April 7, 2014
Guest bloggers are living in interesting times, and for that they can thank the omnipresent juggernaut that is Google. For the average user of the Internet, it’s comforting that Google is always there when you need it: an indispensable tool for searching the web. For guest bloggers and those who work in SEO, however, there’s a rather different perspective, tinged with something approaching fear that a single company can instigate such sweeping changes across the web.
In recent months, Google has become very vocal about guest blogging practices and the frequency with which this industry tends to overlap with Google’s increasingly broad definition of the word “spam.” Google’s Matt Cutts has usually served as the public mouthpiece through which Google has communicated its intentions to the general public.
You’ll likely remember Cutts’ contentious comments from as far back as 2012, and his many subsequent updates, in which he not so much prophesied as promised the death of “spammy” guest blogging.
Until rather recently, Google had yet to act on this new mandate in any significant way. With Cutts’ announcement on Twitter that Google had taken down a “large guest blog network,” that’s all changed. This is Google’s first massive push to tackle what they have decided are spam-ridden practices.
That guest blog network is called MyBlogGuest, and until Google targeted them, it was one of the fastest growing sites of its kind. Let’s take a look at exactly what happened, and at the potential fallout.
What Is (Was?) MyBlogGuest?
For several years now, MyBlogGuest has served as a way for guest bloggers to find a home for their work. At one point in time, MyBlogGuest had published more than 300,000 unique articles, of varying quality.
The site was founded in 2009, and reached a point where some 215 articles, on average, were being posted daily, along with 11 unique infographics, all of which drew traffic from across the globe. From 2012 to 2013 alone, the site saw a jump from about 28,000 users to more than 73,000. That’s huge. So what went wrong?
Google’s Stance on “Link Networks”
Google’s anti-spam team has been hard at work recently tracking down and penalizing link networks. You likely saw headlines in the latter half of 2013 that concerned Google’s takedown of Anglo Rank, a well-known link network in the world of “black hat” SEO.
The move didn’t come as a total shock, given that Anglo Rank’s very business model was at odds with Google’s policies. Google has categorically renounced link networks as an unscrupulous way to improve the rankings of the sites that take part. Despite Anglo Rank’s comments to the contrary, the network was a house of cards where thousands of low-quality webpages from all over the world were interconnected in the name of bolstering rankings. The site’s owner has vowed to rebuild the site, but what exactly that will look like is anybody’s guess.
MyBlogGuest: Gone But Not Forgotten
So what does MyBlogGuest have in common with Anglo Rank? The answer to that question is going to change a great deal depending on who you ask. According to Google, MyBlogGuest was no different. It was a link network in all but name. For others, the two are worlds apart.
MyBlogGuest was essentially a place where independent websites could gather together to compare notes, trade ideas, and exchange content. Everything that was posted on the site was subject to thorough editorial approval, which by itself set it apart from the “real” link networks being targeted by Google.
Yes, it was a way for people to network in order to either receive or provide guest blog posts. For all intents and purposes, it was a social network for guest bloggers. More importantly, though, it was a repository for unique and peer-reviewed content.
Just a few short years ago, MyBlogGuest was one of the most highly-regarded sites of its type. Now, when you do a Google search for the site, it doesn’t appear in the results. Google’s penalties were swift and decisive, and have, as they’ve done so frequently in recent months, sent the SEO world into a panic.
Why MyBlogGuest, and Why Now?
MyBlogGuest existed, for the most part, within Google’s parameters for what they deem “proper” operating procedure. That said, the two entities didn’t always see eye-to-eye, as when Ann Smarty, the owner of MyBlogGuest, decided not to nofollow links, going against Cutts’ previous suggestions. Perhaps Google is finally taking action for that slight?
Let’s be honest. Google’s arguments in this case carry about as much water as the “guns kill people” argument. Sure, there was plenty of low-quality content on MyBlogGuest, but there was a lot of worthwhile, well-written, high-quality stuff there too. To penalize the site as a whole seems extremely heavy-handed, given the actual scope of the problem.
Can We Even Predict the Future Anymore?
Google has a history of using bait-and-switch. Just a few years ago, guest blogging was not just tolerated, but welcomed. Now, it’s being roundly condemned. While it’s true that there’s a great deal more questionable content in play now than in the early days, it’s hard not to be frustrated by Google’s ever-changing standards.
One of the most important takeaways from this story is the fact that Google doesn’t seem all that concerned about the collateral damage from their crusade. A site-wide penalty against MyBlogGuest isn’t just going to hurt purveyors of low-quality content; it’s also going to hurt real, well-intentioned businesses and websites.
As a portent of things to come, Google’s actions of late are worrisome for some, and disastrous for others. The best we can do for now is just to see what comes next.
Adrienne Erin writes twice weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses like Acme Hardesty succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to see more of her work or get in touch.