The inevitable has finally come about. Google’s Matt Cutts announced on Monday that the search giant is calling time on guest blogging as a means to gain links. The news is bound to send some SEO companies into a tailspin, especially those that have been concentrating their efforts on those ‘valuable’ backlinks.
Those in the industry have seen this coming for a while and strictly speaking, guest posting itself isn’t dead, but doing it for the purposes of gaining links certainly is.
The official announcement from Cutts makes it clear: “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.”
The Problems with Guest Posting
It’s been becoming clearer and clearer that this was going to happen, as some SEO companies took to banging out 300 word, badly-written blogs just to get a link into them. The tactic of sending generic emails that pretend to have ‘stumbled across your site’ and promise an excellent article was never a very clever one.
Personally, I’ve always been of the opinion that if you’re going to carry out guest blogging for SEO, then it should be done organically. Further to this, any posts should be of an exceptionally high quality or in essence, what is that post saying about the company/individual that’s placed it.
Should you Carry Out any Guest Posting at All?
Well yes, would be my first thoughts, but without a link in the post. If you’re a Google Author, then it’s likely that you’re posting all over the place anyway for the purposes of PR and thought-leadership, or of course you could, like me, be a writer that appears on many websites.
Just make sure that you write well and adhere to Google’s quality guidelines at all times and realise that as Matt Cutts points out: “There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there.”
The point that everyone needs to get is that guest posting remains valid as a way of marketing content, brands and individuals, but it should not be done for SEO reasons at all.
Other Reasons for Inserting Links
Like me, many writers insert links to support the information that they’re writing about. News sites refer to quotes from others, as do article writers and bloggers. This is good practice and the links appear natural. However, if you’re adding links to your own site, or linking to just the other articles that you’ve written, then you could find yourself on the end of a penalty.
Of course, you can insert these links and put a nofollow on them, to ensure that whilst you may be promoting your site or self, you’re not doing it in a way that’s designed to trick search engines.
Just a month ago, Matt tried to make the questions surrounding guest posts clearer in the video below:
However, it would seem that no matter what, there are just too many companies out there willing to abuse the system, as Cutts points out. Note however, that he also says that there are genuine reasons that people guest post and insert links, such as editorial as I mentioned above.
Accepting Guest Posts
From now on, not only can you not use guest posts as a form of link building, but you should be very wary who you accept posts from too. If you’re offered very high quality content and you can see this first and you can verify that the site and author you’re linking back to is relevant to your industry and also high quality (and has a social following), then yes. Also consider asking the author if they will do a regular spot, as these are clearly not carried out for link building purposes.
However, steer clear of offering links, or if the guest blogger wants a link included, then make it crystal clear that you will be putting a nofollow on it. In other words, be careful what you link to. I haven’t been accepting guest posts for a good few months now, but I do still accept a good infographic if the source site is good and I can write great content to go with it.
In general, the quality of guest posts that I get offered for my site is incredibly poor – about 1%, if that, is usable. And therein lies the problem, it’s been abused to the point of poor and we all want a good quality online experience.
Marketing Content, Not Links
There are still many, many more SEO skills that are used by professionals and the demise of guest posting is unlikely to affect how your site appears on the web if you have a solid SEO pro working on it. SEO has never been all about guest posting after all, so the only people that have to worry are those that have been abusing the system and the unfortunate clients that get hit with penalties.
So what to do now? Well, carry on producing great content that people want to read/listen to/watch and market it through your site, as well as through other sites where you have built up a good relationship with the editor or owner and through social. Matt Cutts and Google want quality content and that’s what you need to distribute – I actually think it’s about time that Google forced the bar higher again – what’s the point of the Penguin and Panda updates if you still have badly written content appearing all over the place in order to gain links, after all.
Remember, guest posting is only dead for SEO, so if you produce excellent content and have a means for distributing through other sites, then do carry on doing this. Just be very careful how you insert links – it has to be natural.
What if you’re a Writer?
As Kevin Gibbons points out in an eConsultancy blog: “A lot of highly respected journalists are freelance, that doesn’t mean their content should be valued any less because of the desk they sit at. The problem is these tactics get over-used and start to stand out as SEO footprints, so you do need to consider what this looks like to Google and be selective over publishing only the best content possible for your audience.”
This means that you should, as he suggests, avoid linking to obvious landing pages, such as those with contact forms or CTAs and you should always be named as the author where possible. This is of course not the case if you’re ghost writing, in which case you should ensure that there is the name of the person you’re ghosting for. This appears less anonymous to Google and allows them to better track that author’s activity.
Google approves of good authors, just not spammers, so if you’ve built up a good rep as an authority in your niche, then you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. Likewise, online publishers needn’t fret either, although they should be a little more wary about who they accept content from.