January 29, 2014
Guest blogging has been an important part of the SEO toolbox for a very long time. It’s a great way for marketers to earn links and improve their credibility and authority within their particular niche. However, Google may be moving in a direction that will eventually put lousy guest blogging on notice.
Let’s make something clear: Google isn’t about to declare wholesale war on guest posting. Rather, any future efforts on their part to crack down on this practice will almost certainly be directed exclusively toward lower-quality guest blogging, spam, and other black hat techniques.
Let’s take a closer look at this possible future.
Where’s the Line?
One reason why Google may begin targeting low-quality guest blogs is because the very practice of guest posting is something of a slippery slope. Guest blogging tends to begin with the best intentions. You’ve got something to say, and you’ve got the writing chops to say it in a way that’s going to provide readers with something worth their time. In exchange, you get a live link out of the bargain.
Here’s the problem: pitching your ostensibly terrific posts to quality websites is not only tedious, but rather difficult. It’s a buyer’s market, after all, and you can find yourself scrabbling to find a home for your work.
At some point, it will become a great deal easier to target lower-quality sites en masse. You’ll start sending it pretty much anywhere, so long as they’re willing to take your content. That’s where you start sliding into the realm of black hat SEO practices. Once your guest blogging efforts have been scaled, and your focus has slipped from quality to quantity, that’s where the problems happen.
Here’s a pretty easy rule of thumb to keep in mind: there aren’t any shortcuts in SEO, and the corners you cut now are going to come back and bite you in the future. You may start to see short-term gains in your reach, but what happens in the future when the next Google algorithm flags your content as spam? That day may not be too far in the future.
Losing Sight of the Real Goals
Google’s own Matt Cutts has been making his opinion pretty plain about the brute-force method of low-quality guest posting. He seems to suggest that, at some point, the distinction between low- and high-quality content comes down to a difference in your motivations.
If you, as a guest blogger, are pitching articles to other sites that are little more than requests by strangers (to strangers) to exchange money for links, you need to stop it. You’re part of the problem, and you’re the reason why guest blogging bears little resemblance to the positive, collaborative trend that emerged all those years ago.
Make no mistake, guest posting started out as a positive thing. It was a useful technique and it quickly took on a life of its own as a major factor in SEO. Like so much else, however, it’s been twisted into something with little resemblance to its former self.
To hear Cutts tell it: “Guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.” There’s still plenty of people out there who are using it legitimately, but the practice as a whole seems to have been dragged down into the world of spam.
A Matter of Authenticity
Think about it like this: guest blogging has become more transactional than collaborative. Those who are operating high-quality blogs with authentic and compelling content, even if it’s provided by multiple contributors, are going to be just fine after Google sweeps through with its great cleansing fire. Why? Because they haven’t lost sight of the real purpose of guest posting: that it should remain a collaboration between people with something in common, with similar goals, and who can each vouch for the integrity, authority, and authenticity of the other.
One Important Distinction
If there’s one important takeaway here, it’s that guest blogging is, in itself, not a problem. Distinguishing between low-quality and high-quality guest posts is going to be important as we move toward this changing future.
We’re not talking about high-quality blogs that happen to have multiple authors. As we said above, those sites haven’t lost their focus, or devolved into a desperate, scrabbling effort to rake in as many links as they can; instead, they’re focused on maintaining their collaborative nature, and on providing valuable content, from multiple points of view, for their readers.
Unfortunately, the reason we’re even talking about this is because the larger umbrella of “guest blogging” has been co-opted by lazy or unscrupulous bloggers with just one thing on their mind — getting more links.
This is a distinction that will almost certainly be taken into account by Google’s webspam team in the future. For now, it’s probably a good idea to exercise a great deal of skepticism the next time you’re approached by someone who wants you to host one of their articles. Quite simply, you’ll need to be pickier than ever when it comes to the quality of their content. If you’re not, you both may pay for it in the long run.
What’s in Store for Guest Blogging?
Even though Matt Cutts has been among the most outspoken about the changing place of guest blogging in SEO, he’ll also be the first to say that Google isn’t going to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” When done correctly, guest blogging is still a hugely useful tool that can provide worthwhile, quality content. Anything less is a disservice to your readers and to the SEO community.
Adrienne Erin is a blogger and Internet marketer for what she thinks is one of the best SEO companies out there. When she's not blogging about tech and social media, you might find her practicing her French, whipping up some recipes she found on Pinterest, or obsessing over vintage postcards and stamps.