The truth about guest posts

If you have a website, there’s a good chance at some point, someone will email you and ask if they can contribute a guest post. If you’re like me, you’ll get these inquiries nearly every day. Sometimes several times a day. You may start to wonder, why do so many people want to guest post on my blog? What do they get from submitting content to me, especially if they aren’t charging for it?

Then maybe you think, wow, this is a great deal. I get free content for my blog and I don’t have to do anything!

So let me add some clarity. There is never a time when someone wants to write content for your blog “for free.” If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Why would someone want to submit content to your website?

The number one reason why people want to submit content to your website is for the backlinks. A backlink is when a website links to another website. People want these because they are a powerful ranking factor when it comes to SEO. The more links that point to a website or a certain post, the better it indicates to the search engines that the website being linked to is a quality website and has good information. But backlinks can be hard to get, and one of the ways people try to get them is through guest posting.

Is this bad? Not necessarily.

If someone has a website with content that’s related to your content, say you are a contractor that offers certain services, but you don’t offer handyman services, having content that links to a handyman service that you trust is a reasonable thing to do. It makes sense.

If someone has a website and posts a guest post that links back to the author’s website, and the content of the article is relevant to the site it’s posted on and the site it links to, then that’s reasonable.

Or a plugin developer writing a guest post on a web developer’s website that links to their plugin. That’s reasonable.

When is not good?

Recently I was sent content for a guest post that was submit to one of my clients. And the content was related to what this website was about. But… the content was also filled with links to other websites. Not just to the author of the website, but to various businesses including companies that were in other parts of the country. This guest post wasn’t about sharing content, getting their name out, or building interest in a product or service. This was a link-building post that was written entirely to get links to their clients’ websites out on the Internet.

If you aren’t fully vetting every guest post that comes to you, you may not realize the difference between the ones that are good and the ones that are bad.

How to know if a guest post is legit

There are going to be some red flags when it comes to guest post requests. When an inquiry comes in, check for the following things:

Do you know the person submitting the request? Obviously people you know, in real life or in virtual life, are going to be less likely to try to scam you into publishing link-building content. There’s a relationship there that lends to a certain level of credibility. If you don’t know the person who is submitting the request, that’s a red flag.

The inquiry doesn’t list anything specific about you/your website. If the email inquiry has lots of information about how they like your site, and found your content really interesting, but they don’t mention specifics, then this is someone who is likely sending hundreds of inquiries for these guest posts. They can’t make it specific, because then they couldn’t send it off in mass quantities to various website owners.

Here are real examples from quest post requests I’ve received:

I came across your site from Google, some articles attracted me!

I am a freelance writer and I love writing articles. I really liked the way you have presented your site. I was reading some of your content and really found them interesting and informative. 

I’ve been following your site for quite some time now, and I love your content and the topics you share with your readers on Web and App Development related topics . I must say it is a great blog, and I appreciate your insights and thoughts that you put through your posts.

If you accept any guest post, following the policy of your website, I will write an article on a topic that will drive traffic to your site or on a topic given by you.

Usually these folks will continue to follow up, again and again.

If they aren’t saying what their industry is, what they write about, what they want to share with your customers, and why it would be relevant for you, very specifically, then immediately delete it. Or be like me, I am now aggressively marking all these emails as spam.

Am I saying that all guest posting is bad?

Definitely not. Finding opportunities to guest post can be a real boon to your website’s traffic, your reputation, and your network. I recommend guest posting for bloggers BUT, it has to be done strategically and there needs to be a mutual benefit. For example, my friend Rene writes a lot of great content about email marketing. I’m not an expert in email marketing, but I know Rene has a lot of knowledge that would be useful for my clients. So it made sense for me to invite her to write a guest post about email marketing on my blog.

There are many opportunities that can be used to guest post. Offering up an expert opinion on an industry website is another great one. For example, if you use products from a specific vendor, offering up an article about how you use those products as a guest post is beneficial for both you and them. Writing a guest post about your particular service and submitting it your local chamber of commerce? That’s a good opportunity too.

The truth is, most of the unsolicited inquires for guest posts are only singularly beneficial to the submitter and need to be vetted with diligence.

If it seems to good to be true, it probably is.

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Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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