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

A question about SEO this week 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 links must be sponsored because you are posting them with the goal of earning a commission.”

My question is, should this strategy also be applied to guest posts?

When I publish my article on someone’s site, should I tell them to use the sponsored link attribute?

I’m running an affiliate site and I know my external link should be taken care of, but for backlinks I don’t know exactly.

I hope you understand my question. We look forward to your reply.”

Hello John ,

Thank you 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 of backlinks.

In short, if you’ve paid for the guest post, the link should have sponsored markup while you’re doing the sponsorship.

But keep in mind that any attribute associated with the link will indicate to Google that it is not a natural link, and if that happens, the link will likely not help you with SEO.

There is controversy about actually passing the ‘nofollow’ value, with some Googlers stating that it’s a suggestion rather than a guarantee.

To be safe, I consider both “nofollow” and “sponsored” to be unhelpful for SEO.

The full answer is to determine if the link will be natural, if it’s in the author bio, or if the person reading it will find value by clicking on it.

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

Here are two examples:

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

But this explanation will not add value to the article. You can give yourself a backlink to help the reader learn more.

2. The same goes for your author’s CV.

If you are a regular contributor and people subscribe to your column, it makes sense to have a backlink to your website so your fans can interact with you.

This also helps build on the concept of “EAT” if your website features where else you publish, honors, and testimonials.

But there is a fine line.

If you pay to post, there must be an advertising disclaimer for the payment being replaced (cash, product to review, etc.).

Google will eventually get better at searching for this.

When Google does that, I’m assuming they’ll try to link the “dofollow” link to your site with the disclaimer, and the link may not count as much (if any) because you’re obviously sponsored or put as author.

So why not just remove the disclaimer?

If the disclaimer or disclosure doesn’t exist, you may have violated the FTC (that’s a good guide they created) and some international guidelines. I’m not a lawyer so I can’t say this definitively but you need to be aware.

I think they have the same restrictions for you in the UK too.

If the blog you’re posting on is part of a PBN (Private Bloggers Network) and a PBN has been set or is known by Google, and you use the same type of guest posting as a link-getting strategy, you may 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 this is not guaranteed, and it can still be tracked.

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

Guest posting backlinks is not a good strategy in and of itself.

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

Then, reach out to the blog owner with a custom-written email—not using a form—and tell them you enjoyed their site with specific callouts to show you their reading.

Finally, mention that their site does not have a solution for AB.

AB is where I come in.

Now you can either provide a link and say it might be useful to their readers or ask them if it’s okay for them to check it out or review it.

By asking for permission first, I got a better response rate because I deal with the blogger in a friendly and more interactive way.

But you have to customize the email and make it about them, not about you.

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

More resources:

Featured Image: KatePilko / Shutterstock

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