The Good, The Bad and The Ugly of Guest Posting

Considering the changes that have been made to link-building best practices as a result of Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates, guest posting has become widely valued as a legitimate way to secure the editorial backlinks that are now considered vital to a website’s success.

That said, there’s a huge difference between guest posting as the strategy was initially conceived and the types of thinly-veiled backlink requests currently masquerading under this same name.  To ensure that any guest posting activities you undertake fall under the strategy’s recommended guidelines, let’s look at a few different ways the practice has been applied…

The Good

At a basic level, guest posting involves the mutual exchange of value between two website owners.  In these ideal situations, one webmaster – believing he has something worthwhile to share with another site owner’s readers – contacts this second webmaster, proposing a potential guest post topic.  The second webmaster considers the idea and – if it has merit – requests that the initial website owner write out a full draft for publication on his site.

The first webmaster slaves away over his article, knowing that it represents a chance to distinguish himself amongst the second website owner’s readers.  If the final product is good enough, the second webmaster publishes the article – implicitly granting his approval of both the guest post’s content and of the poster himself.  As a result, the first webmaster stands to gain both traffic and a valuable backlink for his efforts.

At least, that’s how proper guest posting should be carried out…

The Bad

Unfortunately, in some situations, “enterprising” marketers see guest posting as a technique that can be automated – not the legitimate sharing of value between two mutually appreciative site owners.

These marketers – either operating to promote their own websites or to get guest posts published as a service to others – use filtering tools to compile lists of websites that provide guest posting opportunities, as well as the contact information of these sites’ owners.  Then, this information is filtered into email templates, which send out automated guest post requests that sound something like the following example (recently shared on Remarkablogger):

“I am Stewart, a member of a financial community. I just visited your site “” and trust me you are doing a great job for your site. I found such uniqueness and worth reading values. The quality of your content is excellent.

I would love to write financial articles and contribute for your site. I can give you an original guest post related to refinancing, personal finance, credit advice, short term loan, budgeting, make money, mortgages, small business or whatever topic you suggest

I can become my link partner and exchange contextual links.  Please let me know your thoughts. We have many good financial sites from where we can provide you links from the content pages or by doing article exchanges.

If your are not the concerned person, please forward the mail to the Web-master concerned.

Thanks and Regards”

Pretty gross, right?

If you’re a webmaster, it should be pretty obvious that these types of requests aren’t coming from people who are truly interested in providing valuable content for your site.  It’s up to you whether to follow up with these spammers, but be aware that – nine times out of ten – you’re only going to be rewarded for your efforts with unusable web content that reads no better than the sample email shared above.

But unbelievably, that’s not even the worst of the worst when it comes to guest posting scams…

The Ugly

Perhaps the most difficult part of landing good guest posting spots is getting your proposed topic ideas noticed by well-known bloggers.  For guest posting to produce successful results for your own business, you’ll want to get your articles published on highly-regarded, high-traffic websites, as these companies stand to send you the most new visitors and the most valuable links.

However, if you’re a beginning blogger yourself, getting your requests to be taken seriously by your industry’s big names can be a challenge.  In some cases, this frustrating rejection can be enough to turn some webmasters off of the idea of guest posting entirely!

To take advantage of these challenges, some scammers have taken to building entire websites made up of guest posts.  They’ll set up new websites, advertise them on guest posting communities and profit from an entire industry of people who are looking for the “easy way out” when it comes to building backlinks via shared content.

Of course, there are a number of different problems with this idea.  First of all, sites that are constructed entirely out of guest posts are unlikely to have any meaningful readership or link equity – effectively eliminating the benefits of guest posting for the webmasters who share their content on these sites.

But these types of sites raise another big red flag, in that they’re strikingly similar to the blog networks that Google shot down in March 2012.  Because sites filled entirely with guest posts attempt to manipulate Google’s Terms of Service in much the same way as these sites did, there is a concern that they’ll eventually be slapped in the same way – potentially leading to penalties or diminished search performance for the sites that have published content on these pages.

To avoid these situations entirely, keep the following rules in mind when it comes to identifying good guest posting opportunities:

  • Think quality over quantity – One guest post on a well-known, high quality authority site could have the same impact as 100 guest posts on new or unknown websites, so choose carefully when it comes to targeting guest posting opportunities.
  • Build your relationships – If you don’t yet have the relationships that are often needed to secure these top guest posting spots, get to work building them!  Reach out to these site owners on social media websites, comment on their blog posts and share their content with others in your own social circle.  Then, when you go to approach them regarding guest posting opportunities, you won’t just be some stranger looking to earn a leg up from sharing articles on their sites.
  • Measure community involvement to gauge traffic levels – At the same time, filter any guest posting opportunities you encounter – whether that includes spots you’ve sought out on your own or chances that others have contacted you about – by perceived traffic levels.  Take a look at how many people follow the brand’s social media profiles, as well as how many comments the average article receives.  If you don’t see any engagement with the site’s own content, chances are you won’t see much benefit from posting your own articles to their pages.

By keeping these guidelines – as well as the good, bad and ugly scenarios described earlier – you’ll save time on your guest posting endeavors, while also dramatically improving your inbound traffic, link equity and brand recognition within your industry.  It may be difficult and time-consuming to secure the best possible guest posting opportunities, but you’ll ultimately find the results to be worth your while.

Image: JD Hancock

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