What Is Guest Posting?
Guest posting (or guest blogging) is a marketing tactic that involves writing articles for other websites in order to promote your brand.
Here is a guest post example that Semrush’s Marcus Tober contributed to Adweek:
Adweek guest post example
Sharing your expertise with relevant audiences can help you:
Build your personal profile
Raise brand awareness
Drive traffic to your site
Many marketers use Guest posting services to build links for SEO. (Links are like “votes of confidence” and can benefit Google rankings.)
But guest blogging SEO is a contentious topic.
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Are Guest Posts Bad for SEO?
Guest posts are not inherently bad for SEO. (They can even be beneficial—more on that later.)
An article on the Google Search Central Blog states: “Google does not discourage [guest posts] in the cases when they inform users, educate another site’s audience, or bring awareness to your cause or company.”
But guest articles can be bad for SEO.
Because Google may issue a “Google penalty” (or “manual action”) against a site that engages in manipulative linking practices. This can lead to the site ranking lower in search results. Or being omitted from search results altogether.
Manipulative linking practices include (but are not limited to) the following:
“Excessive” guest posting:
“Excessive” guest posting occurs when a brand is trying to get links on as many sites as possible. This leads to a lot of poor-quality content. Which is bad for the web and bad for Google.
One of the main signs of excessive guest posting is having the same (or very similar) guest posts published on multiple sites. Especially if the same company owns those sites.
It will also raise red flags if the content is low-quality—if it’s unhelpful, uninteresting, or poorly written.
Or if there are lots of unnatural links to the brand’s site for Guest-posting-sites. That have obviously been placed for SEO purposes. For example, multiple links to a gym page using the text “best gym in Austin.”
Failure to nofollow guest post links:
When you link to your site from a guest post, Google says the link should be set to nofollow (i.e., you instruct Google to ignore the link for SEO purposes).
You nofollow a link by adding the rel=“nofollow” attribute to the link’s code. Like so:
<a href=”https://www.example.com/” rel=”nofollow”>Anchor text</a>
Or, if you pay for the guest post, the rel=“sponsored” attribute.
<a href=”https://www.example.com/” rel=”sponsored”>Anchor text</a>
The resulting link looks (and works) the same for users.
But the attribute tells Google to ignore the link for SEO purposes. That it should not count as a “vote of confidence” because it is not impartial.
If you do not nofollow your guest post links, Google may be able to tell. And it reserves the right to issue a penalty against your site.
Failure to disclose guest posts:
When you pay for a guest post placement, the host site must be transparent with readers.
All sponsored posts should be clearly labeled.
Like this recipe blog from Half-Baked Harvest:
Half-Baked Harvest blog
Otherwise, you might violate Google’s guidelines.
More importantly, you might violate advertising regulations or other laws.
In the U.S., for example, the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) states that native advertising (ads that look like normal types of content) must be clearly labeled. The penalty for violating this rule can be up to $43,792 per violation.
Are Guest Posts Good for SEO?
Despite the potential pitfalls, 43.7% of marketers use guest posts for SEO (at least occasionally), according to a recent Twitter poll.
Guest posting can be good for SEO (and your wider marketing strategy) because it helps you build your brand profile. And, by extension, brand awareness.
When you showcase your expertise and partner with respected sites, you can establish credibility with readers, influencers, and Google.
That can lead to more social followers. New partnership opportunities. Higher rankings. And much more.
Plus, any links to your site can generate referral traffic.
But can guest post links pass SEO value?
Google’s John Mueller claims that Google treats guest post links as if they were nofollowed automatically. Whether or not they include the rel=“nofollow” or rel=“sponsored” attribute.
This would mean that they have no direct SEO value.
John Mueller’s tweet
Many marketers suspect this isn’t true, of course.
But if you want to be on the safe side, you should nofollow your guest post links. And avoid raising any other red flags with Google.