I think it is, and in this post, I will do my best to explain to you why.
Obviously, there are people that consider paying for guest posts cheating.
They say things like a guest post should be earned, and provide great value.
Almost indicating that when a guest post is paid for that it can’t provide any value anymore, which is plain wrong of course.
Not everyone has an abundance of time to reach out themselves
…and not everyone has the budget to hire a marketing agency to take care of the outreach for them so in these cases it makes sense to buy guest posts.
Let me give you some more reasons…
Free Guest Posts are a Gamble
For everyone’s that short on time I’m going to make a real quick summary of reasons why it makes sense to:
…buy guest posts vs landing them for free…
Later in this post, we will dive deeper into it with examples.
If you don’t pay for a guest post you risk that:
- the guest post ends up being removed after some time.
- the link in the post will be tagged as no-follow.
- links aren’t allowed at all, only in the author box (often no-follow).
- your post gets the guest post label.
- you end up on a rather weakish site.
And you don’t know any of that until the post is published.
You could be working your ass off for a link that’s virtually worthless because no-follow links don’t count.
Guest posting is the most effective way to rank sites, but when your post is identifiable as a guest post because the website owner adds something like:
Guest post by: Insert your name
There is a realistic chance that Google will devalue this link.
Especially if the site in question accepts a lot of guest posts it could easily leave a footprint…
…and if the links aren’t no-follow Google could devalue the domain in its entirety.
Buyers can Make Demands!
When you receive a guest post for free you have literally nothing to negotiate with.
You rely for the full one hundred percent on the site owner to keep your post alive.
It’s up to them to grant you a do-follow link or not.
However, when you pay for a guest post you can make certain demands, for example:
- I want my post to start on the homepage.
- The links in the post must be do-follow.
- I want my post to remain on the site indefinitely.
- The post can’t be tagged as sponsored.
- The post should be published under the site owners’ author account, or one of its editors.
In other words, you have a lot of bargaining power when you pay for a guest post.
And this way you can maximize the SEO value of your link.
Time is Money!
Now, this may not apply to you but most people run busy lives.
They don’t have time to go through the whole process of:
- finding sites that are willing to accept guest posts.
- filtering the sites based on traffic, strength, and other metrics.
- gathering contact details like an email address or contact page.
- split testing different outreach emails for the optimal result.
- brainstorming topics to present to the site owner.
- writing the actual guest post (or outsourcing it).
- checking if the post actually gets published.
- checking if the link is actually worth it (do-follow vs no-follow).
In other words, you can easily spend a whole day to land just one guest post.
Guest Posting is Never Free
To do all of the above things also requires certain tools and services.
I bet you hadn’t thought about that!
Many people say why would I pay $80 for a guest post when I can get it myself for only the cost of content.
Well, what they haven’t added are the cost of tools and services, for example:
- Ninja Outreach charges $1200/year.
- Majestic SEO or Ahrefs that you need to analyze sites also charge around $1200/year.
- Atom Hunter, a tool to scrape emails costs $100-$150 (one-time fee).
- RDDZ, which I personally recommend costs around $200 (one-time fee).
- Filtering your emails through a service like NeverBounce costs $50 per 10,000 emails.
- GSA contact form submitter costs $150 (one-time fee).
- You will need proxies and a captcha service, or your IP will get flagged and no emails will arrive anymore.
- You need to purchase additional throw-away hosting and a domain name.
Total costs: $3000+/year (that are a lot of guest posts).
Let me explain a little more about the extra shared hosting and domain name.
When you email hundreds or thousands of sites at a time without their permission.
There is a realistic chance people will report your email as spam.
If this happens too often your domain will be included in a database of spam organizations.
Once that happens your emails won’t arrive anymore, and once you’re in it’s very hard to get out!
Free Guest Posts vs Paid Ones
We already highlighted all the downsides of free guest posts, but there are some upsides as well:
- You can land links on sites that would never accept a paid offer.
- You can become a contributor at large authority sites (bragging rights).
- You can divide the costs if you own multiple websites.
Now that we discussed the upsides of free guest posts, let’s look at some downsides of paid guest posts as I don’t want to sound too biased:
- Not every site appreciates it when you offer them money (some have their morals very high).
- It could damage your brand if you email sites with a paid offer.
- Some sites turn into guest post farms and publish anything & everything.
Obviously, you can avoid guest post farms by looking at the site before making a purchase.
Unlike most guest post providers we at Content Hourlies have nothing to hide.
When you register an account with us you will get to see all of the sites in our database and you can easily filter it on based on price & industry.
That way you know exactly what you are buying!
How Effective are Guest Posts
To answer that question all we need to do is take a look at some extremely well-performing sites.
I’ve done an awful lot of outreach in the past few weeks with the help of Ninja Outreach.
But, I’ve also reverse-engineered many authority sites to select more suitable outreach candidates.
During my work, I discovered that the most successful sites with steady growth in organic traffic relied for the majority of their links on guest posting.
I can’t tell you if they got those links for free or if they paid for them.
But when I compared it to our own database I did see an awful lot of matches.
Because the sites in our database usually don’t accept guest posts without charging a fee for publication.
So there you have it!
The backlink profiles of the best-performing sites in the 100k-300k organic visitors per month range are made up of at least 25% guest posts.
When we filter those backlink profiles down by removing links from scraper sites.
And taking no-follow links out of the equation this percentage increases to up to 70%.
Let me Proof it with a Case Study
For this, we are going to take a close look at BestReviews.com.
Once a very well performing site with an amazing performing link magnet:
This video shows the evolution of the desk from 1985 till 2015 and acquired backlinks from hundreds of different domains.
I know because I was right on top of it three years ago and checked their backlink profile in Majestic SEO.
If I remember it correctly that post alone attracted links from 300+ domain!
Impressive to say the least!
- In one year time, their traffic grew from 0 to 75,000 visitors per month (SEMrush).
- In two years time, they grew to 125,000 visitors/month
- And in three years time, they peaked at 337,000 visitors per month.
Obviously, it wasn’t just this link magnet.
They also made a post about tornados, war veterans, they offered a scholarship, and so on.
In other words, plenty of techniques to raise their site to the top of the search results and it worked great!
Yes “worked” because in August 2018 their traffic dropped from an impressive 337k visitors/month to only 105k visitors per month TODAY!
OMG What Happened???
I will tell you exactly what happened!
They were using SEO techniques that became outdated.
Google doesn’t solely care about pure strength anymore, relevance = KING.
What does the evolution of a desk, a scholarship page, or a tornado/veteran page have to do with product reviews?
In early 2018 a media giant named TRONC at the time (they re-branded to Tribune Publishing) took a majority share in BestReviews.
FYI: Tribune Publishing owns over a dozen online newspapers in the United States.
What they did was plain crazy.
They added homepage links to bestreviews.com from ALL of their news sites that each have a Majestic TF of 65+.
Obviously, they expected to make some huge gains but nothing happened at all.
Their traffic went stale for a while.
The people in the know already know what happened in August 2018, a new Google update took place that affected the rankings of hundreds of thousands of sites, mostly in a negative way.
You can read more about this update here:
People are quick to make analysis online to pinpoint what the update was all about but to me, it was crystal clear.
Backlink relevancy, or in case of many the lack thereof.
BestReviews is the perfect example of that as while I did my homework I found out that:
- most of their links come from press release sites.
- most of those press release links are do-follow (you usually get a no-follow link from them).
- the vast majority of their backlinks aren’t relevant to product reviews at all.
- less than 10% of the sites linking to them are sites that I would reach out too!!!!
You read that right!
Earlier I said that most of the websites that perform great have at least 25% of their links from guest posting, or curated links.
When I rev. engineered BestReviews I was left with only 250 out of 3500 sites that make suitable link partners.
With suitable link partners I mean the following btw:
- A trust flow of at least 10.
- Minimum 1000 organic visitors per month.
- Sites with clean backlink profiles.
- An editorial process in place to weed out the spam.
No surprise that BestReviews tanked!
Yes they still receive tons of organic traffic but a loss of 2/3rds of their traffic overnight, fill in yourself
Another Case Study to Proof my Point
Now that I’ve shown you a famous site with a total lack of relevant contextual backlinks let’s take a look at a site that does have plenty of such links.
The site we are going to look into now even has a decent percentage of private blog network links…
…and they applied another grey-hat SEO technique by building it on an expired domain.
The results are nothing to joke about!
They receive 3x the traffic BestReviews.com gets with less than 1/5th of the linking sites.
More Accurate Metrics / Comparison:
Referring domains and Trust flow (according to Majestic SEO):
- Bestreviews.com: 3851 referring domains linking to them, TF43
- Oglf.org: 635 referring domains linking to them, TF21
Organic traffic (measured by SEMrush):
- Bestreviews.com: 105,000 organic visitors per month (US-based).
- Oglf.org: 306,000 organic visitors per month (US-based).
The ratio of contextual backlinks (eg. guest posts):
- Bestreviews.com: < 10% contextual links from relevant sites.
- Oglf.org: > 60% contextual links from relevant sites.
I could turn this into a 10,000+ words post by including dozens, if not hundreds of other sites that proof my exact same point.
But I already know you are not going to read all of it so I save both of us some time.
So I’d say my point has been proven.
Guest posting is the most effective way to rank sites in 2019.
I think we can now answer the question in full confidence:
Is paying for guest posts worth it?