3 reasons guest blogging isn’t as dead as Matt Cutts says

Matt Cutts comes from declared dead of guest bloggers:

Okay, I call it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably quit. Why? Because over time it has become more and more a practice of spamming, and if you do a lot of guest blogging then you are hanging out with really bad company.

Well, I am convinced.

I laugh! Guest blogging might be on Google’s radar, but I wouldn’t close the coffin lid just yet. Here’s why.

All SEO becomes spammy. SEO is still not dead.

You can substitute almost any SEO technique in this sentence, and it would be true:

Over time this has become an increasingly spammy practice, and if you do a lot of keyword targeting then you hang out with very bad company.

Over time this has become an increasingly spammy practice, and if you do a lot of link building then you hang out with very bad company.

Over time this has become an increasingly spammy practice, and if you do a lot of image optimization then you hang out with very bad company.

Etc. If an SEO tactic works, it will get more and more spammy over time; there is no anti-spam SEO technique. Each technique must adapt over time to the competitive landscape and the algorithm. Likewise, marketers should always focus on long-term quality rather than short-term effectiveness, regardless of the technique. But just because spammers are starting to do something doesn’t mean you need to stop.

In fact, I could argue that few SEO techniques are getting “more and more spam” in proportion. In other words, they won’t go from 10% spam to 50% spam. You just see more spam because there is more of everything – more good guest posts, but also more crap and spam. Finally, there is so much of everything, good and bad, that it becomes very difficult for Google to sort everything. They are frustrated and try to tell us, the content creators, to watch us so they don’t have to. (But somehow, I doubt the kings of spammers take Matt Cutts’ advice to heart.)

There is no * technical * difference between “guest blogging” and any other type of content.

Google cannot algorithmically differentiate guest blogging from other types of articles. Blogs and websites are not legally required to disclose whether anything they post is guest post or not, and in some cases, it’s just a matter of perspective.

Think about it: much of the content that appears on high-quality news sites like the New York Times, or on extremely popular, high-ranking sites like the Huffington Post or Buzzfeed, is created by freelancers. If you’re writing a signed post for a site that you don’t own or that doesn’t employ you full time, is that a guest post? The categories are obscure because we only consider them to be “guest bloggers” within the SEO industry; it is not a term in the world of journalism. There is no surefire way for Google to determine a particular author’s motivations, whether they wrote and posted something for links, exposure, money, or pure altruism.

Still, if you’re worried that Google is cracking down on guest blogging, there are a few things you can do. As editor:

  • Only post good guest posts. If it’s not spam, it’s not spam.
  • Don’t tag them as guest posts. You can include a biography of the author without specifying “This is a guest article.” And if the content is valuable to your readers, it doesn’t matter where it comes from.

And as a writer:

  • Do not create a guest blog for guest blog farms. If a site has a reputation for “posting anything,” stay away.
  • Build relationships, not bonds. Get a gig as a regular contributing author or columnist on a good website that has a relevant audience. Build a readership there that is more valuable than a single guest post.

Google has always emphasized that quality, unique, and user-friendly content is key to search engine rankings. I’m assuming that sites that post content that meets all of these criteria will not be penalized whether or not some of that content is “guest posts”.

Guest blogs can be valuable even without the links.

I’m not saying you should remove all links from your guest posts. I don’t think Google can really tell the difference between guest posts and other types of content, so it has no way of algorithmically devaluing embedded links in guest posts.

Nevertheless, spam links are the main reason Cutts wants to ‘put a fork’ in guest blogging: I will put spam links on your blog without you realizing it. ‘”

Again, if you’re worried: just don’t put links in your guest posts. “So why am I invited to blog? ” you ask? Links and referral traffic are two of the biggest incentives for guest blogging, but without them you still get brand visibility. If you write high quality content and want to present it to a larger or different audience than what you have on your own site or blog, guest blogging is one way to do it. You can attach your name and the name of your business to this content, even if you do not include any link to your site. Or, ask the publisher not to follow the links. Keep in mind that Wikipedia links are not tracked, but can still generate significant traffic.

So, in short:

  • Do not panic. Just as you’re now seeing spammers asking people they’ve spammed to remove old links, I imagine we’re going to start seeing “guest post removal requests.” But you don’t want to remove legitimate links or legitimate content for no reason.
  • If you weren’t spamming before, you aren’t spamming now. Not all of your old guest blogs magically turned into spammy pumpkins overnight. As always and always, quality is what really matters.
  • Keep an eye out for the guest blogger award. If you were previously asked to blog for follow-only links, rethink your priorities. Contribution articles can offer other types of value.

UPDATE: Cutts says not to invite blog “for SEO”

Matt Cutts updated his post in response to the reply. Here’s some of what he added:

It seems most people get the gist of what I was trying to say, but I’ll add a little more context. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are still many great reasons to start guest blogs (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). These reasons existed long before Google and will continue in the future. And there are absolutely fantastic, high quality guest bloggers. I changed the title of this post to make it clearer that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

I think it is worth answering this. What Cutts I’m sure ways is: “Don’t write a shitty guest post just to get a link.” But I don’t like its wording because it implies that intentions matter more than results, as if your motivations have to be 100% pure. But you can do something at least partly “for SEO purposes” and still create something that offers incredible value to users. If Google ranks your content on the first page and users who click on your link are happy with what they’re getting and it’s helping your business at the same time, what’s the problem? Either way, Google can’t figure out through some sort of algorithm what your real inner motivations are; what they’re ultimately looking for is quality content, not purity of soul. In addition, branding is part of SEO (Google loves brands!). Exposure and increasing reach are the primary goals of SEO. These things are all related. Somehow, “SEO” has become the bad guy, and “branding” is still OK. But whatever name you give it, the goal is always the same: to get people to pay attention to your business.

I guess Google will penalize sites, not guest bloggers. And these will be the same crappy sites that have been hit multiple times over the past year, sites that don’t offer value overall. Quality content, guest post or not, will continue to rank. (And yes, the links will continue to be important.)

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