Matt Cutts, Google's Head of Spam recently took a bold step, claiming Guest Posts as a link building exercise thereby branding them as spam. Now the ball is in his court and he doesn't seem to mind penalizing many websites which resorted to Guest Blogging as an SEO exercise.
He wrote a clear article on 'Why Guest Blogging is becoming worse'. He first gives an example of an unsolicited email asking permission to write an article for Matt's blog and then asking him to "do-follow a link or two". Finally Matt claims, quite rightly so, That often a beautiful and authentic SEO trend starts which is later duplicated by millions of people and this finally morphs into something grotesque.
After hearing this, many might recoil with horror.
However, he later doles out some exceptions to Google’s wrath. He in his blog specifically mentions that high quality multi-author Blogs need not worry. To get to know about the topic better, I resorted to reading the comments section of the page.
A person claimed that many of what Google had done made the lives of average site owners difficult, at this moment I thought to myself, the drastic step taken by Google actually helped small site owners.
Larger site owners with exclusive contacts and deeper pockets often had reach towards content and SEO techniques from desperate people willing to share in exchange of some quality inbound links, A luxury ill afforded by people with lesser web presence.
Through Google’s guidelines (including the ones of blogger), deserving people with extraordinary stories and commendable content shall come into picture. Someone posted that, it looks as if Google is running our websites; it seems as if it is an intrusion into personal decisions. Matt's response too deserved applause, when he said that webmasters have always had the freedom to do whatever they chose. Same should be applicable to Google. It should be able to tweak its algorithm to provide quality user experience. As they always say, there are plenty of fish in the sea; you must remember that just Google has changed its algorithm and not the others.
If you really want your page to be displayed in its search results, you will have to change with the trend (Never be a Potato Blogger). But with 69% of Search engine share hogged up by Google, It is tough to find other fishes in the sea. Another Question comes up, why now? Why didn't he tell sooner? Actually he has been posting videos depicting the wrong usage of guest blogging and its conversion into a link building SEO exercise. But, when the water went over the head, he had to take some serious steps.
What was really hilarious was when one comment highlighted a Guest Post hosted by Matt himself! Who later explained that he knew the guest pretty well and could vouch for her. But then again a Google algorithm can never determine if the webmaster vouches for the guest. All in all it is really a grey area.
Still clarity can only be sought by keeping in mind the following points,
Create/implement a really tight filter on which guest posts to accept. In short publish only the best of Guest posts.
Wordstream.com came up with a Really weird strategy, asking publishers to not label Guest posts as "Guest Post". Empirical evidence for its working is not available but this still makes sense.
Determine if the Guest post written is for your users or for the search engine. Does it rely on making relationships or bringing back traffic?
If you still need clarity to know if a guest post is spammy, you can have a look at a previous article of ours which outlined 7 Ways to find if a Guest Post is bad.
So the obvious question, Is Guest Blogging Really DEAD?
The answer though really contentious, can be "no". Many comments at Matt's blog too agree and certain really influential (like Search Engine Journal or Marketing Land) websites too accede that Guest blogging isn't dead. If it was, Google would have announced a new update with another endangered animal name. Just the spammy ones or the ones which actually rely on guest blogging to bring traffic. Or rely on Paid links/Articles to create content and links.
To get further clarity, I posted a question at Google webmaster forums on whether interviews too come under Guest Post Category (Considering Codemakit conducts interviews with prominent and influential personalities).
The people there were really helpful and after arguing for quite a long time, they succeeded in influencing my thoughts. One of the contributors that really inspired me explained it like this,
Is the link there for users, or search engines? If the link is there for users, you can no-follow the link and users will never know, they will still click on it if it useful for them and provide traffic to the outgoing site. If the links are for search engines, it's an unnatural link and you could be penalized for it.