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The aftermath of Google’s Penguin update has seen a lot of speculation as to which factors might have caused sites to be hit.

The overwhelming message is that Google is becoming more proactive and stricter when dealing with link spam.

There are plenty of great blog posts out there looking at what type of unnatural links might have influenced drops, so instead I decided to look at how the Penguin update might change guest blogging.

Guest blogging in a post-Penguin world

The purpose of guest blogging

Guest blogging generally refers to a blog post or article that is written by a party not connected to the hosting site.

There are many reasons people engage in guest blogging.

For writers, guest blogging is a good way of growing their readership by getting in front of an audience they wouldn’t normally have access to.

In many verticals you’ll see bloggers doing guest-post exchanges as a way of increasing their presence in their network. At other times you’ll see well-established blogs offering up-and-coming writers a chance to have their voice heard on a bigger stage in exchange for some great content.

Then of course you have the monetisation of guest blogging through ‘sponsored posts’. This activity is carried out for commercial purposes by brands, or agencies acting on behalf of brands.

The main reason it’s carried out is for link building, but it’s also done to help promote certain products or services, or increase brand awareness.

Why guest posts are beneficial for websites

For those charging for guest blogging, it’s a steady form of income.

Other benefits include having additional fresh content to increase traffic. This traffic could come through increased visibility in search engines or sharing via social media. A lot of the time writers who are invited to guest post are expected to help promote the content they have written to their own audience.

Exchanging guest posts is also a good way of building relationships with other bloggers in your network. Many bloggers often form communities within their niche and guest blogging can help with the sharing of ideas.

Should websites be fussy about which blog posts they accept? Can a bad blog post harm a site’s reputation?

Not every blog accepts guest posts; in fact guest posts are quiet controversial in some circles. Some blogs feel they are diluting their own voice by accepting them.

I personally believe it can be a good thing to have a new voice on a well-established blog as long as the content is interesting, well-written and doesn’t stray too far from the blog’s topic.

That said, there are a large amount of badly-written guest posts out there that are merely breeding ground for spammy SEO techniques. I’m talking about articles that bear no relation to the blog and have keywords randomly shoe-horned in.

What qualities should you look for in a guest blog site?  How can you measure these qualities?

When I first began looking into sourcing guest posts, I was using Open Site Explorer's domain strength as an indicator of sites to target. But as I went on I started to be more open-minded taking on a more holistic approach.

Firstly I’ll look at the site and see whether it looks good. There are quite a lot of blog networks out there that use cookie-cutter templates to roll out blog after blog with the intention of selling links. It’s no surprise that Google has started to target these networks by de-indexing them completely or dropping the value of their outgoing links.

If you come across a blog through a source other than Google, it’s worth giving it a quick search to see if it’s being indexed. It’s a five-second task, but one that shouldn’t be ignored.

Next I’ll look more closely at the quality of content, post-frequency, number of social shares, and the level of engagement of some of the posts. I also look for how frequently guest posts appear.

A couple of years back many sites in some verticals were becoming completely over-saturated with side-bar links pointing to hundreds of different sites. Hopefully it’s not going to get like that with guest posts. I tend to shy away from blogs that publish guest posts more frequently than their own content.

Common methods of sourcing guest blogs

Google is probably the quickest way. If I was looking for a travel site, a simple search of ‘travel guest post’ or ‘travel sponsored post’ would return a few pages’ worth of sites to sift through.

Google’s algorithm is probably the most powerful tool that is freely available, and at the same time generally the cream will be rising to the top. You can do similar searches within Twitter that will give you a real-time stream of sites but a lot of them can be of low quality.

However, the problem with solely using Google is that it’s such a widely-used tool, meaning that you’ll be finding the same sites as everyone else. Also a lot of the time I might want to find a site which isn’t actively advertising or disclosing guest-post opportunities, or who haven’t yet engaged in it.

Another method is too use a backlink tool like Open Site Explorer to see where other sites are getting their links from. If your aim is only to replicate what your competitors are doing, then this is a very useful process. Often though, you’ll need to go a step further to find those sites that might make a real difference.

Social media monitoring is a great way of sourcing sites away from the well-trodden path. Tools like Brandwatch are not only great for sourcing sites; they can also perform network mapping and discovering what topics are being talked about the most. This can help you form a content strategy rather than just tackling one site at a time.

If your aim is to increase brand awareness or find sites to promote your services, monitoring tools will allow you to build a larger view of the network and establish key influencers.

They are also great for monitoring your own brand. People who are already talking about you are a lot easier to get on board when it comes to guest blogging. There are also the opportunities for collaborations; that’s as long as that aren’t being negative about you!

Approaching a guest blog site

The best way to approach them is to do a bit of research beforehand. See what their preferred method of contact is and look around the site to find their name (usually in the ‘About’ section). If you can’t even be bothered to do that, then why should they take the time to read your email?

Take the time to read a bit of their content and talk about the stuff you like. Don’t just attach a ready-made article to the email and ask them if they want to post it. Show that you have an understanding of their blog and their readers and offer content that is going to be tailored for them.

One or two examples can be good to show the quality of writing you are able to offer, but I wouldn’t go openly flaunting all the sites I’ve had guest posts featured on. An example of some content on your own site might be better than showing an example of a guest post.

Don’t use a general email template for outreach. It’s pretty obvious when that’s been done and a lot of bloggers talk to each other regularly. A generic email to hundreds of different bloggers is sure to get noticed within the network.

If you are going to be lazy and hit everyone at once, then make sure you BCC! There’s nothing worse for bloggers than receiving an email saying write “I really like your blog” then seeing 50 other email addresses are copied in. The only response you will get is a dressing down.

The best approach for links in guest posts

Some sites set a limit. For those that don’t I would never go over three links to one particular site. Anymore than two seems to be over-egging the pudding these days.

If I am dropping links in, I want them to seem natural rather than shoe-horned. I’ll almost always include a brand link, and, if I can, a reference link to another authoritative external site. Rather than looking at it at building links on one individual site, I think of it as a larger scale process to build quality links on a number of sites over a length of time.

I’ll space out how regularly I’m posting content, and ensure I diversify my anchor text.  Targeting the same keyword over and over on every site may work in the short term, but with their talk of Google targeting links with over-optimised anchor texts, it might come back to hurt you down the line.

So how will Penguin effect guest blogging now and in the future?

I think Penguin will probably have more of an impact on paid posts. I think it’ll close a lot of doors for people using guest blogging to build links.

Bloggers will start to be more cautious about what content they are accepting. It’s too early to tell but Penguin seems almost too big to ignore and it will definitely change things.

For link builders, try to be more natural in your approach. The agency model of SEO generally means that a fixed media spend is allocated to link building each month. If I was putting out five articles containing two links each and every month, then surely that would start to look suspicious to Google?

It is also not desirable if all the sites you choose have the same domain authority, sit within the same vertical, and have the same keyword-rich links pointing back to the client site. It just won’t look natural to Google.

Penguin should allow link-builders to be more creative and relaxed with their approach. If you have a client who is desperate to get as many links as possible with the same money keyword till they rank number one, then it might be time to explain to them that it’s simply not sustainable.

Kristian Bannister

Published 23 May, 2012 by Kristian Bannister

Kristian Bannister is Creative Marketing Executive at No Pork Pies and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow Kristian on Twitter.

2 more posts from this author

Comments (22)

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Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Just to clarify Econsultancy's approach to guest blogging. We don't pay or charge for guest posts, and it's not about link exchanges

We look for guest bloggers to share their experience and expertise on their chosen topic.

We get some great content that is valuable for readers, while the guest author gets to show off their expertise, which may in turn attract clients.

For more on what we look for in a guest blogger, see this post:


Also, if you're interested in guest blogging for Econsultancy, email editor@econsultancy.com

over 4 years ago


Malcolm Gibb

I agree, guest blogging is definitely not always about spam or purely for link building. Of course there are those that will pay for guest posts for easy links and promote low quality content, but for some of us it is a way of interacting with a community and building readership in our areas.

Guest blogging can be effective if it is natural, high quality, engaging content on topic and not a low quality irrelevant article placed with £'s and laden with exact match anchor links.

over 4 years ago


Manchester handyman

Penguin update affected my sites a whole load, it's been driving me mad. Should we have anchor links or not? I removed a bunch of footer links from my site in the aftermath and it made all my sites drop further. I think social networking sites are the way forward. Nice article.

over 4 years ago


gail m

Marketing a client's business online is or should be the goal - yes it is more time consuming and yes it costs more, but you can sleep at night knowing that your clients are paying for marketing not processes and systems designed to meet the needs of a mathematical algorithm. Guest blogging is a great way to extend a brand's reach but Google will pick up on different author's filling up a site with links (sooner or later). Paid or unpaid, spammy posts do not market a brand online.

over 4 years ago


UK Home Improvement

Fantastic post, guest post blogging is a great way to reach a new audience within your industry. There are still some great blogs out there after the penguin update and we are proud to still be one of the top performing home improvement resources, bringing high quality guest posts in the form of expert advice.

over 4 years ago


John Ryder

This is just the tip of the iceberg IMO. Great post for anyone new to guest blogging.

over 4 years ago


Colin McDermott

The Cuttsmeister said amongst other stuff, "And the idea is basically to try and level the playing ground a little bit ..."

But in truth Google has been devaluing links (including guest-blogging) that appeared 'unnatural' to their algo for a long time, the only thing 'new' since 24th April is that they are now sending out 'notifications'.

Take the view that the recent round of 'notifications' is a wake up call that quality is better than quantity ... and you'll be OK.

over 4 years ago


vikesh Pithadiya

Guest blogging is probably the best way to get bank links from but the thing is when you choose a guest blog it has to be of good google pr and content has to be fresh and unique and any recent topic should be targeted.

over 4 years ago


Paulina from cojesc.net

Excellent post. I think this technique will become very popular in the near future, as Google is looking for topic relevancy more than even before.

However, isn't blog commenting on niche-relavant websites similary good to guest posting? After all, google will see only link. Do they know whatever link is coming from article body or comment?


over 4 years ago


Alex Noudelm

Great blog post. Very helpful.

over 4 years ago


Jose Gil

I agree with this post. I think it is better to just accept blog post that are really related and useful to the websites subject matter. And dont accept guest post that are purely created for getting a link. I also think that brand or company name linked to their site is enough, or at least one link to company/website who wrote the article, and one link to any of their social media profile.

over 4 years ago


Neil Maycock

I did a search for guest blog posting and was shocked to find blog networks there and paid guest blog posting services. Come on Guys! Google has told us we need to be looking at social signals and creating trust. Yet again people try and game the system instead of producing quality content people want to feature.

over 4 years ago



Guest blogging can be effective way to get back links but It should be of good PR and Fresh content.

over 4 years ago


Mike @ GuestBlogPoster.com

I would like to add that everybody should be using the rel=author tag when publishing their guest posts. It's extremely beneficial for click through rates in Google for the site owner, and extra exposure for the actual author.

@Neil Maycock: there's nothing wrong with paid services as long as it's legitimate. Sadly, most are not so I can understand your comment.

over 4 years ago



I agree that guest blogging can be effective if it is natural and high quality content. And it should also add value to the website and the readers. Only then can guest blogging provide lasting results.

over 4 years ago



im not sure if its effective, because most of blogs who accepts guest post, also accepts payment from the Guest poster. Do you think Google will like that? ok, we will see in the near future. Google is smart you know.. :)

over 4 years ago


SEO Expert India

I have never written any blog post for other blogs. But I think it is one of good way to interact with other people.

over 4 years ago



Do you think it is acceptable to charge for accepting blog posts?

over 4 years ago


Deborah Anderson

Great article and love your attention to the matter of linking and natural linking, and especially the no more than 3 rule. Great job.

over 4 years ago



This is a great article, especially for people like me starting up a new blog and wanting to get some linkbuilding done. Cheers.

about 4 years ago



Good article, I'm going to take these ideas into consideration with my new blog site.


almost 4 years ago


newtown handyman

Really what a nice site and fantastic discussed to handyman service, cheers author for your wonderful tropic.

over 3 years ago

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