What is the ROI of guest blogging in marketing?

Updated: Jun 24

To find out, I have analysed 379 guest posts and interviewed 20 authors.

Here is what I have learnt.

This below shows what are the expectations of authors about guest posting within the SEO/ marketing sphere. It’s a reflection of the industry’s perception of what guest posting can do for yourself or your business. They are the reason why guest writing is attractive.

Many authors (61%) are motivated by increasing traffic to their blog and 39% by making money and build their own brand (company/ individual).

50% of them are interested in link building, either for their business or themselves.

Why did I start researching the ROI of guest posting for SEO publications?

Before we reveal the results of this research, let me tell you a short story.

This research is a result of my curiosity and the mistakes I have done when guest blogging. I want to share with you what I have learnt and what 20 global experts experienced.

I have started guest blogging a few years ago with miserable results. I have written for SEMRush.com, Searchengineland.com, Marketingland.com and many other global blogs for a total of more than 30 guest articles.

And my experience was that guest writing is definitely not what I was expecting.

Let me give you an example.

My article from SearchEngineLand.com (the biggest of those websites I wrote for) brought me:

49 visits!

As you can see posting on LinkedIn has almost double the number of visits.

I have asked SEL how many people read my article on SEL. I got the stats for this one article:

Almost 6,000 people read my article with an average time on page of 4 minutes.

And only 49 visits.

The CTR is terrible! I don’t even want to calculate it.

I was inclined to generate referral traffic, and I have realised I should post more often on LinkedIn.

Now let’s look at the indirect results of my efforts.

One company offered me money for links from Searchengineland.com and SemRush.com.

Unfortunately, adding links to a guest post is not allowed, it’s considered spammy. Unless you have a valid good reason, as we will see later in this article.

Another SEO blog, which I have never heard of, saw my article on SEMRush and offered me to guest write for them, imagine that!

“We will share your blog post on our social media accounts”.

So why did I start guest blogging?

As you can probably imagine, I started to question the whole thing.

Is it worth it? Why should I bother? Why are other authors writing so many articles? What motivates them?

Am I missing something?

I was definitely missing something. I just wasn't sure what it was.

I felt the need to understand what makes experts share their knowledge.

That’s why I have interviewed 20 global experts in digital marketing/SEO, asking their thoughts on a variety of aspects around guest posting for large marketing publications.

My objective was to understand what is the ROI.

The publications that I have included in the research were the most notable marketing blogs globally that regularly accept guest contributions:

- Moz.com

- Searchengineland.com

- Marketingland.com

- Hubspot.com

- Ppchero.com

- SEMRush.com

- Searchenginejournal.com

- Wordstream.com

Here is a summary of my findings:

  1. There is almost always a number of surprising outcomes from guest posting.

  2. Guest posting doesn’t have any short-term ROI. It takes a long time, you have to be very good at it.

  3. Don’t start guest posting if your objective is generating referral traffic, it simply doesn’t work this way, except a few exceptions which will be detailed in this article.

  4. Guest posting as a lead generation tool is performing extremely well when compared to alternative methods.

  5. If you want to become better at it, it's highly recommended to create connections with people.

  6. Guest posting is the favourite strategy for personal branding.

  7. Only one author out of 20 uses guest posting as a link building strategy.

  8. 33% of the experts found guest writing to be "not easy". 5.6% found it very difficult. 16.7% found it very easy.

  9. All 20 authors are happy with the outcomes, but more can be done to motivate them.

Experts reported that there is almost always a number of surprising outcomes from guest posting.

I want to focus on why achieved goals don’t match desired outcomes.

In other words, the surprise element.

It’s critical to analyse expectations vs reality of guest writing in order to best assess:

  1. Whether is worth putting the effort in sharing your knowledge with a blog;

  2. How you can pivot your strategies to reach your desired goals;

  3. Which website can best help you achieve the most likely outcomes – yes because not every website was created the same?

And luckily, data is what I have collected to answer all these questions.

I have asked 20 experts a simple question in my survey.

The strong majority of authors at 65% said they have reached some type of goals. 24% of them said “No” and 6% said “not always” and “it’s complicated”.

For the 24% of those who said “No” that doesn’t mean that guest posting didn’t work. They just didn’t reach the goals they set up before publishing.

It’s harder to figure out before you publish what you can get out of it because audience reading your guest posts is reading your articles for different reasons. You have to work harder to figure out what you can get out of guest posting, have a great knowledge of what type of audience you are exposed to and try different guest posts to find out.

It also means some goals were achieved and a lot of unexpected outcomes seems to be the norm.

You might get a job offer when you were just trying to teach the audience a new technique.

In other words, guest posting means that surprises will come your way.

If guest posting is attractive, I wanted to understand why.

88% of the answers said it was about “brand building” and nobody received an opportunity to write a book.

Artem Minaev,