Guest blogging practice refers to finding other relevant blogs in your niche and offering them quality content to post. The webmaster gets high quality, original content to grow their blog and readership. In return guest bloggers get exposure to their audience to build their brand, backlinks and a good chance to build a relationship with a publisher having authority in same niche. In an ideal world, it’s a win-win that benefits readers, authors, and the niche community.
Unfortunately, in real word things are a little bit different and this opportunity is highly abused by customers with the solely purpose to improve their rankings and bloggers to fill their pockets by placing links disguised as guest posts. When there is someone in the middle, the story gets even more complicated than that.
After reading Gawker’s post on shady marketing firms that are bribing bloggers in exchange of placing paid backlinks in their articles I’ve started my own research on several link building companies.This story was featured by Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts tweeting a link to a Gawker story. Also Matt confirms Google is aware of this matter and is taking measures to stop it.
image source – screenshot of guestpostshop.com
1 GuestPostShop Practices
I got several complains from bloggers about being annoyed by a guest posting company that’s trying to market their services so I made a little digging to clarify: Is GuestPost shop is for real and follows Google policy on guest posting just like they claim on FAQ page or not ?“Google’s recently updated guidelines for guest posting are the standard on which we base our practices. When choosing to work with The GuestPostShop, you can be sure you are engaging in strictly white hat digital marketing strategies. We have never used word spinners, bought links massively, partaken in link schemes, or used any other resource that any search engine might frown upon” source – guestpoststop.com FAQ “The backlinks we provide are strictly natural and editorially verified. We do not aim to manipulate the Page Rank algorithm by engaging in link schemes or other practices that search engines frown upon” source – guestpostshop.com FAQ
Here are Google’s Webmaster Guidelines regarding link schemes:
The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:
- Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
- Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
- Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
2) Who is running Guest Post Shop ?!
If you don’t know what guest posting is then probably you live under a rock or your blog’s contact form is turned off. You may want to check on that. After latest Google’s updates seo companies and webmasters are sending dozens of emails to blogs offering free content in exchange for dofollow backlinks.
The head of operations seems to be someone called Paul Estcott Don’t rush to visit meet the team page to see his picture. There’s no one for Paul, only a shadow. But you may see all his guest posting work on Linkedin profile
Checking pieces of content from their main domain I discovered 10 more sites used by this same company to advertise guest posting selling services having same content and design:
Running a whois check for GuestPostingShop domains shows that all associated domains are owned by Ken Courtright from TodaysGrowthConsultant.com (Todays Growth Consultant is an Ink 5000 company active in Advertising and Marketing industry).
3 Backlinks investigation
Eager to find out how this guys are doing such a good job as they claim I went further and checked the backlinks profile of Guest Post Shop. Fortunately, using tools like OpenSiteExplorer or Ahrefs I can have a complete backlinks report in under a minute. In brackets there is the keyword used to link guestpostshop website)
- http://www.newsclerks.com/how-to-take-your-internet-marketing-strategy-a-step-further/856/ (guest blogging)
- http://www.madtomatoe.com/3-waterproof-sony-smartphones-for-outdoorsy-people/ (guest post services)
- http://www.timsminions.com/2020/social-seo-strategies/ (blog posting)
- http://www.reviewsontech.com/seo-blogging/content-that-will-attract-more-readers.html (guestpostshop.com)
- http://thetechpanda.com/market-upcoming-smart-phone-app (guest posting services)
- http://www.netmediablog.com/5-serp-promotion-strategies-google-resist (guestpostshop.com)
- http://letsbuildwebsites.com/10-backlinking-strategies/ (guestpostshop.com)
- http://www.splashnology.com/article/how-responsive-design-benefit-business/10005/ (guest post service)
- http://www.splashnology.com/article/about-flat-webdesign/9906/ (guest post service)
- http://emergingworld.org/five-reasons-why-you-should-make-your-guest-post-matter/ (guest post service)
- http://www.sociableblog.com/2013/06/17/alternative-types-of-content-that-will-increase-organic-traffic/ (guest blogging)
- http://lerablog.org/internet/successful-link-building-tips-for-bloggers/ (click here for more information)
- http://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/20-easy-and-amazingly-tasty-dessert-recipes.html (guest posting services)
- http://akhilendra.com/surefire-ways-optimize-content-marketing-strategy/ (guestpostshop.com)
- http://www.beinggeeks.com/2013/09/essential-strategies-local-businesses-include-online-campaign.html (GuestPostShop)
- http://wanentrepreneur.com/2013/08/five-social-media-dashboards-that-will-simplify-your-social-media-efforts/ (guest posting)
- http://mirolta.com/2013/08/17/a-few-things-you-should-know-about-facebook-hashtags/ (Guest Post Shop Blog)
Picture above points to a link leading to the GuestPostShop website. This is a straight link, not blocked with nofollow. It only appears in this post because the post is part of a sponsored campaign by GuestPostShop. Therefore, both the author and Guest Post Shop itself are in violation of Google’s guidelines and risk being banned by Google. Checking all other backlinks found almost the same pattern dofollow link on a keyword pointing to guestpostshop website.
All the campaigns ran by GuestPOst Shop are odd in two major ways. First, it violates Google’s guidelines against paid links and secondly it is against of what the head of Google’s web spam team, Matt Cutts, has been quite vocal: Sponsored posts shouldn’t be a way for people to gain links for payment, that any links in such posts should use the nofollow attribute to prevent them from passing page rank link credit to Google’s ranking algorithm.
4 Guest Post Shop Customers
Using the method described above I discovered other accounts of this company created with a single purpose : to post content on blogs for customers:
Amused to read that Paul GRobberts/Estcott/Scott/Vichi/ is such an expert and covers so many diverse topics like guest post, seo, banks, insurance, pest control and hmm.. dildos – http://emergingworld.org/the-us-adult-entertainment-industry-thrived-in-2012/ (check the second linked keyword in this article) I continue my research:
Here is a list of several customers of Guest Post Shop:
DigitalNetAgency – http://digitalnetagency.com
BankWest.com.au – http://www.bankwest.com.au
HelpMeChoose – http://www.helpmechoose.com.au
BluAccesories.com – http://bluaccessories.com/
Time Warner Cable Offers – http://www.timewarnercableoffers.com/
Regus – http://www.regus.com.au
InfraRed – infraredheatstore.com
1 DigitalNetAgency GuestPosting Backlinks
image source – digitalnetagency.com screenshot
- http://www.newmediasocial.com/profiles/blogs/how-to-submit-a-successful-guest-post (best seo agency)
- http://webylife.com/design/why-you-should-visually-explore-the-world-wide-web/ (several agencies in NY)
- http://smashmaterials.com/2013/10-interesting-custom-login-plugins-for-wordpress/ (digital agency in NYC)
- http://fromtimes.com/three-apps-every-small-business-should-use.html (top digital marketing agencies)
- http://theapptimes.com/mind-mapping-apps-simplify-life/ (digital marketing agencies)
- http://www.sparkwiz.com/internet/blogging/unsuccessful-blogs-and-failure-prevention/ (digital marketing agencies)
- http://tweakyourbiz.com/technology/2013/05/01/five-things-a-sem-company-should-never-forget-to-do/ (ppc management)
- http://onlinebz.com/reasons-adopt-google-authorship/ (digitalnetagency.com)
- http://www.bakenstein.com/why-you-should-visually-explore-the-world-wide-web.html (top digital agencies)
- http://www.newsclerks.com/australia-life-insurance-out-pay-day-loans-in/960/ (personal loans)
- http://www.newsclerks.com/to-trade-or-not-to-trade-chinas-effects-on-the-australian-market/956/ (BankWest)
- http://emergingworld.org/aussies-need-more-financial-literacy-to-survive-the-future/ (BankWest)
3 TimeWarner Cable Offers
- http://www.newsclerks.com/the-five-most-beautiful-vintage-film-actresses/848/ (Time Warner Cable offers)
- http://latest-news-today.com/robert-pattinson-diors-image-james-deans-best-friend-and-a-new-mad-max/ (Time Warner Cable)
- http://keychorale.biz/the-magic-of-eddie-murphy-oscars-versus-razzies/ (Time Warner Cable)
- http://www.business2community.com/tech-gadgets/top-5-devices-for-streaming-cable-television-0364587#!rrBre (Time Warner Cable offers)
- http://businessgross.com/2013/05/01/more-private-patients-in-australias-public-hospitals/ (health insurance)
- https://www.easyfinance.com/community/the-health-disaster-that-didnt-happen/ (comparison of health insurance policies)
- http://www.foxserv.net/will-cost-and-profitability-issues-affect-australias-health-insurance-industry/ (compare health insurance)
- http://globalgoodgroup.com/blog/2012/02/07/can-health-insurance-save-you-money/ (health insurance comparison)
- http://www.newsclerks.com/australias-public-health-system-needs-private-insurance-support/852/ (best health insurance)
- http://www.knowzzle.com/2012/12/australias-private-insurers-come-under-expert-scrutiny/ (direct link)
It is obvious that all this articles have been posted with a single purpose in mind: to disguise keyword reach backlinks pointing to customer’s website and manipulate search engine rankings.
Note: Being on a tight schedule forced me to list only several backlinks for each customer and even not all customers. Anyone looking to contribute may continue and uncover all paid backlinks.
5 Guest Post Bribery Shop
With several complete backlinks profiles saved on my desktop I start sending emails to bloggers that published guests posts from GuestPostShop in the past. Curios if this bloggers have any content quality standards and eager to find out if they are following Google’s policy and recommendations on accepting guest posting I sent the following message:“Hello, My name is Tim and I would like to publish on your blog one article related to SEO which contains one advertising backlink pointing to the SEO agency I’m working for. We create quality content and we get published often on popular seo magazines. I’ve read the writing guidelines on the blog and we will have it 100% compliant. Please let us know if you still accept guest posting articles and if there is a fee associated with successful submission. Thank you for your time, Tim”
Here are several responses from the bloggers I’ve contacted and asked them to publish our article: There are over 15 emails I received in a matter of 24 hours but I list here only five. The other offers I received are pretty much the same. Besides paid offers I also received offers from webmasters that asked me for more details or samples. Some webmasters said will publish free of charge if the article is passing writing guidelines and standards which are pretty good news.
YourFamilyFinances.com has one of the clear and straightforward offer explaining everything in detail how much a guest post article splashed in their network costs. For a fee almost equal with the price of posting the article they may also write it for you. Is like a Page Rank shop. Choose how high you want to jump, leave the money on the table and you have a fresh PR5 or PR4 backlink pointing to your customer’s site.
Article Posted by GPS – http://yourfamilyfinances.com/2012/08/28/australians-afford-health-insurance/
Adeline from TheAppTimes.com says is happy to publish our guest post but asks for $50 in return.
- http://theapptimes.com/mind-mapping-apps-simplify-life/ (digitalnetagency))
Waqas Jaffar from smashingmagazine.com is happy to publsh our guest post but in closing he still mention the fee for each article is $25.
Tom Berry from http://madtomatoe.com is happy with only $23 to publish our guest posting article. Is this tomato mad ?!
Anne Crane, the working mommy from http://mommyhastowork.com is asking for $50 to publish our guest posting article
- http://mommyhastowork.com/2013/01/autism-rising-community-impact/ (family health insurance KW for customer HelpmeChoose)
Suspicious that most of the backlinks posted by Guest Post Shop have been splashed by bribing the bloggers I continued my investigation and played a little game. Replied to some emails that most of the bloggers I get in contact are publishing my content free of charge so they should do it as well as that’s the purpose of guest blogging – to invite someone to share their knowledge with your readers. I was pretty shocked to receive several minutes later an email with several screenshots taken from his paypal account:“Hello Tim, Attached you will find all the payments I received for posting articles on my blogs. Users are paying because my websites are well positioned in Google and I publish very fast”
One payment that immediately caught my eye is from Mbiz Inc – former company of Guestpostshop.com. Other payments are intentionally blurred to mask the identity of buyers. There are other 4 screenshots with payments whith payments still going on these days as well.
GuestPost shop is breaking multiple Google rules and also put their own customers at risk of being penalized by running guest posting campaigns bribing bloggers to publish their content.
It seems to be an all win relation between Guest Post Shop, Customers and Bloggers as on short term everyone is gaining something :
- Customers are getting top search engine rankings for still a fraction of the price they would normally spend on producing quality content or ordering advertising
- Bloggers get fresh content and bribes without lifting a finger; Oh well actually they are lifting a finger just to press Publish button
- GuestPostShop makes a nice chunk of money being the middle man between customers and bloggers (see here pricing table)
Honest webmasters and bloggers are loosing here spending time and money to produce quality content or purchase advertising to get traffic on their sites.
Wondering what’s the opinion of customers purchasing guest posts and risking the websites running such seo campaigns I’ve received several messages. Somebody from DigitalNetAgency was wager to explain me they are not doing anything illegal and there was a misunderstanding of their company involvement in GuestPostShop bribing scandal. Mark from Regus.com.au emailed me back with an offer on office chairs: ”Dear Tim, Thanks for asking about office space.
One of the team will call you shortly to talk through your needs in more detail.
Curios what is Ken company’s (Todays Growth Consultant) involvement he replied that they are not yet purchased the Guest Post Shop company but are looking into this opportunity. Whois information show different. After that email communication stopped and never got any reply to my email regarding such practices. I suppose they don’t want to publicly address their involvement in such shameless but very profitable business.
There is still plenty of guest blogging going on out there in which no money changes hands and quality content is published. Regardless of your intentions, it’s probably a good idea to just stick the links to nofollow if you want to avoid getting penalized by Google.Guest Post is about sharing quality information and reaching new audiences and not for manipulating search engine rankings.
7 Google is aware of the investigation
Update Jan 20:
Today, Matt Cutts announces that using guest posting for gathering backlinks and manipulate search engine rankings is forbidden by Google and any spotted activities will be penalized.
We sent all our documents of investigation to Google WebSpam team and Matt confirms he is aware of the investigation. Check this post for details
If you spot sites participating in paid link schemes intended to manipulate Google’s search ranking positions you may report them from your Google Webmster Tool
We received a tip from one of our readers that Guest PostShop deleted several of their backlinks trying to cover tracks. Is a shame they ignore our emails but they are still playing a wicked game.
- Guest Post Shop Tries to Cover Their Tracks
- High PR Blog Network Used by Guest Post Shop Discovered
- Matt Cutts is aware of our investigations
- GuestPostShop Customers Are Penalized by Google
What is your opinion regarding paid guest posting ? Have you ever been bribed to post advertorials on your blog or you know seo agencies doing such practice ? Post a comment now and make web a better place.
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