Link Building Tips: Do’s and Don’ts for Guest Blogging

Ever since Google condemned large-scale, spammy article campaigns in 2017, there has been much confusion regarding guest blogging. Is it safe? Does it work? Let's talk about the best ways to do it and what you should undoubtedly avoid doing.

by Catie Leary

Inbound Marketing | SEO

Reading Time | 11 min

Ever since Google condemned large-scale, spammy article campaigns in 2017, there’s been a lot of confusion out there regarding the efficacy and safety of guest blogging.

So, is it best to avoid guest blogging? The short answer is no. Guest blogging is still a viable link building tactic. However, there are specific guest blogging practices you want to avoid to ensure you’re not engaging in Black Hat SEO.

In this article, we’ll walk through the do’s and don’ts of pitching and writing a quality guest post that will help you build your link profile and foster professional relationships in your industry — all while keeping you in the good graces of Google.

Do's & Don'ts for Link Building & Guest Blogging

1. Do set goals for your guest blogging efforts

Person with laptop monitoring analytical data

Want to track the performance of your guest blog? You need to set goals first.

Guest blogging is functionally a marketing campaign, and as we have explained so many times before, a marketing campaign is nothing without goals. When you don’t define campaign goals, it can be challenging to know what kind of data you need to monitor to track success.

Some examples of common goals for guest blogging are:

Once you have your goals established, you will have a better idea of what kind of metrics you need to be monitoring.

2. Do pitch sites that are reputable and relevant to your niche

Quality matters — both ways. If you’re committed to creating quality content, you should find a website that is also committed to quality. This means steering clear of partnerships with spammy sites, which Google is very good at spotting.

Why is this important? Well, the first thing you need to know is that link building is either one or the other: Success by association, or guilt by association. You can strengthen your search rankings through link building efforts with strong, high-quality content on other sites, but it can work the other way around, as well. If you’re guest blogging on a spammy site, you will end up looking like a spammer to Google, and be penalized accordingly.

How do you know if a site is reputable or relevant? Research! Which brings us to the next item on our list…

3. Don’t neglect research

Library with wavy white shelves

Have you done your research?

When you’re considering where to pitch a blog post, it is critical to do your due diligence. Not only to make sure you’re pitching to a reputable site, but also to make sure you’re not wasting anyone’s time or clogging up more email inboxes than you absolutely must. There’s a clear difference between someone who has done their homework and someone who is indiscriminately blasting out hundreds of pitch requests.

Before reaching out to a potential guest blogging partner, make sure you can answer the following questions:

  • Who are their customers? Who is their blog audience? (Protip: The answers might not be the same).
  • How active is their social media presence? How robust is their following?
  • What’s their site traffic like? (Get a peek with freemium traffic estimation tools like SimilarWeb and Alexa)
  • What do they generally write about on their blog?
  • Have they already written about the topic I have in mind? If so, how can I alter my idea to complement what already exists?
  • Have they published guest posts in the past? How strong are they?
  • Do they have guest blogging guidelines I need to follow?

Answering these questions will narrow the field for you so that you’re only pursuing sites that are relevant and reputable.

4. Do personalize your guest blog pitch

It’s really easy to spot a pitch request that has been sent out to hundreds of contacts. Often times, these types of email can leave the vast majority of recipients wondering, “Did they mean to send this to me? Did they even visit my website? This has nothing to do with my business.”

Sure, that mass pitch may end up resonating with a couple folks, but in addition to confusing people, it’s also a sure fire way to get your email flagged as spam.

Personalizing pitches can take precious time, but it’s worth it. Here are a few things to include in a personalized guest blogging pitch:

  • Mention how you found them. Was it an existing professional relationship? Did you read an article of theirs that really resonated with you? Did they retweet something you wrote?
  • Name your topic(s). Explain exactly why you think it’s relevant to their editorial focus and why you think it will help them.
  • Demonstrate your authority. Articulate why you’re qualified to write about this topic, and if possible, provide samples of related work.
  • Follow any submission guidelines. These are often outlined on a company’s contact or press page.

5. Do consider offering up multiple ideas to choose from

Having multiple topics in your back pocket isn’t mandatory, but it can increase your chances of pitch acceptance. You can’t read minds, so you want to be flexible to ensure you’re not shut down simply because they didn’t like the one topic you sent. Plus, offering multiple choices allows your potential guest blog partner to negotiate on topics that make the most sense for their editorial strategy.

Of course, in many cases, guest bloggers come to the table with a blog post that is more or less complete and just needs a home. This is fantastic, but it’s still a good idea to have multiple topics waiting in the wings, just in case. For example, maybe you’ve already written a piece, and your goal is to get it published on a particular high-authority website. You know the piece is perfect for them, so you feel confident there is no way they’d turn it down. And yet, for whatever reason, they do decline. Maybe it was because a similar piece is already in their editorial queue (or possibly published on their blog already, if your research wasn’t thorough enough). Or maybe the topic just wasn’t what they were looking for. Regardless, you can probably get that prewritten guest blog published on another site, but your dream of working with your first choice is dashed — unless you sent some alternate ideas as backups.

6. Don’t engage in “article spinning”

Article spinning works like this:

  • Step 1: You write an article.
  • Step 2: You pitch and publish that article as a guest blog.
  • Step 3: You tweak that article by changing words or maybe adjusting paragraphs.
  • Step 4: You pitch and publish that slightly tweaked article as a guest blog on another site.
  • Step 5: Repeat steps three and four.
Spinning teacup ride

Spinning is for teacup rides. Not content creation.

Article spinning is a tactic inherently falls under Black Hat SEO.

Why? Well, just as with anything in SEO, your strategy and tactics must be underpinned the following questions: Is this content useful to search engine users? Or is it just written to appeal to search algorithms?

When you engage in article spinning, it means you’re no longer publishing content for people. You’re publishing with the sole purpose of building links. Not only does this produce sloppy content, but with how sophisticated Google’s algorithm is, you aren’t doing your link profile any favors.

7. Do consider your link profile when guest blogging

If you’re pursuing guest blogging as a way to build links and boost your rankings, then you need to make sure that your link profile is diverse and relevant. Moz defines the term “link profile” as “an overall assessment of all the inbound links your site has earned: the total number of links, their quality (or spamminess), their diversity (is one site linking to you hundreds of times, or are hundreds of sites linking to you once?), and more.”

Diversifying your link profile is a lot like diversifying your investment portfolio. It helps you weather the storms of change. When Google makes shifts in its algorithm, sometimes certain linking patterns or even certain sites will fall out of favor. If you were relying solely on those now-marginalized linking patterns or sites for your backlinks, you’re probably going to feel marginalized, too. But if you already had a diversified link profile when these algorithm changes occurred, you are probably feeling less threatened since those unfavorable backlinks may only make up a small percentage of your backlinks.

So what constitutes a diversified link profile? Well, the ultimate goal is to have backlinks that bolster your authority on any niche topical subjects. So these links should come from a mix of high, medium, and low-authority websites that are topically similar to yours. (If you’re an yoga studio and you receive a backlink from a company that sells auto parts, that may confuse search engines trying to understand what you’re all about.) Another key to diversifying is making sure you have a healthy balance of “follow” and “nofollow” links.

(You’ll also want to keep a regular eye on your link profile and disavow any spammy, low-quality backlinks in Google Search Console. Negative SEO is very real. If a nefarious competitor goes after you with a negative SEO campaign, the damage can reverberate in your search rankings for years. If you think you might have been hit with negative SEO, learn how to disavow backlinks in Google Search Console.)

8. Do treat guest blogging as a serious editorial process

“Write without fear. Edit without mercy.”

If you’re working with a reputable site on your guest blog, then there’s a strong chance that a real human is reading and editing your work before it’s published (at least, we hope). Some sites may be fine with publishing your guest blog after only a light dusting of edits, but be aware that some sites may have more rigorous editorial standards.

Here are a few tips for ensuring a smooth editorial process:

  • Accommodate revisions within reason. Behind every great writer is a great editor. While only you can decide if being asked to do a full rewrite of your guest blog is worth your time, we do think it’s worthwhile to be flexible and accommodating with suggestions from your editor.
  • Try to match the formatting and style of the website you’re writing for. Make your editor’s life easier and do this before submitting your guest blog. Do they use oxford commas? Are they pretty fastidious about header tags?
  • Be clear about image permissions. If you have images you want to include with your guest blog, be sure to communicate any permission information regarding where you got them and how they may be used.
  • Collaborate on links. Obviously, you’ll want to include links back to your own site, but it’s a good idea to work together on adding internal site links, too.
  • Coordinate a plan for promotion. The work shouldn’t stop once the guest blog post is published! Work with your guest blogging partner on how this piece will be promoted on social media, email marketing, and other marketing channels after it is published.

When you treat guest blogging as a serious editorial process, you not only produce higher quality content — you build professional relationships and grow opportunities for future collaboration in your industry.

9. Don’t forget about other link building tactics

If you’re only relying on guest blogging to build links, you could be missing out on some high-quality backlink sources. A few link White Hat link building tactics you might want to consider include:

  • List yourself in trustworthy web directories that are relevant to your industry/niche. Emphasis on “relevant” and “niche.” Adding yourself to just any web directory can backfire if it has nothing to do with your website or business (or if it’s notoriously spammy).
  • Contribute helpful, quality comments in forums and blog posts. Participating in a real discussion with real people about something related to your niche can provide context and expert knowledge — something Google likes to see.
  • Give testimonials to products/services you use in your industry. Talk about a win/win! This is similar to guest blogging in that you are writing content for another business, but the difference is you get a backlink and they get a glowing testimonial — all without the time and labor of churning out a long guest blog post.
  • Ask! If you notice that a website in your niche mentions your business but doesn’t link to you, don’t be afraid to send an email to the site owner to thank them for the mention and request a link back to your site.
  • Build brand awareness. Ok, this is a long game that is easier said than done, but the fact is, backlinks come naturally when you’re a respected figure or brand in your industry. How active is your social media presence? How often do you engage with others in your industry? Do you monitor, solicit, and respond to online reviews? Do you leverage email marketing? How often do you update your blog?

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Catie Leary | Contributor

Catie has spent the last 12+ years honing her digital storytelling skills as both a journalist and a content strategist. In her spare time, she enjoys powerlifting, karaoke nights with friends, reading science fiction, and hanging out with her three cats.