What Spurred This Post
Matt Cutts recently posted what many see as an assault on guest posting (The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO).
Originally the piece was devoid of the words ‘for SEO’ at the end of the title, so it appeared from the original title that Matt was referring to ALL guest posting, regardless of the reason for posting, the quality of the post or the authority of the author. However due in part to the amount of comments asking about legitimate guest posting, Matt clarified his position, explaining that guest posting still has a place and he is primarily referring to guest posting for links:
With that caveat in place, the picture makes more sense. Matt is basically saying that guest posting for the purpose of building links is something that Google will start to frown upon. Does this mean guest posting is dead? I think not!
Why Google Needs to Clamp Down on Guest Posts
One word should suffice to explain why Matt felt the need to speak out against guest posting for links… spammers.
For many SEOs that explanation will be enough, but in case anyone doesn’t know what I mean, I’m talking about the growth of low-quality ‘guest post services’ that are designed solely to gain a link.
Guest posting has become rather silly, with people offering seriously ‘low-end’ services that are so obviously designed to manipulate Google rankings, for example:
With services like this springing up all over the place, Google starts to see red. They don’t want people trying to manipulate their rankings, least of all by producing low-quality content that’s solely designed to increase rankings via links – whether that’s article submissions or guest posts.
Google’s algorithm focuses on links because they want to measure the popularity of a site. If you take actions that try to ‘fake’ that popularity you’re risking the wrath of the Google spam team, even if the tactics ‘work’ at the time. The lower quality and more widespread the tactic, the more likely you are to get spanked by Google.
Why The Growth of Guest Post Spam?
Because people find it too tempting! Let’s face it; people know that for their business, ranking in Google can bring profit. So they look for ways to increase their Google ranking. Many business owners don’t know how to do this, so they do one of two things:
- They pay someone to do SEO for them
- They study SEO & go it alone (or get an existing staff member to do this)
There are options in between of course (using an SEO consultant to devise a plan then following it yourself) however the above are the two most common ways SEO is done, especially by SMEs.
So SEO tends to be done by 1 of 2 kinds of people; professional SEOs, or business owners/traditional marketing staff who are learning SEO – often via online blogs & forums.
The trouble is there are a lot of lower quality SEOs out there, who look at SEO in isolation, separate from other business premises. They don’t take a broader business view and generally not a long term view of SEO. They just focus on delivering the basics – rankings. They get rankings for a client – or teach clients how to get ranked in Google’s search engine and get paid. That’s it.
My issue with the above mindset is that it tends to result in people only looking at ‘tactics’ that work at the moment in time that they are trying to get a site ranked, without considering WHY the tactics work.
For example with guest posting:
Having a link from a guest post can help with your Google rankings – However that is because, historically, a link from another relevant, high quality blog was a valuable link as it would be within a highly relevant post on a great blog and would engage with the blogs audience.
So the shorter sighted of those in the SEO industry think ‘guest post links are valuable! great!’ and go on to try to gain lots of guest post links ‘en-mass’, creating a metric shit tonne of low quality drivel that’s only designed to gain a link.
They then contact lots of bloggers and try to get them to publish the post, sometimes offering money to get it posted.
Worse still, some ‘SEOs’ create their own blogs and start to use these for client’s ‘guest posts’, setting up networks of blogs for their clients, or offer posts for sale to other short sighted ‘SEOs’.
The whole thing results in ‘guest posting’ becoming almost synonymous with low quality link building. However, at least for a while, it still works.
Why This Situation Became Worse When Google Clamped Down on Article Submissions
When Google (rightfully) clamped down on mass article submission (some time ago now!) the situation got worse, with lower-end SEOs who previously created poor quality (sometimes spun) articles for their clients and mass submitted them, needed to find another service to offer their clients.
Unfortunately many set their sights on what they saw as an almost identical service… guest posting.
By this time, bloggers were starting to get a crazy amount of cold-call emails and more fake ‘sblogs’ (spam-blogs) were created to host this low quality content and the growth of ‘guest spam’ continued.
Google Protecting Their Company
At the end of the day it is obvious that the above scenario is not acceptable to Google. When asked what Google is, many say ‘a search engine’, which is wrong. Google is a company. A very large company at that!
Due to the situation above, guest posting has steadily become more and more of a problem for Google, to the point that Matt Cutts, who previously praised guest posting (with the caveat that it has to be for the right reasons, of course), has had enough. His post clearly reads like it is from someone who is frustrated with the current situation and who is saddened by the need for taking this action.
Why Matt Cutt’s Comments Didn’t Kill Guest Posting
Guest posting, in my view, is still a VERY valid way for business owners to reach out to the broader online community, build their brand and connect with others.
Reading what Matt’s saying, what I feel IS coming to an end though, is guest post posting for links.
Matt is recommending adding a nofollow link to some guest posts, and/or only allowing guest posts from people your trust – REALLY trust.
Hopefully, the result of this is that guest posting will be able to get back to what it once was – a legitimate way to connect with an audience by providing not just ‘unique content’ for blogs, but in-depth articles that are designed TO BE READ, to provoke though, and be shared.
I’ve guest posted on several blogs and will continue to do so. One blogger I’ve guest posted for a few times, who I have a lot of respect for as a marketer, is Jeff Ogden (well known for the internet TV show ‘Marketing Made Simple‘). Jeff has a saying – it’s one I think is a GREAT measurement of whether the post I’m about to send to a blogger is good enough, his saying is:
“I want content that makes me want to pull my car over to read”
Now aside from the question of how worrying it is Jeff may be reading whilst driving – and what happens if a post isn’t QUITE good enough to pull over for, I think the ethos behind what he said is absolutely spot on.
Is the post I’m about to submit be so good that people want to stop what they’re doing to read it? If so, great! If not, go back to the drawing board and start again.
Writing content so engaging it makes people stop to read it and submitting that content to industry-relevant, super-high quality blogs will always be a good tactic. Period.If you can secure a regular ‘guest column’, even better!
As a good measurement of whether you or your SEO is okay to submit a guest post, if you answer no to any of these, you shouldn’t be guest posting:
- Would I still submit this post if the link was a nofollow?
- Has this post take hours upon hours to research, write and edit?
- Would I be happy to show this article to another industry expert & put my name to it?
- Would I be happy to print this post & send it to all my customers in the mail?
- Would I be happy for this article to appear in an industry magazine with my name on it?
- Is the blog this is for going to check the post for quality?
- Have I checked the blog to make sure it’s completely free of spam?
- Am I PROUD of this content and PROUD to appear on this blog?
- Am I happy for the blogger to decide what anchor text they use, such as my name or site/company name?
Why Should I Still Guest Post?
In my opinion, the reason you should continue to guest post is the same reason you should have been guest posting in the first place – To build an audience, raise your online branding and establish yourself as a thought leader.
Don’t be Outdated – Build Relationships & Authority NOT Links
Guest posting can be an extremely effective way to build relationships. By connecting with bloggers on social networks like Google+, Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn, joining in discussions you massively increase your chances of success online.
Check what questions their followers ask and what problems their followers have, then see if you can write a post for the blogger that answers those questions and solves the problems their audience has.
Working at building relationships instead of links is much better for the long term. You will gain authority in the industry, build truly meaningful relationships with bloggers and earn natural links & social shares from REAL blogs and websites.
Google is changing. Google’s algorithms are changing to focus less of keywords and ‘anchor text links’ and more on ‘authority’, the semantic meaning of search terms, topical relevancy of domains and ‘entity’ based search.
If you (or your SEO) continue to try to ‘force SEO’ by ‘link building’ you’re missing the bigger picture and may soon start to be considered as irrelevant by Google, who will be siding with those who raise their online profile, provide stellar content and build themselves – and their sites, into industry authorities.
Of course although if done ‘right’ guest posting is still (in MY opinion) a valid tactic, it is certainly not an SEO panacea! To be effective a digital marketing campaign needs to have a multi-channel approach, tying in great content, social and authority building, technical on-page SEO, competitor research & competitive link building, regular checks on your backlink profile, structured data and lots more.
What do you think? Do you feel guest posting is still a valid tactic post- ‘Matt-gate’?