Can Guest Posts Do More Harm Than Good?

July 21, 2020 Dennis 0 Comments


Google has been warning about guest posting for many years in a row.

To quote Matt Cutts all the way back in 2014

So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.

However, that wasn’t the first time they mentioned it:

They’ve been at it for quite some time and it didn’t stop in 2014

In 2017 they reiterated a formal warning about shady guest post practices.

People started to get worried and Gary Illyes toned it down that it was just a general reminder of what they said before.

Recently, in June this year, John Mueller from Google said that guest posting for links results in unnatural links, and that Google already devalues them.

Yet, guest posting is still an immens popular link building technique that pays-off big time if used right.

So who is wrong and who is right?

In this post I’m going to do my best to show you what to avoid when buying guest posts.

Do keep in mind that one guest post won’t harm your site, it’s always a numbers game.

The line between a good guest post site and a potentially harmful site is rather thin.

For that reason I’m not going to write down a bulletpoint list of harmful characteristics, simply because there is a much more important factor that hardly anyone thinks about, which is outbound link (OBL) footprints.

I will put it in quotes to make it stand out:

A website that is in a large number of guest post vendors lists won’t survive in the long run. For the simple reason that such site would turn into a guest post farm rather sooner than later with massive footprints as a result.

Now let me ask you:

Have you ever had someone approach you on Facebook asking you if you were interested in guest posts and before you know it he/she sends you an Excel sheet or a link to a Google docs sheet with 5,000+ sites available for guest posting?

How often did that happen?

Personally I’ve had dozens if not hundreds of people send me these lists, perhaps not unsurprisingly as they know I provide a guest post service so I’m more likely to be a target of them than you are.

Now imagine when hundreds of people are each spamming a few dozen or more people on Facebook with the very same list, with placements for absolute bottom prices, starting at as little as $10/post.

  • 500 link vendors that each reach 50 people per day as it’s basically their full-time job.
  • 50,000 people per day reached.
  • 1,500,000 people per month with their hands on the very same guest post lists.
  • 15,000,000 people in a year with the same list.

Let me add that this list is not limited to 5,000 sites only, by combining all these vendors and websites selling guest posts I managed to create a blacklist of 15,000 sites.

10,000 out of 15,000 are basically dead in terms of traffic (Ahrefs), so I don’t expect many people to buy guest posts on those.

That leaves us with 5,000 sites, 70% of those sites are rather general news sites, lifestyle magazines, and similar.

Approx 2,000 sites are left that generate most sales and a pool of 15 million (if not more) potential buyers.

Let me tell you a little secret

When I reach out organically on Facebook myself to find clients (without sending out lists I like to add), approx 1% of the people I reach out to and invite to my group eventually make a purchase, and the average number of posts a client buys is 15.

That is based on the customer lifetime value that I had to calculate to see if my paid advertisements are bringing a positive ROI.

Let’s assume they convert at the same rate:

1% of 15 million people = 150,000 people * 15 posts/client = 2,250,000 posts.

2,250,000 posts divided over 2000 niche relevant sites = 1125 posts PER site in only 1 year!!!

It is safe to assume that people don’t just buy links on a random set of sites, they want links on sites relevant to their niche.

Which begs the question, how many niches are there?

Based on my own research I’d say there are approx 50 broad niches to choose from.

Many of these sites cover 3-5 niches at a time that are closely related so that leaves us with approx 12 very broad niches.

Let’s trim the numbers down per niche:

  • 2,250,000 posts over 12.5 broad niches = a batch of 180,000 posts
  • 2,000 sites divided by 12.5 grouped niches (out of 50) = only 160 sites per niche

In other words, we now talk about a sub-set of 180,000 posts that gets published on 160 sites only.

Those 180,000 posts belong to 12,000 people only or better said they link out to 12,000 websites.

Imagine what happens when 160 websites link out to 12,000 websites from 180,000 posts.

It leaves a MASSIVE footprint for Google to automatically detect!!!

Though Google isn’t as evil as many people think

They are a bunch of smart cookies and they wouldn’t tank your site to oblivion if you fell prey to this guest post scam.

One guest post link isn’t going to hurt you, neither will 15 of such posts.

However, if you decide to buy 200 guest posts Google will show no mercy!

This is a client that recently came to me, he has been buying guest posts on his own from the same pool of sites that I’ve been talking about, and during the May update his rankings tanked big-time.

He doesn’t own one site, he owns 14 of them so I started to analyze all his sites.

We can basically divide his sites into three groups:

  • Sites that received 10-30 guest posts, those didn’t go down.
  • Sites that received 50-80 guest posts, they dipped a bit.
  • Sites that received 150+ guest posts, they tanked hard (as you can see on the chart above).

I compared the guest posts that he bought against our internal blacklist of 15,000+ sites, the so-called sites from the link peddlers at Facebook that keep spamming us on an almost daily base.

At least that’s how I got my hands on them.

As it turns out, at least 80% of the guest posts he bought were present in our internal blacklist.

Now I’m not saying that all these 15,000 sites are toxic on themselves, they are perfect link candidates and as I just showed you, the sites that received 10-30 of such posts didn’t tank at all.

As a matter of fact I managed to pick 200 very niche relevant sites out of those 15,000 sites and made deals with another 800 sites that aren’t present in anyone elses inventory, or at least not as widespread as those 15k sites.

Let’s look at another example:

Another very successful affiliate marketer that I know very well, he set up a monster site and bought approx 20 guest posts per month, largely from this same set of 15,000 sites.

They literally throw you to dead with these lists so it’s literally a matter of when you fall for it.

All went well in the beginning, happy days.

However when we zoom in a little to get a bit more clarity you see that the rankings stalled for >9 months.

This marketer didn’t buy the cheapest guest posts though, he always picked the most expensive ones from the list but even that didn’t help him to prevent this rankings from stalling.

Only when he quit buying links from public sources his rankings went up again, and during the May update this year his rankings started to increase instead of fall.

What he did was this:

  • First he stopped buying links from vendors.
  • Next he set up custom outreach campaigns to attract links from generally weaker but more relevant sites.
  • Finally, he found more reliable guest post providers and compared it against his own internal blacklist.

In other words, he reduced the footprint of his backlink profile by a large margin.

Here is what that looks like in numbers:

  • Initially he purchased 20 guest posts per month for 10 months for a total of 200 guest posts.
  • During the November update he saw a small dip and knew something was wrong.
  • 55 out of 200 are still present in our database, 105 out of 200 are in my black list.
  • 95 guest posts that are rather good, and 105 potentially toxic ones that froze his rankings

Let’s stop here for a minute!

Remember what I wrote a little earlier?

That the other persons sites dropped in rankings after 50-80 guest posts.

The same thing happened here.

After acquiring 105 guest posts that are present in the blacklist his rankings dropped a bit during the November update.

He was lucky to have 95 solid guest posts at that point that prevented a further drop.

Now let’s analyze the 230 remaining links (those are left after I removed the obvious scraper type of links every site attracts):

  • 60 links on sites with less than < 50 visitors per month according to Ahrefs, I can’t imagine he acquired those links out ot free will as there are limits as in how low we want to go to prevent ending up on people’s private blog networks.
  • 170 new guest posts that aren’t in anyone’s list.
  • 85 of them on sites with less than 1000 visitors per month.

The end result, while nearly every site crashed during the May update his traffic doubled instead and there is no end in sight!

Moral of the story

You can’t go out and buy guest posts from just anyone that offers them.

It’s no coincidence that there are hundreds of link peddlers shoving their lists into everyone’s faces on a daily base.

Now I’m not a fan of conspiracies but it does appear that they are part of a larger network of websites solely made for the purpose of selling guest posts.

Whether this is a natural phenomenon when you pack a bunch of greedy site owners together or an organized effort I’ll leave for you to decide.

If you want to survive as a guest post vendor and book consistent results for your clients you have to:

  • compare your portfolio constantly against other peoples lists.
  • refresh your inventory at least once a month.
  • make sure you always have something unique to offer.

A new outreach service in the making

Taking all this into account we decided to launch an outreach service where we care less about metrics such as DR and traffic while still maintaining certain minimums to avoid PBN’s but with a larger focus on how relevant sites are to your niche.

A quick example, if you could choose, what would you rather have?

  • A post on a hyper relevant DR20 site with only 100 posts?
  • A post on a less relevant DR50 site with 10,000 posts?

In the end it’s not the domain rating that matters, it’s the strength of the page your link is on that matters.

It should need no explaining that you end up with less link juice when it gets spread over 10,000 posts opposed to a lower DR spread over only 100 or even 200 posts.

Combine this with our everchanging portfolio of 1000 sites with no more than 20% overlap with any other vendor at any given moment and this makes for a rock solid link building strategy that’s built to last.

This also explains the reason why we hide all of the sites in our inventory.

Not to keep them away from you, much more so to keep them away from our competitors and Google itself.