Does Guest Blogging Work? Part 1: Traffic

I have  a love hate relationship with guest blogging. On one hand, I enjoy sharing with other bloggers’ communities. The flip side is that as a freelance writing blogger I’m supposed to discourage writing for free. It’s kind of a sticky situation because we complain that too many people are advertising on Craigslist for free labor but then we turn around and offer our expertise to other blogs because they’re supposed to be good marketing. So as you can see, we’re a little contradictory.

What I’d like to explore in this series is whether or not guest blogging works. Over the past few years I’ve guest posted on both low and high profile blogs including ProBlogger, Freelance Folder, Successful Blog, the Demand Studios blog and quite a few others. I can tell you they all offered some sort of return on my writing investment. The smaller blogs offered an immediate but very small boost in traffic, while the more high profile blogs continue to send traffic this way.

Regardless of the size of the blog and popularity of the blogger, I noticed a few common results after each guest post.

Week 1: The Curiosity Seekers

During the first week of guest blogging, I get a nice boost in traffic. If it’s a blog like ProBlogger or Freelance Folder the traffic increase can be significant – but not always. I did one guest blog post that only brought it 43 visitors over time and it was a very high traffic blog.

In my experience, most of the traffic coming from the host blog during the week of my guest blog post is noncommittal. Mostly they’re curiosity seekers. They’re clicking the bio link to look at my blog but they’re not necessarily looking to learn more about me or what I do. Maybe one in ten people will subscribe or come back to become an interactive member of this community. This is the reason I make sure to have my best content up the week of a guest post. I want readers coming from the host blog to know that what they see from my guest post is what they’ll get here on my blog. ( Incidentally, I wrote one blog post for ProBlogger that became Twitters top trending topic for that day. I wrote another one that was picked up by Guy Kawasaki and ended up crashing this server.  So the results can be significant.)

Incidentally, when I write for smaller blogs, I don’t see very much traffic in return. I mostly guest blog for smaller blogs because I enjoy sharing and to help the blogger add content and bring in traffic.

Week 2: The Stragglers

The second week after guest posting I see the stragglers. Only a few visitors per day come from the host blog, as opposed to up to a few hundred per day the week before. Like linkbait, the huge surge in traffic due to a guest post is short lived. However, that doesn’t mean it stops living altogether. I still bring in traffic from a guest post at ProBlogger written in 2007, it may be a few visitors per month but it’s still visitors. When added to all the monthly visitors from all my past guest posts, that number isn’t insignificant. Never underestimate the straggler love.

I like to use the stragglers as a good excuse not to get lazy with my blogging. It’s sort like in real life life when company is coming and we put out the good silverware. Straggler traffic is still welcome traffic. If I’m inclined to be a little lazy I’ll remember the stragglers and the ….

Beyond 30 Days: Searchers

When ever I guest post I’ll have stragglers for about three weeks or so. After about a month, I get a few hits a day from search traffic landing on the host’s blog. What sets Searchers apart from Stragglers and Curiosity Seekers is that Searchers aren’t necessarily a part of the host blogger’s loyal community. Instead, they’re looking for information on a particular topic and landed on the host blog via Google or another search engine. These are very valuable visitors in that they’re searching for my topic of expertise – expertise that I shared on another person’s blog. They come to my blog to learn more about the topic. Hopefully they like what they see and subscribe or come back to visit.

Is it worth it?

Now, this isn’t an official case study. I don’t have charts and bells and whistles for you to study. I can tell you that when I guest post on a high profile blog, I continue to receive traffic years later.  This isn’t necessarily the case with the lower profile blogs, however. Usually I get very little return on my investment when guest posting on a lower trafficked blog. (Again, that’s not why I’m doing it for those blogs.)

Is it worth it to guest blog? For me, yes, it’s absolutely worth it. I feel guilty about it because freelance writers are always preaching against writing for for free, but the ROI speaks for itself. I think it’s important to choose the right blogs, though. If you’re looking for exposure, you’re going to want to choose a blog that offers exposure. A blog only receiving 60 visitors a day might not be the best place to start. I’d also recommend finding the blogs and bloggers who are the best fit for you, your community, and your brand. Choosing a blog with a community that doesn’t share your vision isn’t using good judgment.

How about you?

Originally this post was going to be a series of quotes and statistics from other bloggers. However, this post got a little long and I’m still gathering said quotes, so look for this series to continue. We’re also going to be exploring links, ranks and branding. In the mean time, feel free to share your experiences guest blogging. Did they bring you the desired results? Are you still enjoying traffic and recognition as a result of your guest post?



6 responses
  1. Issa Avatar

    Nice insights you’ve got here. I believe if you’re a newbie wanting to build your rep on the web, you’ve better do all means to show your writing skills – which includes guest blogging. Getting featured may take some time, but writing for free can help build your writing portfolio — plus, it’s free advertising.
    .-= Issa´s last blog ..Outsourcing: 3 Keys to Performance Hyper-Drive =-.

  2. Carlos Avatar

    I once did a guest post on Problogger that also got very little traffic and left me shocked. When I got Darren to agree to it I felt like I hit a homerun. I figured I’d see a crazy traffic spike…so it was disappointing when I didn’t.

    Anyway, I think guest posts are incredibly important in acquiring new readers and getting new sites linking to you. That’s why I wrote a guest post about how to use Analytics to target the right blogs to send guest posts to. It’s basically what you’ve done here but a little more scientific by keeping an eye on a few key numbers.

    After all, if the site gets tons of traffic but isn’t a good fit you’ve just wasted your time and your content on a bad match.
    .-= Carlos´s last blog ..Google Analytics for Beginners: Fear of Numbers =-.

  3. Jane Rutherford Avatar

    To be honest I’m not sure how I feel about guest posting. I know that whenever there’s a guest post on one of the blogs I read, I love it. It’s a fresh perspective, new style and all that. But for some reason I can’t seem to find the time to try and guest post myself. maybe it’s because I freelance only part-time and after eight hours at work I can only write so many original pieces… I’m not sure. Though it’s something I would definitely want to try
    .-= Jane Rutherford´s last blog ..New AssociatedContent Policy regarding Non-US writers =-.

  4. Silicon Beach Training Avatar

    Thanks for writing this Deb – really interesting summary.

    As a business we’ve just started guest blogging and are seeing at an alternative to article writing & link-building on sites like EZine.

    I wrote a blog on what I think are the reasons businesses should do it:

    We’re yet to see results but I hope it will be a more worthwhile traffic getting/link building exercise.

    .-= Silicon Beach Training´s last blog ..A PRINCE2 Training iPhone app… =-.

  5. Sandra Lee Avatar

    Excellent and informative post. I appreciate that this isn’t just a regurgitation of other people’s blog tips. I’ve really learned from your personal experience. It seems clear that guest posting on lower traffic blogs does not have a significant payoff, although every little bit helps!

  6. Tomasz Stasiuk Avatar

    That about sums up my experience (although I have not guest posted on a big name site). I still get a nice stream of traffic from my guest posts. Now that I am getting others to write guest posts on my new site, I hope it helps get the word out and gives some traffic to the authors as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.