How to Identify a Bad Guest Blogging Site with Eight Questions
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How to Identify a Bad Guest Blogging Site with Eight Questions

Guest blogging has its pitfalls and its advantages, both of which are obvious. I’ve explained before how you can find high-quality legitimate places to guest blog. Now, I want to tell you how to identify and avoid a bad guest blogging site.

I can’t emphasize enough the danger of spammy guest blogging. The bombshell announcement from Matt Cutts was a needed caution to many would-be spammers. He wrote, “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”

We know, thanks to Cutts’s own disclaimers, that guest blogging is not actually done. But we also know, thanks to Cutts’s rampage against blog networks, that guest blogging is under intense scrutiny and potential penalization—at least for blog networks.

There are severe consequences to spammy guest blogging. Linking from a spammy guest blog network can ruin your site and tarnish your online reputation. If you are interested in the advantages of guest blogging, then you absolutely must know how to steer clear from a spammy guest blogging site.

Here are eight questions to ask about a potential guest blogging site.

1. Are There Ads Above The Fold?

Google doesn’t like to see ads above the fold. January 2012’s “page layout algorithm improvement” by Google, also known as the Top Heavy Algorithm, created a problem for ad-greedy sites. Such sites allowed advertising to ravage the bulk of above-the-fold real estate, creating an unpleasant user experience. Motivated by these complaints, Google rolled out the algo and has since refreshed it at least three times.

Here’s how Cutts described it: “ If you click on a website and the part of the website you see first either doesn’t have a lot of visible content above-the-fold or dedicates a large fraction of the site’s initial screen real estate to ads, that’s not a very good user experience. Such sites may not rank as highly going forward.”

If your potential guest blog site attempts to bring in ad revenue, that’s okay. But just make sure that it has an overall pleasant user experience.

I caution against ads above the fold, and I have good reason for doing so. However, there are a few exceptions to the apparent devaluing of sites with top-positioned ads.

The New York Times has at least three ad blocks above the fold. Any algorithmic devaluing due to this ad placement is outweighed by the stature and validity of the publication.

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Often, a site has internal-focused “ads.” These are less ads than they are conversion elements for the site. Such features are not penalized.

On my blog site, you’ll see the persistent header and several sidebar blocks with calls to action. These are simply features of the site, even though they “advertise” my products. This is not considered a top-heavy ad layout.

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2. Does The Design Look Outdated or Unpleasant?

If it looks like spam, it probably is spam. One of the ways you can find out is simply by giving the site the eyeball test. How does it look?

Often, you can tell from a quick glance whether a site is spam or not. Here are some of the issues you should insist upon in a guest blogging site. Each of these are backed by algorithmic factors.

  • The content should be visible above the fold. The Top Heavy Algorithm cited above means that sites that lack content above the fold are subject to devaluation.
  • There should be clear navigation paths. Site navigation structure affects SEO significantly. Some navigation issues are obvious—providing a sitemap.xml, using a navigation header, creating internal links, etc. But sometimes, when webmasters and SEOs are working separately, other negative navigation problems can creep up. For example, some developers use ajax effects, but neglect to implement the correct URL linking structure. Other times, designers create parallax scrolling effects on a single page website, but provide no navigation to other content-rich pages on the site. These issues are important for navigation, and therefore for SEO.
  • There should be no flash. Flash sites have been done for years. If you’re looking at a flash site, just forget it.

3. Do Articles Deal With Random Far-Ranging Topics, or Are They Organized Into Silos?

A telltale sign of a spam site is its random collection of unorganized content. There is no defined topic to the site. Such a haphazard collection of content does not help users. This kind of content is published in an attempt to rank for any keyword, and thus to generate traffic and ad revenue.

The following two points are positive indications of a site that focuses on usability in its design and content curation. This is what you want:

  • The site is about one niche subject. Your goal in guest blogging is to find relevant sites in your niche. Sites that deal with a single subject in-depth are ideal guest blogging sites. You don’t want to see a website that deals with petenia care in one article, and then the next article about Titanfall maneuvers.
  • The site is about multiple subjects, but has clear content organization. This is the typical arrangement of most authoritative news sites. There are ways to organize a lot of data in a way that helps the users and makes sense. The header below from The Atlantic, conveys clear categorical breakdown for a user to access the content that they are interested in.

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4. Is Google Authorship Implemented?

One confirming sign of a trustworthy guest blogging site is implementation of Google authorship. A site that uses Google authorship evidently knows what they’re doing when it comes to guest blogging.

In the screenshot below, you can easily tell from Google whether or not a site uses authorship markup.

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I strongly encourage you to seek sites that use Google authorship. Besides, the more content you publish under your authorship, the better your own personal brand becomes.

5. Is The Content Reviewed or Edited?

Unedited content is a red flag. If you don’t personally know the site owner, yet are automatically given publish privileges, you should be cautious about the site’s validity. Most sites that value their content and reputation will place some sort of editorial process in place.

The “submit for review” button on a WordPress post should give you a level of confidence that content is being vetted and the site has a care about its integrity.

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6. Is There a List of Enforced Requirements For Guest Blogging?

If the site you’re angling for has a strict list of standards and requirements, don’t despair. This is actually a very positive sign.

If a site accepts guest bloggers, they are undertaking a significant risk. In light of the crackdown on guest blogging networks, it’s evident that Google takes a dim view of indiscriminate guest blog posting. A site must be stringent on its standards in order to avoid penalties or devaluation.

The requirements are a positive sign. You should comply with them.

7. Is The Site DA Above 25?

As a general rule, any site you post a guest blog to should have a Domain Authority that exceeds the DA of your own site, especially if you are hoping to gain a backlink. So, if you have a website with a DA of, say, 62, you probably don’t need to be spending time creating an article for a site with a DA of 41.

I do not recommend that you guest blog anywhere with a DA below 25. Sites with a historic web presence and a low DA are sites that are characteristically spam.

One of the first things you should do when checking out a potential guest blogging site is to quickly check the DA using a resource like opensiteexplorer.org.

8. Do You Have to Pay to Post?

This is a no-brainer. You should never, ever have to pay to post a guest blog. Any exchange of content that also involves an exchange of money, goods, or services is highly suspect. If you are asked to provide compensation for “hosting,” “publication” or “editorial services” I highly recommend you look elsewhere for guest posting opportunities.

Conclusion

The era of guest blogging is alive and well, but it’s more important than ever to be extremely cautious. The number of sites that provide legitimate and reputable guest blogging are few and far between.

Look carefully, choose carefully, and write carefully. You have a lot to gain through guest blogging. As long as you’re staying vigilant and weeding out the bad guest blogging sites, you’ll begin to see huge advantages.

What are some other signs—positive or negative—regarding a potential guest blogging site?

 

Image Credits

Featured Image: Sergey Nivens via Shutterstock
Screenshots: All taken June 2014

 How to Identify a Bad Guest Blogging Site with Eight Questions
Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, an analytics provider that helps companies make better business decisions. Neil also blogs about marketing and entrepreneurship at Quick Sprout.

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11 thoughts on “How to Identify a Bad Guest Blogging Site with Eight Questions

  1. Hi Neil,
    Great list/check points to follow when doing guest blogging, especially after the panda and penguins. thanks

  2. So, finally gonnacha kill guest post networks.

    Patel really clear crystal explanation about guest post facts. But still searching networks only. They’re thinking to save time and invest on guest posts and get links. So, providers are increasing day by day… After updates they’re struggle too.

    Hope this points are helpful for newbie and existed marketers too… Thanks Patel

  3. Hello Neil,

    Great article indeed !

    The above given tips gonna help me a lot in choosing the best site for my post and would help me saving from google penalties too.

    When I was a newbie I really didn’t knew the benefits of claiming the authorship. But after consulting a reputed blogger I realized that it builds trust in the eyes of people.

    Thanks Neil for sharing these ultimate tips which would surely gonna help me in finding high quality sites for guest blogging.

    Have a nice week ahead :)

  4. Great info on guest posting. Thanks a lot Neil Patel. It can help very much for guest blogger. I like the google authorship point most in all eight facts. Thanks again.

  5. Very solid list of things to look for. As long as you are not paying for the post, you don’t necessarily have to meet all other 7 requirements. In fact if it passes #8 and is moderated, you are probably in good hands and the rest become mostly suggestions.

    Also if it is a niche site, and all content deals with a particular market, say accounting, or search engines, or cats, you are probably OK posting your submission on accounting, or search engines, or cats. As long as the site is topical (relevant), then, while it may not be of high value, at least it won’t be seen as spammy.

    At least that is just my gut feeling. Feel free to disagree!

  6. Hi Neil
    The benchmarks you mentioned in this post for quality guest blogging are really cool and if someone publish his guest post in such high PR blogs will obviously get back huge returns in terms of link juice and also lift in his reputation as quality blogger.
    The first point is really an eye opening. I never ever checked the placements of ads above the fold while dropping my guest post offer to any blog. I will take care of it in future. Also its a new info for me to make a good mix of info and ads above the fold to stay higher in Google PR. Thanks for sharing these wonderful tips.

  7. Patel, you’ve made a nice post! This helps SEO professionals to filter the right Guest Blogs. Really this article teaches me a lot! Two points, 4 & 7 -I agree strongly. But I couldn’t agree with your 2nd point about outdated design. How do you mean that outdated site design would be spam? Any examples?

  8. Hi Neil,

    You are awesome, I didn’t knew I was reading an article from an expert like you. Guest posting have been on radar, and people are even considering second thoughts when there comes an opportunity to guest blog.

    Almost all the tips were familiar to me, except for the DA one. I am gonna check my DA and also for all the sites, I plan to guest blog upon.

    Thank you so much Neil, your tips come like a savior to all those who have been lost by the Google’s update. Guest blogging still rocks, if done right.

    Anyway, I found this article on kingged.

  9. Hi Neil,

    Nice article…

    Instead of following the above steps why don’t we follow the single step i.e., “Google authorship”. In recent article Google specifies that only top priority sites may show authorship in search results, which means they are going to be good guest blogging sites…

  10. Definitely makes sense to read the blogs written in your niche too and even check the page authority. Some websites seem to say they cover various different sections but in reality if you read their content it can be a little weak or not as close to what your niche really is.