Should You Stick A Fork In Guest Blogging?

Guest Blogging? Stick a fork in it!

Matt Cutts Gives His Take on Guest Blogging

Two weeks ago, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s spam team blogged on his personal site entitled: The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO. Other SEO bloggers were quoting him right after he published his thoughts on guest blogging. He showed a sample email of a guest blogging request he personally received and also posted some historical statements and videos on how he previously warned SEOs on what guest blogging would turn into if not done properly. But one of the catchiest phrases he said was:

So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.

Why is Guest Blogging Used in SEO?

An editorial link vs. a site-wide link

Links help out in SEO since they are like votes of trust, credibility and authority. Links that are within content, also called in-content links, or editorial links are those that have a story behind the link. The simple fact that the linked page is being talked about in the body of text, better reflects that the writer may possibly be a fan, follower, advocate, admirer of the page that is being linked to because they believe the page is trustworthy, credible and authoritative and want to share their thoughts on it.

A site-wide link that is in the footer or sidebar is often the result of a partnership, some kind of link exchange, or a paid link. Whatever the reason is, the link is not on a page that is specifically talking about the page it is linking to.

Editorial links have greater power. In guest blogging, the links within relevant content is considered to be better quality and can be relatively easy to gain through guest blogging.

Guest Blogging Level of ControlGreater level of control

Search engines like links that are natural. People with websites link to you because they like you, they love you, they admire you. For some SEO link builders, they can find it difficult to influence people to gain a natural link. In the past many SEOs resorted artificial link building by posting in forums, in blog comments, wikis, creating their own blogs, blog networks and buying links because you can control it with minimal approval or moderation from someone else.

Over the years Google has evolved to be able to distinguish natural links from artificial links and guest blogging is one of the ways links can be considered artificial in the sense that the guest poster is not really a fan, advocate, follower or admirer of a website they are linking to. The link can appear natural in the sense that it is placed within a blog post with the whole story about the linked page.

The desire for a scalable process to meet the numbers

Influencing the online community to link to you has a lot of uncertainty. You cannot really determine how many natural links you can get, and you cannot find out how long it will take. Businesses that pay for SEO services want to be certain how much of the end result they will receive for each penny they are paying. Many SEO clients will want to pay X number of dollars for Y number of links. Many unnatural link building tactics do not work anymore since the Panda and Penguin updates came out, guest blogging was the only closest possible solution to fit into the formula of giving a definite number to SEO clients and what is worth their money. As more clients come in, more guest blog posts are needed and the whole process has to scale. With the great number of blogs online, guest blogging seemed to be a scalable process that SEO agencies and individual consultant experts can leverage to deliver. If you continue to push this process with the limited amount of really good quality blogs to reach out to, you may end up posting in lower quality blogs just trying to meet your guest blogging quota.

Why is Guest Blogging Considered Spammy?

Natural vs. Artificial Links

Links by other people linking to your website are supposed to be votes of trust, credibility and authority. A guest blog post is a link you are creating yourself to your own site but just posting it in another place to make it appear as a link from someone else. Some of you might be thinking how can Google really figure that out? Do not underestimate the power of Google. There are many signals they can refer to, from the use of words, to the quality of a site, and the online relationship of interlinking sites. Add on a layer of powerful statistics, and Google generally knows if a link is natural or artificial.

Low Quality Blogs

There are many blogs out there that really do not have a large audience. The worst are the blogs that were simply created for guest blogging and not for gaining a true audience. There are website owners that find guest blogging difficult so they start creating their own blogs to appear like guest blog post. There are also bloggers that are really not passionate about blogging and just see the earning potential of running a blog with no concrete goal. They would just get guest blog posters to post for a fee or they may also do it for free and just earn in another way like online ad publishing or affiliate marketing. They are low quality because often they do not have an audience since no one is interested in their mediocre articles and have low standards of approving guest blogging content.

Low Authority Bloggers

There are true bloggers that blog about their passions, and there are true journalists that are passionate about writing in various online and offline publications on a variety of topics. There are also so called link builders that just find ways to gain more links in any way possible that suddenly become experts in a wide variety of topics where they are obviously not. Google has already been looking into the profiles of authors even before Google Authorship came out just by analyzing the bylines.

Will Guest Blogging Still Work?

How to Make Guest Blogging Still Work!

Even in the past, many things have been penalized manually or decreased in ranking algorithmically by Google and other search engines but in some way or form these tactics still works if done correctly. For example, massive submission to many free online web directories do not really work these days, but you can still submit to about less than 5 of them online that will not really harm you but even help you.

We strongly believe the same is true with guest blogging. If you want to continue with guest blogging here are a few pointers we pay attention to:

  • The Blog
    • Focus on Authority and Quality
      A blog should have a real audience and is not built on guest blog posts alone. Just knowing that the site has a lot of traffic and is updated often and not peppered with ads and ranks for many topics are all showing signs that the site is a good site. If you want to look at measurable numbers, you can use a variety of tools from Moz’ Domain Authority and Page Authority, MajesticSEO’s Citation and Trust Flow Metrics, LinkResearchTools’s Cemper Power*Trust scores, and good old Google PageRank.
    • Be Cautious of Blatant Mentions of Accepting Guest Blog Posts, Contributors or the Phrase “Write for Us”
      This may be a blog made for guest blogging alone and its sole purpose is for link building.
  • The Guest Blogger
    • Build True, Honest, Authentic Relationships Based on Similar Passions
      Coming straight from Matt Cutts himself, he said:

      In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well.

      For you to personally vouch for someone already means there is some inherent relationship there and you know their product is good quality. Building relationships definitely take more time and research and is less scalable than blasting the blogging world, pitching them with some generic message. Throw them all on the wall and see which one sticks is not a good strategy. Probably the ones that reply immediately are not the best sites to blog for.

    • Focus on Pitching the Main Influential Bloggers
      Getting to guest post for the right blog is the key. Do not focus on trying to get a very large number of blogs to do guest posting. It is harder to manage and also harder to write a lot of unique content. Focus on the blogs that have a large following relevant to your target audience. Your guest blog posts will be more effective and require less blog posts to gain a good amount of reading audience. Bear in mind that the industry or niche you are targeting will also dictate how many relevant blogs are out there. If you think the blog you reached out to does not have a strong influence, or is not that popular, consider how much of the target audience is out there, maybe it is just right.
    • Produce Good Quality Content
      Obviously Google has been preaching this for many years, and Google is not the only one that wants you to produce good quality content for your target audience. Additionally if your blog post is not good enough, then it may not pass the standards of the blog owner and if that happens, most likely it may also not please the readers. Good quality content gets passed around more, thus gets more visibility and potentially gains more natural links.
    • Building Up Authority
      Google has been promoting Google Authorship for some time and you should take advantage of it. Not only for the benefits on getting a thumbnail of the author image beside the search results, but also to build up the authors’ authority to be associated with good quality content. Imagine what Google can do with all the authorship data and analyze any author, what they talk about, on what blogs they post, and how many people actually like their post and link to it. That alone can be a signal or a future stronger signal, of Google’s algorithm. But it is a valid signal that Google can utilize to evaluate the credibility of an author, and reward them with better ranking blog posts.
      The Facts Behind Author Rank & Authorship
  • The Purpose
    • Do not focus on the links from the guest blog post, instead focus on the links that will be gained from more visibility of the blog post. If the content is compelling to share as more people read it, then it spreads further, increasing traffic, links, brand awareness and more. All of these can contribute directly and sometimes indirectly to the site’s organic search ranking. Matt Cutts also shared in his blog post:

      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.

What to Expect

As I mentioned in our webinar, What to Expect From SEO in 2014 guest blogging will go under more scrutiny and we are seeing that already today. Companies that are based on giving mass produced guest blogging services will either have to change their business or go out of business when Google starts hunting down the low quality blogs accepting too many guest post. Guest blogging will still continue to exist, but at a lesser quantity. More companies will not be able to guarantee any amounts of guest post for a specific publish date because it is all about building relationships. If you are outsourcing this service, or are paying someone to do guest blogging for you, then most likely the charges will be in terms of the number of hours or probably the number of blogs pitched, but never in terms of how many links and blog posts were actually posted.

I envision that some SEOs on the lower part of the supply chain that specifically do mass-produced lower quality guest blogging will have to upgrade in skillsets and evolve to stay in the game. I also predict more SEOs who are primarily link builders who relied mainly on guest blogging will start learning how to write better and possibly take short courses in journalism, creative writing, or anything similar to survive the changes of SEO rather than quitting the game.

If you are a client of an SEO professional or some SEO agency, do not expect too much guest blogging links in the future if you used to receive this in a large quantity. Most of the links will now be based on relationship building, outreach and creation of awesome content marketing pieces, all of which consumes more time and resources. If you are still stuck in the mentality of paying X dollars for Y links, most of the companies you deal with that accept this have a high probability of being spammy in nature. There may be an issue in scaling this efficiently since there are so many factors that are not within your control.

Why a Penalty or an Algorithm Update is Sometimes Good

This whole blog post was triggered by Matt Cutts’ blog on guest blogging and this is not an algorithm change, but it likely is a sign of what is coming in the future.

There might be some guest blog posts that tend to be aggressively spammy in nature and used as a link building strategy but are actually improving the ranking of a site. Everyone doing this might say: “Who cares what Matt Cutts says. We are doing guest blogging very aggressively and it still works!”

This then sends doubts into some SEO professionals who are thinking whatever Matt is saying is probably BS and is just scare tactics. The Cuttlets will then complain because they are doing everything right and why are these other offenders ranking so well? In cases like these, where an algorithm update is good for those that are doing the desired way to do SEO.

Historically, we have seen Google not catch everything right away, and the manual quality raters may not see all the offenders right away. But once Matt Cutts talks about it, most likely the Google spam team are already discussing tweaks in the algorithm, so when the next update comes, it should not surprise anyone.

My personal take is to be compliant early before the real algorithm change happens. I have seen this over and over again in the past before any algorithm update happens, there are some related news that comes out before the update happens like a blog post, a tweet, a statement at a conference from different representatives at Google. Some people treat these as scare tactics and fail to follow the guidelines and when the algorithm update happens it affects them so much it can put them out of business or largely in debt.

There are some SEOs whose philosophy is to squeeze every last possible drop of juice from an outgoing tactic until an algorithm update happens so there is no hindrance in the current online earnings gained from organic traffic, but if this is your strategy, then don’t be surprised when it takes a hit.

I had fun shooting the video and thanks to the SEO team members who participated in the video with my amateur script writing, and movie direction skills. What I get in return getting back to my desk after coming from the gym is this:

IMI SEO Team Sticks a Fork on my Computer

2 Responses to “Should You Stick A Fork In Guest Blogging?”

  1. Louie Sison

    Sir Benj,

    First of all, that’s a hilarious video on how to stick a fork on guest blogging. I liked the matrix part, still have the reflexes huh?

    Kidding aside, this is the best article I have read explaining the much talk of the town regarding guest blogging. And thought it’s completely dead 🙁

    Are you planning to direct more videos in the future?

    • Benj Arriola

      Thanks for appreciating the video. I apologize for the very late reply. And as for directing more videos, it is not something I would actively pursue, but if the opportunity exist, and the time and resources exist, why not. I know these are not Lucas or Spielberg productions so they can easily be shot and as long as they send a message or just be plain funny, using a minimalist type of video setup would be sufficient to shoot these any time.


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