Guest Blogging is now Black Hat - Falkon Digital Ltd

Guest Blogging is now Black Hat

By Sadie on January 21, 2014

Matt Cutts Head of Google WebspamGoogle says guest blogging is black hat SEO but what does it really mean for outreach and online marketing with real good quality content. According to Matt Cutts, head of Google webspam, Google is now declaring that Guest posts are a black hat SEO technique.

Last night Matt Cutts dropped the hammer on guest posting, which caused outrage amongst SEO’s, Digital PRs and bloggers.

Matt Cutts stated “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.”

So what does this really mean?

Well like most marketing techniques that help a website do well in the Search Engines, many SEO‘s are over using this. It happened with keyword stuffing, it happened with paid links, now Google are targeting Guest blogs. But what does it really mean?

Guest Blogs

Guest blogs are a great way of getting good content on your website, or getting your brand out into the public. If you accept a blog post from someone you trust, they will write a really good piece of content that both you, and the author, can promote through your social media networks. This drives traffic to your website as well as raising the profile of the author and their brand.

This is a great way of getting brand exposure that is beneficial to both parties. The added benefit of an authors bio and link back to the website obviously has a SEO benefit. It is this link that Google think SEO’s are manipulating.

In Matt Cutts’ blog he gave an example of an outreach email from a SEO. It has no personalisation and is an example of someone who hasn’t researched the recipient well and perhaps is just doing the outreach and asking to send content that is not going to be as good quality as you may like.

Like with any industry there are good and bad ways to do guest blogs, a worthwhile guest post has been thought out, researched and will reflect well on both parties. If you think the quality of the article is substandard then you have every right to refuse it on your website. If someone has sent a blanket email requesting you accept a guest post then perhaps the content will not be up to parr.

Good SEO’s go Black Hat with Guest Posts

I am still a big believer in guest blogs and guest posting, however now it has been painted with the black hat brush will we see a decline in Guest Posts?

Many SEO’s are suspicious of Matt Cutts calling out Guest blogs, especially as a good quality guest blog on a website where both parties are invested in the content and share is a natural relationship and a useful partnership both for brands and bloggers.

This news has made many SEO’s suspicious (if they weren’t already) of Google’s motives.

Google is constantly changing the benchmarks and making life difficult for SEOs, from removing keyword information for organic results in Google Analytics and mass penalties on links it does make improving your website for natural search very difficult and many SEO’s are moving more towards PPC as an easy way to get ROI for clients. Of course Adwords is a big money spinner for Google therefore the commercial element to these SEO changes will make many suspicious of Google motives.

Are we wrong to suspect Google?

Google has always flounted it’s don’t be evil tagline but as any company grows this becomes a difficult promise to keep as stakeholders put pressure on companies to increase revenue. This does not mean that everything they do is to push us towards their paid products.

Guest blogging emails have been the butt of many jokes all through 2013 as pathetic attempts to entice bloggers to share content are published as joke emails. Not all bloggers are savvy to these poor attempts at contact and engage and publish bad content from these SEO’s. This is showing a resurgence of bad quality content (sometimes duplicate, sometimes just irrelevant, or badly written) appear on the internet with links.

Whenever SEO’s try to manipulate the search engines with quick wins that do not add value, Google strikes back. Unfortunately Google has noticed more poor quality content within Guest Posts. However, Google see’s Guest blogs as a quick win, they are obvious as they are honest, therefore they are quick to penalise.


What Next for SEO and Guest Blogging?

SEO has evolved, it is no longer about manipulating search engines, or at least not for the best of us. More and more SEO’s are putting on a more creative, online marketing cap where they are attracting links and social mentions with great content and digital PR (outreach). I find it hard to believe that big brands submitting guest blogs will be penalised, or sites like the Huffington Post, which is almost completely made up of Guest posts, will suddenly go under. However it may make the impact guest blogging for small sites and brands less, meaning they find it harder to compete against the big boys.

It is unclear if the algorithm will, or has already been, changed to discount guest blogs or devalue them. I have yet to see an example of a site getting penalised, but it it would also depend on any other work the site has done, the quantity of guest blogs versus other link building or attraction techniques and you cannot forget the onsite factors to SEO that the site may or may not be utilising. A lot of research is needed in this area, and lets not forget that Google told us for years not to buy links but it wasn’t until Penguin that we saw this get implemented on a large scale. The algorithm has to live up to the threat.

Matt Cutts did admit some value in Guest blogging so it is unclear if it will be a blanket penalty or content and quality dependent.

Added: It seems like most people are getting the spirit of what I was trying to say, but I’ll add a bit more context. 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.

I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to “guest blogging” as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.

I will continue to provide good quality content in the form of ASA approved guest posts, sponsored posts (where applicable) and will continue to do outreach for my clients.