Guest Posts without Link Building

Guest posting has been abused for link building for so many years it’s now firmly entrenched in SEO mythology as a great link building strategy. It seems no matter how many penalties (manual actions) the search engines bestow upon people for using guest post links, the Web marketing world just keeps on linking.

Guest posting’s popularity owes much to the marketing to marketers that drives sales of SEO tools, courses, newsletters, and God knows what else. There is no end to cures for poor rankings on the Web. If you’ve got a problem, someone out there will take your money in exchange for a promise to cure it.

There’s no question about whether links still matter to search engines. The question marketers should always ask is, which links do search engines care about?

You and I don’t know for sure. Your favorite SEO tools don’t know for sure. And your favorite SEO bloggers and vloggers don’t know for sure.

Guest Posting, Plain and Simple

The art of the guest post has been perverted by shameless link spam disguising itself as legitimate search engine optimization. But true guest posting hasn’t completely died.

We still publish occasional guest posts on SEO Theory. We still publish them on other sites in our portfolio, too. We feel we’re rather selective about whose articles we accept.

We reject all link building guest posts. You don’t need those links nearly as much as you have been told you do. And we’re not interested in handing out free links to people who don’t place any real value in their inbound links.

A good guest post should be written for the sake of the site that accepts the contribution. It should create value for the site’s audience. Maybe that value consists of a contrary point of view. Maybe it brings some expertise to the audience that is lacking in the site’s usual content.

When someone accepts your guest post, you should be more concerned about how their readers will know you wrote it. Yes, many of you are buying guest posts to build links for your clients. But given a choice between a credit from Admin and [Your Client’s Name], why do you accept the anonymous byline?

If a truly active Website – a site with real traffic and real followers – accepts your guest post, why not use that bully pulpit to become better known? Why not sell an idea, a product, or a service instead of just blathering on for the sake of a link that probably won’t do much (if anything at all)?

When done well, guest posting is content marketing as it should be – outreach to an audience, not to a potential linking source. Your guest post should be a strong brand message that engages directly with the readers’ needs and interests.

Maybe you get a link. Maybe you don’t. If people know who you are and care about what you wrote, they’ll search for you. Use the guest post to tell them how to find you in the search engines. Give them the words and phrases they need to find you (or your client).

Build a Brand with a Guest Post

Some companies create very interesting press releases. I read them every month when I find them in Bing News and Google News. A good press release tells a story, reveals some helpful information, and tells the reader where to find out more.

And I’m just talking about press releases written for the Web, not the press releases that publicists use to talk up stories with the media.

If you can write a simple, interesting press release that covers Who, What, Where, When, and Why – you should be able to write a guest post that accomplishes the same thing.

A 5-W guest post can skip the traditional press release format and mold itself to the writing style of the blog that hosts it. Or you can just write something in your usual conversational style that people find so engaging. A guest post should not be formulaic. Good guest posts are never formulaic.

You don’t need one great guest post. You need a reputation that makes your guest posts worth reading. Leave people wanting more. If they can’t get enough of what you have to say, they’ll go looking for more.

That’s what brand building is supposed to be all about. It’s not supposed to be a boring sales pitch. It’s supposed to demonstrate the quality that people get from engaging with you, your products, or your service.

Learn to Live without Links

To compete in search you absolutely need some links. But you’re squandering opportunities by turning every guest post into a formulaic link building article. If all you’re doing is explaining the same basic talking points over and over again, no one will read your guest posts. You should want people to read them.

If you only submit guest posts to sites that give out links, think about all the spam those sites are publishing. Those aren’t the links you’re looking for.

If you can convince a site owner to let you write for them without asking for a link, you’re passing a quality test that can’t be replicated in an SEO formula. It’s not easy to get truly good sites to accept outside content. Many bloggers know exactly what the score is.

Those who understand just how skeptical the search algorithms are about guest post links are very stingy toward would-be guest bloggers. If you develop a reputation for creating good, honest content that isn’t all about the links – those stingy bloggers will be more interested in what you can do for them.

The byline is your highway to recognition. It’s your client’s highway to recognition. It’s a star in a dark universe filled with unholy spam.

If All You Sell Is Link Building, You’re Hurting Your Customers

Thanks to the 2020 pandemic, search engine optimization has become a buyer’s market. Not a link buyer’s market, but a service buyer’s market. I’ve never seen so many people enter the field of Web marketing in a single year as I’ve seen this year.

People who are desperate for income have turned into instant Web marketers. Many of them have no experience at selling SEO services, providing SEO services, or even doing real search engine optimization.

These people are flooding the market with naive strategies doomed to failure. They’re asking for help in Web marketing discussion groups with problems they don’t know how to solve.

Everyone deserves a chance to learn how do optimize for search. Everyone has a right to earn a living.

But those people who go charging into Web marketing thinking all they need to do is sell links from guest posts are not only begging for penalties, they’re ruining their own reputations before they’ve been built.

The SEO industry has never adopted true professional standards. There is no set of benchmark definitions that explain what search does, what search optimization does, and what people should expect.

All you have is your reputation and there are plenty of petty, rude, unprofessional people in this industry who will attack you and insult you and trash your reputation any way they can if you make a mistake.

Write for Other People As If You Are Writing for Yourself – Because You Are

Regardless of what you hope to accomplish with a guest article, you should always assume that you will be judged by everyone on the basis of the last article you published.

If you’re selling guest posting services to other people, you need to show them writing examples. There will always be people ready to throw money at cheap, poorly written guest posting links. But there are markets for copywriters that have nothing to do with link building guest posts.

Sooner or later you’ll want to break into that copywriting market. Many affiliate site owners hire freelance writers to create copy for them. Your work-for-hire articles are essentially guest posts.

When you think of yourself as a professional writer, you’ll see opportunities you locked yourself out of when you were only interested in links from people who don’t care about what they put on their sites.

To earn a living as a freelance writing, you need to write good content. You need to know what you’re writing about, how to learn what you need to know, and how to create real value.

If you’re advising clients on how to improve their rankings, they need advice on how to create (or buy) good content. If your experience consists of writing 500-word guest posts on spammy PBN sites, you’ll be a terrible editor.


Guest posting isn’t merely abused by the SEO industry. It’s under-utilized, or under-leveraged.

You can do so much more with guest posting than placing links on spammed out Websites.

You should do much more with guest posting. It’s a lost art that awaits a renaissance. And that renaissance won’t come from the next SEO course on how to sell guest posting services. It will come from the innovation and soul-searching that you engage in because you need to earn a living.

You can spend your money on formulaic link-building strategies that boil down to find something someone else wrote aboutrewrite it, and get someone else to publish it with a link back to some Website; or you can work on earning money by creating truly useful, interesting content for yourself, your clients, and anyone who is willing to take a chance on what you have to say.

The real money is in the value you create with your words. The long-lasting value comes from the reputation you earn for writing worthy content.

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