Thoughts On The Value Of Guest Posting

The last few weeks I’ve been writing a lot for sites other than this one. I’ve also been getting offers to write for even more. There’s only so much writing any person can do and you have to figure out which sites to say yes or no to. There’s a value to guest posting that can help you determine when it’s worth the effort.

We all know, or should know, that if we want people to visit our sites we need content. That means having information that people find interesting or entertaining, thought-provoking or educational. I trust you all have that already. I also trust the content on your site is the best content you can can create.

The problem is most of us don’t have huge audiences. We don’t have hundreds of thousands of people awaiting our next word. Adding content to your site is no guarantee others are going to see it. One way to change that is to let your content travel to other sites where it stands a better chance of being seen.

Detail from the “Life in the Wall” project, Bradford University.

Why Give Content to Others?

If content is so hard to create why give it away. If the goal is to get people to our site why write for another site and have them go there?

There could be many reasons, but lets focus on 3 of them.

  • You get paid to create content
  • You get a direct marketing benefit
  • You get an indirect marketing benefit in the form of improved search traffic

The why of payment is obvious. You do a good day’s work, you make some money, and your bank account smiles. The marketing benefits are a little harder to measure.

Direct Marketing

The benefit here is you’re leveraging another site to get more eyeballs on your content. Just comparing subscriber numbers, a post I write here will get seen by a few thousand people. That same post on Smashing Magazine will probably be seen by a few hundred thousand people. Quite a difference.

Ideally after having seen your guest article people will follow you back to your home base, your site, and read more. Even better if they come back again and subscribe and become part of your regular audience.

The question is about value though, so how do you know if your content on their site offers enough value. There are mainly 2 things you’re looking for.

  • Audience match — how well does the audience of the other site match your audience or the audience you hope to build?
  • Site popularity — how large an audience does the other site have? How many people will see your content?

You want to think about these things together. A great article on a popular blog with a mismatched audience probably won’t lead to repeat visitors. Not a lot of people are going to subscribe here because I wrote a great article about finishing cabinets for a carpentry blog.

One oddity with popularity is sometimes less popular sites drive more direct traffic. I think with some big sites people subscribe because they think they’re supposed to. On smaller sites people subscribe not because they think they have to, but because they want to. A site with a mid-sized audience might be the ideal.

Direct traffic stats from Google Analytics
Direct traffic stats from Google Analytics

Search Marketing

The goal and benefits here are similar to direct marketing, though probably harder to measure. With direct marketing we can at least check our referrer stats to have a direct connection between article and traffic. With search traffic we might notice the traffic going up, but it’s harder to directly attribute to the one specific article.

Still we’re looking for mostly the same things when deciding if it’s worthwhile to hand over our content. However, we’re now concerned with what a single audience member, the search engine spider, thinks. We’re looking for:

  • Content match — how well does the content of the sites match?
  • Authority — are search engines likely to see the site as an authority?

Instead of thinking as much about how well the audience of the other site matches ours, we’re thinking about how well the content matches. Will a search engine see the sites as related in some? Does the other site rank well for words and phrases you want to rank for. Will that other site help the search engine better understand your site?

Authority to a search engine has a lot to do with popularity, but there’s a little more to it. Even though all votes should be equal, some are more equal than others and the more equal votes transfer a little more authority.

Naturally if we’re talking search engines we need to concern ourselves with links. Will you get links from the other site. Will they be

  • included in an author bio
  • in-content where you control anchor text
  • followed or no followed

Another thing to consider is whether or not Google will recognize you, the author of the article, as you, the author of your site. I don’t want to go in-depth about author rank here so I’ll point you to some resources below. Just keep in mind this is yet another potential benefit of writing an article for another site that has popularity and authority you can leverage.

Low cost airlines don't fly where I want
Prague low cost airlines

What’s the Cost of Content Creation?

In order to figure out the value we can’t just look at the benefits we get back. We need to consider the cost involved in deriving those benefits. Your cost really comes down to how productive you are in creating content.

If you want to make the direct money to money comparison, multiply the time it takes to create something by some hourly rate and compare it to how much you get paid. Any time you can get paid more than the dollar amount cost of creation it’s a no-brainer to create the content. It usually doesn’t work out so nicely though.

You’ll get a better return if you create better content. Better content is more likely to

  • get published
  • lead to more opportunities
  • get shared and reach more people
  • lead directly to clicks on links in the article pointing to you
  • generate more links to itself, increasing the value of links pointing back to you

You should always give your best content to the other site. I might go as far to say it should be better than anything on your own site, though ideally both will be of impeccable quality.

Creating that kind of quality content takes more time and effort driving up the cost of creation. Somewhere there has to be a balance between how much it costs and the return you get on that cost.

A life lived for others is a life worthwhile
India — Chennai — Inspirational wall slogans 02

Is It Worthwhile?

Is it worth the time and effort to create content based on the benefits you’ll get back. Sad to say, other than the direct money to money comparison you probably won’t know in advance. I’ve written articles I thought would lead to a lot and nothing came of it and I’ve written articles I didn’t expect would have much return that led to a lot. It’s hard to know in advance.

While you can’t know, you can reasonably guestimate. You should know the cost that will go into creating content. Do you write quickly or slowly? How long will it take to write an article that stands out on the site you’re trying to write for.

Where benefits are concerned if you think about the audience and content match between your sites and the popularity and authority of the other site you should get a pretty good idea of what you’ll get back. More than likely if you choose sites that are a good match, have a reasonably sized audience, and provide a followed link, it’s going to be worthwhile for the link alone. Links are hard to get and quality links even harder to get. This is a not so difficult way to get some.

The main thing is to understand why you’re creating content for another site and what your goals are and then think about the other site in those terms. If you think it can deliver, create the content. If you don’t think it can, then find another site. After you’ve written for a site a time or two you’ll have a much better idea of how much benefit there is beyond a simple link or two.

Do you write for other sites? What benefits do you see? How do you determine the value you’ll get and whether or not it’s worth the effort?

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One comment

  1. I’ve not had much success with guest posts (either as the writer or the host). For me, the basic premise of content marketing still is the best tool for driving readership.
    Content is King.

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