Don’t Accept Guest Posts Unless You Follow These 7 Rules

by Neil Patel on February 18, 2013

Have you considered allowing guest posts on your blog? We grew the KISSmetrics blog to over 400,000 visitors a month, publishing blogs which mainly came from guest author contributions. We grew the Crazy Egg blog to over 100,000 visitors a month within a year… using the same strategy.

What you may not know is that search engines might start penalizing sites that accept guest posts or discount posts made by specific authors because a lot of junk content is being guest posted on the web. Even high authoritative blogs such as the New York Times or Huffington Post are allowing guest posts, and many of those posts are filled with mediocre content and spammy links.

Here’s what Google thinks about guest posting…

Now, this doesn’t mean you should not allow guest posts on your blog. Rather, it means that you need to be pickier. Don’t just accept guest posts because you think it will increase your traffic. Accept them because the content will benefit your readers.

Here are 7 rules you should follow if you plan on accepting guest posts:

Rule #1: Authors must have a track record of writing great content

I get a few dozen inquires each week for guest post contributions. Do you know why I don’t accept most of the posts? One reason is that I want Quick Sprout to remain my personal blog, which means I need to be the main writer. The second reason is that most of the authors don’t have a track record of writing awesome content.

Many of these guest authors have never written a guest post, which isn’t a big deal… but many of them don’t even have a great track record of writing awesome content on their own blog.

Here’s what I look for when authors offer me a guest post:

  • Spam – I Google their name to make sure they aren’t pushing out spammy content throughout the web.
  • Links – I make sure they aren’t linking out in their bio or within the content to spammy websites.
  • Depth – look to see how detailed their past content is. I usually look for authors who write content that is at least 1,000 words, if not 2,000. You can’t put much advice in a 400 word blog post, so avoid writers who are just trying to crank out content for links.

Rule #2: Watch outgoing links

This is probably the most tricky part about evaluating guest posts. Some blogs like Search Engine Watch are known for removing all links while other ones like Huffington Post keep almost every link you add.

So, what should be your stance on links within guest posts? Let authors link out as many times as they want to as long as those links are benefiting your readers. The moment those links don’t benefit your readers, remove them.

It doesn’t matter if those links go to the author’s site or even your competitors’ site. As long as the links help educate your readers, people will want to read your blog.

Here’s a general guideline to follow:

  • A bio should only contain 1 or 2 links – either to the autor’s website, Twitter handle, or his/her blog.
  • A blog post should contain a minimum of 4 links – I don’t have a maximum number of links that should be in a post, but I do have a minimum. People have written blog posts on almost every topic out there, so instead of regurgitating the same old information, link out to the sites that have already covered it.

Rule #3: The content must be detailed and unique

I would never accept content that isn’t detailed or unique. What I mean by detailed is that the content needs to be at least 1,000 words with no fluff. You can always make a post meatier by adding details and steps, so why not take an extra hour and write a better blog post?

I also won’t accept a blog post on a topic that has been beaten to death. For example, most people know that Google PageRank doesn’t matter. So, why accept another blog post that talks about why PageRank isn’t important?

Lastly, guest authors who contribute to dozens of blogs have a tendency to continually spin content. They’ll take the same post topic and continually spin it so that they can guest post on more blogs. To combat this, use free services like Copyscape, which will point out any duplicate or similar articles. All you have to do is upload the guest post to a private URL and run it through Copyscape.

Rule #4: Be picky

Even if a guest post is good, it doesn’t mean you should publish it. The content needs to be great! If you don’t set strict standards from day one, your blog won’t be read consistently.

Here are my criteria:

  • I won’t accept posts with spelling or grammar errors. If a post has those, it means the author didn’t spend too much time on it. (I know, I have a ton of grammar errors on Quick Sprout. I need to improve my grammar skills.)
  • Make sure you believe in the post because if you don’t, your readers won’t. No matter how good the writer is, don’t accept content you don’t believe in. For example, at KISSmetrics, we had the option of publishing a post on how A/B testing is useless. It was from a well-known analytics expert. But we as a company believe A/B testing is powerful, and everyone should do it.
  • The content has to fit in with your blog theme. For example, Quick Sprout is a blog about marketing and entrepreneurship. I won’t accept any guest posts outside of those two topics, no matter how well they are written or from whom they are.

Rule #5: Don’t give out author accounts

The biggest mistake you can make as a blog owner is to give out author accounts. You don’t want someone to have a login to your blog in which they can post content on whatever they want, whenever they want.

Why? Because you shouldn’t trust most blog authors. I’ve seen reputable ones plagiarize, add in spammy links into old blog posts and even delete pieces of content when they shouldn’t have. This happens because some authors are desperate, and they will do almost anything for money. If someone bribes one of your authors with a lot of cash, most likely they will take the bribe.

If someone is requesting an author account, something is off. It’s easier for a blogger to send you his/her content in a text document and have you deal with the headache of formatting the post and adding it into your blogging platform.

On the other hand, if you want to give people author accounts to save you time, make sure they only have the ability to save content as a draft. Publishing privileges should be saved for you or someone on your team.

Rule #6: You need to fully own the content

It doesn’t matter who writes the content, but you need to own it. If you don’t own it, people will start publishing the same piece of content on their own site or even on other people’s sites.

If a guest author wants to link to his/her guest post from his/her own site, that’s fine. Giving them credit for writing the post or letting them showcase their masterpiece isn’t an issue. The rights to the content is the issue. As long as you own it, you can do whatever you want.

I usually don’t do anything with content that is guest posted on my website. I just like to own the rights as it decreases the likelihood that the contributor will spin it. Or if a journalist wants to cover or republish the piece, which happens more often than you may think, you can give them authorization without having to reach out to the author.

Rule #7: Authors need to help build and support your community

My favorite part about blogging is creating a community. It is a community that reads the content published on your blog, learns from it, and contributes by commenting. In many cases, its members’ contributions can teach you things that you never knew before.

If you want to continually build your community, you need your guest authors to contribute to it. They need to contribute not just through blog content, but also through replies to comments. Any time someone comments on a post they write, they need to respond to the comment. It doesn’t matter if they write just a simple reply as long as they acknowledge that someone has commented and respond to it.

By doing this you will encourage more people to come back to your blog, which not only helps with social sharing and traffic, but it also helps with creation of brand evangelists.


If you follow the above rules, you won’t have to worry about Google penalizing you for having guest posts on your website. Why? Because the guest posts will be providing value to your readers, which is all that matters.

Search engines like Google want your readers and their searchers to benefit from the content on your website… no matter who is writing it. You just have to make sure the content you are publishing is great and not mediocre.

What other rules should you follow if you want to accept guest posts?

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  1. Timothy Sykes :
    February 18, 2013 at 12:21 PM

    Thanks Neil, it’s all about doing, not don’ting

    • Neil Patel :
      February 18, 2013 at 12:22 PM

      LOL, Hopefully you will start guest posting now.

  2. Billy Murphy :
    February 18, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    Well said. I just got into the blogging world recently, but it seems like most people’s strategy is to exchange content that’s watered down in return for cross promoting eachother’s audiences. Then spend all your time finding other people to post/cross promote mediocre content. 99% of blogs should not exist. Yours should, love your posts.