The Anatomy of a Great Guest Post

Lately there has been a lot of talk about how guest posting has gone down hill.While there are tons of guides on how to write a good blog post, there are some things about guest posting that are unique. So I want to focus on fixing the problem of bad guest posts with a visual guide to a great guest post.

There are diagrams around the web that cover a good post, but that all seems to go out the window when a guest post is actually written. This might have to do with how much people pay writers or the commoditization of it all. Regardless, there are people looking for how to create an epic guest post and I want to share tips on how to write a great guest post. We want you to be successful and we want to stop seeing bad guest posts. Most of our outreach team and consultants can spot a guest post a million miles away, and I want to stop being able to do that. The key to a great post is for it to be indistinguishable from a regular post. The only difference is that it is written by someone who does not own or work for the site in question.

Anatomy of a Great Guest Post

1. Use Your Real Name

Blog owners can smell when you are not real. Trust me, I’ve tried to have a pen name and unless you are dedicated to having a pen name, it just doesn’t work. Faking a real person is hard. Use your real name, be transparent. Real people get real replies.

2. Link to Credible Resources

Your homepage or product pages are rarely credible resources for an article. If all the links in an article are to one domain, anyone can see the intent behind the post: advertising. If a human can see it, search engines can, too. Credible resources are studies and other articles that support your claims and arguments. Link to your inspiration for the article - share the link karma. It’ll come back to you.

3. Link to the Blog

If you are posting on a topic and the site owner likes the idea, s/he probably already has some thoughts on the topic. Link to the site owner’s past posts that support what you’re saying. You’d do it for your blog, why not theirs. And I know you’ve read their blog already.

4 and 5. Stop with Exact Match

I know you or your SEO wants you to get a link with “payday loans” (insert your own term here) but if it doesn’t make sense in the post, it’s just going to cause problems. Site owners will reject your post, and if it is posted, it’ll most likely be on a poor quality site or will add to any other Penguin related problems.

6. Write for the reader.

This one shouldn’t need explanation, but don’t try to sell. Don’t try to write a piece for a link. It’s going to show. Exact match anchors are declining in importance. Link to something readers will find useful and enjoy. It’s about them, not you.

7. Include Yourself.

You’re the writer. You need to support this piece with your time and attention. Adding in your own anecdotes will show that you are a real person and readers can relate to your story.

 8. Stop with the Bio Links

Homepage links to your blog are cool. Twitter profiles even better. Again, the link here should make sense if there is one. Some random company? Not cool. Their product or category page with exact match? No. This is a bio, only add links that make sense: those that describe you.

I challenge all of you to do better, and I am taking the challenge myself. Don’t let poor quality content slip through the cracks. Don’t do things just because you need to hit a metric, get a certain number of links for the month. Write great content for others, that is how guest posting started. Share this image and maybe we can get guest posting back to where it started, as a great way to get exposure and help others with the problem of content development.

Kate Morris

Kate Morris

Kate joined us after a year running her own search marketing consultancy in Austin, Texas. She brings with her a wealth of experience having worked in-house and agency-side in SEO and PPC. Kateh264 // A native Texan by birth, Kate got her BBA...   read more

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  1. Nice post Kate. As someone who edits guest posts for Econsultancy, I especially like point 4. Every time I see a guest blogger trying to cram a link in to their own or a client's site, I feel like rejecting it out of hand.

    If only more would take note of point 6 as well. It's so obvious when people are writing just for the sake of links/PR, and very dull to read.

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  2. Nathan Grimm

    This would have been super meta if it had been a guest post on another blog.

    Great advice for all the guest posters out there.

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  3. Hi Kate,

    Thanks for a great post,

    Here at The Fitness Blogger Network we do allow guest posting but have raised the editorial bar as to what we will now accept.

    The main thing we are looking for is "High Quality" gone are the days of paying someone on Fiverr to write your guest blogs!! We want in-depth and insightful content that we are proud to share with our audience.

    We do allow links but these must be "Natural" and add value to the piece, don't just bung a wikipedia link in because you think you have too :)

    Linking to past blogs and other pages on our site like you mention in point 3 is really great and makes us feel like you have done you guys have done your homework.

    The last point I would like to mention is get yourself on Google+

    We are now only really looking at Authors who have a Google+ profile and in time we may even decide to only work with High Profile G+ Accounts.

    Having a Google+ profile allows us to add the correct markup to your Author Bio and this in turn helps to get your face to appear in the SERP's

    So go get yourself on Google+ and then come and circle me up :)

    Speak Soon


    AKA The Fitness Blogger

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  4. Brian Schmied

    You included 3 links in your first paragraph. Spam much? Also, pen names are not difficult to manage at all. Most bloggers don't care if you are real as long as your content rocks.

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    • Yes I did, but they made total sense in context. It was not spam, it was relevant linking. And I have found pen names to hard to manage if you are not consistently using it. And as other commenters have said, using your real name and Google+ profile are super important.

  5. Great post! Especially like the part about including personal anecdotes -- that's what can make guest posts feel unique. I find that the most valuable guest posts we accept for the Wistia are the ones that provide a personal perspective that we couldn't provide ourselves. Stories are a lot more engaging than pitches :)

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  6. Kate,

    You hit the nail on the head with "The key to a great post is for it to be indistinguishable from a regular post."

    I see a lot of guest posts that could not be more dissimilar from a typical post on the site. In an effort to share a divergent opinion, many bloggers are allowing their sites to become watered-down, me-too shells of what they once were, forgetting the primary currency they offered: unique, high-quality content.

    And, thank you for the "bonus," No. 8. That game has gotten tired, old.


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  7. Nice post Kate! The point about using your real name is spot on and using your Google+ (thanks James!) will help tremendously in so many ways in building your authority. So many worry about getting the dofollow, don't worry about the nofollow or dofollow - add value not crap, and we'll all be better off!

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  8. Someone at Distilled even brought that up, Google+, but I totally forgot to add it. Great point!

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  9. Agreed, pen names are so hard to keep real - not that it doesn't have its advantages though - but for the effort, they're not worth it. Love the graphic.

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  10. Great post, Kate (if that is your real name)! I love how you've been heading up a charge for good content lately! As a writer. And a human and a marketer, the old tactics hurt my sensibilities, but I really love the new direction we are heading. Nice work!

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    • If you ask your boysfriend, it's TheKateMorris. But in fact my name is really, truly, Kathryn. gasp And thanks, it's been an annoyance lately, so doing all I can to push people in the right direction.

  11. You've nailed it! Well done. You could not have said it better. We've been dabbling in guest posts and it's scary how many people expect a blog post published with a fake profile name..

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  12. Recently Google has mentioned Guest post under the link scheme, to notify the users who are doing guest post make sure about the link and the anchor text. Over and exact match keyword rich anchor text used in guest posts will be penalized by Google.

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  13. You can’t really tell sometimes whether what works today, won’t be tomorrow. With guest posting though, I can’t really say that it has gone downhill. There are just crappy ones who give guest posting a bad name.

    Thanks for the tips, Kate. They’re really great especially the last one. :)

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  14. And the flip side - if you're accepting guest posts, don't be ridiculous with culling out the links. We recently spent 8 hours researching and writing a guest blog post that contained 2 links back to ours. Both completely in context. One was removed, and the other was modified so that noone would want to click on it. No bio link either.

    It was a complete waste of our time. Guest blogging is a 2 way street. Yes, you should demand high quality content. When you get it, don't be a douche.

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    • Chris, I completely agree. That was actually part of my post over at State of Search. Part of it was a plea to blog owners to not remove links. Nofollow, sure, that's their right, but don't remove them.

  15. Spook SEO

    Hey Kate great post! In addition to what you've mentioned above, I have found that adding infographics on a guest post really helps.

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  16. These are all valid points! My favorite guest post method includes these steps:
    - find the best target;
    - discover what content piece is missing on their site;
    - write a great article that focuses on the missing piece;
    - write a fantastic "more info" resource and publish it on your site;
    - send out the missing piece article, which links back to your "more info" resource.
    I know it's a lot of work, but (hopefully) your fantastic "more info" resource will have the potential to attract lots of links.

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  17. Hi Kate!
    Great post-thank you! There are so many articles on the web regarding guest posting--and I have to say this one just lays it all out there in easy to understand layman terms. My favorite part of your post is to incorporate personal stories--yes! Many blog writers think they're being proper by sticking to educating facts that are dry--we had enough of that in school. Storytelling is what sells and keeps people engaged. Thanks again!

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  18. Hi,

    Ref point 8, "stop with the bio links" - does that mean you don't think it is wise to link to your Google Plus profile or did I pick you up wrong?

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  19. great work kate and good guidlines on one of the hot strategies of link building that is Guest Posting. i would suggest to use brand name as an anchor text while linking to your blog.

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  20. Kate,

    Valuable post. New to the blogosphere, I find myself devouring "how to," "what not to," and "best practices" content across the web. Thanks for the graphic! @beubique

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  21. I know I'm a little late to the party, but I just started guest blogging and when you're as new as I am, this kind of information is extremely helpful. Matter of fact I've only done one guest blog so far and I was really worried it was going to be horrible. I was afraid to link to anything at all! I kept it so simple because I didn't know what was acceptable or not. In any case, thanks! Very helpful.

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  22. Excellent article Kate, These are best practices to get safe links via guest posting,

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  23. Hey Katie,

    Great post and well documented thanks. I think your example post is spot on, it doesn't matter how many links you have in your posts as long as they are relevant to the user and not for SEO benefit.

    I also think longer content is more beneficial than thinner content if its of value. I differently think the exact anchor keyword days are well and truly over now or will be next year.

    Thanks Katie, Looking forward to move of your ideas and work.

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  24. Kate

    Thanks for the great article, I want to ask if I decided to write guest post on some blogs and my guest post not related with theirs blog content then can they accept my guest post..? Or I have to write guest post related with their content.?

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    • Most blog owners are going to want something that their audience wants to read. It doesn't have to be directly related but of interest to the audience. It's best to discuss the topic with the blog owner before you write.

  25. Hi Kate,

    thank you for this article. I was wondering if you've had any problems with guest blogging after google's announcement in January? I wanted to reach out to someone in the business if they've had any personal experience with a penalty related to guest blogging.

    Thank you in advance for your response.

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  26. Michael,

    It's less about penalties for guest blogging and the links just not counting anymore. Google will keep changing the algorithm to try to discount links that are placed in guest posts for the basis of "link building". We have not see any clients at Distilled with a decline in traffic due to guest posting. No penalties. We have always tried to do guest posts that drive traffic rather than links though, so I don't foresee any issues. Good guests posts are always going to be okay, it's scaling that is going to be the issue.

    Hope that helps!

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  27. Madeline Anderson-Balmer

    Awesome post. Just getting started in content development for real, and love to see easy to swallow and implement tips like this! Thanks. Will be watching for more!

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