Guest Blogging for Brand Marketing: Dead or Alive?

By Susan Rust

Lately, there’s been a lot of press surrounding the idea of guest blogging. In January, Google’s Matt Cutts published this blog post called “The decay and fall of guest blogging,” which led to a huge debate in the interactive marketing space. In fact, he even went back and edited his original title to add “…for SEO” at the end because he caused such a stir. Here is my attempt to distill all of the outcry down to the facts you need to know.

Troy and Abed

Matt publishes to mixed reactions

In the actual blog post, Matt makes great points about how guest blogging has been abused by spammy webmasters or agencies trying to add no real value to the host blog, but reaping all the benefits of a followed link. In the post, Matt shared an example of a typical email inquiry for a guest blogging opportunity, but we all know emails wanting the same thing might look way more legitimate. At any rate, the pressure was put on blog owners to not accept guest posts with followed links anymore.

The comments immediately blew up with a wide range of opinions. Some praised Google’s efforts to fight spammy tactics, and others argued that Google was penalizing too many people who were guest blogging for the right reasons. One of my favorite comments came from Danny Sullivan:


Danny goes on to sympathize with Google’s efforts to clean up the search results but he drives home the point that “enough is enough with the list of prohibited linking activities”.

The search community responds

In the days following Matt’s post, articles around the web start to pop up, covering everything from “how to continue guest blogging without getting penalized” to “stop spammy tactics like guest blogging and start building customers”. I’ve never been a fan of anyone who uses buzzwords like commas, so it was hard for me to get caught up in the cause (it was even difficult for me to consider writing this post). I did however eventually come across this amazing post by Rae Hoffman, CEO of PushFire, who pretty much voiced all of my concerns and didn’t hold back.

Rant from Rae Hoffman
Image: Flickr

Overall however, the strategy stays the same for webmasters and agencies trying to build brands: continue marketing and creating content for the right reasons and you won’t be penalized. You will however have to figure out how to compete with larger established brands with big AdWords budgets to be seen in the ever-diminishing organic listings of Google’s search result pages…with one less once-legitimate method. Yeahhh!

So, should we continue guest blogging for nofollow links?

Well the immediate answer from experts is usually yes. If you can place interesting, compelling content on a valuable and respected blog then absolutely continue. You’ll hopefully get in front of the right audience and even receive referral traffic just like you normally would have, except with no passed benefit from the link.

My question however is…


We’ve all heard that social shares and people interacting with your content, in addition to links, helps pages rank, but blog owners who accept guest posts want original content that hasn’t appeared on your site. This means their site will reap the ranking benefits of any keyword searches matching your content, because social shares or traffic will always point to that page. Sure, your brand will get some spotlight time, but the blog owner will see the rankings in Google. With a nofollow link, that content will not benefit your site to the fullest extent, even if the page builds up credibility over time with shares and mentions.

So in answer to my question: No, placing guest posts with nofollow links is not worth your time unless you’re targeting the right sites.

Try guest blogging for traffic, not links

Guest blogging still has a place in brand marketing if you can write for a large publication or site that will send you decent, more-qualified traffic than you would have otherwise received from a link on a low domain authority blog. If you were approached by Huffington Post to contribute an article for them with a nofollow link, would you say no? Probably not.

Brands and agencies should try to place great content on great sites. This goes back to the principle I mentioned earlier: continue marketing and creating content for the right reasons. Traffic is a great indicator of success because it was always the end goal of a link for rankings. Skip the link step and try to create or write something that compels people to learn more about your brand. This will make up for some of the residual traffic you missed from a followed link on a generic blog. All you need to do now is get it on the right sites — easier said than done!


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this controversial subject. I respect a lot of the opinions in our search community, so feel free to voice your stance on the matter!

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Susan Rust

By Susan Rust

I believe we hear and learn to say "no, it can't be done, that's too hard" rather than say "yes, let's do it now!" I have many mottos, mine for now is "Run fast, break things."

  • Hi Webmaster,

    First off, I must tell you that I love your blog postings and to keep it up.

    Secondly, Your point of guest blogging for traffic really struck home with me. As someone who’s been part of numerous guest blogging efforts just for that coveted dofollow link, writing “just to write” has always held an allure over me, regardless of what comes from it.

    I hope that the trend in our industry veers towards producing high quality content from talented people on a consistent basis, and that it becomes the norm.

    Good chat,


    • Kevin,

      You do an amazing spam comment impersonation. Also, I agree with you. We always talk about trying to raise the bar but now there’s more reason than ever.