As a blogger, you probably see it more than you’d like. Sometimes, you’ll even entertain the request. It’s the email that starts off with some promise of a blog post “Written specifically for your site”, that “Won’t be duplicated” anywhere else. This type of guest blog request, and the subsequent posts, are used to build links from a more popular site to a less popular one, in an effort to gain traction with a search engine. Google appears ready to clamp down on this practice.
Here’s how this strategy works. The above example blogger  contacts you by email. You respond with a willingness to see the blog post. Shortly, you’ll receive a relatively short post of perhaps 500-600 words. At the end of the article, you’ll be asked to place a link to something in anchor text, often described as the author’s “personal site”. This link from you is considered part of a practice called “linkbuilding”. The idea behind linkbuilding is to show the greater Internet (and Google) that your web site is so popular that other web sites are directly linking to it. The more times Google sees other sites linking to you, the more of what’s called “SEO juice” you get.
If you search for the person sending an email, you’ll find very little information about them beyond the occasional haphazard Google+ profile or barely used Twitter account. In most cases, you’ll find nothing on the person beyond guest blog posts on other sites. When I don’t see anything concrete about a person, I do wonder if they’re real, especially if they’re a blogger. For that reason, I have responded to requests with a request of my own.
And, every single time I’ve responded with a request for more information, the person disappears. To me, this seems like a reasonable request in an effort to know and understand the person asking to write a post. If you too wish to write a post here, be ready to provide the above legitimate information about yourself. For all the requests I get, I have never published a guest article from a person I didn’t know personally.
I’m not the only one who thinks this kind of activity is somewhat shady. In a recent post, Google Engineer Matt Cutts described the activity of guest posts for the sake of linkbuilding:
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.
That’s quite a definitive answer for such a widespread practice. My sense is that linkbuilding through guest posts works so well because it fills a need for everyone involved. The blogger, struggling to make and publish content on a consistent basis, and the site owner, trying to increase his own (or someone else’s) search profile quickly and with little effort. Everyone wins, right?
That’s a tricky question to answer. I do see the benefit of having good and useful content on a blog, but if the content is written in an assembly line, SEO style, you run the risk of losing what makes your blog interesting and unique. I can see this happening more with a bog that is yet to find an audience, looking for a quicker way. The cold reality for most of this is that there is no quicker way. If you attempt to game the system, getting caught may destroy all the work you’ve done.
I will continue to look at requests, and continue to not publish them. In the rare case that a legitimate blogger comes to me and and offers a collaboration opportunity, I’m very interested. I too write guest content for other web sites, and the practice helps me immensely. I find the best places to write guest articles are the blogs that take you out of your comfort zone and explore alternate themes and ideas. Search rankings will come in time anyway, make the best of your chance to write great content first.