We all knew it would be a matter of time. The slew of aggressive algo updates that Google’s rolled out over the past year have rendered many an Internet marketer virtually impotent in the SERPs. The Penguin update in particular has wreaked havoc on the vast majority of link-building methods (not a bad thing, considering some of the more spammy techniques floating around out there).
So, of course after the link blasting software was rendered obsolete and the blog networks were dismantled, everyone began to gravitate to the one thing that still worked – guest blogging. Guest blogging doesn’t just work – it works well. And webmasters, Internet marketers, and SEOs the world over have jumped on that gravy train en masse over the past few months.
Not surprisingly, the practice is being abused, and Google’s taken notice.
Matt Cutts released a video on YouTube back in early October in which he outlined a few “best practices” for guest bloggers to abide by. Then, yesterday, Cutts released a follow-up YouTube video detailing all the things guest bloggers should try to avoid.
Cutts on Guest Blogging: Part One
In Google’s early October Google Webmaster Help video, Cutts finally tackled the issue of guest blogging for links. This initial video was a long time coming – webmasters had been waiting for Google to take some sort of stance on the practice ever since the major changes began erupting though the Internet’s landscape last year.
Cutts vehemently defended guest posting as a good thing. However, he stressed how bad spammy guest blogging was. He gave specifics in the video, too: Cutts noted that 200-300 word wonders were, of course, no-nos. He also said that guest posting on low-quality websites was a bad practice as well. Side note: I felt that this point was a tad redundant given that the entire point of guest posting is to obtain links from high-quality sites in order to up your own site’s standing in the SERPs.
Cutts also reiterated the things that “good” guest blogging entails – longer, well-researched posts… articles that offer original insight into common problems or hot topics. These kinds of pieces add to a conversation, and they’re articles that people will link to naturally because the content itself is valuable. That’s the kind of content you want on your website.
He also offered up this extra little tidbit: Google really digs guest posts from authors who are well-known in an industry (think those who are all tagged up authorship-style in the search results already)
Cutts on Guest Blogging: Part Two
Flash forward to the YouTube video posted yesterday. Cutts spent the majority of the time talking about what not to do this go-round. Here’s the question that he answered in the new video:
Cutts begins by saying that this video is essentially the flip-side of his earlier video about guest blogging. He goes on to point out that people who are firing off large quantities of guest blog posts are likely engaging in article spinning, and this is something that Google’s watching closely, so beware.
Webmasters don’t get off easy here, either. Some are hosting so many guest posts on their blogs that they’ve begun to depend on them as their primary source of content. Other websites that aggregate and recycle articles from around the Web fall into this classification as well. Cutts says that these kinds of websites won’t be treated nearly as well in search results as websites with a consistent stream of high-quality, original, relevant content for users.
Further, Cutts goes on to note that Google’s algorithms pay close attention to the links included in the guest posts you host as well. If the links in guest posts on your website point to spammy websites, then your site may end up penalized for that in search results. Moreover, warns Cutts, these kinds of links and low-quality posts could affect your site’s overall reputation. By “reputation”, I’m assuming he means your website’s stance in the SERPs. Bottom line: Google is ready and willing to take action against low-quality guest posts and links to spammy sites through guest posts as well.
Key takeaways from this video? Cutts urges to always, as the site owner, think about the quality of the links, quality of the content, and (he says this specifically) the amount of words put into each piece. For Google, it is ultimately about providing value to the end-user, so make sure that’s what each and every one of your guest posts does.
If you decide to accept a guest post for your website, always run the body through a plagiarism checker such as Copyscape before you publish the work on your website. In addition, keep your finger on the pulse of your industry by staying abreast of the latest news and trends reported on websites related to your own – that way, you’ll know whether you’re truly getting something original or merely a rehashed rewrite of something that’s already out there.
Even if you get a fantastic article from a guest post marketer, be careful. Click through each of the links included and check out the stats of the website to which the article links. Make sure the website is as good as – or better than – your own before you agree to publish the article and include the link. You should also investigate whether the links in the post direct to sites that are in a niche that’s similar to your own. Google will penalize for links to unrelated websites, so make sure everything stays relevant.
One other major takeaway for me was the mere fact that Cutts posted two videos on the topic of guest posting so closely together. It means that Google’s highly aware of the massive sea change that’s caused everyone online to flock to this link-building method – so tread lightly and carry a big keyboard. You’ll likely see more rules surrounding guest posting imposed by Google – and more webmasters tightening their own on-site restrictions, for that matter – as these next few months unfold.