Guest blogging is still a powerful link building method when done correctly. The premise is easy: you approach a website owner and offer them a piece of original content that includes a link back to your own website.
Despite this strategy being abused in recent years (leading Google’s Matt Cutts to officially declare it dead), guest posting remains one of the easiest ways to acquire links. And backlinks are still the #1 factor for ranking on Google.
Problems occur when you don’t put in the time to properly qualify guest-blogging opportunities. By targeting the wrong sites, you’re undermining your own efforts. At best, you’re wasting your time; at worst, you’re endangering your site’s organic value.
There are a number of ways to gauge the suitability of a site for guest posting. We are sharing part of our internal process for vetting guest post opportunities. The factors outlined below have proven to be reliable for us, and they will serve your link acquisition efforts just as well.
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- Review the Site as a Regular Visitor
- Check the Domain’s Overall Organic Strength
- Check Outgoing vs Inbound Ratio
- Review the Domain’s Traffic History
- Check the Site’s Industry Relevance
- Check How Quickly Articles Get Indexed
- Audit the Impact of Existing Outbound Links
- Be Mindful of Guest Posting Fees
- Check If the Site Gets Social Shares
- Should You Proceed or Should You Pass?
1. Review the Site as a Regular Visitor
The first step is the easiest. Visit the website and make an honest assessment of the impression it leaves on you. Does it have a nice, unique design? Is there a lot of recently-published content? Is the content written well?
You want your guest post to appear on relevant, high quality sites. If there is one golden rule to remember, it’s this: do not guest post for the sake of the link, do it to get people to read your content.
Most people don’t read sites that are riddled with issues or look unappealing. This means that more often than not, you can disqualify a website shortly after landing on it. From a simple branding standpoint, you don’t want to attach your name and reputation to a low-quality website.
More importantly, the quality of a website can also be a strong indicator of its authority — or lack thereof. If the website looks unattended, has typos/spelling errors, and generally does not present value to potential visitors, then pass on it.
2. Check the Domain’s Overall Organic Strength
When you’re building links to your website, quality is key. High-quality links will improve your authority while spammy links may compromise it.
One of the most helpful metrics to consider in this regard is Moz’s Domain Authority or Ahrefs’ Domain Rating. These ratings measure the authority of a website based on the amount of linking domains – which provides a rough idea of the site’s value for search engines.
If you use Ahrefs, you can enter any website address into the Site Explorer to see the Domain Rating (DR). Ranked on a logarithmic scale from 1 to 100, the Domain Rating gives you an estimated site value based on backlink popularity. The higher the rating, the more authority the site has.
Alternately (or concurrently), you can use Moz’s Domain Authority (DA) to gauge the strength of a website’s overall organic value. As with Domain Rating, Domain Authority is measured on a scale of 1 to 100, and higher ratings generally indicate a greater domain strength.
In addition to authority, it’s helpful to get an estimate of the site’s organic monthly traffic. Using Ahrefs, you can find this information in the Site Explorer under “Organic Traffic.” A free tool like SE Ranking will also do the trick.
Higher traffic means your article is more likely to be read and your link is more likely to be clicked. If a website offers guest blogging opportunities but pulls in fewer than 100 visitors a month, it’s probably not worth your time.
3. Check Outgoing vs Inbound Domains
One of the lesser discussed domain strength factors that we audit for is the site’s ratio of outgoing-to-incoming backlinks.
- Inbound: Sometimes referred to as backlinks, these are the links that a website receives from other sites.
- Outbound: Sometimes referred to as outgoing links, these are the pages that a website links to.
Key thing to keep in mind is that the number of linking & linked-to domains is more important than the number of linking & linked-to pages.
For instance, if you refer to the Ahrefs Site Explorer, a website may have 1,000 backlinks but only 200 referring domains. That means that all of those 1,000 backlinks originated from 200 websites. This is not as valuable as 500 backlinks from 500 websites.
The number of referring domains is more important because search engines value link diversity. One link from 10 different sites is more valuable than 100 links from one site.
Ideally, you want to see more inbound linking domains than outbound linked domains. It’s not always a deal-breaker in terms of guest posting opportunities (and certainly should not be used as the sole reason for scrapping an opportunity) but this can give you an excellent indication of a site’s popularity and value. If a site has far more outbound than inbound links, it could mean that the site is not very popular in general. In either case, that makes for a bad linking partner.
There are many SEO tools that allow you to check a site’s outbound and inbound link profiles. In the Ahrefs Site Explorer, you can find the number of unique inbound links under “Referring Domains.” To find the outbound links, just click “Linked Domains” in the left column and refer to the report.
If you don’t have Ahrefs access, use a free tool like the SEO Review Tools Internal Link Analyzer to get roughly the same information.
In the example above, you’ll notice that introvertdear.com has 1.88 thousand referring domains and 774 outbound domains. That’s a positive, healthy ratio.
4. Check the Domain’s Traffic History
Aside from the average monthly traffic, you want to get a good look at the domain’s traffic trends. In Ahrefs’ Site Explorer, click “Organic Search” to see a visual graph with this information.
If a site’s traffic is in decline, this can be a solid indicator of potential issues. Sites with drops in estimated traffic are losing their value and you might not want to spend the time and effort getting a link from them.
Traffic dips are often indicative of punitive actions on the part of search engines, and you may want to think twice about getting links from websites that Google has devalued or deemed to be in violation of its terms and conditions.
5. Check the Site’s Industry Relevance
Relevance is paramount when it comes to link building. If you’re building links from sites that are not related to your industry, you won’t generate as much value from those websites. What’s worse, the lack of relevance may hint to search engines that you’re engaging in unnatural link-building activities.
One way to avoid this is to see which pages on the site are generating the most traffic. If the majority of top pages are unrelated to your niche, it’s probably best to look for opportunities elsewhere.
Ahrefs once again makes it easy to check the top pages. Enter the domain in Site Explorer, and then click “Top Pages” on the left-hand menu.
In the example screenshot, all of the top pages are related to web design and development. That means that Smashing Magazine is likely an excellent link partner for web design sites, but it might not be a good match for a self-improvement site.
Another way to gauge industry relevance is by using Majestic’s Trust Flow which measures a site’s link “neighborhood” to see whether other credible industry sites link to it.
6. Check How Quickly Articles Get Indexed
If you take the time to write an article and build a link back to your website, you want to ensure that Google indexes the page in a timely fashion. You can easily check to see how quickly a site’s content gets indexed.
- Start by locating the most recent article on the site.
- Google the article title along with the “site:” search operator. For example, if you’re looking for the article “SEO vs. PPC: Which Should You Use?” located at Ahrefs.com, just Google-search the following: SEO vs PPC which should you use site:ahrefs.com.
- Repeat this process for the most recent 3-5 articles to get a feel for how quickly articles get indexed.
This activity shows you how often Google crawls the given site. If the site’s pages get indexed within a day of posting, that’s often a hint that the site has value in Google’s eyes.
7. Audit the Impact of Existing Outbound Links
Before you place a link on someone else’s site, take a few moments to see how similar links are performing. As with the previous step, you’ll need to start by reviewing a few articles on the site. It’s best to use other guest blog articles.
Look for the anchor text on those pages (you’ll often find the most relevant link in the Author Bio), and then enter the links into the Ahrefs Site Explorer. Take a look at the “Organic Traffic” chart. If traffic is increasing, that’s a good sign. If it’s stagnant or decreasing, that may indicate that the site is not passing much value.
Review the traffic trends for several recent links, as one or two links won’t tell you much. A page’s traffic can rise or fall for numerous reasons. However, if you notice that the majority of recently linked pages are moving in the same direction, that trend may indicate that the links are partly responsible.
8. Be Mindful of Guest Posting Fees
As we mentioned in the beginning of the article, guest posting has been abused over the last few years as a link building tactic. Part of that abuse is the number of webmasters and bloggers charging for links in guest posts – which is against Google’s recommended best practices.
The thing that complicates matters is that it’s not unreasonable for editors to charge some sort of a fee to review pitches. This is a natural filter that reduces the chance of having their time wasted. They may welcome great guest posts on their blog, but reviewing thousands of pitches monthly is inefficient.
This means that some opportunities may cost you upfront in order to get your article in front of the editors’ eyes. Some sites will mention fees as part of their posted publication guidelines. More often, you’ll need to reach out to the webmaster directly and find out the terms.
If a site has excellent authority and engagement as determined by the previous steps in this article, it may be normal to honor a sensible editorial fee. However, if the site does not pass most of the checks above and the owner requests payment, you should probably pass.
9. Check If the Site Gets Social Shares
A lot of legitimate authoritative sites tend to have some sort of social media following. Look at their content and see if it gets shared (watch for those Share Now buttons with share counts on their posts).
High social engagement is an excellent sign, as it can indicate legitimacy and reinforce the site’s value. It can even signify a higher likelihood that your own article will be shared and your link value maximized.
Alternatively, you can look at whether their posts get a lot of comments on the site. Most sites prefer to keep their readers on their domain and encourage conversations directly on the article pages.
Ultimately, you’re checking for true engagement and readership of the site’s content. The more engagement, the greater the site’s value is.
Should You Proceed or Should You Pass?
A great guest blogging opportunity does not necessarily have to satisfy every criteria on this list. In fact, we’ve gotten links that provided tons of value from websites that didn’t pass most of the above factors. But it took our expert minds and detective-like investigations to identify the underlying value of the site.
As a rule of thumb, most of the above factors should be positive if you’re gauging the value of a guest post on a site. You don’t have to discount an opportunity just because there are more outbound than inbound links or because social media engagement is limited.