Should guest post links be marked as sponsored? Ask an SEO


This week’s Ask an SEO question comes from John in London, England, who asks:

“I came here from your post. Should you use Nofollow, sponsored or UGC links?

In the “Affiliate Links” paragraph, you write: “These must be sponsored, as you are posting them for the purpose of earning a commission”.

My question is, should this strategy also be implemented for guest posts?

When I go to publish my article on someone’s site, do I have to tell them to use a sponsored link attribute?

I run an affiliate site and I know that my outgoing link must be sponsored but for backlinks I don’t know exactly.

I hope you understand my question. Waiting for your reply.”

Hi John,

Thanks for writing a follow up to my post and for the great question.

Before I give you an answer, the editor asked me to share this post about Google’s warning with guest posting for backlinks.

In short, if you paid for the guest post, the link must have sponsored markup because you are sponsoring.

But keep in mind that any attribute attached to the link will tell Google that it’s not a natural link, and if it is, the link probably won’t help you with SEO.

There is some debate over the pass-through value of nofollow, as some Googlers have stated that it is a suggestion and not a guarantee.

To be sure, I consider “nofollow” and “sponsored” not beneficial for SEO.

The full answer is whether the link would be natural, is in an author’s biography, or if the person reading it will find value by clicking on it.

If you are a cited expert on a topic and the website has written you as an expert, and you link to a page on your website that provides a value-added explanation of a concept, it is probably makes sense to have a follow link.

Here are two examples:

1. You are talking about a topic that has a formula or needs an in-depth explanation.

But this explanation will add nothing to the article. You can give yourself a backlink to help the reader learn more.

2. The same goes for your author biography.

If you are a regular contributor and people subscribe to your topic, it would make sense to have a link back to your website so your fans can interact with you.

It also helps leverage the concept of “EAT” if your website features other places you’re published, accolades, and certifications.

But there is a fine line.

If you paid to post, there must be an advertising disclaimer stating that payment (cash, product to review, etc.) has been redeemed.

Google will eventually improve its search.

When Google does that, I’m guessing they’ll try to associate the “dofollow” link to your site with the disclaimer, and the link may not count as much (if any) since it’s clearly sponsored or placed by you as the author.

So why not just remove the disclaimer?

If the disclaimer or disclosure is not there, you may be violating the FTC (here’s a good guide they created) and some international guidelines. I’m not a lawyer, so I can’t say this definitively, but you should be aware.

I believe they also have the same restrictions for you in the UK.

If the blog you are posting to is part of a PBN (private blogger network) and the PBN has been charted or is known to Google, and you are using this same type of guest posting as a links, you could be penalized.

Many people who use guest posting for backlinks try to hide their backlinks or make them look natural by linking to competitors and other trusted resources, but it’s not foolproof and it can still be monitoring.

You are in a very gray area. If you want to be safe, ask for sponsored or nofollow markup and only post to sites where you will attract a relevant audience to your own website.

Guest posting for backlinks is not a good strategy on its own.

A good strategy is to create great content that solves a problem or provides an easier way to understand the topic.

Then contact the blog owner with a personalized email — don’t use a template — and let them know you enjoyed their site with specific captions to show you’ve read it.

Finally, mention that their site doesn’t have a solution for AB.

AB is where you enter.

You can now either provide a link and say it might be beneficial for their readers, or ask if it’s okay for them to review it or for feedback.

By asking permission first, I got a better response rate because I approach the blogger in a friendly and more engaging way.

But you need to personalize the email and make it about them, not you.

Hope this helps, and good question! This topic comes up a lot.

More resources:

Featured Image: KatePilko/Shutterstock


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