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Some Simple Truths about Guest Blogging (Hint: It’s Exploitation)

5 min read

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Guest blogging should die.
A video about guest blogging pissed me off so much that I had to write this to vent my frustrations.

A few years ago, guess blogging was all the rage.

What is guest blogging?

When you, a blogger, offer to write for another blogger for free on their blog, you’re guest-blogging.

This is the guest blogging process in a nutshell:

Find high-traffic, big-name blogs, pitch a guest post, publish and promote your own website on your byline, get swarms of traffic to your own site, and boom! Suddenly you’re the next best big-time blogger.

The problem is:

Guest blogging used to work until a few years ago, but not so much anymore.

Here’s why guest blogging doesn’t work

First of all, there wasn’t as much content online just a few years ago, as there is now. People used to hunger for good, quality blog posts and articles. But now, there’s an overload of content, so nobody even pays attention if a certain blog post is written by the primary blogger or a guest blogger. And people definitely do not have as much time to go digging through the guest blogger’s website.

Google used to like quality backlinks from reputable sites. So there was that incentive for guest bloggers. But now, people have misused backlinks so much that Google doesn’t even care as much as they used to. They prioritize the quality of the content a LOT more now.

Finally, the world of blogging is much more competitive. If you have quality information to share, I’d rather you do that on your own blog, optimize it for search engines, promote the hell out of it on Pinterest and social, and then try and rank for it on your site, as opposed to sending SEO juice to a competitor’s site.

So, the final verdict?

Do not waste your time pitching guest posts. Many bloggers do not even accept guest posts anymore (I certainly don’t! So, if you’re that person sending me guest blogging pitches every other day, please stop!) And even if they do, rest assured that it’s only going to work in their favor, and definitely not in yours.

Debunking a popular guest blogging myth

Myth: Writing for free for a well-known blog/company will help me land better-paying writing gigs.

A well-known blog or blogger is only worth putting on a resume if they’re also known by the next big potential client who will finally pay you to write. And if that’s the case, then this well-known blogger must have enough money to pay their writer. And if they have money but they’re still letting you write for free, you’re allowing them to exploit you.

Don’t. The system doesn’t change unless you become part of the change.

Instead, write on your own blog. Prepare samples (on your blog or Google Docs or whatever) that will convince a potential client to hire you.

No work is worth doing if it means allowing exploitation. The only time this is acceptable is if you’re writing for a really good magazine or charitable organization that has no funding to pay you with. Volunteer for the right cause, not the wrong people.

No more guest blogging, but freelancing is always an option

The better alternative to guest blogging is freelancing. As in, you can still write on a reputable website or blog, but instead of hoping to drive traffic to your blog and get exposure—which, by the way, doesn’t work anymore—you do it for money.

There’s always the good old pitching, but there are plenty of job boards too where you can find freelance writing opportunities. Problogger job board, Indeed, and LinkedIn are a few places to find writing gigs. There’s also Fiverr and Upwork.

If you have a website/blog and you’re also offering writing services, you can always create a “hire me” page on your site. I know of many bloggers who got hired in that way.

About commissioning blog posts

Of course, freelancing is different from guest blogging, because the idea behind guest blogging used to be free exposure. But since exposure doesn’t work anymore, all guest blogging is exploitation now. I mean, think about it. You’re writing amazing posts for free! For another blog! What for???

Makes zero sense to me!

I’ve published a couple of commissioned pieces on this blog. The article on how to start writing on Medium, for example, was written by Zulie Rane—one of the top writers on Medium. Do you think she wrote that for free?

Hell no!

I commissioned it!

I used to be a freelancer, so I know how frustrating free work can be. I don’t outsource work often, but the couple of times that I’ve commissioned articles, I did my best to be fair to the writers, to myself, and to my readers:

  • I never commission “ghost” writers. All articles are published under the actual writers’ names. If the author’s name is “Maliha,” you bet that I wrote that! Nobody else did!
  • If Zulie or Ming (they are the only two writers, aside from myself, who have written for The Side Blogger so far) wrote the articles, you’ll see their names at the top of the page, as well as on the author bio section that’s under every blog post on this site.
  • The writers can link to their site/social in their bio because it’s only fair.
  • I pay, and I’m not a cheapskate. I’m aware of the current market prices for writers. While payment varies depending on a writer’s qualifications and experience, I’ve always made sure that my writers are happy with their payment.
  • I’ve only commissioned work when I know that someone else has more authority in a certain field than I do. And that’s because I want my readers to get the best from my blog. For example, Zulie wrote the Medium article because she happens to know more about how that platform works than I do. Ming is currently working on an article on Substack because he knows more about Substack than I do.

Why am I writing this post?

Well, you see, recently I came across a video by an affluent blogger who was talking about getting people to write for your blog for free like it was no big deal.

Like, why?

It pissed me off!

I used to be a freelancer so I know, from experience, how much it hurts when people try to exploit and rip off poor freelancers. I mean, you could say that hey, these people are offering their services for free, so why not use it? They should know better! Nobody forced them!

But you see, that’s the wrong way of thinking. That’s exploitation. If you know that something is wrong, then you shouldn’t be associated with it, regardless of what the other party is thinking or doing.

If you have the money to pay (which this particular blogger definitely does; he’s a millionaire!) then, fucking PAY!

Some ways to make money as a writer (aside from writing and publishing books)

I’d say, start your own blog. Like I did. Like this blog. Then make money with affiliate marketing, by selling your own info products and online courses, by offering coaching and consultations, etc.

I, for example, make money from this blog in the following ways:

But if you’re a writer and looking for paid work, here are some options that you can try:

  • Freelance for those who’ll pay you. Indie bloggers are often not rich enough to pay hundreds of dollars to writers for a single post. Definitely not often. I only commissioned Ming and Zulie a handful of times myself. So, try the job boards instead or pitch companies or institutions with funding for writers.
  • There are plenty of publications that pay writers. HuffPost, Longreads, Popsugar, Self Magazine, Narrative Magazine, Bitch Magazine, and many others. Yes, you have to be really good to publish on those platforms, but hey! They pay the good money for the good stuff, so it’s only fair!
  • You can write on platforms like Medium, Newsbreak, Vocal Media, etc. Or, start your newsletter business on Substack or Ghost.

That’s all.

Apologies for rambling, but just had to get it out of my system. Writers are often underpaid, so if you’re one, be smart about where you put your efforts in. And if you’re hiring writers, please be fair. Do not exploit other people’s time and sweat.


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Maliha created The Side Blogger as an experiment to see if turning a blog into a profitable business was a possibility for moonlighting side bloggers. Turned out, it is! Learn more about Maliha and TSB here. If you've found this blog helpful, you can support TSB here.
8 thoughts on “Some Simple Truths about Guest Blogging (Hint: It’s Exploitation)”
  1. This is a topic I have been researching and thinking a LOT about lately. Everyone seems to have a differing opinion. I think its pretty clear that guest blogging doesn’t work the same way it used too. For now, I am still guest blogging and here is why:

    1. Even if it doesn’t drive a lot of traffic, the opportunity to be reached from a new audience IS still there. Neil Patel and other big names write for websites besides their own. Plus, when you are able to have an “as seen in” section on your website, I think it adds social cred.

    2. Google supposedly marks guest post links as “NOFOLLOW” however, when I analyze my guest post backlinks on Ubersuggest, they are still DO follow! So I guess the algorithm missed them! They actually have helped my DA score.

    3. When using the Yoast SEO plugin, it likes it when you have outbound links to other related and relevant content. If I can place and outbound link to another website that is still MY content, that’s a win for me. ha!

    It is hard to write good content and then give it away, that’s for sure. But I’m going to try to do one or two guest posts a month this year and just see what happens!

    1. Hi Rachel, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      In my opinion, the negatives of this practice and the exploitative nature that arise from this, outweigh any positives by far and large. Domain authority will also improve if you add quality content to your site more often. And, at the end of the day, people don’t come to your business because of your domain authority, but because they like you and your content. If you’re worried about ranking, some of my pages were ranking on Google’s first page within the first 4-6 months of launching this blog, with no DA to speak of. Not boasting, but simply trying to demonstrate the misconceptions around backlinks and DA and guest posting in general.

      1. Right, I totally understand. I also have pages ranking and my da is very very low at this point.

        It’s just a personal thing!

        1. Of course, Rachel! I’m really glad that you shared your personal experience with guest blogging. It gave me a lot to think about. And I think the readers will appreciate a different perspective on guest blogging than just my own. Thank you so much for sharing. In fact, I’m so moved that I want to work with you on a project 🙂 I’m sure you’re busy, but if you have some time, feel free to shoot me an email, and I’ll be happy to fill you in on it, and maybe we can work together in something for The Side Blogger 🙂

  2. Great Post Mahila, thank you so much. I’ve been silently following your canva templates but unable to use it on Esty as Esty is not available in my country.

    Also, I remember a blogger asking me to pay a whooping sum of £75 to guest post on her blog for exposure. I’m like why?
    I will do all the research, sleepless night to get the post well written and still pay for exposure when I can just do it on my blog and promote it everywhere.
    I declined, wrote the post on my blog. Now lot of people love the post.
    Also, thanks for this. I will remember to remove “Guest post” and put “hire me” instead. Never seen the use of guest posting anyway.

    1. Yeah, some people are just shameless! You’re better off spending your energy growing your blog with Pinterest, social, and SEO.

  3. Hi Maliha, This is the 2nd time I’ve read about guest blogging not working much anymore. Very interesting as I still get pitches every day for these. Funny I have a great article I was going to pitch to someone but now after reading this I think I’ll keep it for my own blog site. Thanks for the info on this one!

    1. Thanks, Lisa. That’s my opinion, anyway. If there’s no real benefit to you, then why help someone else benefit from your efforts? You can always see if someone will publish it for fair compensation, but yeah, if you’re not getting paid, then I believe it’s better to publish on your own blog.

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