If you own a website, you will likely get requests from people wanting to submit links or articles to be included as content on your site. Some of these requests will be legitimate and worth pursuing. Others will be spam from untrustworthy sources. The guidance below can help you identify what offers to pursue. Most of these guidelines apply to link requests as well as guest posts.
This document is written primarily as a guide to site owners considering offers for guest content, but also contains information to be shared with the agencies and promoters who reach out to site owners.
Message to Agencies and Site Promoters
Thanks for visiting this page. If you’re reading this, it means someone thought well enough of you to consider your content or link for their site. The criteria below will help you understand better why your content may be accepted or rejected.
To those of you who are reputable and using best practices to build a more friendly, informative, and effective Internet: Thank you.
The cost structure below gives you an idea of what might be expected by way of compensation, but additional email exchanges about cost are probably needed for clarification.
These are some standard prices that would be suitable for a well-designed moderate-traffic website without any negative characteristics as ranked by search engines. Sites with high traffic and good exposure would bring more money.
- LINK PLACEMENT ($50). Whenever you put a link on your website, some time and energy is involved in doing the necessary planning and research for that link. There may be some follow-up effort needed to monitor the impact of the link on your site rank. A $50 fee does not reflect the value of the link to the advertiser, but simply covers your time and effort.
- GUEST POST ($100). A guest post requires a little more time and planning. The content needs to be reviewed for accuracy and quality. Images need to be checked for copyright use and licensing permission. Outbound links need to be checked to ensure they link to quality sites that won’t diminish your site rank or harm your brand in the eyes of your site visitors.
- PAID REVIEW ($200). An article written as a review of a product, service, organization or company takes time to create and must disclose any payment or compensation received in exchange for the article.
The pricing above is generously low. It primarily takes into account the time required to process the request and not the ROI value of the content placement. The placement could result in significant sales or an improvement to a third-party site rank. For this reason, higher rates are sometimes negotiated. It’s not unusual to receive $1,000 or more for an article or link placement on a highly ranked site.
The pricing above is offered as a starting point, and could be considered as ‘courtesy pricing’ to just cover someone’s time and cost. Particularly if the agency is reputable and the outbound links are to sites of equal or greater reputation. It may be a brand affiliation that you would value having.
Payments are usually made by PayPal, but some agencies make other payment arrangements.
Disclosure and Transparency
It’s important for your relationship of trust with your site visitors to disclose if you are being paid to provide certain content. This is also required by law. [View FTC Guidelines] It’s important that consumers know of any bias or potential conflict of interest on the part of a site owner or content creator.
How Costs Are Calculated
There are many considerations for what to charge for marketing services. Here is a general guide.
- AUDIENCE. The number of regular visitors to your site impacts its general ranking. A highly visited site is more valuable for advertisers who want to get their message out, and it is also likely to have a good reputation making it desirable to be mentioned on and linked from.
- DURATION. Articles and links are sometimes considered to be a permanent addition to your site, but if your site content changes regularly, you may want to set a timeframe for the duration of the guest post or link. Set a timeframe for the post to be present on your website. If you genuinely like the content, and feel the source and link destinations are of high quality, then you will probably leave the content on your site for an extended period of time.
- IMPACT. If a link or guest post will be considered by search engines as a paid link campaign designed to manipulate search engines, this could have a negative impact on your site and give your site a bad reputation. It is important to reserve the right to remove the link or post if they are identified to be harming your site reputation. Let the agency know you reserve the right to remove the content if it is subsequently found to be harming your site reputation score or delivering malware to those who click on the links.
- PURPOSE. Some links and articles are intended to be seen by humans. Others are primarily intended to be discovered and indexed by search engines. The advertiser hopes that a high number of links to their site from a large number of highly ranked sites will result in their site rank increasing.
- SITE HISTORY. If your site has been established for a very long time, and during that time has been well maintained and followed guidelines for quality, it will have a higher reputation.
- SITE RANK. Your site rank is like your credit scored. It fluctuates over time. Some site attributes bring up a site’s value and ranking. Some activities can bring down your site rank such as trying to artificially promote your site or someone else’s site.
- TIME. Consider what the cost of your time is, and how much time will be required to setup the link or post the guest content. If you are writing the content yourself, then account for that time.
The following criteria help you consider which requests to consider.
- SOURCE. Consider the source of the request. If it comes from a well established marketing or SEO agency, then the content and links may be of good quality. When a submission of a post or link request comes directly from the company being promoted, the quality is usually good.
- LINKS. Pay careful attention to links embedded in content that is submitted to you for consideration. In most cases, the links go to companies that have paid to be promoted through such campaigns.
- ASSOCIATIONS. You may occasionally get submissions from reputable sources that link to reputable businesses. In some cases, the submissions may come from employees of a company using in-house marketing efforts. Others may come from paid third party promoters. If you feel comfortable with the associations, proceed to the next point of consideration.
- RELEVANCE. Consider how relevant the content is to your site. If the topic isn’t really something your site visitors would want or expect, it may not be a good fit.
- INTEREST. Consider how interested your readers and site visitors will be in the content.
- GRAMMAR. Consider the quality of writing and grammar. For a second opinion, consider running the submissions through Grammarly to identify any typos you might overlook.
- RELEVANCE. Some link requests will point to an article that is clearly not relevant to the site it is on. Or, sometimes they are relevant, but part of a larger campaign to create a high volume of similar posts on a business website to artificially establish a large content footprint. Links should go to well established relevant pages on reputable sites.
- RESPONSIVENESS. A reputable agency will provide a prompt personal response to your email reply. Ask any questions related to the above criteria. Their follow-up communications will help you judge how professional and reliable they are.
- PAYMENT. If the initial inquiry didn’t include mention of payment you may want to address compensation for your time.
- PURPOSE. You may want to ask about the purpose of the content. Is the agency looking to promote awareness of an issue, product, or service? Or, is the agency simply hoping for unique content with links that are intended to boost site reputation? In some cases you may be better off writing a review or article in your own words.
Points of Concern
Here are some points of possible concern.
- BRAND. Be sure to associate only with companies and brands that are consistent with your own practices, image, brand, goals, and operating philosophy.
- COPYRIGHT. Try to ensure that content being given to you is original, unique, and not using copyrighted work without permission. You might try taking a unique phrase from the guest post and run a search on that to see if that same article appears on 100 other sites. You’ll want to put the text in quotes when you do the search.
- DISCLOSURE. By law, product reviews and promotions that are paid need to be clearly identified so readers know the content may have a bias in favor of the sites linked to in the article. Some people requesting paid links or content will ask you to keep it a secret. It’s best to avoid these people.
- GENERIC. There are many people trying to establish generic websites and inflate their value. This is similar to buying a property and renovating it prior to selling it again. You may get requests from people promoting sites like “Best Nursing Degrees” or similar types of generic themes. The sites attempt to create posts and listings of resources, then if they can increase the site reputation rank, they can sell it for a higher price. Notice they typically do not have an address, phone number, or any information about the history of the site. Some of those efforts may succeed. Some will fail. It’s best not to invest too much energy or time in helping promote those projects. Instead, focus on helping established reputable businesses.
- LIABILITY. Make sure any guest posts you share don’t make claims that might create a liability, such as health claims, financial advice, legal advice, or anything that could be considered slanderous.
- MALWARE. If you link to unknown websites, you may be introducing your site visitors to possible security vulnerabilities. Poorly funded websites may have inadequate security measures, and thus pose a security threat.
- REPUTATION. Sites that excessively engage in assisting paid link sharing campaigns may diminish their site reputation score with search engines. In other words, your own site may be negatively impacted if you associate with shady agencies or companies.
Some promoters and agencies are sloppy or careless in their work, and as a result they may distributed too many links and articles for their client. This can result in negatively impacting their client.
Perhaps an agency is working for a customer who is willing to pay for the excessive promotions. An overly profit-focused marketing agency might not advise their client otherwise. A good agency will help their clients avoid over-saturation by telling them, “Hey, I’d love to take your money but you should be careful not to spend too much on advertising. It could have the opposite result and bring down your reputation.”
Companies need enterprise-wide strategies and clear communications regarding marketing to avoid excess promoting that can backfire.
Regardless of how the excessive links and content get created, sometimes businesses are contacted by Google or other site ranking companies and told that their site exceeds what is considered a normal level of organic linking.
In such cases it’s not uncommon for an agency to reach out to those who have placed links or articles and ask that they be taken down because they are adversely impacting their customer.
As a site owner placing links or guest posts, be aware of this potential issue.
Competitor Focused Activities
Bad SEO practices can hinder a business. Because of the potential harm of bad marketing, sometimes a business will pay to promote a competitor in an attempt to damage their brand. This is unethical, but it happens. It is similar to paying to have negative reviews written about a competitor.
For this reason, agencies should make sure they are working with someone actually from the company they claim to represent. There are undoubtedly ‘black hat’ agencies that engage in such activities.
Political campaigns have been known to pay for social media accounts to be posing as ‘supporters’ of their opponent. These are created for trolling, starting fights, or otherwise poorly representing their opponent.
If you are contacted by an agency to put content on your site, you may want to verify this yourself so you don’t unwittingly become caught up a corporate espionage campaign or political rivalry.
How Do Guest Posts Benefit Your Site
Other than the possibility of being paid for placing a guest post, it’s important to consider the benefits and drawbacks of sharing links or posts. Here are a few of the possible benefits offered by guest posts:
- DISCOVERABILITY. As your site grows with more content, each additional piece of content helps make your site more discoverable.
- GROWTH. If you regularly accept posts of high quality, and the content is of interest to your site visitors, then the additional content on your site can help it grow in popularity.
- SAVINGS. Usually site owners write their own content and/or pay others to help write content for their site. If there’s an offer for free content, it can save time and money.
Content Management Spreadsheet
It’s helpful to maintain a spreadsheet of guest contributed content. In that spreadsheet you can create entries for each instance of a guest contribution along with what payment was received if any. Also included can be the contact name, email, agency, and notes. If there is a timeframe for the post, you can track expiration information for content.
The main message from this article can be summarized in these two points:
- Consider accepting content that seems useful, well written, and of interest to your site visitors.
- Avoid content that can harm your site.