Guest Blogging is Alive and Well

In a recent blog post, Google’s Matt Cutts discusses the pervasiveness of spammy guest blogging activities.  The head of Google’s Webspam team goes so far as to state, “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”  The purpose of this article is to clarify Cutt’s statements and help marketers decide how to leverage guest blogging efforts moving forward.

Clarifying the Details
The main point of clarification is that guest blogging is still alive and well.  Cutt’s article and prior videos on the topic were specifically targeting two audiences: blog owners and companies using guest blogs in ways that violate Google’s quality guidelines.  Best practices related to guest blogging are summarized below for each audience.

Blog owners: Historically, numerous blog owners have accepted guest blog posts from various sources, including businesses with which they had no prior relationship.  Google is simply encouraging these websites to properly scrutinize submissions to ensure they are original and high quality and offer relevant content to their blog readers.  This suggestion is given to website owners to help them avoid damaging the reputation of their blog.  For blog owners the premise is simple: offer your readers high-quality content and we’ll consider your blog high-quality, but offer them low-quality content and we’ll consider your blog low-quality.  Of course, higher quality blogs will rank better than lower quality blogs.
Guest Bloggers violating Google’s quality guidelines: Websites can violate Google’s quality guidelines in several ways.  Cutt’s article specifically brings to attention the following violations:

  • Buying links: This one is pretty cut and dry.  You shouldn’t pay for links.
  • Requesting followed links: Google doesn’t like it if you specifically ask for a followed link.  Followed links should be a natural result of other efforts, including your content marketing initiatives.
  • Spinning articles: Article spinning (the practice of syndicating the same article or similar iterations of the same article to multiple websites) is frowned upon.  After all, how can you provide unique content if you’re syndicating the same content to multiple outlets?

In terms of link building, guest blogging should only be used as a means to acquire high quality links (as opposed to a large quantity of links).  Additionally, companies shouldn’t use guest blogs as a primary, or even secondary, method for acquiring links.  The issue that Google identifies is that many companies realized that they could drive significant inbound link volume by mass producing guest blogs. When you’re after volume, your content development efforts will inevitably yield lower quality, less unique content.  When this effort is multiplied by the thousands of companies engaged in guest blogging, the product is a sea of low quality, or even spammy, content that damages the integrity of search results.  Clearly, this is something Google would like to minimize or stop altogether.

Dos and Don’ts of Future Guest Blogging
To ensure your guest blogging efforts are providing value and are not violating any of Google’s quality guidelines, we recommend you follow the following dos and don’ts of guest blogging.

Focus on quality, not quantity: This should hold true for all of your content development efforts.  High quality, unique and compelling content is far more valuable than stale, mediocre content.  Strong content helps build links naturally, improves brand equity and can be used more effectively as part of an overall content marketing strategy (see #4 below).
Target the right audience: Your content is only valuable if it’s seen by the right audience: your target market.  Focus on outlets that allow you to gain visibility among your customers.
Build relationships with 3rd party websites: Once you find specific outlets that help you access your customers, build a strong relationship with them so you have the opportunity to promote content with them on an on-going basis.  Frequency is an important metric in the context of content marketing and brand equity.
Think holistically: Your content should be developed as part of an overall content marketing strategy designed to help you generate more business.  Don’t spend your time writing content simply to get a link; the link alone is rarely worth it.
If you’re a blog owner, have a solid review and submission policy for all guest posts: If you’re accepting guest blog post submissions, make sure you review the articles prior to publishing them. You should be looking for high quality, unique content that provides value to your readers.

Don’t pay for links: This is the most obvious violation.  Google has been pretty adamant about this for years.  Never pay for links.
Don’t request followed links: This is almost as obvious as #1.  Followed links should happen naturally, but requesting them is a red flag to Google and should be a red flag to blog owners as well.
Don’t engage in article spinning: Repurposing the same article and submitting to multiple blogs is a clear violation to Google’s quality guidelines.  If you’re even considering doing this, then you should rethink your entire content development strategy.
Don’t overreact: Google does not take kindly to “black hat” SEO practices and guest blogging is no exception.  However, if you are developing and syndicating content the right way (as discussed above), you should have no concerns regarding your guest blogging efforts.  Companies should be able and willing to collaborate with 3rd parties to develop unique, interesting and original content to share with their customers and other interested readers.

Keep in mind that Google’s ultimate goal is to provide the most relevant search results possible.  Over time, guest blogging has been abused so much for ranking purposes by certain marketers (for some that term is far too complimentary) that a shadow has been cast over the entire guest blogging community.  If you’ve been using guest blogging properly as part of an overall content marketing strategy, then you should have nothing to worry about.  If you’ve been using guest blogs in an effort to manipulate search results, then you should stop immediately and rethink your strategy.  Guest blogging isn’t dead; in fact, it’s more alive now than ever for those who choose to utilize it properly.
If you need help developing a comprehensive content marketing strategy, or if you’re interested in learning more about how guest blogging should be leveraged moving forward, please don’t hesitate to contact us.