I Don’t Guest Blog

// // July 15th 2012 // SEO

I don’t guest blog.

Resist Penguin Panic

You can’t throw a rock these days without hitting upon advice and tips on guest blogging. It’s not a new practice but interest and activity has spiked now that the Penguin update has made getting links more difficult.

The theory goes that you’re trading your content for exposure and a link. But is the desperation around the all mighty link clouding your judgement?

Who’s Brand Are You Building?

Build Your Own Brand

For me it comes down to a simple question. Who’s brand are you building? Perhaps I’m just selfish but if I’m going to spend the considerable amount of time and effort to create a blog post I want to make sure it’s building my brand. All too often guest posts don’t do that but instead simply build the brand of that blog instead.

Your opinions, thoughts and content are your intellectual property and I see no reason to fritter it away for so little. I’ve used the same argument when people ask me about unpaid internships. Why would I give away my time and effort for free? I know many argue that the experience gained is invaluable. It might be, but it doesn’t mean I shouldn’t get paid for my work.

If you don’t value your time highly, others won’t either.

Second Billing

But what about all the great exposure you get through guest blogging? I’d argue you often aren’t getting that much exposure.

How often do you remember where you read something instead of who wrote it? It was on Search Engine Land or SEOmoz right? Sure there are some notable exceptions but I think they’re exceptions and not the rule.

For the sake of argument lets say that it does get your name out there, how many are following that link back to your site and subscribing? You’ll pick up a few subscribers but it’s not going to be a huge net gain. Why? There’s simply too much friction.

A reader first has to understand that it’s a guest post. Next, they have to seek out the link to the author’s site, usually at the bottom of the post in a bio section. Then they have to assess your site and actively subscribe. Lets hope you spent enough time creating great content for your site instead of others, right? Otherwise those few precious downstream clicks could be wasted.

In the end, they’re subscribed to that other blog, not yours.

Where’s The Traffic?

Empty City Highway

I’ve seen this numerous times from a marketing perspective in projecting traffic from syndication agreements. The business development team secures a relationship with a major Internet portal or site. That site gets hundreds of thousands of visits a day so appearing on that site is clearly going to drive huge traffic, right? Rarely!

A lot of the time people don’t understand the volume of traffic to a section or specific page. Think of it as the difference between broad match and exact match. The site might get a lot of traffic, but the individual post is going to get substantially less.

And what percentage of people are going to click-through from that content. You should think of that attribution link you get as the 10th position on a SERP, if you’re lucky.

The Right Links

The Right Stuff

Links are getting tougher to come by. But instead of using your intellectual capital for someone else to get a link (or maybe two) wouldn’t you rather spend it creating great content.

Think about what happens if you write something great for someone else. Where do you think people link? Yeah, it’s not to your site, that’s for sure! You can try to rationalize that the PageRank earned on that other site is then passed on to you but in the end I want my content to generate links for me.

Use your content to generate links for you, not someone else.

I’d rather those same blogs cite my content. Those are hard won and important links. Those are the ones I want and the ones I prefer to give to others.

Marketing Biz

The Soup Logo

You could argue that I’m a hypocrite because of my Marketing Biz column over at Marketing Land. (You’re an avid reader of course, right!?) But I don’t view that as a guest post.

Danny and Matt have been extremely generous in allowing me the freedom to curate and comment on whatever I feel is relevant each week. These are topics that I share on Twitter or Google+ but don’t on Blind Five Year Old. It’s not competing with my blog content, it’s a complement to my blog.

Am I helping them to build their brand? I hope so. But I think it’s an even trade since it’s a column that allows me to showcase my insights on a wider range of issues. In my delusions of grandeur I’d compare Marketing Biz to The Soup.

Personal versus Business

I’d also draw a distinction here between personal and business. Because I actively recommend guest blogging for many clients but with some serious caveats.

First, they must establish a strong base of trust and authority on their own blog. Your site or blog has to be the main repository of information. Invest in your own content assets. You want people to recognize and come to you for insight, advice and information.

Next, they must actively be socializing their content by promoting it through their own social channels and by commenting on and citing their material on other blogs. Quite simply, you have to refuse to be ignored.

When you do look for guest blog opportunities they should be in complementary fields.

If you’re a plumber and you have a great post about how to save money on your bath remodel don’t seek out other plumbing blogs. Instead, seek out life hacking or money saving blogs. You want to stand out as an expert on a topic that isn’t fully covered by that site. You’re more likely to build your brand that way instead of giving all that expertise to a competing site.

Slow Success

The undercurrent in a lot of the guest blogging tips is that you can somehow use it to shortcut your way to success.

Monthly Traffic To Blind Five Year Old

The truth is it takes a long time to establish yourself in a community. I’ve blogged on Blind Five Year Old since September of 2008. Should I have thrown in the towel after a year? Two years?

I think I’ve gotten better at blogging and delivering valuable content. I’ve learned the value of commenting on other blogs and using different platforms to promote my content. But the magic ingredient was time. It took time to build a track record and a personal brand.

I know others have succeeded by guest blogging and maybe I’ll regret not doing so at some point. But I hope my journey shows that it’s not required and that there are many ways to get from point A to point B.


Think twice before you jump on the guest blogging bandwagon. Think about who’s brand your building and whether the content your producing is generating links for you or for someone else.

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Comments About I Don’t Guest Blog

// 64 comments so far.

  1. Andrew Hanelly // July 15th 2012

    I think people operate under the assumption that guest blogging on a popular blog is equivalent to opening for a popular band.

    They’ve got a strong fan base, they’ve got the swagger, and they’ve got a big name that you can put yours next to. You’re going to open for them and how could you *not* earn some trickle-down fans?

    But in reality, guest blogging is more like you’ve been asked to stand in for the popular band’s bassist. Sure, you’re up on stage with them, but most people won’t notice that anything is different, they won’t learn your name (let alone remember it and seek out *your* original stuff), and they most likely won’t become your fan.

    You’ll definitely feel cool, and you’ll definitely have a modest supply of bragging rights – but that’s about the extent of it.

  2. AJ Kohn // July 15th 2012


    You’re my new hero. That’s quite simply a stellar analogy – the kind I’m jealous I didn’t come up with myself!

  3. Pinoy Blogger // July 15th 2012

    Hi AJ,

    All excellent points and I agree. But if you are new in the industry and want to gain exposure and maybe get noticed, a guest post on a popular high traffic blog might do some good.

    It might also help you find other bloggers in the same niche to partner with and exchange posts rather than guest post.

    That, I would be interested in.

  4. AJ Kohn // July 15th 2012

    Pinoy Blogger,

    I just can’t agree. If you’re new you’ve got to earn your way into that industry. Create great content and when you’re not doing that comment on and promote great content from others.

    Exchange posts? Why are we in a rush to make the same mistakes with blogging as we did with links?

  5. Max Minzer // July 16th 2012

    AJ, I’m really glad you posted this at 6 PM on Sunday – I’m lucky that I had a chance to read it (before Monday craziness).
    It confirmed my weak beliefs (different from mainstream propaganda) about guest posting.
    I was thinking of never doing it in the future and your post made it clear why.

  6. AJ Kohn // July 16th 2012


    Thank you for your comment and your very kind support on Twitter and Google+ as well. It does not go unnoticed.

  7. Andrea // July 16th 2012

    Strange to hear this from you in a near future Author Rank perspective.

    Making this assumption probably make everything to be of non sense!
    – Why commenting on other websites?
    – Why posting on Google+?
    – Why using Twitter?
    – Why speaking at events?

    I definitly think that it is a demagogic way of telling a story.

    Guest posting as any other activity is a way of building your audience (& be present in the community) and looking SEO only from a link perspective is like living in a box.

  8. AJ Kohn // July 16th 2012


    I was wondering if someone would call me out on the convergence of guest blogging and Author Rank. From one perspective you could guest blog on a site with a lot of community as a way to increase engagement and, thereby, increase your Author Rank.

    Yet, I think you’d still need to acquire the bulk of Author Rank through your own content. You’ve actually listed the ways in which you might do this.

      Commenting on other sites is one of the better strategies to engage in your community and interact with the content you find relevant.
      Posting on Google+ is still my feed. But I’d never replace my blog with Google+ or any other platform. Again, I use Google+ to better engage and to complement my content assets.
      I use Twitter to curate the best of what I read as a way to provide value to those who follow me.
      Speaking is far more about the person versus the conference and, once again, I don’t have a competing conference series.

    I agree about looking beyond links and in being present in your community but also think there are other ways to do so and build your audience, not someone else’s.

  9. Alessio Madeyski // July 16th 2012

    AJ, thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.
    I did some guest post around, but then I decided to stop. For this reason:
    1) many guest posts I’m reading – maybe mine included – are nothing new. The same things are covered in a better way in other 100 blogs. I’m seeing that many guest posts are talking about something hype in that moment, but they don’t add anything really to the matter. So, if you want to to guest post, do it, but ADD some value on the matter, otherwise don’t.
    2) exposure: I strongly believe people are so happy about guest posting because they see a spike of twitter mentions and visits, but I also believe that spike is gonna last for the day you publish something, and then disappear.
    3) same for traffic: you spend a lot of time writing some stuff. Assuming that people click on the link you put in your guest post, you’re gonna have traffic just THAT day. I think people is more interesting in what you’re saying rather than who you are. And there is so much stuff around, that it’s really difficult to read something interesting. And that’s another reason I decided to stop: nothing interesting to add.

    Sometimes I think people should be more humble and say: hey, I don’t have anything to add really to this topic, so I’m not gonna write something about it. In this way, less posts, more quality.

    We live in an age on quantity. and that’s something that is ruining the knowledge.

  10. AJ Kohn // July 16th 2012


    Thank you so much for your comments. Many guest posts seem to be on the buzz of the moment. They often feel forced and repetitive.

    Your point about about exposure and traffic is spot on. How long does it last and does that small amount of exposure create more mentions down the road? It might not if you haven’t captured their attention.

    Finally, your insight into the age of quantity could make for a great blog post. I completely agree.

  11. AJ Wilcox // July 16th 2012

    AJ, while I agree with your general sentiment, there is definitely a place for guest blogging. Like Pinoy mentioned, it’s a great way to begin getting links (and giving your excellent content a chance at getting found, as it sure isn’t going to gain traction by itself without any links coming to your domain) when you’re a newer blog.

    Purely from a link building perspective, it’s the perfect method of getting good quality links while giving the blog non-monetary compensation. Who says you can’t keep creating great content for your own site while producing some one-offs for other blogs?

    Once your site is established, and link juice is flowing through your blog, I agree. That content would be better placed on your blog.

    Andrew – awesome analogy! I’d still argue that you as a bassist have some cred now after playing as a stand-in for a popular band. Just like I feel that I have some resume cred after being published on SEOmoz, DailySEOTip, and other industry publications.

  12. AJ Kohn // July 16th 2012

    Another AJ! This could get confusing :)

    If you have the time to produce great content for yourself and for others then I congratulate you but it’s tough for me to keep up just on my own blog. And as Alessio mentions, I’m really only going to blog when I have something to say. Guest blogs sort of turn that process upside down.

    The other issue is that you’re not going to have that audience quickly. I included my traffic graph to show that it takes time. A lot of time. Do I think some of my early blog posts should have gotten more exposure and attention? Sure. But that’s life. You build that reputation and audience slowly.

    Instead I’d comment like a mad man on other blogs and join the conversation in that way. Add value in comments and link to your own content as appropriate for reference. Link to others in your own content as a way to flag people down and pay those in your community back. I didn’t do this nearly as much as I should have when I started.

  13. Andrew Hanelly // July 16th 2012

    Fair point. You’re right to say that playing stand-in bass still has value. It does greatly increase your chance of discovery. And it’s great practice and experience which will make the musician (or blogger) that much better.

  14. AJ Wilcox // July 16th 2012

    AJ (Sorry for the confusion!),

    I definitely agree on commenting and sharing. Great methods for getting noticed as a new blog. As is commonplace in journalism, you took a pretty hard stance almost to the point of saying that guest blogging is a waste of time or detrimental. The points you shared definitely have merit and they’re totally worth considering. I would just like to offer my experiences with guest blogging:

    None of the sites I’ve built up with guest blogging as a primary link building strategy have ever been hit by an algorithm update. Both Panda and Penguin were awesome for those sites.

    Guest blogging allows you to get links that allow your content to be found when searching. It’s a time sacrifice to make sure your awesome content that you’ve worked so hard to research for and write gets found.

    Take it for what it’s worth, and it’s likely worth what you paid for it :)

  15. AJ Kohn // July 16th 2012


    Yes, my post is a bit draconian (particularly at the beginning) and is a reaction to the slew of guest blogging advice making the rounds.

    But my last two paragraphs hopefully show that guest blogging has a place and that there are multiple ways to build your brand. Because it takes me so long to write and because the balance between building your brand and doing the work is so difficult I’ve decided it’s better for me to skip guest blogging.

    For me, it’s simply not efficient. I also think many don’t understand that it has to be part of a larger picture. John Doherty provides a good explanation in a comment over on Inbound.org.

    In the end I want people to remember to invest in themselves and that the latest trend being flogged by others may not be right for you. TL;DR – YMMV.

  16. Steven B. Andersen // July 16th 2012

    I still think that the back link has a high value, and therefore it is still attractive to be a guest blogger. Of course you do a calculation on the time you spend on making a guest post in regards to the potential value of this entry generates in the form of backlinking. For strongly established sites having a backlink from another site as guiest blogger, probably have no great value, but for upcommers value can be enormous. Personally, I’ve got some really strong links by typing on an entrepreneurial blog about my start as an independent.

  17. Tray // July 16th 2012

    For obvious reasons I will never guest blog nor have any intention to do so. I agree those who do, should realize where the juice is going. I may disagree on your slant of the end game value however.

    If the article is compelling, on a topic I am interested in I always follow the link back to the author. I would estimate a quarter of my RSS and email subscriptions originated this way. If I have taken the time to maintain a subscription to a blog and consistently read the site owners posts then guest authors get an automatic advantage. Even if subconsciously the guest author by association increases their chance of getting a proper look from me. Increasing their chances of gaining a follower.

  18. AJ Kohn // July 16th 2012


    That’s a very interesting counterpoint. So because you trust that blog, you give those guest bloggers a longer look so to speak. I could be convinced of that.

    Do you give certain blogs more weight than others? Does a guest post on Point Blank SEO mean more to you than one on SEJ? (I’m not picking on these two sites I’m just distinguishing between a solo blogger and aggregator.)

  19. David Gottschall // July 16th 2012

    AJ, I think you really made a great point about guest blogging in complementary fields instead of on your direct competitor’s site. That’s like the bully in your class taking your lunch money and you being happy about it. Why not make friends with a bully from another class and have him stand behind you.

    Just remember, these sites that have tons of guest bloggers, are getting regular fresh content from you (and others) and you’re helping them not work as hard to produce it. So they constantly have new content and you don’t. You feed them your great ideas, instead of publishing them yourself.

    Again, great post AJ! I totally agree.

  20. AJ Kohn // July 16th 2012

    Thank you David! You’re second paragraph has renewed my initial ire about this whole topic.

    Maybe I get a bit of benefit from the guest post but I don’t think the trade is a fair one. I think you’re giving more value than you get by a country mile. Perhaps I shouldn’t care but … I do.

    A better way of co-opetition is to curate the best content in your niche. So you might promote the original content of a competitor but not contribute content to that competitor. You become a valuable resource for those in your community by providing that service. Hopefully I’m making sense here.

  21. Andrea // July 16th 2012

    The point is that a guest post is Your content if authored and not only of the site where you post it.

    Obviously starting from the assumption to write nothing new can be also applied to contents you write in your website. Nothing different.

    Personally I will never write a guest post without something interesting and original to say.

  22. Anthony Pensabene // July 16th 2012

    AJ – thanks for writing this post and making us see some fresh perspectives. My intuition compels me to chime the bell of ‘time.’ As I’ve observed with many things, time is often a great ally; impatience, ‘wanting it now’ Veruca-Salt style contributes to self doubt and looking for doors of mirage-like acceleration. Is guest blogging a stellar solution in the wake of Penguin? Meh. If that’s the only reason to guest post, then I’m glad this post is here for all to read.

    I see and agree with your column/guest spot distinction. If one can find a ‘good fit’ they enjoy writing for, that’s gotta suit both contributor and host well. And would seem like a guest post grand slam to engineer.

    Personally, and I’m going to go with the band metaphor above because I liked that too, I see doing a guest post as ‘jamming’ a bit with another blogger. To me, it’s like hey dude/ette, I’m a fan of your work and your blog’s content. Is it cool if I jam with you? I remember seeing a number of recorded and some live shows where opening band players or ‘guys that happened to be in town’ jumped on stage for a number or two. For me, the fan, the consumer, I enjoyed seeing the collaboration and those who love their art sharing.

    To me, I’m contributing as always, but in part as a ‘fan’ of the community too. I totally think it’s more of a self-less than selfish ordeal. Will it improve your own follows, RSS, image by leaps and bounds? Nah, I don’t think so. I do hope that my appearance offers something fresh and gets the host good traffic. For me, it’s about building better relations and receiving encouragement for my brand.

    A lot of people I respect have allowed me to write on their properties. Perhaps it was a small token or gesture from them; but, it was well appreciated (on an intrinsic level) by me. It’s added to my own fervor and determination. To me, that’s priceless. As you state, if you’re genuine and keep your mind focused, time is fair in illuminating those who have been working hard despite the elementary shadows.

  23. AJ Kohn // July 16th 2012


    Thank you for the great comment. The Veruca Salt reference is priceless.

    I like the band metaphor and I can understand what you’re getting at here. When a bigger band brings out a popular local to jam for a song it can be pretty awesome. I recall this happening to The Hooters quite a bit back in the day. But … The Hooters, sadly, never really hit it big. I’m not sure what that says about the metaphor or not.

    Here’s my other problem, are guest posts really a jam session? Because you’re just writing on that venue not interacting with that author. I actually think it might be interesting to have a back and forth post, a co-authored post. That would be a jam session. Thinking about it, the Whiteboard sessions Rand has with a guest are more like a jam session.

    I guess I want to see the sharpie handed back and forth.

  24. Iain // July 16th 2012

    AJ – thanks for a clear, clever counterpoint to the current community convictions. I think you are right to an extent, however it really – in my view – depends on the purpose to your blogging.

    If we assume that an individual is blogging with the primary intention of being recognised as a quality blogger with valuable insight then I think what you say applies unreservedly. On the other hand, if the individual is blogging to build his own personal brand (whether he realises it or not) with the ultimate intention of improving his career prospects it may well be that adding some respected, recognised sources of industry insight to his resumé could stand him in better stead than having all his content in one place – for all we know there may be employers out there who will say ‘He has a strong personal blog. That’s great.’ and look no further, but others who say ‘ He has his own blog, it’s good, but he’s also been published on SEOmoz, koozai and anthonypensabene.com, so clearly he has the respect of his peers.’

    Of course, my position is only valid if that hypothetical employer exists.

  25. AJ Kohn // July 16th 2012

    You’re right Iain, context and purpose matter quite a bit.

    But I think you can create that social proof in other ways. I became a Sphinn editor, in part, because of that and was honored to be part of the 2011 SEOmoz Ranking Factors Survey. You can also display the places where you’ve been mentioned and cited. I don’t do a very good job of the latter, but should.

    I probably have a bias for entrepreneurship and a ‘make-it-on-my-own’ type of philosophy. As I mention there are definitely multiple ways to get from point A to point B.

  26. AJ Wilcox // July 16th 2012

    I totally and wholeheartedly agree. It totally depends on the intention, strategy, and opportunities for the blogger. I think in some cases, guest blogging makes sense. In others it doesn’t.

  27. Nate // July 16th 2012

    Your excellent points aside, IMO, guest blogging is going down the drain just because SEO”s are abusing it to hell. When the Zebra update comes around, those that have an over-abundance of bio links are going to be the ones in the crapper.

    I do think a few guest posts to get the ball rolling can be extremely effective, and I don’t think you would disagree. But it shouldn’t be a constant routine.

    My company does a lot of guest blogging; it’s our number one priority. We do update our own blogs but it’s not as big of a deal. Your question, “Whose brand are you buidling?” hit home. Thanks for the insight. Had this post been published as a guest post I would have shared it on Twitter and nothing more. But because the subscribe button is right up there, I think I’ll subscribe. Thanks again. Excellent post to get this week goin.

  28. AJ Kohn // July 16th 2012

    Thank you so much Nate. I appreciate the kind words and insight.

    While I didn’t touch on the topic I think you’re right. The mania around guest blogging for links could wind up making it an over-optimization target.

    A guest post here and there may provide some value. But it has to be part of a larger plan where your brand is the focus. Find the right mix is critical.

  29. Anthony Pensabene // July 16th 2012

    Yep.. totally hear you (haha) “is it really a jam?” – in some cases, I’ve had some back-and-forth with the host regarding the topic of post and suggestions.. but not every time.. I guess the ‘jam’ is more figurative than literal in that sense. I would LOVE to see more in-post collaborations. Immediately, I’ve thrown the notion around to some people I would like to directly collab with.. I think something can be very well done, especially with video, regarding two or more authors… I did a collaboration with a science teacher when teaching English.. it was interesting to get his analytic perspective on the material and he enjoyed my creativity.. and the kids loved it…

    Also, and this is for all to read.. I appreciate you and all blog authors taking the time out of your day, reading your blog’s comments, and responding when you see fit. Thanks.

  30. AJ Kohn // July 16th 2012

    Yes Anthony I can definitely see how a Science and English collaboration would be hugely beneficial. I suppose I’m just not sure that monolithic text on a platform creates that fusion. Maybe the in-depth interviews Eric Enge does fit the bill. Video … that could really be where it works best.

  31. David Gottschall // July 16th 2012

    AJ, you’re totally making sense. Throwing a compliment, in the form of a link, towards our competitor shows we’re not full of ourselves, builds good karma, and provides real value to our readers.

    Writing a high value article for someone else can feel like being the community butt kisser, especially if they aren’t writing anything for your site. I’d rather be seen as an “authority in the making” instead of a fanboy.

  32. AJ Kohn // July 16th 2012

    Yes! We are of the same mind David and I really like the concept of ‘authority in the making’.

  33. Michael J. Kovis // July 16th 2012


    I don’t have the time to expand on my thoughts (and it appears I would be regurgitating a lot of them), so I will keep it simple…

    Loved. This. Post.

    That is all for now. :)


  34. Tray // July 16th 2012

    Interesting format here. You can’t reply to specific comments. Maintaining a line of thought in particular conversation could get quite challenging.

    In response to . . .
    SNIP >>>>
    AJ Kohn // July 16th 2012

    That’s a very interesting counterpoint. So because you trust that blog, you give those guest bloggers a longer look so to speak. I could be convinced of that.

    Do you give certain blogs more weight than others? Does a guest post on Point Blank SEO mean more to you than one on SEJ? (I’m not picking on these two sites I’m just distinguishing between a solo blogger and aggregator.)
    <<<<< SNIP

    Because I have subscribed to a blogger they has passed through a filter that a billion others have not, they are worth my time. Purely for my own selfish reasons the info they convey has monetary value to me. When they have a guest usually it is specific to the same niche. If the guest post rocks my world I go check out the author which I may have never heard about otherwise. If their site offers me value then I subscribe.

    I guess my point is, even if there was zero juice from the link back to the guest website there is intrinsic value. That guest blogger now has another follower to sell to.

    AJ as far as weight goes between solo and aggregator. For me I don't think it makes much of a difference. If I value your content enough to subscribe then how big a player you are doesn't mean much to me. If I allocate 20 plus hours every week staying on top of my game it's the sources who can help me that gets my attention. The blogger of course gets the potential for me to be in their sales funnel at some point in the future.

    It's a beautiful thing.

  35. AJ Kohn // July 16th 2012

    Yes Tray, my commenting system is pretty dreadful. In fact, I find most of them to be dismal. I may actually blog about the sad state of blog comments. Because they’re so vitally important yet even some of the better platforms don’t make it easy to create really readable comments. Okay, tangential rant over.

    I very much like the idea of a site being a value filter. Maybe it’s because I read so much, but I generally get more from the smaller sites rather than the big ones. It’s the same reason I unsubscribed from sites like TechCrunch and Mashable. If there’s really good content there (and there sometimes is), my human filters (via social) will tell me about it, usually pretty fast too.

    I’m still not sure it makes sense to guest blog on a site within the same exact niche. Taking my plumber example. The competing plumber site might have the right audience but they’re already sort of branded. You’re counting on the reader to make the distinction between the value that site delivers versus that author. I know you might make that distinction but I’m not sure that’s the norm.

    But the roofing site could have a very similar and valuable audience and you would clearly be the expert in that niche. At that point the blog is providing value to readers by giving additional and related content. There’s also a type of endorsement in place at that point too.

    Finally, for me I think it’s also how often a guest post appears on that site. If 80% of the posts are guest posts then … is there really a filter in place? But if the guest post is only 10% of the mix then those stand out more and there is a more clear endorsement.

    Food for thought, that’s for sure.

  36. Andy Crestodina // July 16th 2012

    Great content, AJ, and I respect your opinion. But I have to admit, I love guest blogging.

    I don’t disagree with your points about building someone else’s brand and getting links/subscribers for someone else, but you have to admit, it’s fun to be a guest sometimes.

    I write for spinsucks.com which has a huge engaged audience. A post that might get 5 comments on my site will get 50 there. That means more conversation, more ideas, more connections, more new friends.

    I don’t recommend giving your best content to other blogs, since you might miss out on some great readers, links, shares, follows, etc. That would be sad.

    But not everything I write is right for my site. It’s nice to know there are thousands of other sites that might like it. And it’s nice to know there are readers for almost every topic.

    Appreciate the viewpoint, but I think I’ll always love guest blogging.

    Thanks, as always, for a great post. Glad to be part of the discussion here in the comments.

  37. Ben Cook // July 16th 2012

    Wait, you understand that commenting on other sites’ posts is valuable, but you don’t guest blogging carries all of those benefits AND more?!?

    How do you benefit from a comment on a blog post? People click on your name. You think it’s somehow easier for them to click that & subscribe or follow you on twitter than it is for them to click a link in the byline of the article or an author profile page?

  38. AJ Kohn // July 17th 2012


    I’m glad to see you decided to move the conversation from Twitter to a better conversational platform.

    Commenting on a post is about adding value and engaging in that community. It’s about building relationships first and foremost and not nearly as much about getting clicks. That’ll happen over time, but it’s not an expected outcome.

    In addition, I think commenting is potentially a better place to get noticed. If there’s a robust comment area, that’s where the attention is going to be focused on that content, right? You might read a post and then wade into the comments to provide your perspective. If it’s contrary to the the piece or if you help provide a critical link or argument in support you might get even more attention.

    Now, hopefully the guest author would be in the comments as well but the real beneficiary there for links and engagement is the blog owner, not the guest blogger.

  39. SEOMom (Orit) // July 16th 2012

    (As I said on Google +) As a guest blogger and blog owner, you really voiced the questions I ask myself whenever I have an idea – should I guest post with it? Or publish it on my own blog? I think that it all comes down to how known are you in your niche. If you’ve only recently started releasing the knowledge you’ve accumulated over the years in a brand new blog, guest posting are a great way to getting yourself known and earning a reputation, beyond the links (my case in point). However, if you have already made a name for yourself, and people already see you as an authority (your case in point), you, indeed, have no reason to do guest posts, but rather, get 100% of the credit on your writing, research and discoveries.

  40. AJ Kohn // July 17th 2012

    Thank you for the comment and perspective Orit.

    You’re obviously thinking about this which is really the most important thing in the scheme of things since you can succeed in different ways. The only thing I’d offer is whether you can easily become that authority without building your own content. Perhaps you can do both, but I personally worried that by guest blogging I’d slow my own personal brand.

  41. Giuseppe Pastore // July 17th 2012

    I get your points, AJ, and I agree in some aspects, but I also think it’s hard for obscure bloggers to brand themselves on their own blog when nobody actually reads it and guest blogging at the beginning could help speeding the process of getting some credit.

    Last week I had a post promoted to SEOmoz main blog: 1200 tweets but also 130 new followers, to me. Today I’ve published a new post on my own blog but although I consider it pretty good, I guess I’ll hardly get 1/10 of buzz (and I’m being very optimistic only because it’s been shared by a few people with lots of followers, eg. gfiorelli1 or rishil)…

    Whilst, let’s say, Aaron Wall doesn’t need to do guest posts to be known as a great SEO, and no one will forget him if he doesn’t post anything for a month on seobook, establishing yourself in a competitive scenary, crowded with brilliant people, is very hard if you’re a new comer.

    The important however is choosing where to guest post: I’ve built some good relationship with guest blogging in some cases and not in others. So now I consider networking opportunities more important than the link…

    Just my two cents, anyway.


    PS. Maybe my last post will be interesting for you: starting from seomofo’s test on title lenght I’ve found something new playing with AROUND operator… 😉

  42. AJ Kohn // July 17th 2012


    I think you give voice to exactly what a lot of other bloggers experience. How do I get noticed? How do I get this content in front of more people? There’s no doubt that it’s hard. Marketing is hard. I’m sad that a lot of my early content from 2008, 2009 and even 2010 didn’t get widely read.

    Yet, that’s part of the process. I didn’t earn that following yet and I hadn’t done what I needed to do to market my content or myself. I made mistakes and I figured some stuff out. I think that made me a better marketer and I understand more about how to grow a blog now.

    SEOMoz is a great platform but are those 1,200 Tweets for you or because it was on SEOMoz? And now you’re feeling like your own blog metrics aren’t good enough by comparison. I think it’s important to think about the context of those Tweets. If you got 30 Tweets on your own blog post I think that would be awesome! Those are people intrinsically interested and promoting your content and your brand.

    I think Kevin Kelly’s 1000 True Fans is a really interesting take on things.

    In the end there are plenty of ways to grow your blog and personal brand. I would agree though that building good relationships and networking is absolutely critical.

  43. Mick Cropper // July 17th 2012

    Couldn’t agree more with everything mentioned in the blog post. One thing which I believe could do with more emphasis is the promotional side of content creation though. If not promoted well then it is like buying a phone and expecting it to ring.

  44. AJ Kohn // July 17th 2012

    You’re right Mick. I didn’t talk about it much here but clearly marketing your own content is vital. I definitely struggled with that early on and had to figure out how to best get my content in front of the ‘right’ people without looking like a self-promoting jackass.

  45. Andrew Boer // July 17th 2012


    I liked your take on this.

    I think people confuse influence and audience all the time these days.

    I think the right reason to guest blog is to build influence — to change minds — and to get better distribution for your ideas. Think of it as an op-ed piece.

    The wrong reasons to guest blog is SEO (not really worth the time and effort) or to build an audience — you are better off doing that on your own site.

  46. AJ Kohn // July 17th 2012


    Thank you for the thoughtful comment. I hadn’t thought of it that way but I very much like the distinction you make. It means that the type and tone of content for a guest post should have that goal (influence) in mind.

  47. Soumya S. // July 17th 2012

    Hi AJ,

    Refreshing post! Thanks for bringing a realistic perspective towards guest blogging. But that said, I think, with couple of people above that purely from a link’s POV, when I’m getting a link from a blog which does not have any spam content and one I’m sure is a quality site, I would definitely go for it.

    And when I’m a niche domain, and if a new one, users are more likely to find content on the guest blog than my own site, so there is certain amount of visibility involved too right? This could be one way of luring readers through good content too (if you cant directly get them to visit your site)?

    The theory may sound a bit far-fetched, but I think this would help new businesses, and especially when you cannot afford to spend much.

  48. Giuseppe Pastore // July 20th 2012

    Hi AJ,
    sorry if it’s taken me a while to comment back to your considerations.
    I agree with you one can’t compare SEOmoz with a personal blog, and I know most of those tweets came from people you hasn’t even read the post and don’t know who wrote it, they just tweeted because it was trending and from SEOmoz. Anyway I still consider a good choice having published that post there, since it helped me to get new personal followers.
    My last post on my blog has reached 100+ tweets and nearly 1000 visits (compared to less than 100 from the moz post), and I’m very satisfied with it, but I got them mainly because some (well know) people shared it, people I had the occasion to get in touch with thanks to previous guest posts…
    I don’t think there’s a dicotomy between guest blogging and growing a personal brand via your own blog, but rather I think they’re two activities that work well together if you use the first for networking (or building influence as Andrew was saying) and not only for link building. This is mostly true if you don’t have enough time to actively participate in discussions on blogs and social network (I’m not my own boss and my personal branding day usually starts at 8 or 10 pm…).
    However, thanks for sharing your opinions and helping people at least to ask themselves if they have to re-consider their “strategies”.

  49. Glen Cooper // July 21st 2012

    Many apologies if someone has covered this already,

    I loved the piece, I understand your reasoning and the separation between professional and personal blogging is a really good point.

    My malfunction with the whole idea of ‘putting off’ guest bloggers is that part of blogging is being part of a community [this is what I have seen – not yet experienced].

    Creating strong ties between each other is not only a way of building your band [which is you – especially if it’s only you blogging] but ‘giving’ back to the community is essential.

    I guess I’d like to see more of a giving attitude. That’s all.

  50. Matthew Meyer // July 23rd 2012

    A.J. I respect your opinion on building your own brand but guest blogging really, really works. I just had a guest blog post published today and the traffic doubled to my blog. Actually more than doubled. Plus one of the very smart commentators on the guest blog post said I should look you up because you really know your stuff when it comes to Google+ authorship. Hence, because of me guest blogging I know you. But I also know of you because you built up your brand. So I guess building your brand and guest blog posting both work! I am still looking for that silver bullet.

  51. Cory Josue // July 23rd 2012

    Hi AJ!

    It took some time to find your site but its really worth it. I’ve never met someone who is very authoritative in his field who doesn’t want to guest blog. But I respect your opinion on that. I think that the dichotomy between guest blogging and building your own website is very obvious. I write for a SEO company and I guest blog for other sites. I also maintain a personal website, which is very different from my line of work. But, I like the difference but honestly, I find my articles for my work challenging and its a little difficult to get followers even if you do guest blogging.

  52. Mohamed Anan // August 02nd 2012

    Amazing post. I agree with guest blogging you are offering your best content to a competing blog!

    And by guest blogging in related blogs that are not directly competing with you, you would reach the right audience too.

    I have truly loved this post. Thank you for your great work.

    I am an avid reader but this is my first comment. I truly appreciate your content. Thank you.


  53. Phil @ Click Click Media // August 10th 2012

    Have you thought of the offline authority that guest bogging achieves for your business?

    I know that links within the posts you offer are rarely followed and will not deliver a great amount of traffic, and you probably are giving away great content…. but when you are selling services to professionals face-to-face, you can say ‘we have a post published about that on xyz’ sounds a lot better than, ‘visit my blog’

  54. AJ Kohn // August 10th 2012


    I can see some merit in that but the question is, when does your site become the site that sounds better? Why shouldn’t your site or blog be looked at as something impressive? The only way to do that is to put in the sweat equity and invest in, and promote, your site and content.

  55. Robert Jones // August 24th 2012

    I completely agree with some points on this post although disagree with others. For a start up business it’s tough to gain any editorial exposure, so I think guest postings a good method to get off the line as long as you’re able to brand your article. Although relationships do need to be developed before blog owners would be willing to publish your business within their website.

    I came across this article through reading this – http://www.seomoz.org/ugc/guest-post-your-way-out-of-antartica. That article is quite the opposite to the one above, so I’m shocked that two people can have such a difference in opinion over the same techniques although both of you raise some great points.

    Building your own blog to gain exposure can take months upon months, most small businesses just don’t have that amount of time. They’re all out to rank fast within Google’s SERPS with quality content links.

    I honestly think using a branded article within a blog that’s gaining thousands of visits per month is usually a very good move for anybody looking to attract quality links.

  56. David Chevalier // October 02nd 2012

    Hi AJ, I agree that brand building is better than guest blogging and there’s a lot of friction getting traffic and subscribers from the host blog back to you.

    I also don’t think anyone should be giving away a gift of their time, effort and intellectual property. Especially if readers will associate the guest post with the host blog and link and subscribe to the host blog rather than the writer’s blog.

    I suspect authorship will invalidate some of the anchor text links in the body copy or bio, at least to some degree. I bet self-interested anchor text in a guest post will be discredited when Google recognizes the author and therefore that the link carries self interest.

    If they haven’t already, do you think Google will discredit self-interested links in guest posts?

  57. AJ Kohn // October 03rd 2012


    Thanks for your comment and your intriguing idea. Could Google see Authorship on a guest post but understand that it’s not the ‘home’ for that author and thereby discount the links going to that ‘home’ domain.

    The question is whether Google can determine the domain that is of self-interest. I’m guessing that looking at the pattern of Authorship across domains you could identify the domain of self-interest. The next question is to what degree would Google see this as an abuse and take action.

    This speaks again to Google’s Heisenberg problem. The fact that they’re measuring the link graph changes the way the environment behaves.

    Can you establish a benchmark for this activity and find those who are outside of the established patterns? Can you do so knowing that the environment was bound to change to some degree even if Google weren’t observing?

    Certainly lots to think about.

  58. Mitz // October 19th 2012

    I agree with some of your points about guest posting but not all..

    I too built my first blog using time and brand building and no doubt it worked. However my second blog was created solely on guest posting as the backbone and I found it demolished the time factor and shot the blog to stardom and branding quickly.

    I was shocked myself and I am still not too happy about building other peoples brands with my content, but I am certainly building mine too.

    I see that other blogs have followers and readers that would enjoy my site, so I steal them. (I could make this sound nice but..)

    The blog owners let me in to their office to poach their clients. That is really what is going on here. So do I like quest posting? Yes I do.

  59. AJ Kohn // October 24th 2012


    I think it depends on the vertical and your goal. It might be effective if you’re using it purely for lead generation, particularly in the B2B space. Also, you’d already built one blog so you were likely getting a tailwind from that experience, right?

    I still think guest blogging works for brand on a limited basis but is generally difficult for personal bloggers. There are plenty of positive examples of those ‘making it’ using the strategy but … I tend to think of those as outliers.

  60. Jonathan Rosenfeld // October 26th 2012

    Purely from a numbers perspective– driving traffic to your site, guest blogging has limited value— if it is on an industry-related site. Of course it depends on your niche and industry, but getting a guest blog opportunity on an ancillary industry site really is a tremendous opportunity to interact with an audience who may be unlikely to look at material due to the name of your blog ect.

    I am an injury attorney and I gotten far more out of my guest blogs on the several non-legal sites than all of the industry sites that I have written for. However, finding those truly worthwhile opportunities is the hard part.

  61. AJ Kohn // October 26th 2012

    Exactly Jonathan! Finding those complimentary verticals and sites is difficult but very valuable. That’s the type of guest blogging I urge my clients to seek out, not those that are within their own niche.

    What that means is that guest blogging is a small part of your strategy because those opportunities are few and far between.

  62. Janus Ng // November 27th 2012

    Hi AJ,

    I love this post simply because it helps people think more deeply, rather than buying in things at face value.

    I think guest blogging is valuable and worth your time, if you really know how to do it, like finding the right sites to blog on and doing it consistently. And I agree that guest blogging on industry related sites, not within your niche, is a good strategy.

    But just like building your own brand or website, guest blogging takes time to see results. And even when you see results, they are not lasting. I believe more time should be spent establishing your own site. Guest blogging can be used as a supplemental strategy but should be used consistently.

  63. AJ Kohn // November 27th 2012

    Thanks for your comment Janus.

    I did initially write the post because everyone and their brother’s dog was running toward guest blogging likes lemmings to a cliff. So it was meant to provoke people to think more about how it could be used effectively.

    For many sites, brands and even some people, guest blogging is nice supplementary activity if you’ve got your own house in order and you’re approaching it strategically. I think you make a good point about it being consistent as well. I often see people go on guest blogging sprees which feels more reactive than proactive.

  64. Ejendomsmægler // April 27th 2013

    I was thinking of never doing it in the future and your post made it clear why.

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