Are Guest Posts on Blogs Just a Big Waste of Time?

Carol Tice

Are Guest Bloggers A Waste Of Time?Don’t you hate it when two people in a field, both of whom you really respect, have opposite opinions? That’s the boat I’m in with guest blogging, which is our theme topic this week.

The first one — Zen Habits’ Leo Babauta — used guest blogging to become a super-successful blogger and print author, and continues to highly recommend the strategy in his A-List Blogger Club. The other one — conversion ninja Derek Halpern of DIYThemes and Social Triggers — tells me it may be a big waste of time.

In any case, Derek told me, guest posting ain’t what it used to be. I tend to agree.

Since the theme of this blog is making money from writing, you’d think I would never want to guest post anywhere for free. But I’ve found it a useful marketing activity that’s brought me writing clients as well as more subscribers for my blog. That said, it doesn’t ordinarily change your life overnight.

I personally recall feeling boggled about the whole idea of guest posting when I started blogging. I watched training videos on Copyblogger’s Jon Morrow’s site Guest Blogging, describing how he would get 300-400 new subscribers off of a single guest post.

I ended up guest posting on some very busy sites in the past year, including Write to Done, Copyblogger and DIYThemes, but I never saw anything like that big of a result. Granted, my site wasn’t ideally set up to capture visitors and turn them into subscribers at first, but even after I worked on that, I’d be lucky to get 100 subscribers off one guest post. Usually, I got less than that.

Given our limited moments here on Earth, is guest posting a waste of precious time?

My take: Guest posting is definitely less productive now than it was a few years back. But it’s still worth it.

As Derek pointed out to me, when Leo started guest posting, nobody guest posted. All the big bloggers were writing every single post themselves. It was utterly novel and fascinating that Leo’s post would suddenly appear on these sites! So it got him a lot of attention — and a lot of new subscribers, every time.

Today, many popular sites publish almost nothing but guest posts. The person who started the site might turn up once a week, or even once a month. So when your guest post appears, it isn’t as intriguing to readers as it was several years ago. If the content’s amazing, some folks might click over and check you out. But it’s much less of an event that you’re guest posting.

Guest posting is more of a long-term marketing approach now, of slowly spreading your name around to new audiences. I think it can still be worth it, but it’s definitely not a magical ticket to instant riches anymore.

Having considered my two experts’ advice and my own personal experience, here is my advice:

  1. Choose your guest-post outlets carefully. It should have an audience that closely matches the one you want, and very large traffic. I found posts I did on sites with under 20,000 subscribers weren’t worth the time.
  2. Try to have multiple guest posts publish at once. This was Derek’s recommendation, and I think it’s a good one. If you have multiple guesters on a single day or even within a few days of each other, it could help create excitement as the posts spread around Twitter and other social-media platforms, and bring more readers to your site.
  3. Write a related post on your site. Knowing that guests will be coming, try to prepare a post that relates to the guesting topic in some way. Maybe it expounds further on the same topic, or it’s a related topic you know those readers will like.
  4. Prepare your site. I can’t say enough about how important it is that your site be inviting and make it easy to subscribe.
  5. Guest post a lot. Even back when Leo started, he relates in his A-List training videos, he guest posted relentlessly. Sometimes he had a guest post every weekday. That frequency also helped get him noticed. In today’s more competitive blogging environment, many guest posts are even more important.
  6. Engage readers on the guest site. Respond to comments, offer encouragement — this is your chance to get this other blog’s readers interested in what you offer.

Do you think guest posting is worth the effort? Leave a comment and let us know.

Coming up on guest blogging week: A guest post about guest posting, naturally! Subscribe and you won’t miss it.

Photo via stock.xchng user raly


  1. Taqiyyah Shakirah Dawud

    Thanks, Carol,

    I’m just getting started guesting and inviting; this was reassuring advice for me.

  2. Tristan

    First off, Carol, I wanted to say that I really appreciate your comment on my blog. I can’t remember if I’ve commented here before, but I have been to your blog here several times and forwarded it to friends interested in freelance writing and blogging. You’re doing an awesome job! (Oh, and you mentioned that you found my blog through one of your readers. Who was it? I’d love to thank him/her!)

    Guest posting has been hugely beneficial for my blog, and is probably the single biggest contributing factor to my blog’s growth (it’s 2 and a half months old now.) I’ve written 14 guest posts in that time, only 1 of which was on what I’ve considered to be a “big” blog (; 50,00+ RSS subscribers). And you know the funny thing? I got VERY little traffic from that blog post. I’ve gotten far more from the blogs that have even a few hundred subscribers.

    You said blogs with under 20,000 subscribers are a waste of time… Every single blog I’ve guest posted on has been under that except for the one I already mentioned! I can’t imagine how having even 1,000 new eyes see you name could be a waste of time.

    I read in a entrepreneurship book once about shooting rabbits while hunting elephants. I forget what the original context was, but it was something along the lines of selling to small clients while still going for the really big accounts, too. I think the same applies to blogging. Go guest post on those blogs that have a couple hundred readers! In my opinion, a much more important metric to look for than subscribers is active commenters. If the blog has 2,000 subscribers but each post only gets 10 comments, that probably won’t do as much for you in terms of traffic and new subscribers as a blog that has 1000 subscribers but 40 comments on every post. That’s been my experience anyway.

    Great post, Carol! I always love reading about guest posting, and I DEFINITELY don’t think it’s a waste of time.

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Tristan —

      I think you bring up a solid point — sometimes you can find a small-subscriber site, but their audience is soooo perfect for you. And you get some meaningful use out of guesting there. For instance, Write to Done is small-ish compared to Copyblogger, but I found WTD’s audience was so aligned with my own that it was almost more productive to guest there.

      And it looks like Justin Lambert recommended you on the previous post about 10 Amazing Women bloggers.

      • Derek

        I second that. You’re better off finding a smaller site that is targeted specifically to your audience than finding a big site that isn’t targeted to your audience.

        • Carol Tice

          Hi Derek!

          You definitely have to experiment a bit…sort of like kissing a lot of frogs to find that prince of a site that really works in getting you subscribers back on yours.

          If I had to rename my theme it might be “talk about Derek week,” since you’re in one of my Entrepreneur blog posts as well. Keep cranking out the brilliance so I have something to riff on…

      • Derek

        I second that. You’re better off finding a smaller site that is targeted specifically to your audience than finding a big site that isn’t targeted to your audience.

  3. Justin P Lambert

    Thanks for broaching this subject as you have, because I’ve been wondering about it a lot.
    I’ve been blogging for a little over six months with mixed and somewhat disappointing results. I’m not burning out by any means, but I realize now how much more I have to learn.
    I stumbled across Jon Morrow’s Guest Blogging early on and agreed wholeheartedly. In short order I got four guest posts lined up on three high-profile blogs (two on MenWithPens, one on Daily Blog Tips and one on Daily Writing Tips).
    Each time, I saw a nice little surge in volume, but almost NO subscribers. I was fairly disappointed, because each of the posts generated significant comments and social sharing (although nothing to write home about) and I made sure to reply to every comment I got on the posts and to hang out for a while before and afterward interacting with the audience, being as helpful as I could.
    I know I could have kept at it more intensely, and perhaps done more to prepare my blog for receiving visitors, but overall I was disappointed by the return on what was a pretty hefty time-investment for me while I was trying to build my baby blog.
    At this point, I’m considering new guest post strategies that may be more effective. (Special thanks to you for this week of killer info, btw…)
    Thanks again!

    • Carol Tice

      Hi Justin —

      Took a quick look at your site, which is generally very intriguing. But it’s pretty cluttered, and your subscription box is…where? Get that puppy right up at the top so people can figure out how to stay connected to you.

      I feel your pain — 900 RTs on my first Copyblogger post and maybe a dozen subscribers. I was like what the *(@&(!(! And it’s because my site wasn’t that welcoming.

      Also, have you tried the custom landing page strategy? I know people who rock with that.

  4. Karen

    This has certainly clarified a few points for me and given me something to think about. It’s interesting when we talk about guest posting ‘for free’. Generally speaking I’m against the idea of writing for free, yet I see guest posting as a marketing activity, and you don’t tend to get paid for marketing your own business! It’s just sometimes hard to differentiate between the two and make sure you’re not selling yourself short by giving away your writing skills for nothing. It’s a dilemma, but thanks for sharing your oopinion and advice in this post.

    • Carol Tice

      It’s definitely a dilemma. I think if I had it to do over I would have spent more time building my site and creating products before guesting so there was more for people to discover when they arrived.

    • Carol Tice

      But you should also know that when the pros do it, it’s not guesting for free — they have a class, a book, a Webinar, a course series set up on their site. I’ve heard about people making $30,000 off their “free” guest post. It’s just that most of us don’t make it a win this way. But that’s what we should be aiming for.

      Again, though, getting a mention and link on a big site will always be better. I have a friend on the Top 10 Blogs for Writers list who monetized several thousand dollars immediately in students for one of her courses after Copyblogger mentioned the Top 10 winners, for instance. I personally still sort of suck at conversion — big area I’m working on! Getting better, but long way to go still.

  5. Laurie Boris

    Thank you, as always, for the great info, Carol. But what about hosting a guest post on your blog? I’ve never done this before, but would love to try. Anything you’d recommend before I accept invitations?

    • Carol Tice

      Yeah…have writer’s guidelines. Mine are on the post “Audition for a guest post on Make a Living Writing — Live!”

      At this point I’m trying to have a guest once a week…on weeks I fail at that I do a mailbag answer. I think as a reader of many other blogs that it’s always refreshing to have another voice come in now and again, so it’s not just me sawing away at my usual topics.

      This may shock you, but I don’t actually know everything … 🙂 And I haven’t done every single kind of freelance writing in the world. I’m not a technical writer, for instance, or a time-management expert. So I like to have guests on who are experts in other areas and can add to the knowledge base I’m building here on the blog.

      And yeah, I got what you meant!

  6. Laurie Boris

    (By that I meant “hosting a guest post on MY blog…” Sorry Pronoun trouble.)

  7. Carol Tice

    Aha… “Pronoun trouble”…! That’s what Daffy Duck says to Bugs Bunny in one of my favorite cartoons, where it’s duck hunting season (or is that rabbit season)? …

  8. Giulietta Nardone

    Hi Carol,

    I’ve only done a few quest posts and interviews – Men with Pens, Logo Design Love and Jenna Avery Coaching. All the sites have a healthy list of subscribers. I got a decent amount of new subscribers from all three as well as a few clients! For me, it worked well. I love to interact with my readers, so I responded to every comment. Am also an essayist and when my essays are published I get new subscribers as well.

    I’m not sure it’s the amount of subscribers you get as the kind of subscribers you attract. My list isn’t what anyone would call “big” but I consistently have a 40 to 50% open rate.

    Writing style has a lot to do with it. If you seem like an open person, people will want to find out more about you even if you’ve left a good comment somewhere, something else I enjoy doing.

    Thanks! Giulietta

    • Carol Tice

      I’m a strategic commenter myself, Giulietta — I do find I get a decent number of people to my site that way. Though I know others think that strategy is not productive. Works for me…wherever there’s CommentLuv, you can find me!

  9. Ollin Morales

    What about a way to spread your brand? Leo mentions this a lot on his blog. I love the idea. This is what the biggest companies out there do.

    There’s a famous story about how the owner of McDonalds asked some business students what they thought his business was. They all laughed and someone said: “Well, that’s easy. You sell burgers. You’re in the burger business.”

    The owner shook his head and said no: “I’m in the real estate business.”

    McDonald’s has some of the best real estate spots in the world. Facebook is imitating this on the world wide web. There’s something to be said about your name being everywhere that makes validates your brand and makes you a place you HAVE to stop by.

    See where I’m going with this Carol? Like I commented in your last post: my theory is that maybe you need to make your blog become this sort of omnipresent force in your niche.

    I guess I’m saying I agree with Leo, even today, I think guest posting helps spread your brand.

    • Carol Tice

      Well, I agree up to a point — there’s also such a thing as overexposure.

      And most of us don’t have the time to be everywhere…so my tips are for how to focus the time you have to maximize your guest posts.

      Great to have you here in my airport lounge of freelance writing, Ollin!

  10. Stephanie Mojica

    Hi Carol and everyone else,

    I really liked this post…there’s so many conflicting opinions on everything blogging and marketing-related, it can indeed be hard to figure out what’s right for YOU.

    But I don’t think guest posts in general are a waste of time. However, they are potential time-wasters if they’re posted for a blog with low popularity, a blog outside of one’s niche market, and if the blog doesn’t permit any outside links to your site(s).

    Good luck to everyone!

    Peace, love, happiness, and of course PROSPERITY,

  11. Ron - Sales Copy Writing

    I recently contacted Daniel Schocho of Daily Blog Tips about guest posting. He showed me a page, which laid out some terms not really suited to my requirements.

    1. Guest posts are allowed only ONCE a week.

    2. No anchor text in the backlink to the site.

    And then again, the backlink that I gain from there is NOT worth it since that’s a PR (n/a).

    I would say it is much profitable to go for article marketing. Though guest posting takes on a rather concentrated and targeted approach, article marketing can also do the same for you.


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