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Guest Post Vs Sponsored Post: How To Spot The Difference?

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Published by Abhishek Raj

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As your blog grows with more traffic and authority, it also starts gaining lots of attention from competitors, fellow bloggers, freelance writers, and advertisers. If you see your comments section attracting a huge number of comments (even though some spam) and your emails inundating with guest post and sponsorship requests, it’s a good sign that your blog is on the right growth track. Guest bloggers help your blog with fresh content while sponsored posts help you earn some quick money of your efforts. But lately I have noticed that some people try to pitch publishers in a way that they disguise the sponsored post opportunity as a free guest article. How do you identify such a difference? This is what I will share in this post today – how to spot the difference between a pitch for guest article Vs a pitch for sponsored post?

Before we directly jump to the difference, let’s first understand the basics…

What are Guest Articles?

We all need a regular stream of useful articles for our blogs. A blog without fresh content will eventually starve of traffic. And without traffic, it will die. Let alone a part-time blogger like me, even full-time professional bloggers may sometimes run out of ideas regarding what to write. This is where guest bloggers might come to your rescue!

Here is how the content marketing community introduced the concept of guest articles – You let a fellow blogger/freelance writer to contribute his ideas on your blog ‘for free’, and in return you reward his efforts by allowing him to link back to his own blog or website in the author’s byline. This is a win-win for both the parties. The publisher gets fresh and useful content, while the guest author gets referral traffic, recognition and SEO value in lieu of his efforts.

What are Sponsored Articles?

As the name suggests, these are the articles which are sponsored on your blog either directly by a company or by a digital marketing agency on behalf of that company. Let’s understand this with this example:

Suppose you have a popular digital photography blog. Now a popular camera manufacturer like Nikon approaches you directly through email and requests you to publish a review article on their latest camera model. Obviously, Nikon expects a positive review including a backlink to the relevant product page on its website. In return of your efforts in writing and publishing this article, Nikon proposes to pay you $500 through a mutually decided payment method. Now that’s a business deal. This is called a sponsored post.

Similarly, you might also get pitched through advertising/marketing agencies on behalf of companies like Nikon. These days, companies usually outsource their digital marketing campaigns to reputed marketing agencies. They allocate monthly funds to these marketing agencies, who help them boost their digital marketing efforts.

The difference between Guest Post & Sponsored Post:

By now, you must have had a basic idea about guest & sponsored articles. Now, let’s attempt to make this distinction even more clear:

AttributesGuest PostSponsored Post
Fresh content?YesYes
You make money?NoYes
Article Tone?NaturalNatural / Advertorial

Thus, besides providing fresh content to your blog, sponsored posts (if done right) may also turn out to be an attractive source of income! But what if a potential advertiser/marketing agency is pitching you as a guest blogger? What if they want to pursue you to publish an article for free? By doing so, they will not only save money but also get a backlink to a commercial webpage for free! How would you identify? This is what I’ll be discussing today.

How to identify a sponsor pitching you as a guest blogger?

I’ve had many experiences where a potential sponsor has pitched me, just like the way a guest blogger would usually do. Have a look at this email conversation:

Hi Abhishek,

My name is Michael, a freelancer writer & blogger. I have been following your blog since the last 3 months, and I have to say that I’m really impressed by the quality of your content. I was wondering if I could get an opportunity to become a regular contributor on your blog?

Here are a few article suggestions in my mind:

  • 20 tips to boost your email Click Through Rate.
  • 10 ways to market your first e-book

Looking forward to hearing from you!



My response:

Hi Michael, 
Let’s work on article number one.

Some 5 days later…

Michael sends an excellent article. I began reviewing it from top to the bottom, but hey! wait…wait…wait. It seemed something fishy in his author byline: A backlink pointing to a commercial webpage! I visited the link and discovered that it’s an email marketing company. Not cool, really! Michael disguised himself as a guest blogger/freelancer writer & attempted to take this opportunity to build a free backlink to his client’s website.

Small businesses usually spend thousand of dollars on digital marketing campaigns to gain potential new customers & to improve their search engine visibility. Michael might have been working for a digital marketing agency which might have promised some SEO benefits to that email marketing company (for a price – say, 1000 USD). What if I had accepted his free guest article with alacrity? I would have lost a potential sponsored post opportunity and thus leaving behind an opportunity to make money.

Tips to identify sponsored post opportunities:

Here is what you should do to identify hidden sponsored post opportunities in emails disguised as free guest articles:

  • Make a thorough assessment of the outgoing links in the guest article. Any link to a commercial webpage/service is a red flag.
  • Look at the email address of the sender. If the domain name (the part that follows @) is associated with a digital marketing agency, consider it again as a red flag. Otherwise, if it is associated with a blog, or if it’s on Gmail, then it might be a genuine guest post request.

Although it certainly helps one to know the vital points of differences between the two being able to distinguish between a guest post & a sponsored post is a matter of pure experience!

Your Thoughts?

What has been your experience with sponsored posts? Looking forward to your comments below.

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About the author
Abhishek Raj is the founder of Budding Geek. He is an inveterate blogger with a decade of experience in the internet technology & online marketing industry. Abhishek takes pride on being featured in some of the top industry websites like Marketing Land, Social Media Today, LifeHacker & ProBlogger.

2 thoughts on “Guest Post Vs Sponsored Post: How To Spot The Difference?”

  1. Nice post & informative article. This article is well written & difference between guest post & sponsored article.

  2. Nice article, Abhishek. I agree with you that discerning between a sponsored post opportunity & a guest post is a matter of experience.

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