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
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:
- When Everyone Gets The Vote: Social Shares As The New Link Building
- Links: The Broken “Ballot Box” Used By Google & Bing