In one of the most talked-about industry posts so far this year, Google’s anti-spam tsar Matt Cutts called time on guest blogging for SEO.
Like so many other link building tactics, it seems guest blogging has been ruined by over-engineering and clever shortcuts to the extent that Google is now actively discouraging it as a means of improving search performance.
So is guest blogging really dead? Should you abandon your guest blogging campaigns immediately and seek absolution before Google excommunicates your website? If you’re thinking about doing just that, here are some important points to bear in mind:
Some links are more equal than others
The first is that Google has been trying for years to find ways to differentiate between different types of inbound links. Was this link genuine and created to point users at a relevant, high quality page on another site or did someone just buy it?
The savage beating Matt Cutts dished out to guest blogging last month is just part of the ongoing effort to clean up link building and salvage it as a reliable search signal. I would argue that the only new development here is that the bad neighbourhood criteria Google uses as part of its Penguin updates might start applying to more blogs.
Penguin hit a lot of sites that manipulated (our editorial people groan whenever I say “over-optimisation”) their link profiles and guest blogging has been a major contributor to that. If you’ve been planting low quality articles, on low quality blogs, that all use your favourite keyword to point to your favourite landing page, then don’t bank on keeping your ranking for much longer.
Any links (on blogs or elsewhere) that are too easy to obtain will offer limited value and increasingly will do more harm than good. If you’re worried about your link profile, check out our Penguin recovery guide.
Investing in solid foundations
The second point – and one I make to clients whenever guest blogging has come up in the past – is that all content marketing campaigns should start with assets you own or control. Whether it’s your website, a separate blog you run or the relevant social media platforms in your niche, investing in your “owned” digital presence is the basis of a sound long-term strategy.
Over-reliance on third party sites to send you traffic or boost your search performance has always been risky in my view. As well as the constant threat of changes to how Google does its thing, you’re also relying on sites you don’t control to pay the rent. That used to be an issue if your links weren’t optimised properly, now it’s also a problem if you want to get rid of them.
How guest blogging can still help
If it’s done well, guest blogging, even after January’s “death by a thousand Cutts” (I also wanted to use “Cutts like a knife”) can still contribute to your wider marketing efforts. As Cutts himself acknowledged when responding to some of the 400 or so comments his article triggered, guest blogging can get you exposure to a new audience and point real users back to your website, even if the SEO benefits are limited.
“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,” Cutts said in an addendum to his original post.
In my experience, the best guest blogging opportunities tend to come from existing opportunities rather than anonymous blogger outreach. Just like other forms of link building, you should look at your commercial relationships, trade associations you belong to (or could join) and sponsorship activities for opportunities to promote yourself with great content.
Links from high quality sites – even blogs – are still likely to add some value and certainly don’t fall into the “bad neighbourhood” category that Google Penguin has been chewing up and spitting out. If these opportunities exist for your business, you should still take advantage of them.
By Kate Davidson