It’s frowned upon to build links through guest posts.
If you do, they should be nofollowed and ideally, you should be guest posting for brand awareness and referral traffic.
Even though that’s what I follow, it doesn’t mean others do.
Plus, I get hundreds of emails a day asking me if I accept guest posts, hence I know it’s still a popular link building method (although I ignore all those emails).
What Kind of Sites Did We Analyze?
First off, not all blogs accept guest posts. So, if a blog didn’t accept a guest post, we clearly didn’t include it in our study.
Second, we looked at sites that clearly labeled content as a guest post or as a post written by a guest author or guest contributor.
Third, we looked at sites that used dofollow links in the guest posts (even though they should have been nofollowed) to see if they had an impact on rankings.
As you can see from the graph above, we looked at sites across different domain authority levels. We wanted to see what impact it had on whether a guest post received traction or not.
We also looked at sites with varied traffic ranges to see where posts might perform best.
As you can see, targeting sites with a domain authority above 90 will likely lead to more traffic. At the same time, those are also the sites that will be hardest to get links from.
So, What Did We Learn?
The short answer: guest posts links kind of work and kind of don’t.
I know that isn’t a clear answer, but it is if you read the rest of the post. Because there are certain types of guest post links that work and there are others that don’t.
Here are some more insights…
Too Many External Links Is Bad
Some guest posting sites link out a lot.
Some don’t link out too much.
Although you shouldn’t be focusing on how many times you do or don’t link out, you should be focusing on providing the best user experience to your audience. If that means including a relevant link to another site in your article, by all means, link out.
If it doesn’t make sense, then you shouldn’t.
Look at this chart.
Now, it’s hard to know for sure if a link received from a guest blog site with more outbound links than inbound links is effective since websites don’t just have 1 backlink. Most websites can have hundreds and, in some cases, millions of them.
Just look at my site NeilPatel.com. Sadly some spammy websites link to me (scrapper sites) and some high authority websites link to me. It’s hard to know for sure what the impact a spammy site link has on my rankings compared to the ones received from high domain authority sites.
Instead, what we could do is look at the number of keywords a guest posting site ranks for. In theory, the more keywords a site ranks for, the better they are since they are liked by Google. I would think that a link from them would be more favorable.
What you’ll notice is, generally speaking, the higher domain authority a site has, the more keywords it ranks for. But we already knew that.
When looking at the domain authority range from 0 to 59, you’ll notice that there isn’t a consistent upward trend. That’s because many of the domains from our analysis in this range tended to be sites that were expired or bought-out and are mainly used for guest posting purposes.
Even more interesting. The guest posting sites that had more external links than inbound links all had a domain authority of less than 60.
From this one insight, someone could infer that you should aim to get links from sites that have more inbound links than external links. As in, sites that have higher domain authority.
You should also avoid guest posting sites that exist for the sole purpose of linking out to other sites. These can be considered spam links.
The Right Links Help
From all of the guest posting sites we analyzed, we found 14 businesses that were exclusively receiving links from some of the sites we looked at. Of these 14 businesses, six of them only received links from guest posting sites with a domain authority of less than 60.
In other words, they didn’t have links from any other sites.
So, we dove into their rankings and traffic.
What’s funny is that these six businesses had little to no rankings or traffic.
Let’s look at the number of page 1 Google rankings they had.
Since these six businesses only received links from spammy guest posting sites, we know that each of those sites had more outbound than inbound links. It’s clear that those sites didn’t really serve a purpose other than for guest posting.
The remaining 8 businesses we looked at also had links from spammy guest posting sites but also received links from more legitimate guest posting sites as well. As in, guest posting sites that had more inbound links than outbound links.
The businesses that built links from the spammy guest posting sites had, on average, 3.16 page 1 rankings on Google. On the other hand, businesses that also built links from the higher quality guest posting sites as well had, on average, 14.25 page 1 rankings on Google.
Keep in mind some industries are easier to rank for than others and some keywords drive less traffic than others, so not all page 1 rankings are created equal.
At the same time, this trend shows that if you target links from higher-quality guest post sites, there is a better chance of ranking on the first page.
Conclusion: Do Links From Guest Posts Work?
When I originally said guest posting links can or can’t help it’s because the quality of the link really matters.
When you get links from spammy sites, as in sites whose sole purpose is to link out and don’t get as many links coming in, search engines know this. If this is a practice you have been doing, don’t expect your rankings to go up as much.
On the flip side, if you generate links from higher-quality guest post sites, you are going to be much better off.
The goal of this post was to figure out if links from guest posts really help and now we know the answer. However, if you’re going to build links from guest posts then they should be nofollowed and you should be doing it primarily for branding and referral traffic purposes.