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Should we stop guest blogging now? Yes or No?

By Dave Chaffey 22 Jan, 2014
Essential

5 reasons you should continue guest blogging and 10 actions you should take given Matt Cutt’s latest advice affecting content marketers

Alert importance:

Recommended link: Matt Cutts: The Decay and Fall of guest blogging for SEO

If you work in SEO, the biggest development so far in 2014 is Matt Cutts of Google's clear guidance for marketers to cease guest blogging. But Guest blogging isn’t just an obscure SEO tactic, it’s used by many media sites and brands, so many businesses who practice content marketing will be affected by this.

His new post this week starts with this seemingly unequivocal piece of guidance:

“Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company”.

He then gives this example of what he calls an unsolicited Spam email, similar to many who run a blog today receive daily:

SEO-Guest-posting-quote-Matt-Cutts

So that’s clear, many marketers will think if they just read the headlines or many other blog posts that, they should simply stop guest blogging. Actually, no, I think that’s bad advice, as I’ll explain.

I say clear, but that’s relative to some of his previous obfuscating comments at conferences and in Google’s webmaster videos. It’s not so clear any longer, since he added this key footnote, because of the hundreds of comments on the blog, implying that quality guest blogging is fine if the quality is there. The key comment added is:

"I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. 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. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

I’m also not talking about multi-author blogs. High-quality multi-author blogs like Boing Boing have been around since the beginning of the web, and they can be compelling, wonderful, and useful".

But credit where credit’s due, it’s useful to have this guidance, particularly when many SEOs have been expecting a change for the last year or two even. We now know to be aware, to beware.

This latest announcement is close to my heart since I’m often asked when speaking or training ‘what’s works best in SEO since the latest algorithm update?’. Over the last couple of years quality content marketing and guest blogging have often been two of my core SEO recommendations, particularly at B2B conferences. We publish (high quality, generally well-received) occasional guest posts almost daily on Smart Insights as well as regular posts from our multi-author panel of Expert commentators. Less commonly we selective guest blog too on sites which fit our audience profile.

There has been a huge discussion on his blog and every blog that comments on SEO, most just discussing the rights and wrongs and interpretation of the guidance. But most reading will be wondering should we stop, either writing or publishing guest posts? To help you take the decision I’ll present the side for continuing guest blogging, here’s my take - 5 reasons why you should continue and I offer 10 practical actions companies can take.

5 reasons you should continue with Guest posting

  • 1. Google’s guidelines suggest high quality relevant content is fine. Cutt’s posts calls out poor quality guest posts and in his final footnote states that high quality guest posts are still fine. If you’re writing or publishing guest posts that have all the signals of quality in terms of social shares, comments and back links from other sites, you should expect that you won’t be penalised based on previous Google anti spam approaches. Google has given specific guidance warning against many other techniques in the past like using directories, press releases, even infographics in the past
  • 2. Guest posting has been a highly effective inbound marketing technique, particularly for B2B marketers. It can help businesses create quality content at a relatively low cost which generates significant traffic over time, while helping writers raise awareness and showcase their talents and those of their companies. To date it has benefited both parties for SEO. Google are raising the issue now because it works so well. So you will likely lose potential site visits and business if you stop now.
  • 3. Many major marketing sites use the technique. The comments to Cutt’s article mentions Moz, Marketing Land, Mashable and the Huffington Post, for example, which led him to add the footnote. When they stop guest blogging then I’ll start thinking about stopping more seriously.
  • 4. Google’s algorithm updates are generally accurate in identifying quality content. Given the announcement we can expect an update penalising or filtering poor quality posts. The latest announcement warns:“Given how spammy it’s become, I’d expect Google’s webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward”.

    As as Joost van de Valk of Yoast observed - of 200 sites he or his team has reviewed with a penalty, they invariably deserved the slap they received, with just one or two exceptions.

  • 5. Google authorship will show the credibility of guest writers. Google has developed Google Authorship markup which will help it to assess the credibility of authors based on their reputation in Google+ and the blogs they write on. If your already using this and have quality writers, the risk is much reduced.

So, perhaps, like us you’ve decided to continue to publish guest blogs, or guest post yourself, if so, it’s time to get serious and do it right by Google. Here’s what I recommend right. Do let me know other suggestions or if you disagree.

10 actions you should take if you’re continuing guest blogging.

  • 1. Update your guest blogging quality criteria if you’re a site owner. We have very tight guidance to ensure quality posts are produced. Many of the recommendations below can be explained in your blog quality guidelines.
  • 2. If you blog on other sites, only select quality sites which follow similar guidelines. Check examples of other posts carefully - would you accept them on your own site? Do they have signs of being shared carefully.
  • 3. Ensure the quality of posts by only accepting or creating high quality content. The test is, will it be shared, commented and naturally linked to by blog readers?
  • 4. Think carefully about the type and frequency of links in a guest post linking back the site of the blog author. For example, we don’t accept links to product pages targeting keyword rich anchor text, but will link to a limited number of of relevant posts. Keyword rich anchor text links in an article, often out of keeping with the theme looks like a red flag to me and it will to Google already. We encourage links to relevant posts on our site too, to balance links out.
  • 5. Think about how you use links in the post bio area. Matt Cutt’s suggests in the comments to his post that all links back to the site should be no followed in his “ideal world scenario”. In the real world, we won’t do this unless it’s essential, since we believe our content is high quality, so why shouldn’t we credit our authors who give their time to produce high quality content? In future, consider adding no follow links to anchor text links in the article or bio, but as many have pointed out, how will you apply this retroactively to 100s or 1000s of guest posts?
  • 6. Build a team of regular writers, either staff or external writers who have a good level of credibility and authority in Google’s eyes. On Smart Insights, these writers are our Expert commentators. Reduce your reliance on Guest posts and obvious signs that you produce many of them.
  • 7. Select authors who are established on Google+ and use Use Google authorship. They don’t need thousands of followers, but if they’re in 50 circles that’s better than none.
  • 8. Prepare for an algorithm update targeting poor quality guest posts this year. It’s difficult to see how Google could automatically penalise guest posts, but the warning presages a change, my money is on a major update to Panda or Penguin - you’ll hear about this no doubt!
  • 9. Monitor your SEO traffic weekly or even daily. Use a tool like Google Analytics Intelligence to be alerted if traffic falls by 5–10% compared to the previous week and then act straightaway.
  • 10. Start or refine your paid search or paid social ads programme. Google’s SEO restrictions get stricter each and every month, so you must be in position to minimise the impact of Google’s algorithm changes using other inbound marketing techniques. If guest posting is your only content marketing technique, that’s risky.

So that’s how I see it at the moment, the short answer is no you don’t need to stop guest guest blogging! How do you see it? Will you ‘adopt a wait and see’ approach. I’ll be certainly watching changes to Google’s comments carefully, and watching how other sites manage their guest posts.

Since I originally wrote this article, Jen Lopez of Moz has a nice posts which she ends with the conclusion Guest Blogging isn't dead. Hurrah. Her post is similar to this one in that it gives guidance on how you should use guest blogging in 2014 and some great reasons why you shouldn't stop guest posting:

  • Branding, branding, branding
  • Build credibility in a specific niche
  • Increased traffic (oh, HELLO)
  • Exposure to new audiences
  • Community building!
  • Authorship: The more legitimate posts you write and connect to your Google+ account, the more likely your lovely face will show up in the SERPs.

There's also a great set of tips on how to be a better guest blogger an additional tip for owners to make sure your content is original with a tool like Copyscape.

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of marketing publisher and learning platform Smart Insights. Dave is editor of the 100+ templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ digital marketing experts. Our resources are used by our Premium members in more than 100 countries to Plan, Manage and Optimize their digital marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. To learn about my books, see my personal site Digital marketing books by Dr. Dave Chaffey. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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