If you’ve been around SEO for a while, you know that Google doesn’t look at guest posts the same way that it did in 2014. 

You probably also know that in the SEO community, there are a few different opinions on what it takes to find a high-quality guest post placement.

Luckily, here at the HOTH, we’ve seen how content marketing and search engines have changed over the past 12 years for clients and constantly analyze our data.

We’ve worked with thousands of websites and blogs for guest posting placements. We know link building.

You could say that we know what makes for good guest blogging opportunities.

That’s why in this article, we are going to cover 9 important red flags and criteria that we use when finding high-authority sites for high-quality guest posts.

9 Red Flags to Look for when Vetting Guest Posting Sites

You want your backlinks to come from good-looking sites that add value in Google’s eyes. The point is to show Google that you can be trusted and that you deserve to rank higher in Google Search results.

Here are 9 actual red flags and criteria that we look for when vetting a site from a guest blogger.

Eye Test (How does it look?)

Look at the website. You don’t want something that has formatting issues or is not easy to navigate.

Spammy websites, forum sites, dead sites, all of them can often be eliminated with a general eye test.

That being said, keep in mind that the aesthetics of a DA 10 site will be different than the aesthetics of a DA 50 site.

Ultimately, you want an easy-to-navigate website header and well-organized sections on the website according to topic/niche.

Too Many Ads

Nothing is worse than a website littered with ads. It’s a sure sign of a spammy site and doesn’t provide any real value to users or Google’s eyes.

Sites that are hard to navigate due to too many ads are a MAJOR red flag when looking for guest blogging sites.

Here is an example:

Updated Content

How often is the domain posting new content?

If it’s a dead domain that hasn’t posted in over a year, it might not be the best choice for a guest post submission

The more content they post, the more Google will crawl their website.

Irrelevant site categories

If the site you want to guest post on has a variety of site categories about topics that are completely irrelevant to your niche, that’s a red flag. 

That being said, here’s a little secret…

General sites are ok!

If I run an eCommerce business that makes fishing equipment, Google isn’t looking for JUST fishing blogs to link to me. That might actually look a bit unnatural.

Let’s say there is a general online magazine that creates a variety of content for readers. 

If it’s an authoritative website in Google’s eyes, why wouldn’t I want it to link to my business? As long as content is well written and you are using proper anchor text strategies, it will result in a contextually relevant and juicy backlink

Do-follow vs No-follow

When paying for a guest post, you want a followed link to get the most weight out of your backlink.

Check out a few of the articles on the website. Use Moz‘ toolbar extension or any other extension/SEO Tools to check if there is a do-follow link within the article. 

You can also use Ahrefs site explorer.

First, put the URL of the domain into site explorer

ahrefs site explorer example

Next, scroll down and click “linked domains”:

From here, you can select the type of link and see the total number of each type coming from this domain.

This is a great way to make sure that your link will be do-follow.

Additionally, you should confirm that your link will be do-follow with the webmaster when doing outreach.

Sponsored Tags/Sponsored Messages

Some websites have guest posts but with sponsored messages or sponsored tags on the posts.

In 2019, Google introduced the rel=”sponsored” attribute which identifies links that are sponsored content or promotional in nature. Think of it as a type of “no-follow” link

It’s basically telling Google that you’ve paid for the link and that it is promotional content.

There isn’t anything inherently bad about that for SEO purposes, but it doesn’t carry the same weight nor does it look as organic as a genuine guest post.

These sites will often mark all of their sponsored content with a “Sponsored” tag, which makes it easy to find:

image of sponsored content

PBNs

If you’ve been in the Search Engine Optimization world for a while, you are probably familiar with this outdated marketing strategy

You can spot PBN’s because they just look spammy and unnatural which makes it easy to see that they are just churning content for the purpose of getting a link back to their other websites.

Many of these sites have a “Partner” section that is full of spammy links and walls of random text. Out of all of the guest post guidelines we have at the HOTH, this one is the easiest to spot.

Homepage and sidebar links are a HUGE red flag. Oftentimes they will be at the bottom of the page and link to completely irrelevant sites with exact match keywords. It just LOOKS bad.

No Forum-only sites

Forum only sites are websites that allow anyone to create an account to become a contributor.

Let’s be clear, sites that allow you to create an account to see certain content is absolutely fine. It is only a problem if the site allows ANYONE to publish content.

Metrics: DA (Domain Authority) vs. Traffic

When it comes to good guest posts, Google is looking for links from sites that have established authority or organic traffic from Google.

That’s why we offer two types of minimum requirements for our guest post orders:

DA

One of the biggest things that Google is looking for when it comes to your referring domains is the authority of the site.

Here at the HOTH we set a minimum Moz DA (domain authority) requirement of 10.

Why do we use DA from Moz? In short, because it’s such a widely used metric and is standard in the SEO industry when identifying authoritative domains. In fact, Moz actually invented this metric (you can read more about that here).

Other metrics like DR from Ahrefs or TF/CF from Majestic can be helpful in a granular sense, but they don’t matter much to us when it comes to standalone metrics. Ultimately, we see Google is looking for established authority or established organic traffic.

Traffic

Organic traffic is one of the biggest signals that Google likes a website.

Think about it. If Google trusts a site enough to send traffic to it and rank it, then it makes sense that a backlink from that site would look good in Google’s eyes.

We set a minimum requirement of 1000 estimated monthly organic traffic according to SEMRush for all HOTH Guest Post Publisher Traffic orders.

Both?

If you can find a site with established authority and organic traffic, you’re getting the best of both worlds!

A contextual backlink from a site that has a good track record in the eye’s of search engines and currently brings in visitors from Google provides maximum value. 

From thousands of campaigns on our managed service, HOTH X, we found that a mixture of DA and traffic based guest posts is an effective link-building strategy. 

It’s also a great way to ensure a variety of different referring domains to your money pages.

This led us to experiment with stricter criteria…

We recently launched a tier of our guest posting service that guarantees a DA 30 and 5k organic traffic level of the publishing site and the results have been out of this world!

Extra tips:

2 extra tips when you find a good opportunity for a guest post:

Make sure YOUR content is quality

In digital marketing in general, you need to have quality content

Keep in mind that big websites can get dozens, sometimes hundreds of guest blogging requests per week, so you need to make sure you are creating content that will actually add value to their website. Many of these sites have guest blogging guidelines that you need to follow.

If I own a website, why would I want to litter my website with pages that don’t help anyone?

Do lots of outreach (and follow up)

If you found a relevant website that you want a link from, it’s not guaranteed that they will want your post or that they will even RESPOND.

We make sure to follow up ASAP with webmasters we work with if we haven’t heard back from them for a few days.

Check out our complete guide and for more information on how to do quality manual outreach.

Conclusion:

There it is! We’ve shared our process of how we determine if we can work with a site for guest posting. Our team thoroughly checks each site to make sure they meet all of these guidelines.

It’s a lot of effort to vet websites for guest post opportunities and keep up with quality manual outreach at scale.

That’s why we’ve spent so much time building out our vetting and outreach process at the HOTH. Our team is full of experts at vetting websites and manual outreach for guest post placements.

Trust US with your guest posts so that you can know that the sites you get placed on will be quality.

You can sign up for a free HOTH account here.