I've been ripping on overzealous guest posting quite a bit lately, and using headlines that might imply I'm against the practice altogether. Hopefully what I'm about to say is already clear to those who have read through the entire articles, but in case it's not, I still love guest posting.
The problem is that when you approach guest posting purely for the sake of rank manipulation, your results are going to be mediocre at best, probably temporary, and at worst, they'll actually harm you in the long run. Here's Google's actual definition of link schemes, a definition many SEOs are uncomfortable paying attention to, and very defensive about ignoring:
"Any links intended to manipulate a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme."
I'm not arguing that you should stop writing guest posts. I'm not even arguing that Google ultimately wishes to discount all guest post backlinks. Surely a guest post on the right blog says something positive about the authority and trust you've built on the web. I'm simply arguing that you should ask a simple question before placing any link:
"Would I build this link if Google was going to devalue it tomorrow?"
I'm not advocating paranoia. There are almost certainly links you could build that don't meet that criterion and will still manage to eek past every future Google algorithm. That's not the point.
The point is much more fundamental. If those are the kinds of links you're building, you're setting your sights too low. You're missing out on opportunities to build exposure through other means: brand impressions and referral traffic.
The whole point of SEO is to gain the exposure of a larger and more targeted audience. When you guest post on the right blogs, their blog becomes a platform to get in front of that audience right away.
An obsession with rank manipulation doesn't just encourage spam, it also discourages the use of old-school tactics that can still work wonders.
Comment marketing is still a fantastic way to build relationships and grab referral traffic. The right directories are still great for exposure, and a correctly placed site-wide link can be an incredible source of leads.
Not only that, but these old-school tactics can still be an amazing way to boost SEO value if you use them properly: by directing the traffic to linkable assets in order to attract natural links. (Though it may be wise in some cases to no-follow these old-school links, particularly site-wide links.)
I strongly believe that this is how you should approach guest posts. Use them to hail your site with referral traffic for leads and natural links. Use them to get your brand name in front of a larger audience. Use them to build long term relationships with influencers that will continue to multiply your results for years to come. Use them to propagate through social channels in a way that wouldn't be possible by publishing on your own site. Use them to tell your audience that you've been featured in blogs that signal trustworthiness. Use the associated reputation to boost your conversion rate.
If all you care about is that one link, you're missing out on a serious opportunity.
Image credit: Benson Kua