Guest post scams don't necessarily cost you money, but can be detrimental to your blog and your brand. Here's how to weed out fraudulent guest posters.

Guest post scams may be a new idea to you, but once you’ve got a blog on a custom domain with a few decent posts and a high enough DA (domain authority), you’ll start to get the emails.

They sound complementary and enthusiastic about your writing, and they say they want to publish a guest post on your blog. Should you let them?

While it’s always lovely to hear someone say nice things about your blog, there’s a good reason to be picky about who you allow to contribute to your site. That’s not to say that you should never say yes; but you should definitely be on the alert for guest post scams.

What are guest post scams, and does anyone lose money?

There are valid reasons for wanting to contribute a guest post to someone else’s site: guest posting is a longstanding, legitimate way to build reciprocal backlinks to your own site.

It can work out very well for both parties when it’s done right.

However, there are two ways in which a guest post can be manipulated for the writer’s gain, while pulling the wool over the host’s eyes.

It may not be a scam in the true sense of the word, as no money changes hands, but it’s disingenuous, duplicitous and shady as heck. You could be losing out on revenue, but you could also be sustaining damage to your reputation.

Here are the ways you may be conned by an offer of a guest post:

The guest blogger who slips in paid links

If you do this for long enough, you’ll encounter the offer of paid links. I won’t go into the ethics of accepting paid links on your blog, but there’s no right or wrong; it’s all up to you.

However, you have the right to determine where any links on your site go to and whether you will be paid for them or not.

[Read more – can you really make money from a blog?]

If another blogger receives remuneration for a link inserted into a site you pay to host, it’s as though they’re renting out a room in your house – the house you’re paying the mortgage on.

If they’re trying to slip this past you without your knowledge, then that’s dishonest and unethical. Don’t accept it.

How to spot it:

Sussing out whether a guest blogger has inserted a paid link might be difficult, but it’s generally a good idea to question any of the links that aren’t going directly back to their site or social media accounts.

Affiliate links are sometimes easier to spot due to their appearance; with both of them, hover over the link and read where it should go, and then click through and see where the link actually takes you.

The guest blogger who’s an SEO in disguise

The second guest post scam comes in an even more unethical, dishonest package – an email from someone who claims to be a fellow blogger or freelance writer, but who is actually an SEO looking to add your blog to their link farm.

I’ve had my share of emails from people pretending to be white, middle-class American mom bloggers, or young British freelancers. Scratch the surface just a little and it becomes clear that these people aren’t real; in some of my experiences it’s been glaringly obvious that they’re southeast Asian writers.

It’s a sad byproduct of our society’s racial prejudice that means that people who need to make a living feel they must resort to putting on a mask, but still, that doesn’t excuse dishonesty.

So how can you find out if the person on the other end of the email is real?

Three ways to spot a fake blogger or freelancer

1 – Check out their writing

You’ll have the initial email, and often, you’ll be presented with a few examples of their writing on other sites to show their ability and style.

Look for:

  • Template email: link-builders are still sending out template emails in the hundreds (if not more) in the hope that someone will take the bait. They’ll usually quote your site address and one of your blog posts, and tell you how much they love it. They’ll even tell you how they’ll write for you for free, making out as though they’re doing you a favour.
  • Grammar and spelling errors: even native English speakers get things wrong, but they’re usually the same kinds of things. You can often spot where someone’s from based on the mistakes they make!
  • The authority of the sites they’ve written for: if the sites look spammy or low-quality, or look like they’re purely affiliate marketing driven, it should be a red flag.

2 – Do a quick search for them online

Any legit freelancer is going to have their own site as a portfolio, and be visible on some social media platform or other. After all, they want to be found!

Look for:

  • Social media channels: what social media channels are linked to from the blog, and how legitimate do they look? Where is the audience based? I’ve found one supposedly midwestern mom who had no friends or family in her own town or country following her on Instagram, but plenty of young Thai followers.
  • Stock photo or stolen photo used as their profile picture: right-click on the image and click, “search Google for image” if using Chrome. You can also drag-and-drop image search. You’d be amazed at how many people try to get away with using these to hide their identity.
  • Look up the physical address provided: I’ve found out that the addresses provided by agencies have pointed to council houses in Glasgow. Not that you can’t work from home, but how many different agencies can you fit into one Scottish spare room?

3 – Check out their website

People pretending to be an established blogger will naturally have a blog to point you to. Here’s what to look for:

  • Date the posts were published: lots of quickly thrown-up blogs will have their posts published all on the same day. That should be a red flag, or at least make you ask lots of questions.
  • Cultural style incontinuity: – it’s hard to convincingly fake a real knowledge of a culture you haven’t spent a lot of time in. TV and a thesaurus will only get you so far.
  • Comments and community: not every post will have comments these days, but look out for some sign of engagement from readers and other bloggers in that niche.
  • Profile picture and social media, as above.

Not every guest post request you receive is going to be underhanded, of course. Plenty of up-front bloggers with link-building on their minds are going to approach you, and that’s ok, if you think it’ll be mutually beneficial.

Find out more about blogging for artists and creatives here.