Paid Guest Posts – Are they worth it?
I've just been using Ubersuggest to see how my competitors are ranking.
I noticed that the page 1 position 1 company has hundreds of referring domains (55k backlinks) from high/medium DA and PA sites.
When I review the articles I can see they are short, poorly written, boring articles clearly created through paid guest posting services.
However, these backlinks are getting this site over 300k website views per month and a no.1 ranking.
Is this a normal approach to ranking your website? I just need to spend a few grand paying for guest posts on high DA sites?
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There's a few different questions implicit in those you asked, while the specific one you did ask is a little less likely to get an answer that will really help you.
No it is not the normal practice for any real industry or brand out there. Not one internet giant was built on that crap. Not one.
But the questions you didn't ask are more nuanced. Can it work? Well, yes, as you are seeing, it can work for a while. Sometimes even a year or so. But it is very rare that a company that got there that way isn't penalized into oblivion dead and gone in less than 2 years.
We call this 'Churn and Burn'. Some companies will use the cheap and spammy tactics, knowing full well they won't last, and already have the next domain set up and building even before the first is burned to the ground. It is NOT a white hat practice, is firmly against ALL search engine guidelines, and so is not something you'll find recommended by professionals in this, or any other group. But it can work, just like being a professional bank robber *can* work, for a while. Until it doesn't and you get caught.
The more useful question still that you didn't ask is how to beat it with better methods.
I did wonder whether they would last long as I haven't seen them before. I guess they will soon be penalized.
I assume writing guest posts that are actually of value to the target audience and are promoted on industry-relevant sites are of value though and are the correct way to go about it?
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Gavin
Guest posts are one way to control the text around the link, and that is why they are very popular. There's not much more control you can possibly have over the context of your link than to have written it and all the content around it.
On those grounds, they are *one* good way of getting links. But there are hundreds of alternatives, and the majority of websites out there do not accept guest posts, paid or free.
Remember, a site that accepts a guest post relatively easily from you is probably just as likely to accept one relatively easily from your competitor, or from some spammer who'll link it into a bad neighbourhood and ruin the link trust of the site for all. Real 'Tragedy of the Commons' type stuff applies.
As fellow my moderator and assistant admin, Martinez, pointed out very recently in a related discussion, 'Relevance' does not mean the same to those who build search engines as most SEO users have learned to believe through the grapevine of myth and rumour.
The idea that for a link to a page selling tents for camping to be valuable it has to come from a site entirely about camping, or tents, or at the very least 'the great outdoors' is an absolute myth, and an absolute nonsense.
For a start, PageRank, the link-weighting algorithm Google was built around, and named for Larry Page, not web page, is "topic insensitive". The topic part of relevancy is added in afterward by other algorithms and tweaks. What will greatly help, but is not 'expected' is if links to your page come from any other specific URL that also ranks in the top 100 or so results for the same search. There is nothing that filters out, or that 'upgrades' links from sites or pages on the topic that do not rank for the same search.
That is all about the 'power' or 'juice' (juice being slang for power) of a link though. Keyword relevancy for a link comes from the words directly around the link, and in the anchor text.
After all, what 'topic' would you say a site like the New York Times or the BBC are about? Think for a second…
For even an instant, did the word 'Sneakers' come to mind as a topic either of the sites was about?
But I guarantee you that a good link in a story on either of those sites to top brand, or a new brand that produces sneakers, covering them either as a new fashion, or for some innovation, is worth a ton. Context is almost always specific to the paragraph(s) around the link. Not the overall 'theme' of the site, or even the page.
There's a particular book I have been recommending to anyone interested in link building ever since it was published around 20 years ago. The book is 'Purple Cow' by Seth Godin, and it is not actually about links, or even about Search Engine Optimization (SEO). It is about what is remarkable, and to build links, which are the ultimate way we share what is remarkable, it is absolutely golden.
Gavin ✍️ » Ammon Johns
Thanks, that's really helpful and interesting to know.
I still don't really understand how you are supposed to compete and successfully rank for keywords in a competitive niche (web design for example) when your competitors have thousands of referring domains and tens of thousands of backlinks.
It seems an impossible task as Google does not seem to penalize those companies. Yet when you look at their backlinks they are all junk.
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Gavin
There's little need to penalize things that are not actually working. If you go through such backlinks carefully you'll find literally 3-4 good ones that are doing all of the work, and the rest just make it harder for anyone to spot (and thus copy) those handful of good ones.
Martinez 🎓 » Gavin
"thousands of referring domains and tens of thousands of backlinks."
We have no way of knowing how many of those links help, hurt, or end up being ignored.
Worrying about someone else's backlink profile isn't productive.
Create the site you would want to link to, make it visible to the world through reliable promotional strategies, and keep creating a highly valuable resource.
Few people can take advantage of every reliable promotional strategy, but there is advertising, presenting at conferences, publishing content to social media, publishing press releases on sites that are indexed in the News Search services, and even asking for guest posting opportunities (without worrying about whether the links pass value – it's more important to put your message where many people will see it).
Build a brand, create brand visibility, and act like a brand. Treat your Website like it's the most precious resource in your business life. Protect it. Nourish it.
Gavin ✍️ » Martinez
Ok, fab thanks. 🙂
I've seen this work in long term as well due to #1 ranking. For example, you pay a bunch for whatever links are needed to rank to top position. Then while you're #1, you naturally earn backlinks if you have the right content and niche. For example, a journalist is writing an article and needs a source, googles it, sees #1 result and uses it as a source. So now this website that started with rubbish backlinks balances out it's backlink profile overtime and that keeps them ranking for a while. Doesn't always work, but it certainly can if all things line up.
Gavin ✍️ » Bacic
I think this is what I see for those websites I am referring to. They get a lot of high DA/PA backlinks through paid guest posts and then supplement it with great content that is backlinked from good sources.
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Gavin
All links are paid for somehow. The good ones are paid for in the investment stage – a good writer, detailed knowledge or research, enough paid publicity to get a few early eyes and attention on it so it can EARN some great links, reviews, or word of mouth, etc. Google are fine with this kind of way of paying because it is not rigged. If the product of that investment isn't good, then all the time, all the expense, and all the advertising spent on getting it attention will fail to get it any real citations or links.
Then there are links bought through a different kind of investment – links from business partners or those financially motivated *indirectly* to promote your link. Google are a little more cagey and cautious with these. They are fine with one site linking to another that is owned by the same company, or group of companies, but they are also generally aware of the relationship, and several papers and patents have discussed ways they may slightly downvalue those links, or ignore them outright if they are heavily overdone.
Then there's the muppet links. The ones where the creator had no imagination for investment, and no influence to have partners and a network, and is limited to just paying cash to someone to put up a post, often without much 'editorial oversight'. If the site, even if paid, rejects more proposals than it takes, always placing the quality of the article uppermost then those are more like the business partnerships. But far more often than not, many paid guest posts will just put up any old tosh they were paid enough to do so. Those Google have a major problem with, and usually completely ignore, the algorithms having long ago spotted such sites linking to one or more cruddy enough sites known to buy links that they backward engineered who was selling those links.
A friend of mine famous for link building when it was a massively hardcore part of all web promotion, he of the original 'Link Ninjas', has an internal tool that has identified all of the major link selling networks, the Private Blog Network (PBN) links, and such. Show him a URL and he can plug it into the tool and quickly tell who promoted it, which paid networks or owned networks were used, and so on. And he created that tool with less than 1% of the staff and resources that Google have.
My own estimate is that around 90% of all 'built' links by the most common levels of link building are completely worthless, and completely ignored. Google's algorithms having identified all suspect networks and treating them all as if they were disavowed, and could pass no external PageRank at all.
They are just as aware of comment link spam on massive networks (e.g. you still sometimes see people spamming URLs into Youtube comments), and of User Generated Content areas on sites like Forbes, and again, have a Google side equivalent to a disavow that causes any links there to have no value and not be counted.
So, whenever you are doing backlink analysis, remember that MOST of the links you'll be looking at are worth nothing. Nothing at all. Just a handful are doing all of the work.
Because there is no law anywhere that says Google must count all links. Instead, the way they approach them is probably like any other signal – you determine a probability factor of it being good, and discount anything that scores lower than the threshold. i.e. if there is doubt, discount it completely, because there are millions of links in the world. You genuinely don't need to count any you are unsure of.
It's hard to spot those good links sometimes among all the backlinks, the majority of which are worthless. Very much the best place to hide a straw is in a box of straws.
Gavin ✍️ » Ammon Johns
Thanks! So ultimately it's about creating really amazing content and doing some legitimate link building/sharing of that content.
Ammon Johns 🎓 » Gavin
Pretty much, yes. Though rather than 'amazing', I find it better to focus on the word 'remarkable'. Links are how we share the things we just have to talk about (whether to praise or to argue with). That's why I so strongly recommend 'Purple Cow' by Seth Godin for anyone who's going to want to build links for any project.
Ammon Johns ok, thanks. I will get a copy of that today!
"Paid Guest Posts – Are they worth it?"
Well, they violate search engine guidelines. So ask yourself how much money you're willing to pay to see your site fail? The more money you spend on paid guest posts, the more likely your site will be penalized or just get nowhere.
"However, these backlinks are getting this site over 300k website views per month and a no.1 ranking."
Did the site owner show you their analytics or are you getting that number from a 3rd-party tool (which has no clue as to how much traffic any site gets)?
"Is this a normal approach to ranking your website?"
Ok, thanks. That's really interesting. So, are you saying that tools like Ahrefs and Ubersuggest are not able to provide reliable data on keywords, backlinks, and estimated site traffic for domains and keywords?
Martinez 🎓 » Gavin
When it comes to "competitive intelligence", pretty much that is what I'm saying.
They give you an idea of what an other site is doing – but their estimates of traffic and rankings are not reliable.
I like to think of it as allocation of resources. If you've invested all your money in making the very best page possible the quality will be higher, more useful and more likely to be linked to organically. Alternatively you can spread that time and investment paying for hundreds of other sites to link to your page, however this won't leave you with much of a budget to make that page any good.
I get that and it seems to me like that is the sensible approach. But it seems like when you do that you just don't get the backlinks the others are achieving. I suppose that's to do with having both great content and an excellent outreach strategy for generating backlinks?
Dolby » Gavin
Are you referring to the volume of backlinks others are receiving? Google continually gets smarter to figure out spammy backlinks, if a site has thousands of links from non-related bad sites with spammy anchor text they won't count – they'll also add to the long term risk that the site could be hit with a penalty.
These may satisfy you:
» What Software to Create Backlinks is Safe Without Google Penalty?
» There is an SEO Agency That Makes Many Backlinks on Every Free Website Builder They Can Find
» Some People Sell Citations on Irrelevant Websites (With and Without Backlinks). Does That Affect Any Direct Positive SEO Value?