Is the Guest Blogging Gravy Train Arriving at it’s Last Stop?

Okay, here’s an interesting discussion that’s just surfaced today, and that is an announcement that Matt Cutts has just made over at mattcutts.com regarding guest blogging.

In simple terms Matt is suggesting that the glory days of Guest blogging are over, and that Google is going to start cracking down on those abusing this strategy in order to get links. In his own words he said “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”

Here’s what he tweeted today…

matt-cutts-guest-blogging

Needless to say, this has got a lot of people in a frenzy and for good reason. That’s because guest blogging is powerful. It’s a great strategy, because quite simply, when it’s done right – it works.

Guest blogging works for a number of reasons, those being –

  • You get yourself in front of an already existing audience, and that’s powerful.
  • You get a big fat juicy link back to your website, and that’s what everyone wants because let’s face it – that’s what gets us better rankings, right?
  • You can pick up immediate, high quality targeted traffic, especially when you start guest blogging on really active sites.
  • You help raise awareness of your brand
  • It can lead to more opportunities, such as further guest posts, interviews, media exposure, content syndication, links and so forth. Of course all this helps snowball the process and help build momentum.
  • It can help pass authority over to your own website – simply through link/website association.
  • It can make you feel important, and that’s always a nice feeling.

Anyway, having said that, ever since Google smashed link networks and Penguin ran rampant back in April of 2012, everyone’s been chasing other bright and shiny ways of getting high quality links. Guest blogging (at least at the time) seemed like an ethical way of doing so. So everyone ran in that direction. But now it seems that the party might be over – at least according to Matt, and so the goal posts shift yet again.

How do you define abuse?

Let’s just take a step back for a moment and think this through.

Here’s what we know.

The Good.

Guest blogging is a great way to reach out to other site owners and build relationships that can benefit everyone. The site owner, the readers, and you – the person submitting the content.

The Bad.

Guest blogging is being abused by some, through the submission of low quality content to sites that do not moderate and simply publish “anything and everything”. Many publishers are submitting the same piece of content over and over again to multiple sites. That’s just rubbish and a bit like stepping in poo.

The Ugly.

This is where it gets ugly. Some people do guest blogging with good intentions, others simply because they’re trying to game the system. The more you think about it, the messier it gets. How can Google accurately determine this difference algorithmically?

It’s a worrying thought.

And what’s worse still, is now that this has been officially broadcast from Google themselves, great networking opportunities are going to be lost. Infact I asked someone for a guest post opportunity on his site recently, as we’ve been friends for some time now and regularly chat online via Skype. He’s now reluctant to do so, because of this very announcement from Google, and that sucks.

matt

Kill them all and let God sort it out

What really gets up my nose about this is the whole guest blogging thing, is that like in the past with previous Google penalties, there’s that unsettling concern about how Google are going to handle this.

  • Are they going to smash everyone involved in guest blogging?
  • Will they be more lenient with higher authority sites?
  • What about sites that already have a lot of guest blog entries from years back?
  • What about sites that host podcasts where the site owner is continually linking out to the guests website?
  • What will they do to identify sites that might be abusing the system? Look at the inbound/outbound link ratio? Is that sufficient?

All of these questions are what keep me awake at night.

The worst part is …no one really knows, and you can bet your bottom dollar Google won’t be overly transparent about it either.

Urrgh.

Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Alright, just don’t do anything at all.

Here’s an interesting point raised by a friend of mine, Sean Kaye. In our private forum, Sean said….

sean-kayeFor me, the problem with Google is that they’ve become punitive rather than additive. They live in a world of scarcity rather than abundance. They want to keep people out of the search results rather than include more. Fortress mentality is great when you’re massive and way out in front, but eventually the world moves on and you’re so busy protecting your fortress that you think you’re doing well when people stop attacking you but what’s really happened is they’ve just moved on to something else and you’ve lost relevance.

IBM, Microsoft, General Motors, US Network Television, Telephone Companies the world over, etc…

They went from monopoly positions, decided to build a wall around themselves and then the world moved on and they were too busy guarding the fortress to notice. Google is smart, but they are displaying all of the same hubris and ignorance of those other groups/companies that suffered the same fate.

This is a really great comment and certainly an interesting observation, and I have to say I agree completely. I think eventually you arrive at a point where you’re potentially doing more harm than good. If you think about it, Google’s ever changing set of rules, is narrowing down the space into an ever diminishing set of opportunities – and I don’t know if that’s a good thing long term.

At some point, everyone is going to get the shits and say, “to hell with this”, and move onto something else.

A trend that I’m seeing amongst most business owners is definitely a love/hate relationship with Google. It’s unfortunate, but I can honestly say that almost every time I sit with a client now I hear the following comments.

  • We’re so sick and tired of chasing Google’s rules
  • SEO is a scam, the SEO industry is a joke.
  • We’ve been penalised, and Google won’t tell us why.
  • This is ridiculous, we’ve done everything right as far as we know and our rankings suck.
  • Can you please help us get traffic from elsewhere, rather than Google.
  • Our Adwords account has been banned. We don’t know why?

Guess what? Business owners are so fed up with the constant “changing of the rules”, and this one about guest blogging is just another one. This is the very reason why I’m constantly talking about diversifying your traffic sources. It’s absolutely vital.

Anyway, let’s move on.

The Google Guest Blogging Panic Timeline

google-guest-blogging-panic-chart

This might look funny, but it’s true. Infact many SEO professionals working in this space, seen this coming a long time ago. It was inevitable really, and just to prove it, take a look at the following videos from Matt where he talks specifically about guest blogging. You can see how over time the message sort of deteriorates to where it is now.

October 9 2012 – Guest blogging is really great.

November 12 2012 – Guest blogging is still pretty cool, but don’t be stupid.

October 2013 – We are aware of people being sneaky. Google is watching you – closely.

December 10 2013 – Guest blogging is being abused and we hate you.

A much similar trend happened with press releases not too long ago. Press releases were a great way of getting links but that eventually got put under the micrscope because it too, was being abused.

Alright, so what now?

Here’s a few thoughts off the top of my head, as to what may or may not happen over the next 12 months when it comes to guest blogging.

Chicken littles.

The first thing that’s bound to happen will be the usual group of people running around in circles screaming “The sky is falling!”. This happens with every Google update and I can’t see this one being any different. There will be moments of sheer panic with site owners pulling down pages full of guest blog entries and others sending out “take down” requests and all sorts of nonsense going on. Please, be sensible in the way in which you respond to this. Don’t do anything stupid – yet.

Guest blogging is not dead.

One point I want to make here is that regardless of this announcement from Matt, is that GUEST BLOGGING IS NOT DEAD. Site owners, and guest bloggers just need to be mindful of what guest blogging is all about. It’s about contributing something of value to the audience. If you intend on submitting low quality content and blasting spun rubbish all over the place then its only bound to end in tears.

Google cannot stamp out high quality, legitimate guest post entries with value because that’s just stupid.

Authorship will be more important than ever.

Here’s a thought. Now that we’ve got this Google Authorship thingy, how about Google start actually using it for something other than showing our faces in the search results? At the moment it seems a bit of a vanity feature, so perhaps if they tie in guest blogging with authorship and incorporate that into the algorithm somehow, then maybe this change might work. Urggh, I don’t know, I’m no Google engineer, but it would be nice – and it does make sense.

Low quality content in any form sucks balls.

As Matt said in the videos above, it doesn’t matter what strategy you intend on using – crap content is always crap content, regardless. If you’re going to make the effort to reach out to a site owner with the request of publishing content to their site, then make sure it’s top notch. As for site owners, you’d better be screening that stuff heavily.

Moderating content as a site owner is absolutely essential.

As said above, moderating content (for site owners) now is really important. Infact, I don’t even know why I’m mentioning this because it should be obvious. If you want to keep your rankings and avoid the Google ban hammer, then moderate anything that comes your way and make sure its high quality. Don’t just go accepting guest entries from anyone.

Guest post opportunities are going to be extremely difficult to get

This is what really sucks. Now that this has been marked off by Google as “spammy”, site owners everywhere are going to be avoiding it like the plague. That sucks big time because some of us actually embrace guest blogging as a genuine way of establishing relationships in the field. As if Penguin wasn’t bad enough – we now have site owners absolutely paranoid about links coming in, links going out, where to place links on their site, what those links should say, should they be nofollow, dofollow, and on and on and on it goes. I can see the same patterns happening now with guest blogging. What a shame.

The next “big thing”

I can hear the WSO’s coming already, “Guest blogging is dead XYZ is the new way to get high quality links – buy now just $7”

Urrgh.

It’s inevitable but it’s bound to happen. Now that guest blogging has been stamped by Google, SEO’s, and anyone else working in this space are no doubt going to come up with some other “fancy strategy” for getting links, until that too goes down the toilet, or they’ll just rebrand guest blogging to something like “Part time contributor”, or “Casual content superstar”. Whatever happens, you’ve only got to look at what’s happened in the past with any other update, and that is …some other slimy tactic slides in as being the “next big thing”.

Final thought

I want to wrap this article up by saying, “just do good stuff”, regardless of what it is you might be doing. Press releases, guest blogging – whatever. Make sure whatever it is that you’re doing is high quality and adds value. Don’t associate with the wrong types of sites and certainly don’t listen to the rumours that are bound to be in abundance about guest blogging at the moment.

At the end of the day, just use a bit of good old fashioned common sense.

Google can’t ban that.

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