When working on an editorial strategy for their blogs, clients often ask me about “guest posts.” Why write our own content, the argument goes, when there are numerous industry luminaries willing to write content for our blog for free?
If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is, and I generally advise against the acceptance of guest blog posts. Here’s why.
1. You have no quality control. As with any writing endeavor, quality is dependent upon the skills of the scribe. Guest post writers are not automatically better at this than you or anyone else in your organization, and commissioning a guest post often results in being saddled with poorly-written content that you can either run as-is (embarrassing your company and brand) or edit (which is expensive and time-consuming). Generally you’ll get better results if you do it yourself or use professionals.
2. “Industry expert” is a moving target. If you think Kevin Rose and Jimmy Wales are going to be zipping off guest posts for your blog, think again. These guys have better things to do — or cost a fortune to hire. The kinds of names small- and medium-sized businesses attract are the ones that you’ll have never heard of before. What value and credibility do these writers add to your blog? Not much. Check the resumes of the folks that send you pitches for guest posting and you’ll usually see their credentials are self-created. Check how many followers they have on Twitter and Facebook and you’ll often see that guest post writers need you (to give them credibility) a lot more than you need them.
3. Most guest posts are jammed full of self-serving, highly promotional content. What’s in all of this for the writer? He gets a chance not just to generate SEO links (see #5 below) but also to stuff the content with self-serving material. If you want to sell cranberry juice, write guest posts full of come-ons for cranberry juice, touting its myriad values. That’s great for the writer… but how does it make your company, which is publishing the content, look? With guest posts, all independence and authority goes away, fast.
4. Duplicate content is rampant in guest posts. How do guest post writers create so much material so rapidly? Easy: By copying and pasting liberally from other posts they’ve written. Having this duplicate content on your site isn’t just lazy, it can also generate substantial search engine penalties against you.
5. Guest posts are largely just an SEO play now. Guest posts aren’t typically just filled with come-ons, they’re also loaded with links. These links offer SEO value (to what extent is debatable), and they’re another primary reason why guest post writers write them in the first place.
6. You may not own the content. Few guest posts are created with writers’ agreements and contracts in place to determine the ownership of the content. In fact, without a contract, your guest post writer probably owns the content, not you. If the writer decides later they want you to take the post down, they can probably make you do so, at any time. And if there are plagiarism or other legal issues that crop up, the issue can get even thornier.