Friday, 18 May 2012

Bloggers Beware: Guest Post Scams!

I’m taking a break from my usual schedule of boobs and feminism to alert fellow bloggers to the newest scam to hit the blogosphere – guests posts that are not what they seem.

In a nutshell it’s about people abusing your blog for their financial gain. They offer to write a ‘guest post’ for you and then watch as their pockets get lined. The consequences go farther than merely clogging up your blog with bland writing. The lackadaisical nature of the articles can diminish the credibility of your blog. Worse still, scam guest posts can hurt your standing with Google, significantly reducing the flow of traffic to your blog!

Here’s how it works. Someone with a generic identity claims to be a guest writer. They email you saying they lurrrve your blog, that your blog is of a high quality, that they have been reading it for a while and they want to contribute. The severity of the grovelling can differ from scammer to scammer, but rest assured, flattery will be the first stealth arsenal they throw your way. In their email they claim to have original material to post on your site. Is it legit? If you don’t recognize the blogger, then probably not.

The truth is, this email is a copy and paste job and has been sent to tens, if not, hundreds of other bloggers like yourself. Here is an email I received from a guest poster, who later turned out to be a scammer:


 I have just been reading your blog and would love to write an article for you.  I have quite a big interest in babies, pregnancy and childbirth and do guest blog on a few other blogs!

 Here is a link to an article that I have recently had published:

 I have a few article ideas that I think might suit your readership:

Names and Celebrities - How celebrity culture influences baby names.
 Holidaying when Pregnant - How can you plan a holiday when you're pregnant, and what to expect.
 Pregnancy Dreams -  The weird and wonderful dreams we have during pregnancy
 Star Sign Fertility? - Can the stars really help you fall pregnant?

 If any of these are of interest then let me know and I will write it for you.



I fell for it hook, line and sinker. My blog was in its infancy, not even a year old. It was the first guest post offer I had received and shucks, I’m a sucker for flattery. I didn’t even bother reading the samples of her work properly. I replied:

Hello Maria.
 I would love you to guest blog for The Alpha Parent. I quite like the idea of  "Star Sign Fertility? - Can the stars really help you fall pregnant?"
 Would you like to write that piece for us?

She quickly responded:

 I had attached the article for you, I'd love to know what you think about it.

I opened the attached word document and the first emotion I had upon seeing the article was... disappointment. The kind of disappointment you experience when seeing a new boyfriend’s dick. The piece was tiny! A mere 607 words long, a size that doesn’t gel with the rest of my blog as I tend to write mammoth pieces. Furthermore, it looked unappealing as it lacked any images, but the worst was yet to come. When I read it through disappointment turned to regret. I realised that I was obliged by the laws of human decency to post this mediocre hash on my blog. After all, it would be unfair not to, especially as Maria has gone through the effort of writing it, and I did select the topic.

I emailed back:

Thanks so much. Great article! Can you tell me a little about yourself? What makes you interested in fertility? Any relevant experience or qualifications?

I know, I know, I’m a kryten, a wimp, a sad excuse for a human being. I should have grew a pair and told her it was shit. She replied:

 I'm glad you liked the article.  I'm just enjoying writing about various different things to do with pregnancy at the moment, I don't have any particular experience on a medical side.  I just find the whole subject fascinating, and love sharing my thoughts with other people!

Fair enough. So I tried to jazz the piece up by adding some relevant images and then posted it up. For fans of random bland dialogue shy on meaning, you can read it here. FYI it was a flop. It was the least-read and least-'liked' of all my blog posts.

One alteration I made to the work before posting it up, which didn’t register with me as anything significant at the time but which is *central* to the scam, is that I removed a link. Buried in the work was a link to a random horoscope website. I couldn’t see how the link added anything to the work so I removed it. I didn’t give it anymore thought until a few days later I received this email from Maria:

 That's great thank you :) I did put a link in the article but I noticed that it isn't in there anymore.  Would it be possible to put it back in?

I didn’t respond. I was kinda busy. I had a newborn to deal with and, shit, who am I kidding. I didn’t want to respond. I was a pussy. And besides, it was just a random link that was of little relevance to her work. I couldn’t see any harm to her creation by removing it.

A few days later I received another email:

 I've noticed that the link I put in the article still isn't there, I'd really appreciate if you could put it back in :)

And a few days after that - another:

It would be great if you could get back to me about this, I'd really appreciate if I could put the link into my article.

Red flags popping out of every orifice at this point. I went back to view her examples of previous work. The ‘articles’ – and I use the term lightly – were just cookie cutter snippets with average content. They contained all the hallmarks of a scam - they were poorly written, contained nothing unique, and were probably cut and pasted from articles all over the web. Known in the business as 'scraping'. In addition to these factors, - drum roll - they each contained links to random websites.

Why would she do this? Perhaps she was a fame-hungry loner who, instead of going on Britain’s Got Talent like every other attention whore, decided to gain her five minutes of fame by writing for a small-scale boobie blog. Nah, as plausible as this theory sounds, the scam had to have something to do with the link that Maria was anal about. A few minutes research dug up a fellow blogger, ‘Divided Ninja,’ who explains the scammer’s motives:

The main purpose is to generate high quality back-links, and increase their site rankings and traffic. Those sites gain legitimacy with high quality back links. My guess is that later they can be redirected to other sites, or even worse to phishing sites to gain peoples’ personal information. I’m certain the guest poster is more of an “advertiser in disguise” who will want to put some sort of  advertising link(s) into the post. You wouldn’t want to post somebody’s article only to find out the whole thing was a scam or advertisement, would you? 

So the scammer writes a guest post around a general topic and includes a couple of keywords linking to a particular website or page. The posts are not usually talking about the brand in question and their only purpose is to move that particular website up the search results for that particular keyword.

Consider my face well and truly palmed. I hung my head in shame and decided not to delete the ‘guest post’ from my blog. Instead I kept it online as an example. But there’s more.

I realise now that by instinctively removing the link from ‘Maria’s’ guest post, I unknowingly saved my blog from a slow death, and it’s all to do with our friends at Google. Basically Google has a policy that paid links should be coded as “no follow”, so that they don't show up in search the way a “natural” link does. For example, if I write about how much I love Product X and link to it, that’s a natural link. If I write about Product X because they’ve paid me, then it's paid and it should be coded as “no follow”. The Yahoo and MSN search engines also respect this tag (You can read more about Google policy on paid links here).

If you break Google's rules, they can find out, and downgrade your blog in search, making it harder to find. It is not uncommon to have a blog’s Page Rank downgraded to 0, which is not good. It's the equivalent of someone shitting on your driveway so no one visits any more (You can find out your own page rank here). Page Rank is basically a system for grading sites used by Google. (More here on good old Wikipedia, if you're interested). It also applies to ads that you host on your site. The no-follow rule has been around for ages but recently Google has started enforcing it more stringently. You can find instructions on how to code a link to be "no follow" here.

Remember the 'scraping' technique for creating guest posts that I mentioned above? It is adored by scammers because it requires minimum effort AND produces what appears to be unique content. However, even though the specific presentation of the guest post is unique, it is merely an amalgamation of content taken from other sources, often without permission. Google bots view this as duplicate content and will further penalise your blog.

Another technique used by guest post scammers is "article spinning". This involves rewriting existing articles, as opposed to merely scraping content from other sites. The advantage for the scammer is that if the blog owner searches for the work online to see if it is copied, they are unlikely to find any exact matches and therefore assume that the content is unique. In reality however, the words and phrases have merely been exchanged by the scammer (usually using a thesaurus or automated software). Scammers may even spin these re-written articles again and again, manually or automatically, allowing them to offer the same articles with slight variations to numerous blogs.

Back to Maria's link. Google are particularly concerned with links that don't fit into a site's wider context. For instance, if you write about cakes and suddenly have links to an aerospace site. In my situation, I write about parenting, but the scam link was to a horoscope site. So I could have been especially black-marked by Google if I had of kept the link in.

Also Maria's link was particularly insidious because of the stealth way in which it was disguised. She took a sentence from her guest post which read, "Don't check your horoscope just yet" and linked that sentence to the horoscope site she was promoting. This is called an ‘anchored text link’ and it helps drive a site up Google. Another example could be, "gorgeous clothes for children" linked to a kids' clothing company. If you’re being paid for an anchored text link, Google's rules are strict and precise - it needs to be no follow, and it needs to be made clear that it’s a sponsored post. Upon acquiring this knowledge I breathed a hefty sign of relief and got on with life. Then...

A few weeks later I received another email, this time from someone calling herself ‘Katie’:

I recently came across your blog and really like the content and the theme of your site. I was wondering if you accept guest posts because I have recently started writing informational and educational articles about maternity, motherhood and other things closely related to that niche. I believe an article on one of those topics would mesh with your blog very well and also benefit your readers tremendously.  Please let me know if you are interested in seeing and sharing an article with your viewers.
Kind Wishes,



Hope you are well!
I have been reading the content on your website, and find it extremely interesting. As a keen writer, I was wondering whether you would consider allowing me to write a guest post for your site.
As the guest posts would be unique and informative on the topic you choose, they would be really beneficial to your readers.
I would be happy to promote the guest post/your website on our social media platforms such as face book, twitter and rating sites such as stumble upon, Digg which will help your site gain further recognition.
Further, as we both deal with a few similar topics, I was wondering if you could add our blog in your website/blog as it would greatly benefit your visitors with our featured content on various topics.
Please let me know if this is a possibility or if you have any further questions.
I look forward to hear from you. Thank you for your time.

Naturally I didn’t respond to ‘Katie’ or ‘Liza’ as I had already had my ass whipped via the lovely ‘Maria’. A week later, ‘Liza’ tries again:

I am Liza, I’ve sent you a mail earlier requesting you to accept guest posts on your website and I

haven’t received any further communication.
I wish to reiterate the fact that the guest posts would be unique, informative and rather beneficial

to your readers.
Please do let me know if this is a possibility or if you have any further questions.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Kind regards,

IN. YOUR. FACE. Katie and Lisa! You’re not even getting your foot passed quality control. This old girl has learnt the hard way. And now you, my fellow readers, can learn from my mistake.

How to detect a scammer

Now I’m not saying that all guest posters are scammers – of course not. Guests posts are an excellent way to network and reach out to new audiences. I’ve written a few myself. However navigating this traitorous terrain is far from simple. How do you distinguish the genuine guest posters from the scammers?

Firstly, examine the content of their email. Do they address you by name, showing that they have read your work, or do they address no one in particular (“Dear Admin” or “Dear Blogger”) Also, when they praise your blog do they refer to actual content in your blog? - Or are they generic? (“I like reading your blog, the articles are fascinating”). Do they have an internet presence? Do they have a Twitter and/or Facebook account? Do they use these accounts to interact and to educate, or to spam? Do they own a blog of their own? Is this blog littered with advertisements? Have they written guest posts before and can you view them? Do these posts contain all the hallmarks of a scam discussed above? Is the content of their proposed post unique or has it been posted elsewhere? Are they veteran bloggers who have specialised for a long time in a clearly defined area or do they write eclectic posts about pretty much anything? Does their writing make a serious effort to understand the complexity of the topic or just regurgitate basic well-known data?

On a positive note, if you’re targeted by scammers such as these, see it as a compliment of sorts. Scammers only target successful blogs with a high volume of traffic. This is because Google and other search engines use link-based ranking algorithms, which give websites higher rankings the more other 'highly ranked' websites link to it.

So take heed next time you receive a flattering 'too good to be true' email, look between the lines and don't be afraid to ask questions. And while you're at it, click the 'like' button bellow to spread the word on Facebook. The more bloggers who are aware of this scam, the smaller the pool of potential victims.


AmyJean {Relentless Bride / Fry, The Baby} said...

I get those all the time. I figured they were mass emailing people but didn't realize how scammy they were! thanks for this post. I'm glad i ignored them...for the most part! :)

meta said...

I also received these kinds of offers from time to time, as well as people offering to secure the domain with all the (dot)something, but strange ones like .cn (China? When my blog is about parent info in Lausanne Switzerland?). Thanks for writing this piece to warn many other bloggers.

Sarah--Well Rounded Birth Prep said...

Whaddayaknow, I got a nearly identical email from "Maria"!

"Hi Sarah,

I have just been reading your blog and would love to write an article for you. I have quite a big interest in babies, pregnancy and childbirth and do guest blog on a few other blogs!

Here is a link to an article that I have recently had published:

I have a few article ideas that I think might suit your readership:

The Name Challenge - Tips on how you decide to name your baby and the various routes you can go down.

Planning A Waterbirth - How do you begin to plan this, and what can you do?

A Pregnant Diet - What should you eat during pregnancy? How can you supplement cravings with a balanced diet?

Star Sign Babies - Can your baby's star sign really influence how it develops, does your baby already have certain traits that match it's sign?

If any of these are of interest then let me know and I will write it for you.


I've been too busy with my baby to reply at all, and I'm SO GLAD!!! Thanks for exposing this scam.

J. said...

I wish I had gotten them (almost) because that'd mean ppl are reading my blog lol! Seriously though, I'm glad you posted this. It never ceases to amaze me the lengths scammers go to these days.

Guinevere said...

Thanks for posting about this!

Anna Gillard said...

Seems like you got a bit off your chest there ;) To be fair why don't you just put a paywall in the way of the spammers. Let's face it spammers don't have money so you're separating the boys from the men then.

Salem Witch Child said...

I'm saving this post. Thanks for sharing this.

Leonard Wills said...

I know Roger Hedins has been involved in a huge money laundering business and don’t see how it has not made it to international news. I hope someone catches these losers

Dazed in Galway said...

There is no like button on your blog, only share.

Leonard Wills said...

Hi all jus in line with my previous post I got to know that Roger Hedin is involved with two other scammers as well whose names are Bjorn Koritz and Vincenzo Carpanzano. Be careful!

Leonard Wills said...

Hi all again more info! Vincenzo Carpanzano is the Unibank head in Gibralta I think and he is helping to run this Unibank card scam with Roiger and Bjorn. Hope u all will be careful! :)

Leonard Wills said...

Hi all SO this is the true story. Roger Hedins aka TONY HEDIN, ANDERS HEDIN, HEDIN THORWALD and Vincenzo Carpanzano are the real crooks who earn Unibank Group. Bjorn Koritz is the scum bag lawyer who clears their names from trouble!!

Leonard Wills said...

Hello has anyone heard about the guys in my previous comment. They run this scam through the comoany name:

Vincenzo Carpanzano
Company No. 06823275

Tel.: ES +34 669 600 542
Tel.: DE +49 177 96 56 171


Leonard Wills said...

Hello once again. Has anyone heard of these fraudsters Roger Hedin aka Tony Hedin, Anders Hedin, Hedin Thorwald and Vincenzo Carpanzano?! these guys run a huge scam to rip people off. They use a credit card scheme under a company name:
Vincenzo Carpanzano
Company No. 06823275

Tel.: ES +34 669 600 542
Tel.: DE +49 177 96 56 171

Please be careful

Leonard Wills said...

its a three member racket. Roger Hedin aka Tony Hedin, Anders Hedin, Hedin Thorwald is the ringmaster running the scam through a company called Unibank and Vincenzo Carpanzano also runs it with him. Bjorn Koritz is the lawyer that clears their names obviously for which he gets a cut!

Leonard Wills said...

Hello all once again. Thee guys are still running free and continue operating scams without getting caught. Please help in spreading the word. Their name are
Roger Hedin (aka Tony Hedin, Anders Hedin, Hedin Thorwald) and Vincenzo Carpanzano and they operate a credit card scheme via Unibank Corporate Group

Leonard Wills said...

Hello all once again. These guys are still running free and continue operating scams without getting caught. Please help in spreading the word. Their name are
Roger Hedin (aka Tony Hedin, Anders Hedin, Hedin Thorwald) and Vincenzo Carpanzano and they operate a credit card scheme via Unibank Corporate Group

Ellen said...

Thanks so much for posting about this. I've been getting these emails, too, and wondering what the scam is.

Leonard Wills said...

Hey everybody,

This guy Roger Hedin (aka Tony Hedin, Anders Hedin, Hedin Thorwald) along with his partner Vincenzo Carpanzano is running a credit card scam to siphon money out of people. The company name they use now is Unibank Corporate Group Network. Please be on the look out for any of these names!


Leonard Wills said...

Vincenzo Carpanzano is the Head of UniBank Group in Gibraltar, UK . Involved in projects called Unitel invest, Photovoltaik, Windkraft etc. These are all fake projects he uses to siphon money out of investors. Do not be fooled!

Leonard Wills said...

Hi Ellen,

Just saw your response. You are the only person who has responded! Thank you.

Looks like people are not yet aware of it but these guys Roger Hedin (aka Tony Hedin, Anders Hedin, Hedin Thorwald) and Vincenzo Carpanzano are big time crooks who are running credit card scams to siphon money out of hard working individuals!!

Alpha Parent said...

Leonard, stop commenting please. Your comments are not relevant to the scam I posted about.

Leonard Wills said...

Hi Alpha, just trying to get the word out.

Please stay away from these scammers. They will play you out completely and it seems the authorites hgavent gotten anything solid on them yet. The names of the scammers are Bjorn Koritz, Roger Hedins aka TONY HEDIN, ANDERS HEDIN, HEDIN THORWALD and Vincenzo Carpanzano. Bjkorn is the scum lawyer but the other two are the planners behind it!

Leonard Wills said...

Hi all SO this is the true story. Roger Hedins aka TONY HEDIN, ANDERS HEDIN, HEDIN THORWALD and Vincenzo Carpanzano are the real crooks who earn Unibank Group. Bjorn Koritz is the scum bag lawyer who clears their names from trouble!!

Alpha Parent said...

Leonard. Stop posting on my blog or I'll have to make all comments moderated, which wouldn't be fair on the other commenters. You've said your peace. Now shut up.

Leonard Wills said...

Hi Alpha ok sorry one last time...

So guys just a quick recap. Roger Hedin (aka Tony Hedin, Anders Hedin, Hedin Thorwald) and Vincenzo Carpanzano are big time scammers using tyhe name Unibank Group Corporate Network to run the scam. And they have corrupt lawyer who helps them get outta trouble whose name is Bjorn Koritz. Look out and be safe!

Tori said...


I just found your blog search for Blog Scams, because the same thing happened to me. I have a geek girl blog and the girl called herself a geek, and wrote an okay (if not stellar) piece. I didn't even notice her links because of how I copied and pasted her text until two days later when she e-mailed me to put the in. I was floor.

I can't believe a scam like this exists, but I don't know why I'm surprised. Anyhow, looks like in the end we both dodged a bullet, so cheers!

John Crenshaw said...

This isn't really a scam. This is how guest posting works and is a Google-approved legitimate way to build links.

Albeit these people should be up front about the purpose of the post for sure, but I'd hardly call it a scam. If you're a blogger you should really know how this stuff works.

And this quote is really a little paranoid: "My guess is that later they can be redirected to other sites, or even worse to phishing sites to gain peoples’ personal information."

Most of these guys are SEOs hired by companies to build links. Nowadays guest posting is about the only way to do it effectively. It's highly unlikely something like that's going to happen.

Guest posting can be a win-win for both the writer and publisher, assuming both are happy with the arrangement.

If you consider something like this in the future, go in knowing what it is (basically a content for a link). Make your standards known up front, and if the post doesn't meet those standards, don't publish it.

Good luck!

~jenniferlynn said...

Thank you Google for helping me find you!
I had almost the exact situation happen to me. My blog is still growing so when I got an email about someone wanting to do a guest post, I'm like sure, as long as it's relevant why not? She wrote a decent article; nothing fancy but nothing horrible. I asked her for a few pictures, and put my post on draft mode. Still, something in my gut told me something was off, namely the link back to her site (a culinary schools site), which really isn't relevant to mine.
Either way, I was going to post it today, but then received TWO MORE nearly identical emails; different users, different links. That's when I knew something was fishy.
Thanks so much for sharing this; I'm going to pass it along to some other bloggy friends of mine as this is great information for new bloggers! said...

HI, I am so glad I found this. I got this message today and red flags came up. I have the blog. First thing I google was guest post scam because who would offer me $80 dollars to write a post the key word was a link for a client and that I couldn't tag it guest post. Anyway, you're artificial helped me. Thanks so much.


Inspired1 said...

Hi there,

I really appreciate you posting this. Our company blog has received a pile of these scam blogger offers lately, and your points are spot on. Thanks for informing and warning us with all this, and thanks for calling a spade a spade.

And to John - I demand that you retract your casual and borderline snide remarks. Clearly it's you who is exercising a limited and naive judgement. The scammer "SEOs" that we're discussing here are MUCH more often than not affiliate marketers and CPA (cost per action) marketers (look it up) who are paid for the actions resulting from redirected traffic to their partner sites and those who they weasel into filling out forms and buying affiliate products/services in the process. Guess where they rely on getting that traffic from so they can make their money? Your blog - which has now been leveraged to increase their personal earnings.

Again - this is far more often the case nowadays than the oh-so-benign alternative that you've glibly offered up. Yes, there are legit SEOs who are employed by companies to do valid link building. I know because I've personally paid thousands of dollars to do so. But again, these types of scrupulous SEO providers looking to offer quality, unique content in order to strengthen and increase their client's site(s) are sadly far less in number than their scammer counterparts, especially as it relates to the phenomenon that's being specifically discussed and analyzed in this blog post.

Therefore I resent your flippant and dismissive comments towards this blog's owner. You've (likely unwittingly) attempted to diminish the service she's done all of us in helping to inform the blogging community of this nasty little practice. Worst of all, you've done so with an arrogant little smile of benevolence on your face. Shame on you. Think before you open your mouth next time in public spaces, John.

Her experiences with these scammers represent the nasty side of guest blogging which is clearly what we're all talking about here, and not the legitimate side. So get your facts straight, learn to speak in context, and educate yourself about the broader internet marketing industry before you post comments with smug superiority next time.

Again John, go off and learn a bit more about affiliate marketing, CPA marketing, predatory blog posters and internet best practices in general before you go spouting off drivel and superior insults. Note to everyone - ignore John's post and his simplistic, one dimensional perspective.

Again, my sincere thanks to the blog owner for her thoughts and research.

Kudos and well done to you.

My best,

Lost In Your Care said...

Thank you! I've decided what to do with the "guest post" offer I was sent. Shoot, I was kind of flattered :~)
Donniel, Lost In Your Care

Carolyn said...

I just posted a very similar warning on my blog. I did exactly what you did removed the link before posting. However after my warning article one of her "friends" who also does the same "freelance scam writing" sent me a nasty comment about how I was so horrible and didn't I know backlinks help my blog and that the poor girl...yada yada yada. Give me a break and stop wasting my time scam writes.

Alpha Parent said...

Here's the latest attempt to grace my inbox. Laughable.


I found your blog ( quite interesting and therefore am interested in guest blogging.I have quality and unique posts on topics like "Business","Car sale","Car Auction" etc.

Alpha Parent said...

I just HAD to share this one I received today. They didn't even attempt to copy and paste the url for the blog:


I am a professionally guest post writer. I write on Consumer Electronics (LED tv, LCD Tv, Gaming Console, Home theaters, Ipods Etc). I came across your domain (domain name) while surfing through the Internet to find a suitable for writing articles. It is highly resourceful with rich and nice contents and has a vivid presentation. I must appreciate your hard work and wish you good luck.

I was wondering if you can allow me to write for your domain. I assure you to provide absolutely unique but relevant article so that it proves to be useful to your readers. I would place one external links (do follow), the article is not promotional at all. I can discuss about "the subject". I wish you consider this proposal and will wait for a reply from you.

If you are displeased with my email, I cordially regret in advance.

With Regards


Outside the Box Mom said...

Your post is still relevant today. I receive these more and more often as my blog continues to grow. I appreciate your candidness in sharing your experience, so we know what to look out for. Also, it is helpful to have your suggestions on which red flags to watch out for in these pitches.


Jackie Patti said...

You don't actually have a LIKE button or I'd click it. I just got an email like this and couldn't find this blogger via Google on any of the blogs in my niche. I couldn't figure out HOW it could be a scam so Googled for "guest post scam" and found this post. Thanks for the headsup!

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