The Next Penguin Target – Guest Blogging
Are Guest Posts In Google’s Crosshairs?
If a recent video by Matt Cutts is any indication, Google may soon take aim at guest posts. Guest blogging is one of the ‘last bastions’ of link building in a post Penguin world, but it would appear Cutts and the search giant would like to discourage the practice.
So, what is Google’s view on guest blogging for links? It’s okay if you’re a well known blogger or “write really, really well,” Cutts said. But it doesn’t sound like Google wants to see the practice proliferate.
“Sometimes it gets taken to extremes and you’ll see people writing , you know, offering the same blog post multiple times,” Cutts said, “or spinning the blog post, offering it to multiple outlets where it almost becomes like low quality article bank sort of stuff.’
Cutts spoke disparagingly of outsourcing article writing and then inserting your links. “It’s a long and time honored tradition to have high quality bloggers, you know, jump back and forth or collaborate in different ways …,’ he said, “but when you’re just doing it as a way to turn the crank and get a massive number of links that’s something where we’re less likely to want to count those links.”
Unfortunately, Cutts doesn’t really address all the instances in between. It makes sense if you have a guesthouse in Jamaica to write quality guest posts about your island paradise and place them on the best travel blogs you can find. Of course, each article should be unique and not “spun,” but there will be a certain amount of repetition and that’s only natural.
Would Cutts argue that you should write one really, really great story about Montego Bay and your guesthouse, and hope it goes viral? Perhaps. no, probably. But it’s much more natural to place articles about your area and its attractions in various publications. Not every person who explores taking a vacation in Jamaica will read the same blogs. Just as you naturally wouldn’t advertise in just one travel magazine or in the NY Times travel section but not the Boston Globe’s, it doesn’t make sense to write one really terrific article and then stop writing.
If you’re a decent writer, you should be able to come up with a series of articles that don’t overlap in content. A Key West vacation rental owner could do a series of articles on the island’s attractions; one on each historic house, one on each museum, one on deep sea fishing, another on flats fishing; another on shark fishing … and so on. In each case, it is natural to promote the rental home as a possible place to stay when on vacation in Key West.
Will Google Discount Guest Posts Next?
I would expect Google to try to figure out how to discount lower quality guest posts – but I have my doubts about how quickly they can do that. Now, I applaud their intention to return quality results – for example, I celebrate the use of ads “above the fold” as a low quality signal. Most of us would agree that we don’t want to see a bank of ads when we land on a page. But until Google develops the artificial intelligence to really assess relevance and quality, I think they will leave guest posts alone. Since Cutts feels the back and forth collaboration and sharing between quality writers is a “time honored tradition” it’s not likely that Google would throw out this baby with the bathwater.
And if the history of blog commenting is any indication, they will leave guest posts alone algorithmically. Google’s answer to low quality blog comments was not algorithmic – instead they introduced the nofollow attribute and tried to get webmasters to use it. Presumably they could have disregarded all comment links with a layout algorithim, as they have for ads above the fold — but they chose not to – perhaps they recognized that encouraging folks to leave substantive comments by offering a little link love is a good thing for building community.
It’s clear: Google doesn’t want webmasters to do anything to manipulate rankings, and they are quite right to take that position – their appeal to their audience is dependent on as their results. But for the foreseeable future, writing for other blogs will be a great way to get links while building authority and attracting a new audience.