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February 8, 2017

Guest Blogging: A Positive or a Pitfall in SEO?

“. . . Guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a link building strategy.”

– Matt Cutts, former Google engineer

This statement was made by Matt Cutts on his personal blog way back in 2014. The most curious part about this quote is that guest blogging is still a widely used and accepted practice among SEO agencies.

In fact, a 2016 study from Ahrefs revealed that the majority of SEO firms still leverage guest posting tactics in link building campaigns.

This clear and distinct contrast begs the question: Is guest blogging a beneficial or detrimental strategy for improving a site’s ranking?

The answer lies in a grey area, as many things often do.

Let’s take a look at how guest posting can be both a negative and a positive SEO strategy. But first, a little history to set the tone.

The Annals of Guest Blogging

Guest blogging used to be considered a privilege in which authors would perceive a guest spot on qualities sites as an honor; which it was. This essentially meant that your work was valuable enough to be sought after.

In time, the majority of websites began to leverage guest blogging as a way to cut down on the number of unique article they had to produce while simultaneously introducing readers to authors their readers would resonate with.

This eventually devolved into hordes of bloggers simply posting spammy content as a cheap way to build links, ultimately compromising the practice.

These kinds of actions would end up sullying a site owner’s reputation and send visitors fleeing to more reputable sources.

Authors then began to pay site owners for the opportunity to appear on their blogs; unfortunately, this was merely a ploy to publish paid links in poorly written or stolen content.

This leads us to the current polarizing state of guest blogging.

Guest posting, however, is still beneficial. You just have to know exactly what you are looking for in a blog.

Harmful Practices

For authors to gain real benefits from guest blogging, is it vital to be choosey about the destinations that your work is published through.

The main indicator that you do not want to be associated with a site in this capacity is the content itself. While your wordsmithing may be stellar, it could end up surrounded by less-than worthy materials.

Even if you are offered payment for your post, it is necessary to dig through a blog’s contents to ensure that articles are relevant and valuable while its authors are credible and at least semi-well-known.

Another indicator that your site’s rankings could be endangered by a guest blogging opportunity is the links the content leverages.

Part of crafting valuable content is linking to reputable sources that fortify your talking points and statistics. If the content on the website you are posting on links to low-quality content, thin content, or outright spam, its best to pass on the opportunity.

Other factors to consider when potentially guest blogging on another site are:

  • Frequency of other author’s posts
  • How many social followers the site has
  • How many backlinks point to the site and the quality of those links
  • If the site has original content or exclusively guest posts

If any of these elements set off alarms in your head, listen closely because they are probably right.

Beneficial Guest Blogging

Those are the red flags and warnings. Now, let’s explore how guest blogging can actually benefit your SEO strategy and improve your ranking in the SERPs.

As Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithms have largely altered the landscape of ranking content, the requirements for guest blogging to receive positive benefits have become somewhat stringent.

Firstly, the post you create must be published on a website that is within or closely related to your niche. Anything less will simply be considered irrelevant.

Also, the blog you create must actually be written by you. Any forms of article spinning or scraping are not acceptable practices. Additionally, the piece you craft must be well written and add value to the site it is published on. Most reputable sites won’t take poorly written materials anyway, so quality should always be your goal.

The article you write for the destination must be unique and not a carbon copy or a re-write of a piece you published elsewhere. Moreover, the links you include need to be natural and relevant to the material.

And again, ensure that the site has original content in addition to its guest posts.

If all of these qualifications are not met, you will not gain positive benefits from the post and there is a good chance that it may even harm your site and online reputation.

Guest blogging still has a place among SEO practices, and there is a good chance that it always will. The key to actually receiving benefits from the methodology is seeking out reputable sites, just like any other link building best practice. And this is something that Matt Cutts admitted in the same post I referenced in the beginning of this piece:

“There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. . . I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to “guest blogging” as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.”

Do you have a link building strategy for 2017? Do you have any current guest blogging opportunities that you are unsure of?


Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile