If you run a website, you probably get emails from people you don’t know who want to write an article for your blog.
What’s up with that?
Should you accept them?
And why are they asking, anyway?
Should you accept guest posts on your blog?
The quick answer is no, you probably shouldn’t accept this type of guest post for your blog.
If someone you don’t know sends you an unsolicited email offering content or pitching an article for your blog, just delete it and get on with your day.
It’s just spam.
What’s in it for them?
To understand why you’re getting these emails in the first place, you need to understand that links are valuable. Search engines interpret links as recommendations. When you link out to an external site you are effectively telling Google that you think the resource you’re linking to is valuable.
Using links to surface and rank the best of the web is the secret sauce that made Google the best search engine on the planet1.
The reason why you’re getting all these emails is that they want a link from your site to their site.
The blog post on offer is a vehicle for a link.
What they really want—if you’ll allow them—is to pepper links within the text of the article to a specific page on their site.
Here’s an example:
Let’s imagine you’re an interview coach who teaches people how to give A+ interviews.
The person who just emailed you probably wants to rank well in Google searches for something like “resume templates.” You’d be surprised how much money there is to be made in “resume templates”—about 434,000 people search “resume templates” every month.
The pitch probably starts with a flattering statement about how much they like your blog. They ask if you accept guest posts. They pitch a few ideas. If you don’t respond, they’ll send follow-up emails.
It’s all automated.
If you say “yes” to posting their article, the post will casually mention resume templates. That’s the trojan horse—that’s where they’ll link to their target page, giving it an SEO boost.
They want it to look like you—an interview coach—recommended their website and that page as the best place on the internet to find resume templates.
Does guest posting work?
Google is pretty tight-lipped when it comes to explaining the finer points of how their algorithms work. No one really knows if or when guest posting moves the needle.
Years ago guest posting had a decent reputation. But then the shadier SEO operators developed systems for doing guest posting on such a large scale that in 2014 Matt Cutts from Google declared guest posting dead.
What’s in it for you?
When website owners get cold emails about guest posting they only consider responding at all because they think this might be some kind of sign that their website is getting traction online.
But, sadly, it’s just spam.
You should say “no.”
Posting guest posts on your blog can actually harm your reputation with Google, especially if you do it frequently and the posts are low-quality. The links could associate your website with spammy parts of the web.
But even if it doesn’t harm your SEO directly, it’s still not a good idea. There’s just not that much benefit for you. You’ll get some content for your blog, but it’s probably ho-hum synthetic text that was generated quickly using an AI writing tool like ChatGPT.
Maybe the pitch sounds good. But if the topic they’re proposing really would interest your audience … then you should write it, not them.
Is all guest posting bad?
Of course not.
Every Op-Ed in the New York Times is a guest post—they even renamed these pieces as “Guest Essays.” The New York Times is not worried about being penalized by Google for guest posting, even though they publish 2,000 “guest essays” per year.
Why? Because of the quality of the content. (The New York Times is quite picky and choosy about who gets to publish a Guest Essay.) They have clear editorial standards. A rigorous publishing process. Fact-checkers. And most importantly they don’t publish just anyone’s opinion. They publish original ideas from subject matter experts.
The same principles apply for smaller publishers too.
You can (and perhaps even should) aim to publish content on other people’s websites, but you need to do it the right way. Every article you pitch for someone else’s website (or that you accept to publish on your own site) needs to genuinely serve the interests of the audience.
But even more important, the post has to be good. It needs to be worth publishing. It needs to have a message that’s original and compelling.
Which is why the best guest posting opportunities come from relationships.
Guest posting, done well, is more of an exercise in networking than writing.
Your best avenues for guest posts will be with websites and online publications which serve an audience you’d like to reach but with whom you don’t directly compete.
Dig deep and figure out how you can actually add value in the world, and find online publications which you can actually contribute to—as an expert—and share your message to an audience who needs to hear what you have to say.
And don’t do it for the links. Sure, a link is nice. But there’s no guarantee that you’ll get one, and there’s no guarantee Google will count it even if you do.
Write because you have something to say.
Need help putting your Big Idea into words?
That’s where I come in.
I’m a professional editor who specializes in SEO. I can help you turn your rough drafts into words that you’ll be proud to publish.
On your own blog. Or someone else’s.
(1) The whole story on the invention of this system of link tracking (now called PageRank but originally called BackRub!) makes good reading. See Stephen Levy, “The World According to Google: Biography of a Search Engine,” in Into the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.)