One of the ways that budding freelancers can build a name for themselves, get traffic for their websites and build their portfolio is by guest posting or having others guest post for you. Marketers and the Big Kahuna blogs such as Copyblogger even offer courses on how to properly pitch guest posts to other bloggers.
With every good idea or popular practice comes a scam. The newest one involves guest post scams.
Within the past week, I’ve received two “pitches” from people offering guest posts for my personal blog. One of them was outright spam, which I deleted. It promised to write a post on how to buy Instagram likes. I deleted it because, one, I firmly believe that if you have to “buy” likes in social media, you’re doing it wrong. Second, I don’t use Instagram enough to care about who likes me or not.
Just this morning, I received another pitch. It was from a young lady offering to write guest posts on financial topics. While my personal blog leans more towards humor and creative non-fiction, I do write the occasional article on financial issues. The person doing this pitch included a link to a website. More on that website later.
The e-mail this person sent me reads like this:
Your site is great! I would like to see whether you’d be open for guest contributions. I am looking to write about something related to finance and thought that the topics I had in mind may go well with your blog.
I was thinking about the following subjects
1.Tips for your savings to grow
2.Ways on budgeting in an effective way
What do you think about these? If you’re interested, I am happy to get something written up and sent over to you – or if you have another topic you’d like to see covered, I am more than happy to create a custom article of your choice.
This e-mail raised two initial red flags for me. The first one was the query itself. After having had query letters critiqued and having sat through webinars, podcasts, read books on and have had drilled into my head the importance of writing a proper and effective query letter, the scant info on who this person is and what kind of authority they have on this subject was a warning sign that this was a guest post scam.
The second red flag was that, while my personal blog does get traffic, it doesn’t get enough traffic to where it would give a burgeoning writer enough exposure to get them more traffic. That is the entire point of pitching guest posts.
Remember that link I mentioned earlier? It was for a website called Guest Post U. So I exercised my powers of ESBSP (Extra-sensory B.S. Perception), and visited this link.
Guest Post U bills itself as a “premium guest posting service”. You pay them money and they provide guest posts to you. Seems simple enough, right? The sight looked professional, with people who supposedly founded and also run this company. But when I went to their examples page…
It was blank.
So this person doing a pitch includes a link to a site that wants me to pay to have someone guest post on my blog, but yet they provide no examples?
This was Red Flag #3.
Then I visited this site’s “blog” which consisted of dummy text that web designers use to make sure their page layouts and blog themes are working properly.
This was Red Flag #4
Then I exercised my Google-fu and did a search on this so-called company. It turns out, this unsolicited e-mail is part of a guest post scam. The Alpha Parent, a parenting blog, came up number one in the search result, so I read the post. This blogger shared her story of what happened after she actually replied to these e-mails. In a nutshell, she accepted the offer, received a post and noticed that the post contained a link that looked suspicious. When she posted the post without the link, the “scammer” kept writing her back to request that she put that link back into the post.
This was Red Flag #5
I did some more Googling and looked at a few other blog posts to find that this is a scam that takes advantage of bloggers in order to spam blogs with backlinks to sites that can harm your own page rank. The best explanation of this comes from the Dividend Ninja, who was also contacted by one of these scammers. According to his blog post on these guest posting scams, it works like this:
Basically, if I were to accept this guest post offer and put the post on my blog, my page would be punished by Google as being spammy.
Thanks, but no thanks.
How to Avoid This Scam
First of all, don’t reply. Just delete the e-mail.
If you are not a big, well-known blogger and you’re receiving these unsolicited e-mails, ignore them. Only accept guest post offers from other bloggers you know. I know how flattering it feels when someone notices you, especially if you’re a small fish in a big pond. However, that’s part of the scam.
Then spread the word to help others avoid falling for this scam.
How to Pitch a Guest Post and Not Be Mistaken as a Scammer
If you want to pitch a guest post to another blogger, follow these tips.
1. Treat guest posting pitches the same as you would query a magazine editor. This gives you credibility. Include a link to your own blog and list your credentials. Tell the blog owner why you are qualified to write on the topic that you are proposing.
2. Read the blog where you wish to offer a guest post. See if your idea will fit within their blog and blog niche. It also shows the blog owner that you are serious about your query.
3. Don’t send out a cookie-cutter pitch. One thing that these scammers have in common is that their pitch e-mails look like they copied and pasted the text from a template. Make your pitch specific. Show the blog owner that, for one, you actually read their blog. Better yet, before you even consider pitching a guest post to another blog, become an active member of the blogger’s audience and let them get to know you that way.
4. Pitch a specific idea. Don’t just say “I want to write about this generic topic on your blog.” Show the blogger how your proposed post will benefit their readers. The blog owner is looking for this.
5. Don’t forget to state your qualifications. One of the red flags in my scam/pitch letter was that the person pitching to me did not tell me why she was qualified to write on her proposed topic. If you’re a professional in an industry, state that in your query. If you have a lot of expertise in an area, put that in your query, too. Tell the blog owner what makes you an expert on a particular subject.
If something seems suspicious to you, listen to what your instinct is saying. If you are unsure, then Google can be your friend. It is always better to be safe than sorry. Your blog is a very important part of your writing career, whether you are a freelancer or not.
Don’t let a scammer ruin your blog.