The general opinion of guest blogging has dropped in recent years due to the distressing trend of spam guest blogs. Many blogs that publish guest posts regularly find themselves assailed by webmasters attempting to pay for dofollow backlinks, a practice which is strongly discouraged by the search engine king of SEO, Google. Accepting such a guest post can put your blog at risk of a penalty from on high. Thankfully, there are a few rules you can follow to protect yourself against these sorts of spammers.
First, a note: guest blogging is swiftly becoming a poor SEO strategy. For several years, it was a valid strategy to gain powerful dofollow backlinks from authority sites. Now, with the rise of spam in the guest blog world, Google is likely to remove most of the benefit that comes from these links, even so far as levying penalties against the worst offenders. However, this does not mean that guest blogging is a bad thing. It simply means that you need to be careful about the links in your guest blogs. Guest blogging is still a valuable tool for networking, exposure, branding and community formation. With that in mind, feel free to accept guest posts, just be cautious about their content.
Rule #1: Scrutinize the Author
When an author offers to write a guest post for your blog, the first thing you should do is search their name and look up two things. First, look into their own personal blog or blogs. What sort of content do they publish? If their content looks in any way low quality, you can bet that the content they provide for your blog will be of similar quality. If their content is high quality — that is, something you would want to see on your own blog — then you can open up consideration.
The second thing you want to check is if they have guest posted on other blogs. What is the quality of their other guest posts? It’s always possible that they try to outsource their writing, and the quality of that writing may vary. Guest posts may get the short end of the stick in these cases, so watch out.
Any author you accept to write on your blog must have a track record for high quality content, particularly content relevant to your industry and niche. You should also make sure they don’t use spammy tactics for linking. Your goal is to only publish content from authors who provide quality and depth in their writing.
Rule #2: Scrutinize the Links
You need to have a consistent link policy for guest posts. Some sites are known for stripping any and all links from the content they publish. Other sites will allow one or two links, and others will allow as many as the author can reasonably include without coming across as spam. The exact number of links should vary according to the quality and depth of the content provided; deep, well-researched content is likely to have more research citations, after all.
The basic policy should look something like this:
- • A minimum of two or three links. No maximum beyond the discretion of the writer
- • A maximum of two links to the author’s sites, including social media handles and personal blogs
- • As the publisher, you should reserve the right to remove any link that you deem suspicious or potentially detrimental, either to the content or to your site. Make use of this rule to remove any link that leads to a site that does not provide value to your readers. Use the same quality indicators you use for links in your own posts
Rule #3: Scrutinize the Content
What is the quality level of the content this guest author has provided? That’s the most important question you should ask once you’ve determined that you’ll accept anything at all from the author. No matter how good their reputation may be, you need to make sure each individual post is something you want on your blog. Ask yourself a few questions about the content on offer.
- • Is this content something I want to have published on my blog?
- • Is this content written about a subject that’s been done to death online already?
- • Does this content offer something new and thought-provoking to an ongoing discussion?
- • Is this content copied or spun from another source? (Use tools such as Copyscape to check)
You want unique, powerful content for your blog, even if the primary purpose of that piece is to provide a gateway back to the original author.
Rule #4: Own the Content
This rule is important for two reasons. The first reason is that you need to reserve the rights to any content published on your blog. Google penalizes copied content. Even posting content you own on two individual pages is enough to get that page penalized. If a guest author offers a piece of content without the guarantee that you own the content, they are free to post it on their site as well. Instantly, Google sees copied content and penalizes both sites.
Note that this doesn’t mean the content is attributed to you. Unless you paid for the content to be ghostwritten, the original author should still receive credit. Half of the point of guest blogging is to spread the name and brand of the original author, after all. You don’t need to take credit for their work; simple make sure they won’t repost the content elsewhere.
The second reason is to make sure that you’re the one in control of the content. This ties into another general guideline, which is to never give out author accounts on your blog. Even reputable blog authors may stoop to underhanded tactics when they are given control on a site, with the right incentives.
Sure, it’s a bit of a headache to go in and format a post to publish yourself. On the other hand, it guarantees that the author won’t come back in a few months down the line and add unwanted links to a piece, edit it in a way you don’t want, or delete it entirely. If an author is requesting an account on your blog, at best they don’t know what they’re doing. At worst, they’re trying to get an interior access so they can perform some kind of attack.
Rule #5: Encourage Community
Guest posts shouldn’t be content airdropped from a passing website. They should be thought-provoking, powerful pieces of content that foster a discussion and a community. This means they need to encourage community on your own site. It also means they need to encourage an interaction between your site and that of the author. Sending traffic back and forth for discussions is a great way to build a community.
Guest blogging is a powerful tool for building community, even if its power in SEO is fading. Google is not going to penalize your site for guest blogging, as long as you stay within the linkspam guidelines. Keep an eye on the content you publish, make sure it’s as useful as you can, and you’ll receive the full benefit of an interested audience.