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November 22, 2012

Guest Blogging Basics, Courtesy of Matt Cutts

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You may recall a post here on SiteProNews that detailed a recent YouTube video by Matt Cutts. The video sheds some much-needed light on the practice of guest posting, and SEOs breathed a collective sigh of relief when they discovered Google gave the link-building technique the green light – when used in the correct context, of course.

The first video we reported about on SPN included a slew of “dos and don’ts” from Cutts about guest post blogging. Mainly, though, the video focused on the things guest posters should do to gain the most ROI from the time they spend posting on other websites and blogs.

In the earlier Google Webmaster Help video, Cutts went into major detail about what constituted a “high quality writer” and how guest posters could achieve that coveted “high-quality status” themselves. Here’s the rub: Google authorship is a big deal, and being well-known in your niche is a key component of successful guest blogging. It’s all about consistently providing high-quality content to an audience who knows and trusts your voice. Easy enough.

This YouTube video posted by Cutts the other day, however, is different. It again addresses the topic of guest posting, but from an entirely different angle. This time, there’s no talk of authorship and no lengthy definitions of “high quality writers.” Instead, it’s a laundry list of “don’ts” – things you should avoid if you choose to engage in guest posting to market your website.

The proximity of these video releases is curious. The fact that they’ve been uploaded in close succession means that guest posting is 100% on Google’s radar – and the search giant is monitoring these activities closely, so take note.

Article Spinning and Link Spamming

Cutts begins this latest Webmaster Help installment by talking about article spinning as a guest blogging tactic. He points out that people who engage in heavy guest blogging typically resort to article spinning at one point or another to speed up the process and gain backlinks in greater volume.

People who spin articles are spammers; they submit slightly altered versions of the same incoherent post to multiple blogs to score as many links as possible. Perhaps a handful of (not too bright) people are still engaging in this practice, but don’t discount the evolution of spamming. Black hat SEOs are smart – and I think Cutts’ warning includes guest posters who are much harder to detect.

Think about this. A guest poster buys a fantastic, original, top-notch article from a freelance writer. The guest poster in question then pays another freelancer to rewrite the article five more times. Then, the guest poster queries different blogs and manages to get the articles published on these unwitting sites almost simultaneously. Now that’s what I think Cutts is talking about in this case – and he’s cautioning guest bloggers that Google’s onto the ploy.

Now think about being a webmaster who accepts guest posts. If you’re getting high-quality (legitimately non-spun) stuff, then you reduce your workload, provide value to your visitors, and have a never-ending supply of fresh content, right?

Wrong.

Cutts addresses this strategy as well – and he specifically warns against it.

He says that by allowing a parade of regular guest bloggers, you may inadvertently allow spun content at some point. At the very least, you’d be letting lower-quality stuff slip through the cracks simply because of the sheer volume of guest posts you’d be accepting. He warns that even without realizing it, this practice may affect your site’s overall reputation in the end. In the short term, you’re robbing your audience of the chance to warm to your voice. You’re also robbing yourself of the chance to set the tone of your blog by offering primarily guest-written content instead of your own writing.

Finally, Cutts wraps up the spinning topic by threatening Google’s hand if your website has spammy guest post articles. Best to steer clear of guest posts altogether unless they’re extremely high quality and they point back to websites that are on par with your own, stat-wise. Remember that your visitors trust your recommendations, and by hosting a guest post, you’re essentially recommending the content within it – and the links it contains – to your audience. Choose wisely.

The Great Article Syndication Debate

Okay, let’s talk about a much more ambiguous portion of the video, and that’s the part where Cutts starts talking article syndication. It’s still painfully unclear at this point whether he (or Google) thinks syndication is good or bad, although it’s been one heck of a hotly debated topic in the marketing forums for years now.

Which is very frustrating.

I’ve watched most of the Webmaster Help videos Cutts has released and he seems to vacillate in his view of article syndication from month to month, as does – I’m assuming – Google.

Cutts uses the term “low-quality syndication” in this video, but he doesn’t warn against article syndication altogether. In a past video about links in syndicated articles, you may remember that Cutts stated that low-quality articles stuffed with two or three keyword-laden links at the end are typically ignored – or are used to punish sites that host them. He says that a webmaster may grab the offending piece from an article bank, which means that he or she is not intentionally choosing the links included in the article. It’s just part of the package. Google, he says, tends to view links in articles that people share organically much more favorably.

All this information boils down to a few key facts. If you plan to guest post on other blogs, either write or buy original (ridiculously long) high-quality stuff. Make sure your content is relevant to the blog you’ll be posting it on and the links match the site’s niche as well. If you’re a webmaster, be very strict with your guest post approval policy. Check the content for originality, plagiarism, and check the links as well.

Google will be keeping a close eye on guest posting from this point forward since it’s the last great way to secure the almighty backlink for your website or blog. If you play by the rules and keep things aboveboard, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about – even as future updates roll out.


Nell Terry is a tech news junkie, fledgling Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She thrives on social media, web design, and uncovering the truth about all the newest marketing fads that pop up all over the ‘net. Find out more about Nell by visiting her online portfolio at Content by Nell.

16 Responses to “Guest Blogging Basics, Courtesy of Matt Cutts

    avatar SAK says:

    Nice suggestions cutts,

    I also write Posts in my Blog, guest blogs and Article on goarticles and ezines as well as other sites

    avatar Reagen of Mycars.ph says:

    Its G firing back at another tactic that seems to be working for a lot for SEO. I believe its a matter of establishing a well-rounded strategy that will focus more on quality/creativity over backlinks. If you have a team of writers, commission them to write for your clients (if they have a blog). Build a long term relationship with them by providing content they can’t produce on their own. Create a monthly content calendar to keep track of everything & be flexible enough to create seasonal articles.

    I must say it was flawless and great to read. Thanks for providing great insight and fostering new thoughts about guest blogging basics.

    To my mind, guest blogging is one of the very few ways one can control the content around your link, and the relevancy and context.

    How else would one make real traction on the rankings without being to offer up quality content up the PR food chain? With Webmasters being cautioned not to give links to sites other than those on par with their own… well..

    avatar SEO Atul Sharma says:

    Great to read it. Thanks for sharing.

    I’m confused. Either guest blogging is a worthwhile strategy or its not. Too often Google says you can do “something” but don’t over do it. How am I suppose to get good links from websites without guest blogging, or re-writing, updating and or revising old articles – is this practice “article spinning” and thereforefor spamming?

    I have always been careful to review guest posts for both quality content and originality. Unfortunately, I have never been able to accept a guest post because of at least one of those criteria.

    I once offered to trade an upgraded listing in a Criminal lawyer directory in exchange for an article on a topic of criminal law. While the submitted posts were original and written by attorneys, I rejected all of them because they were poorly written or included spelling and grammatical errors.

    I have approximately 400 websites on topics including various areas of law and other diverse topics such as advertising; search engine optimization; electricians; pizza; product reviews; and other topics. All of the articles submitted to me have either been poorly written or a quick search on Google proved them not to be original.

    Consequently, I have personally written over 2,000 pages of content for my websites. I have been able to do that while still operating my law practice and an advertising agency because of Dragon NaturallySpeaking which allows me to quickly and accurately dictate all of my content including this comment.

    avatar Barb says:

    Agree with you there, Phil. I get hundreds of articles submitted to my site. Can’t accept any of them because they are so poorly written. The title alone tells me whether or not it’s worth reading.

    avatar David says:

    This are very important things to consider now that guest blogging is now becoming popular. Thanks for the insights.

    avatar Single mum says:

    Good analysis. Guest blogging is an area that is always tricky. Thanks also to Cutts for outlining google s position on the question of how often you should take guest bloggers posts.

    avatar Brian says:

    Great insites. I’ve been considering guest blogging on other sites to help get backlinks to my own home improvement site.

    Writing good content only makes sense, I know I get totally turned off when I read an article that is obviously a spun article that wasn’t proof read.

    I do wonder tho, in those cases, if the poor quality may only be a reflection of the translation between languages…how would one know?

    Thanks for another interesting article. As a small business in Australia selling mens shirts we compete online for SERP positions with many much larger companies with more extensive resources. We know we should start guest blogging so thanks for the information.

    avatar Tony Hisir says:

    It is good to know what is under Google’s radar, thank you for the article. Unfortunately abuse of a good idea has made it difficult for everyone. Still guest blogging on related niche websites with high quality content is a good idea.

    avatar Felipe Bazon says:

    Back in the days I´ve done a lot of article spinning, shame it stopped working. Just kidding.

    When that died, guest blogging arose and that is one of my main link building tactics these days. It sure got a lot thougher but SERPS got a lot “cleaner”.

    avatar Alan Gray says:

    I publish an online newspaper, and we get this type of request all the time.

    We reject almost all requests for various reasons.

    Even if a writer passes all our tests, their story must still pass through an editor and the associated scrutiny.

    Bloggers are the editors of their own blog, it is their responsibility to fix grammar, spelling, formatting, to check for correct attribution, and to check for evidence of spinning or plagiarism. They must also check the rights to any photos or graphics, because that can get them into much more trouble than a poorly written story can.

    The presence of poor grammar or spelling need not disqualify a writer, if the story is good, because the editor can fix that. It is an indication that you need to check more rigorously for spinning, plagiarism and poor flow. You can also check the quality of that story against other work the writer claims to have done.

    There is no excuse for publishing shoddy work. If you decide to accept guest posts, keep your standards high and consider writing a checklist so you don’t miss checking something.

    avatar Grace says:

    Writing article is a time-consuming work, and I usually buy contents from some freelancer, but only to find that the quality is … don’t know what to say… And I have to spend time on checking and correcting… that’s frustrating. Any advice or tips to get high quality and original articles?

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