Should You Write Guest Posts? I Don’t Know, Should You? (Yes!)

Josh Hanagarne is the creator of World’s Strongest Librarian. He was recently offered a book deal (which he turned down), and loves to talk about books, blogging, strength training, and more. He has also found a way to cure his own extreme case of Tourette’s Syndrome.

When I started blogging I never planned on anyone reading what I wrote. Now that they do, I still don’t really plan on anyone reading what I write. Why? Because I write for fun. I write because it’s a healthy thing for me to do. Don’t get me wrong, I like having readers, and more readers is more fun than fewer readers. But before we get into the guest posting discussion, I just want that to be clear: I’d be doing the exact same thing whether I had zero readers or one million.

Whether I am at work or I am just out and about, living my life, I try to view everything as a game. This keeps it fun. One of the most frequent questions I get is “What motivates you to write so much?” Simple: the fear of boredom and the love of creating something that wasn’t here before me. The money doesn’t hurt either, what little of it there is.

I have one question for you:

Do you want more readers?

Then “why do you blog?” question isn’t even important for this discussion. If you want more readers, whether it’s for the potential fame, the money, the clicks on your ads, your affiliate sales, or because you can’t stand the thought of looking at your boss for one more day than you absolutely have to, you should guest post. You should spend time writing in other places. I’m not going to give you an absolute ratio, because there isn’t one, but I would personally suggest that the majority of the content you write goes on other sites, not your own.

It’s simple: if you want more traffic, you have to get more eyes on your work. The Internet is a big spastic screaming match where everyone is howling for attention. Your chances of getting found by new readers plummet drastically if you don’t venture out beyond home(page).

My first big guest post was for Problogger when World’s Strongest Librarian was about two months old, I think. I treated it like a game. I made a list of blogs that I had no business appearing on, based on their subject matter and size/authority, and I tried to figure out how to sneak onto them. Just as an experiment. I had no idea what would happen.

Well, what happened was that I got more traffic in the next three or four days than I ever had. A tiny fraction of it stuck. Most of it didn’t. At the time I knew nothing about SEO or the value of a link. It didn’t matter to me that a high ranking blog had just linked to my own.

So after I crossed Problogger off the list I made it onto Copyblogger and Men With Pens.

These produced similar results. Big, ephemeral traffic spikes, big links, a bump in RSS readers, and then back to business as usual, a little stronger than before.

You’ll hear this whole thing talked about in two ways, by two types of bloggers going through what look like very different paths.

People who are chasing “authority” and people who simply chase links.

The authority blog

I’ll use Problogger and Copyblogger as my examples again. These are authority sites based on their age, the amount of content they have, and the amount of links that are pointing to their sites. Regardless of any chirping I hear about “social” blogging or whatever we’re currently calling it, authority, in my opinion, still comes down to links.

Sure, the traffic might largely spread through social sources, but the real horsepower that ultimately results in passive income comes from the amount of links the blogs generate. The more links you have pointing at you, the more likely you are to be found by searchers.

By most metrics, I also have an authority blog (PR5, 60,000+ links according to Google Webmaster Tools, etc). The core of my readership fluctuates slightly and has held relatively steady for the last two years. My search traffic has gone up steadily and now accounts for the majority of my traffic. That’s because of the links. There are different values of links which are beyond the scope of this post, but the most simple guideline I can give is this question:

Could anyone get this link?

Along those lines, if you tweet one of your own posts, that link is not going to be worth as much as a link from a University’s website. How many bloggers could swing that anyways? (My hand is raised, but I am a crafty devil. Just kidding, it was pure luck).

Now back to guest posting

Let’s forget about semantics. Whether you believe you are chasing Authority or you are chasing links, they lead to the same thing: more traffic. More social traffic, more search traffic, just more. Now, whether you know how to do anything with that traffic is another subject, but if you just want more, you have to be seen.

Guest blogging or link chasing, it just comes down to more eyes on your work. Think of it however is most comfortable for you.

I’ve learned most of this stuff in hindsight. Now that I look at my results, I can tell why I have the stats I do. Lots of links and lots of word of mouth. It all started with appearing in other places.

I’d like you to try an experiment so you can gauge this for yourself. Come write a guest post for me. I get free content, you get a link from an authority blog and more eyes on your work. I’m always looking for book reviews. You can contact me here.

Then you can evaluate and see what you think about the guest posting process. This has been the gospel according to some guy who happens to have a blog that works well. Always run your own experiments and question what you hear.

And if you’re a spammer spewing out crap solely for links, I will know it. Then I’ll print your guest post out and jab it with a pointy stick.

But if you’re good, please consider this an open invitation. And if I sound like I think I know everything, keep this in mind: I only do this because it’s fun. When it’s not fun, I’ll do something else.

PS: Once I got going with guest writing, I was having so much fun it got kind of stupid. Here is the guest post I wrote for Copyblogger after a guest posting marathon.

26 thoughts on “Should You Write Guest Posts? I Don’t Know, Should You? (Yes!)

  1. Sustainable PF

    Awesome stuff! We’ve done 3 guest posts now. I have no idea if they have increased longer term readers or not but they were fun to do!

    1. Josh Hanagarne

      Hi Aloysa, sorry I’m late. Thanks for hosting my nonsense. I’m about to head through all of your comments. Please ask anything you like, all of you. If I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ll say so. let’s have a great discussion.

      1. Josh Hanagarne

        Sorry, that was supposed to be it’s own comment, not a reply.

        @Sustainable PF: how did you choose the sites you posted on?

  2. Moneycone

    Thanks for the motivating post! Time to roll up my sleeves and get on with the program! Awesome guest post, guest!

  3. Robert @ The College Investor

    I haven’t written a guest post in a while, and this post encourages me to! I have hosted about 3 in the last month, which has been great!

    1. Josh Hanagarne

      I love having guests. I get a break, I get to meet people worth knowing (usually), and it’s free content.

  4. Khaleef @ KNS Financial

    Good points. I have always read about the benefits of doing a guest post, but I have never made the time to do one. But I am a staff writer for a few sites and I know that it helps to get fresh eyes on your material!

  5. retirebyforty

    I wrote a couple of guest posts so far and they have been good for my site. I’ll definitely do more, maybe set a goal of once a month.

  6. Buck Inspire

    Awesome post! I never did one yet and plan to host a few soon. I need to work on my guest posting strategy. Thanks!

    1. Josh Hanagarne

      Buck, at its most simple, my strategy is simply that something is more than nothing:) Good luck and you’re welcome.

  7. brokeprofessionals

    I have guest posted a few times and have enjoyed getting to meet other bloggers in my niche, etc. I try to write even higher quality articles when I am looking to guest post, and I think that is only natural. However, I think the one time I tried too hard to write for a subniche rather than write as I normally do and I was a little bit exposed by my lack of knowledge about the subniche.

    1. Josh Hanagarne

      It can happen pretty easily. That’s one thing I definitely would advise against. Sneaking onto a bigger blog is great, but if you start reaching beyond what you can speak comfortably about, you could be asking for trouble. I’ve done it and it’s bad news.

  8. Jackie

    I love this: ” I made a list of blogs that I had no business appearing on, based on their subject matter and size/authority, and I tried to figure out how to sneak onto them. Just as an experiment. I had no idea what would happen.” — and you’ve got me inspired

    1. Josh Hanagarne

      Inspire yourself over to my blog! I’d love to give you a guest post and give you some data to track.

  9. Suba @ Wealth Informatics

    Guest posting is at the top of my blog to-do this year. I was thinking if I guest post and my blog is very new, people won’t stick around anyways. This has inspired me to start writing nevertheless.

  10. Deidre

    I enjoyed this post and am even more inspired to go out searching for some more blogs to guest post on. I recently had a guest posting at Everyday Tips & Thoughts, and really enjoyed it. Had a blast responding to comments and had a great time.

    Guest blogging definately makes one feel like they are stretching their comfort zone because its a completely different audience than your own blog (at least it should be, right?).

    I’m headed over to World’s Strongest Librarian to check out some book reviews

    Thanks for the great post Josh!
    Great guest post choice, Aloysa!!

  11. Finanzas Personales

    Great post! Thank you very much…
    I have one question… I’m writting about personal finance in spanish and, since there aren’t as many sites about this topic as in english (really far from it, actually), I’ve been contributing on a couple of sites that are like “article libraries”. I signed up for them, but have always wondered how effective they are.
    Yes, I’ve noticed some traffic being refered from them, but what’s the difference between writting for one of those non-specialized sites and writting for an equivalent of your site, that is devoted to the same topic and targetted on the same kind of audience.
    Thanks a lot!!!

    1. Josh Hanagarne

      @Finanzas I’m just about to head home. I’ll take a crack at answering this later this evening.

  12. Josh Hanagarne

    Okay Finanzas, it’s a great question, and my answer is based on my own experience. I do not see article directories like Ezine Articles, Infobarrel, Buzzle, Article Dashboard, and increasingly, even Hubpages as much more than places for people to get links.

    Again, it just depends on how you look at it. If I’m going to use the term “guest posting,” then that means, for me, writing for sites that have readers. Article directories don’t really have a loyal readership, they’re tools for SEO-minded bloggers and business owners to score links with high Pagerank to move themselves up in the search engines.

    You’re right, they can send traffic. The question to ask yourself is if the traffic is quality, however you want to define that. Is your goal simply to get more readers? Just more raw traffic to tempt advertisers with? Are you selling stuff?

    The links are always worthwhile, but I don’t view posting to an article directory as anything but getting a link, personally. They’re full of too much crap.

    1. Finanzas Personales

      I really appreciate your answer, Josh.
      I’m working on this site and trying to build traffic to generate valuable long term relations with my readers… and yes, I’m looking for quality readers, not only traffic. I sensed that I could make better use of my energy by trying to post on some related blogs rather than on article directories, and make some kind of reciprocity arrangements, so my readers can access information from other sources and not only my work. Now, after reading your post and answer to my question, I’ll focus more on this goal.
      Thank you again for taking the time to give me such a thorough response… and for guiding me in this matter.

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