal of hitting KPIs might be sorely disappointed.

And I, for one, am ok with that.


Originally published at blog.yotpo.com on June 18, 2015.