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Why Your Guest Post Fails

I know a lot of people firmly believe that you can–and should–increase your web presence by finding other people with a presence and asking them if you can write a guest post. The idea is that, by exposing their audience to you and your ideas, you will gain new community members.

For a lot of people, this works. If you’re Chris Brogan, it makes sense to guest post on copyblogger. If you’re coppyblogger, it makes sense to have Chris publish a guest post.

Each week, I receive four or five emails asking if the author can provide me with a guest post. I always thank the person for their offer, explain that guest posts don’t align with my strategy here, and ask if I can help promote their content in some other way.

I stop short of telling them that I believe their community-building (or attention-getting) strategy is broken. But it is broken.

  1. No Shortcuts: A guest post might get you a nice bump in traffic. It might give you a nice little boost in attention. But neither of those are great indicators of success if everything else isn’t right. There is no quick fix for a long term problem.
  2. No Content: If your own blog isn’t already chock full of great content, there isn’t any reason to believe that pointing people to your site is going to help you build community. Your site needs to stand on its own; it needs to be worth the reader’s time and attention because it’s a great resource. This counts for a lot more than a recommendation.
  3. You Don’t Want Community: If you are selling a product, especially a software product, you don’t really want to build community–you want to advertise. Content about your product, your service, or your offering is marketing–not a guest post.
  4. Fake Backlinks: It’s a nice idea to believe that guest posts are going to create the kind of backlinks from highly trafficked sites will improve your SEO results. But there’s a better way to get backlinks: publish something worth linking to in the first place.

There are points for style here, too. If your email begins with, “I am a big fan of your blog,” or “I just read your post titled . . ,” you very quickly betray the fact you don’t read the blog and that you are outside the community. If you were part of the community, you would already be known. Guest posts work better when you are already part of the community.

Now I am no expert on content marketing. For that, go see copyblogger and Chris Brogan. But the heart of content marketing is content. The more great content you produce, the easier it is to produce the “marketing” results.


What do you want to accomplish through a guest post?

Is a guest post the best way to accomplish that goal?

Would you do better to focus on producing better content?

Are you trying to build community or are you really trying to advertise?

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  • The College Investor

    I think great content with guest posting is still a great strategy – but you have to make sure the content on the host site aligns with the content you’re providing, and it aligns with your site. Failure in any of these means a failed guest post.

    When I launched my last site, I pitched 10 guest posts to major sites, and was accepted to a few. Several of those sites sent well over 1,000 visitors per day. Now I have a site that is less than 3 months old that regularly gets 100s of visitors per day. I directly attribute that to my guest posting strategy.

    • Bob

      I think I agree with the College Investor. Certainly the base line needs to be having great content that serves your audience. But you might be the greatest writer in the world and if no one ever sees your content then what good is it. I think guest posting is one way to expose your work to a wider and different audience. If your content is great then when those people are exposed to it a percentage of them will stick around. Content is the key, but if your content is good I think guest posting is one way you really can build traffic.

      • S. Anthony Iannarino

        I don’t disagree, Bob. I think the example I use is a testament that it can be effective. For the right people. In the right circumstances.

        I don’t believe it’s a viable strategy for people who aren’t willing to invest in the community. And I don’t believe it’s a viable option for those who put the “marketing” before the “content.”


      • Bob

        Yeah, I think in the end we are basically saying the same thing.

  • Craig McBreen

    I’m working on a Guest Posting plan right now (in fact I’m in the middle of it). A structured plan based on everything I’ve read from that wise man, Brian Clark. When I first started blogging about two years ago I didn’t have a structured plan or a streamlined blog and I guest posted everywhere. Sure I got a bump, but that was about it and my methods were, well sloppy.

    Great thoughts here and very to the point.

    • S. Anthony Iannarino

      Thinking about the outcomes in advance is always a good idea. And you won’t get any better advice than Brian’s!

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