We’ve written hundreds of guest posts. Thousands.
We’ve even turned it into a link building business and regularly write guest posts on behalf of our clients.
So, what’s the secret to a great guest post? Why does guest posting matter? And should guest posting be part of your SEO strategy?
In this ultimate guide (with examples!) to guest posting, we’ll reveal all our secrets to get real results.
What Is Guest Posting?
Guest posting, or writing a guest post, is simply an article you publish on somebody else’s website with the primary purpose of getting a backlink.
Good quality and relevant backlinks are a key ranking factor.
Guest posting shouldn’t be confused with niche edits or link insertions. While there are some similarities, it’s an entirely different beast.
Yet, just like those two, guest posting is essential to getting link juice and authority flowing to your website or blog.
People write guest posts to:
- Gain valuable backlinks,
- Increase brand awareness,
- Establish themselves as an industry leader or expert,
- Increase traffic to their websites.
Do Guest Posts Work?
If you’re doing guest posting wrong, then no, it won’t work. When you do it right though, guest posting is an essential SEO tool.
So, how do you do guest posting the right way?
Go RAD With Your Guest Posts!
Over the years, we’ve developed a fool-proof formula for guest posting that works.
We call it the RAD formula, and it helps us identify and qualify websites to guest post on.
RAD is short for:
- Due Diligence
Let’s have a quick look at each of these steps.
The first step in guest posting is finding a website relevant to your own.
Relevance is key as what better way to demonstrate to Google your authority than by having your "peers" link back to you.
Getting referenced by sites in your niche holds more weight than a similar reference from a site that has no relationship to your niche.
Let me give you an example.
We've got a client in the travel industry, specifically the yachting niche.
For this client, it wouldn't make as much sense writing a guest post on a technology blog compared to a travel or sailing website.
So, step one in our process is to find relevant sites.
Here are two ways we do it:
1. Search for niche-relevant guest post sites
Using Google, type in phrases like:
- "[Insert Niche] blog + guest post"
- "[Insert Niche] blog + write for us"
- "[Insert Niche] blog + submit a guest post"
As you can see in the screenshot below, this method can help you find 100s (and sometimes 1000s) or relevant guest posting opportunities.
Top tip: Instead of wasting your valuable time compiling these sites into a target list, use a VA to scrap contact details for all of these sites.
2. Leverage backlink insight from major niche sites
The second way to build a relevant list of guest post targets is to look for sites that are linking to a major website in your niche.
For example, in the travel niche we could use the Lonely Planet.
You can assume sites linking to the Lonely Planet are most likely in the broad travel niche. Using this insight you could scrap these sites and ask them for a guest post.
Using a tool like Ahrefs or SEMrush, insert a major site within your target niche.
Look at their backlink profile, and use the following modifiers to refine the backlink list:
- One link per domain
- Dofollow links only
- DR greater than 10 (I like setting it to 19 to try get higher quality targets)
- Platform type set to Blogs
- Language set to English
As you can see below, this will provide you with 1,000s of possible sites (13,219 in the case of Lonely Planet).
Export the list.
Once you have a list of possible guest post target sites, you will need to use an email scraping tool like Hunter.io to find contact details.
Hunter.io is really simple to use. You just need to upload a file with all the domains in your list and it will scrap any available emails associated with those domains.
One you have the contact details for every domain, you can use another tool like Mailshake to send automated emails requesting guest posts.
There are two ways to do blogger outreach.
The first is a white hat SEO method that involves establishing rapport with a blogger with the purpose of scoring a guest post for free. This is great for very high quality sites, but takes a lot of time and effort. To illustrate, here is an example of a guest post I scored for free on Flippa (a major website with a DR 81). I managed to score this by establishing rapport with the CEO of Flippa.
The second way is a grey hat SEO method that involves paying for a guest post. Google doesn't encourage this practice and can penalise a site that abuses it. So it comes with risk, but because it's much more transactional, it's also faster and easier to score guests posts than pure blogger outreach.
For the purposes of this article, I'll be focusing on transactional guest posting. But if you only want to do pure blogger outreach, the principles below still apply but you'll need to be much more creative in creating value for the sites you're seeking guest posts from.
Here is an example email template we send to guest post targets.
Notice how short and transactional the email is. We do this on purpose as we don't have time to "butter-up" bloggers.
Instead we just want to establish if they accept paid guest posts and start the conversation around price.
In terms of price, remember that when it comes to sponsored or paid guest posts, everything is negotiable. Bloggers will high-ball it, and your task is to counter with a low-ball offer.
On average we score paid guests posts for around $40-$80.
Once you've got a guest post price from a website, it's time to qualify whether it's worth it.
This is the second stage of the RAD formula - Authority.
Generally, the more authority a website has, the better your guest post will perform (although, be careful, good authority metrics without traffic is a red flag - more on this in the Due Diligence section below).
So, how do you determine whether a potential website has enough authority to make it great for guest posting?
At Contentellect, we use online SEO tools such as Ahrefs, Moz, and even Majestic to determine a website’s reputation.
Sticking with our travel client, let's look at a travel blog that responded to our guest post request.
They are called Nomad Is Beautiful, and on the surface they look like a hyper relevant target for our client.
So let's look at their domain authority and see if their genuine look and feel translates into solid authority metrics.
As you can see, they have a DR of 50, which is very respectable. So from an authority perspective they more than meet the grade.
Let's delve into the last piece of the RAD formula - Due Diligence.
The final test is to check whether a website is toxic. If you skip this test and a toxic site ends up linking back to your site, it can negatively impact your rankings.
Like grandma said, if you associate with the trash, don’t be surprised if you end up stinking!
Google has taken grandma’s advice to heart. So, it pays to ensure that the potential website is reliable and non-toxic.
Typically we perform two checks to determine if the target website is good to go.
Check #1: Manual Site Review
We usually perform a manual site review first. This test requires that the website passes some of our in-house questions.
We’ll look at the homepage, a few articles, the about and contact page, and even the footer to answer the following questions:
- Are all the articles guest posts? If they are - run! It probably means that this is part of a link farm (i.e. a site that exists purely to sell guest posts). If you can’t tell a link farm from a genuine website, outsource your guest posting to professional link building companies (like ours).
- Are the article topics all over the place? Is there a level of good editorial control? If one article is about photography tips, the next about hiring a HVAC engineer, and the next about mining bitcoin - run! The chances are that this is a link farm, and it’ll only hurt your website. The ideal partner website will have consistent articles related to the same topics or industry.
- How aggressive are those anchor texts? A red flag is finding bold, in-your-face commercial anchor texts, such as "trade forex online", "buy bitcoin", and "lose weight today". If an anchor text seems forced into the article - run!
- Are there actual about and contact pages etc.? You need to be concerned if contact pages, about pages, and other info are lacking. It could mean that this website is a link farm.
- Are they actively advertising guest posts and adverting all over their site? Typically you'll be able to see if they are by looking at the header or footer navigation.
- Who owns the site? Suppose there are actual people behind the website, real people working on it. In that case, you can assume some degree of editorial control. Chances are they’re not sell-outs, and they care about the content that goes on their website.
Let’s put our advice into practice.
In terms of Nomad is Beautiful, you can see that they meet most, if not all the manual review requirements above.
- Many of the articles are clearly not guest posts
- There is a high degree of editorial control
- Anchor texts in the guest posts we found are relatively natural
- Their are real people behind the site
But to illustrate my point, let's look at another website (called Knnit) that offered us a guest post.
While the homepage’s layout looks standard, you’ll notice something is very off if you pay attention to the article titles.
None of the topics are related.
This likely means there is zero editorial control and the site is a link farm.
If you dug a little deeper, you'll fin that most articles are guest posts that are very poorly written and feature highly commercial anchor texts.
Red flags everywhere!
Check #2: Traffic and site history
A manual site review can reveal a lot, but you will definitely want to compliment it with a site traffic and history.
A site with very little traffic and sketchy history is a red flag as well.
We use SEO tools to determine where a website is going and where it’s been. The better we understand the website, the better we can guarantee our results.
Here's what we focus on:
- Traffic: Does our target site get organic traffic? Is the traffic consistent? We use Ahrefs to look at a site’s organic traffic. If the site has very little traffic or big sudden drops in traffic - run! This is particularly true if a site has strong authority metrics but very little traffic. Those are all red flags and can hurt your guest posting strategy.
- Site History: We then use Archive.Org to learn more about a site’s history. Here you’ll quickly be able to tell if a site had a previous life, was purchased by the current owner to capitalise on the old site's authority, and then reused as a link farm.
Okay, time to put Knnit through these checks.
Ahrefs tells us that Knnit has a Domain rating of 48. That’s pretty good!
But as you can see, Knnit falls apart when we look at its organic traffic.
In early 2020, the site had a meteoric rise in traffic followed by a massive drop. Most often, such a sharp drop in traffic tells us that Google penalized them for some shady SEO tactics.
So, we are better off avoiding Knnit!
What about Nomad Is Beautiful.
Traffic here is definitely better, but not great.
The site achieved some great traffic metrics in 2018 and 2019, but has been on steady decline since. What I do like is that it has a long traffic, and even though it has lost lots of it's traffic, it still gets a few thousand monthly visitors.
It's certainly not ideal, but not a train smash given the other metrics we checked, so we would consider a guest post on this site.
Writing a Guest Post
Once you've secured a great guesting posting target that passes the RAD test, it's time to write your guest post.
But, how do you write a guest post?
Here's what we do.
- Request editorial guidelines from the publisher. We do this to ensure we meet their expectations and don't have to revise and edit our guest posts.
- Choose a topic that naturally fits with our target website. This allows us to naturally build in our client's link and anchor text. The operative word here is naturally. Nothing about a guest post should seem forced or unnatural.
- Write a post that is high-quality. This means going to some effort to engage a native english speaking writer who can craft a compelling article that is at least 700 words long and reads well.
- Build in other natural links and add images. To make the guest post appear as real as possible we always build in two relevant internal links and at least one high-authority and non-commercial link (i.e. a link to a major news publication like The Washington Post). We also add at least one copyright free image.
Follow these four steps and you'll write great guest posts that easily get accepted by publishers.
Guest Posting FAQs
What’s the best strategy for guest posting?
The best strategy for guest posting is to follow our fool-proof RAD formula. Find a website that’s relevant and has authority. Next, do your diligent duty and check that it has organic traffic and a solid reputation.
Does guest posting still work?
Yes, guest posting is still an excellent way to get backlinks and improve your site's SEO. It’s also great at improving your reputation and showing off your knowledge. The key is to formula a safe and reliable formula that avoids toxic websites and link farms.
Is it safe to pay for guest posting?
It’s perfectly legal to pay for a guest post to be published. However, it is not encouraged by Google and can result in a manual site penalty for unnatural link building (read our guide on link building methods, including broken link building). To avoid this wee recommend you do proper due diligence on a website before placing a guest post, and avoid link farms or Private Blog Networks (PBN’s) that also notorious for dragging quality websites down with them.
Can you help me get guest post links?
Certainly! Writing quality guest posts that establish authority, and bring traffic to your website is what we do for a living. Contact us to discuss your specific needs.
Ready to learn more? Here's our checklist for off page SEO or read our guide on eCommerce link building tactics.