The Future of Guest Blogging (No, it’s Not Dead, Despite What Matt says) By Saleem Yaqub on January 21, 2014
Google’s anti-spam pinup teddybear, Matt Cutts, has just written a post about the pending doom of guest blogging for SEO purposes. As the publicity started doing the rounds, and less than 24 hours after first publishing it, Matt added a clarification saying there are still many good reasons to do guest blogging and there are many great multi-author sites out there. So as a marketer or blogger, how do you make sense of this?
Guest blogging is widely used by top sites, and this will continue
Many renowned websites have multiple authors and accept contributions from guests. These include CopyBlogger, Boing Boing, NYT, Moz, Huffington Post, Buzzfeed, and various other magazines and newspapers. Newspapers have had guest columnists for years and will continue to do so.
There is no way that Google can throw every site that accepts guest contributions into the same basket. If they did that, not only would the backlash be immense, their search results would suffer. CopyBlogger goes into more detail about this over here and so does Marketing Land over here.
So as a blogger or publisher, if you run a quality operation, and you’re not engaging in spammy tactics and obvious giveaways, chances are you will be fine.
Google can’t decipher between guest and normal articles
Technically there is no difference between a normal and guest article. Author bios are subjective and Google can’t tell whether the post has been written for links, personal branding, money or any other reason. This is of course if other spammy signals like thin content, excessive keyword backlinks, duplicate content, etc are not present. In which case, your article or site would fall into Google’s filters whether you use guest posting or not.
A lot of Google’s recent comments seem to be more focused on PR scaremongering to stop people doing what they don’t want you to because they still haven’t figured out how to stop it algorithmically. Why else would they send out warnings manually?
How *not* to do guest blogging
If you’re churning out tonnes of low quality articles that offer no real value, perhaps even using spinning, and you’re getting them published on equally poor sites then in Bill Hartzer’s words “you probably deserve to get slapped“. Tactics like this will bring you under the radar of Google’s Pandas and Penguins and its only a matter of time until you are penalised manually or algorithmically.
Put yourself in Google’s shoes. Imagine there is a site that sells blue socks. The site has hundreds of exact match anchor text links containing their target keyword. Most of these links are from authority lacking post farms and thin articles. That would be an easy to detect footprint, and certainly not a site that you’d want in your search results, right?
Don’t be spammy. Don’t write crap articles and get them published on crap sites. Don’t send emails to Matt Cutts soliciting for guest posts (come on, who in their right mind would do such a thing)!
The right way to do guest blogging
Instead of focusing on guest blogging as a means to get links and boost your search rankings – a change in mindset is needed.
In its own right, guest blogging can be an effective way to diversify your traffic sources, increase your visibility, get in front of the right audience, and even gain new customers if you’re committed enough. But for it to work, you need to produce engaging, quality content and get it front of real people, on real sites.
A big part of what we do at PostJoint is manual moderation. We do not accept sub-standard posts, and all sites are manually checked to ensure they are real. All of our blogs are 100% independent, and using PostJoint does not leave any footprints whatsoever.
Author Bios: The good, the bad and the spammy
We think a pending Google algorithm update will target these poorly-tended-to bios which are a key giveaway to spammy tactics. Let’s take a look at how to and how not to do author bios.
For the purposes of illustrating an example, let’s look at two polar opposite ends of the spectrum, starting off with the spammy end.
This was a guest post contributed by Ally from the marketing department of Quality Tinned Goods Co, a tinned goods wholesale online retailer.
Here, we have a thoroughly blatant author bio from an article written purely for SEO purposes. She’s put little to no thought into the author bio and has even used an exact-match anchor text. Only a first name is used making this look very spammy. You can bet there will be many such author bios out there like this and they need to stop.
Now, let’s take a look at a better example.
Ally McSpam is an author and recognised authority on tinned goods, currently working for Tinned Goods Co. Ally specialises in the retail and wholesale of produce shipped in tins and you can connect with her over on Google+.
This is a much cleaner example. This includes the writer’s Google+ link, the branded anchor text has been made with the reader at the forefront of consideration and there’s even synonymous variations of the keyword weaved in (known as LSI-writing). Not to mention there is a full name, showing search engines and readers alike that the writer of this content is a real person.
In short, the bio is useful, it’s associated with a real person, it sounds natural and is not spammy.
Top tips for publishers to avoid being whacked
- Don’t use usernames like guest author or guest contributor on your site
- Don’t have a guest content category on your blog
- Don’t accept commercial keyword anchor text links in author bio’s
- Don’t link to sites that you deem to be untrustworthy
- Only accept well written and researched content that is relevant to your site and audience
- Don’t be afraid to link out to quality websites – it’s in your interest and Google likes to see this
- Consider giving author bio pages when there are several contributions from the same writer
- Make it easy for your blog posts to be shared on social media with strategically placed buttons
- Keep your ratio of self posts vs guest posts in check
Top tips for marketers to avoid being whacked
- Avoid obtaining too many links from author bylines, place links within the main content body
- Avoid mass posting, especially on sites laden with guest posts
- Only post on sites that have a good link profile of their own
- Don’t publish the same article on two or more sites and don’t use article spinning
- Write engaging, meaty posts that are backed by solid research and include images
- Don’t rely on guest posting as your only means of obtaining backlinks - mix it up
- Link to your Google+ or Twitter account from your posts to show you are a real author
- Use keyword rich anchor text infrequently, focusing instead on branded and neutral links
- Mix your self-serving links up with links to other quality, third party sites
- Don’t have multiple links to the same site from one article
Matt Janaway has written a brilliant post detailing the pattern that most spammy guest posts follow, and in contrast, what real guest posts look like.
Follow these steps and find yourself in higher favour with Google and with your time spent more productively. Matt Cutts has continually pointed towards the most obvious and spammy tactics, and these are what you need to avoid.
Guest posting (and link building) will continue to be a key ingredient in every good digital marketing campaign and every good website. Website owners, writers and search engine optimisers just need to take note and prepare a plan of action.
Note – This post was originally published in May 2013 but has been refreshed and updated in light of recent events.