This post contains affiliate links.
There is a rapidly growing trend in the blogging industry that seems to have started several months ago and is gaining at a shocking momentum. This is the trend of "guest blog advertising". You will receive emails from people who represent companies who will provide high quality articles which will help your site gain Google traffic in exchange for allowing them to include one or two outbound links in the article.
These are not guest bloggers and are not your fellow peers who are looking to build some readership with their own sites by providing content on your site in exchange for audience and mutual traffic benefit. These are advertising companies pure and simple, they are selling "backlink packages" to companies and paying writing staff to churn out as many articles as possible to meet the commitments.
The way it works is this, company will charge X dollars to say they will get 200 backlinks for a targeted keyword and site. They then hire ghost writers who will create a 400+ word article for like $5-10 per article payment (I know these companies have tried to hire me) and then they will look up blogs on the Internet find any with a certain PageRank or higher and contact the blog owner seeing if they are willing to host a "guest article".
Either way you look at it, this is a violation of Google’s ToS in regards to link building, though it is nigh impossible for Google to really find out in this case as long as the article is unique and not a duplicate that is being reprinted across dozens of sites. Though Google is smart enough to penalize and lower the value of links from unrelated site niches. Example would be my technology blog with an outbound link to a diet pill site, completely unrelated niche and Google knows this is not likely to be a valid link or related link.
Overall though, for experimentation and curiosity sake I have taken a number of these offers lately for DragonBlogger.com to see the quality of articles and whether or not they are truly written to capitalize on Google Search traffic and actually increase my blog readership. Out of the 20 or so guest articles I accepted, 2 made it to my top 20 articles based on traffic according to Google Analytics and only 1 of the articles exceeded 1000 pageviews in the last 30 days, the other in the top 20 managed 400 pageviews. Overall, all 20 guest articles accounted for about 3,000 pageviews which is about 7% of my total site traffic. Considering though that my site has over 1400 published articles this is a pretty good ratio of traffic for such a low number of guest articles.
So my theory is that if the articles are of decent quality and attract positive comments and traffic than letting an advertiser have a keyword or two as part of providing the article isn’t such a bad exchange in some cases. I get to steer the content to what I want, and I have full control over what publishes and what doesn’t. I don’t think it is however cheaper for the companies who are paying these ghost writers, it probably is cheaper for them to contact the sites directly and pay the blog owner to write an article or link to them in a previous article though buying it in packages like this is probably easier from a time management perspective.