Google Clarifies: Guest Blogging Is OK, But “Guest Blogging For SEO” Is Not

Relax, publications that use guest bloggers and contributors. Google’s not planning to penalize you under its new “guest blogging equals spam” warning put out yesterday. Rather, the company says, guest blogging is only bad if the main reason a post is run is to gain links meant to influence rankings in Google.

Yesterday, the head of Google’s web spam team Matt Cutts declared that “guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.” As a result, some worried that having guest posts meant they could look forward to a future of being penalized by Google.

Worries That All Guest Posts Are Bad

One especially notable example was award-winning science fiction author Charles Stross, who wrote on Hacker News:

I’m spending three weeks on the road in the next month, so I’ve got three hand-picked guest bloggers taking over the mike on my site, for the duration. Emphasis on hand-picked, i.e. invited because they’re interesting and I’m hoping my readers will enjoy what they’ve got to say.I get to take some time off, they get access to a new audience, and the audience get some new and thought-provoking material — because from my PoV it’s not about SEO, it’s all about the quality of the content. (Hint: I’m a novelist, one of the guests is a film-maker, the other two are other novelists. We all pretty much live or die by the quality of our writing.)

Guest Posts For More Than SEO Are OK

To deal with such concerns, Cutts updated the title of his post to add the bolded words:

The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO

He also added more explanation to stress that not all guest blogging is bad:

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.

In short, the post from Cutts was a continuation of what Google’s been long saying. It wants to reward sites that have “earned” links, rather than sites that have gained links without any real effort. Places that publish anything submitted to them as “guest posts” are just one example of links that aren’t really earned.

No, There’s No Automatic Bad Guest Post Algorithm

Stross also had this comment that I’ve seen many other people echo:

The question I’m asking is, how do google’s algorithmic processes figure out whether a post is a guest post? Are they doing style analysis on prose now? Or counting outbound links, or looking for anomalous keywords? Or is it just a matter of looking for spam-flavoured advertorial?

The answer is that it doesn’t, and that it can’t, not easily. Nor did Cutts say that was the case, but it’s easy to see how some might assume that’s what he meant.

Cutts is warning people who accept guest blog posts, or those who do a lot of guest blogging, that they might find themselves with a spam penalty that would almost certainly be applied manually, if Google’s spam police did a review. It’s similar to how Google warned against advertorials last year, following a penalty Google applied to Interflora and several UK newspapers over these.

There are some cases where Google has algorithms designed to automatically detect behavior it considers spam, such as “thin content” that the Panda filter goes after or spamming that the Penguin filter attacks. Potentially, Google could try to figure out a way to tell if a guest post is done “for SEO reasons” or not. But that would be very difficult, and it’s not the case now (or else Cutts would have announced some new filter with an animal name).

Rather, Cutts seems to be saying that if you’ve been accepting or doing guest blog posts solely for ranking purposes, be warned. If your site gets flagged for some reason for a closer look by the spam team, then such activity is now deemed part of the many link schemes it might decide to manually penalize you over.

Google & The Degradation Of The “Link Signal”

For more about the difference of earned and easy links, I’d recommend reading my past post as Search Engine Land:

For more about the confusing world where Google is trying to continue to rely on links despite them being so polluted, see these past articles from me:

Related Topics: Blogging | Channel: Content Marketing | Top News

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About The Author: is Founding Editor of Marketing Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search marketing and internet marketing issues, who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Majharul Hossain

    That means- unnecessary back link allowed

  • http://www.seobegin.com/ safcblogger

    More confused now.

    So the message I am getting is carry on as you were?

    Unless of course you trip the “non brand comnercial intent you’ve got no chance sonny boy” Penguin.

    Or the “Too many pretty pictures & not enough text coz we said so sonny Jim” Panda?

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    “So the message I am getting is carry on as you were?”

    NO, the message intended is “stop filling up blogs with cheap, useless posts that only exist to give someone a link.”

  • http://searchengineland.com/ Danny Sullivan

    Yep.

  • http://soormade.com/ Michael Wilbourn

    Great post clears so much up!!

  • http://kercommunications.com/ Nick Ker

    Is anybody else flabbergasted at the inability of so many people to understand words as they are written? It is as if the people who soiled the bed over Matt’s post read something completely different from what it said.
    If Matt Cutts said something like “water is wet”, it would get comments and questions like “so you are saying that water should be wet but it is not? What about water in a bottle if I was not the one who bought it?” or “I’ve been telling everyone my sand is water. Why does Google want to destroy my small business?”

  • http://gastricbandfrance.co.uk/ geofflord

    Great post and clarification of what Matt Cutts said. In reality Matt and his team can not possibly scan every blog for “spammy” content as there is no clear definition what exactly a spam post consists of. In my experience the small website owner is still at a major disadvantage over the “Big Boys” in any niche because they (the big boys) can still afford to employ “bulk” posting simply by paying for the posts from so called “outsourced blog commenters”.

  • Akhil ahmed

    Is there a clear definition on “spammy” content.Is there any way to distinguish “spammy” content from others.

  • Salina

    If you’re doing “guest blogging” with the right objectives in mind, then you won’t care if you have to use a no following link; better yet — just link to your G+ author page. Anyone who wrote with a link being the only goal was an idiot. Good riddance to you .

    Super Guest Blog Services

  • Guest

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    I was trying to learn about guest posting from far but nothing got success but after reading this post I completely understood that how guest posting works.

  • Rohit NACS

    Such a wonderful blog as it taught me about the working of seo. It deeply defines the off page working in seo and which off page working is useful and which is not.
    I was trying to learn about guest posting from far but nothing got success but after reading this post I completely understood that how guest posting works.
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  • Rohit NACS

    I am totally agree from you about this post.
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  • Rohit NACS

    In my opinion, unnecessary back links are not allowed because it increases spamming.
    http://www.nacsinfosystems.com/

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