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November 22, 2012

Guest Blogging Basics, Courtesy of Matt Cutts

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?


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.