Back in January 2014, Matt Cutts, the then head of the webspam team at Google dropped this bombshell:
“Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy”.
Not for the first time in history, the SEO industry had pulled the equivalent of the annoying kid at the party, by turning up uninvited, eating all the sweets, getting told off, crying, and ultimately ruining the party for everyone, including themselves.
While at the time Cutts’ announcement did not come as a huge surprise (guest blogging had gotten way too spammy), it left a lot of people feeling justifiably peeved. Guest blogging is, after all, a practice that most people involve themselves in regularly for a whole host of reasons, without even a thought for SEO.
Even to this day, the lines surrounding guest blogging are slightly blurred. While no one can confess to knowing the precise point at which Google may deem a guest blog to be “too spammy”, there are some things we know for sure, which I will attempt to explain below via the medium of a myth-busting list. Cue the theme tune.
1. Guest blogging is dead
Nuh-uh. Guest blogging is very much alive, as proven by the thousands of reputable online publications who publish content produced by equally reputable guest authors every single day. What is dead, however, is the notion that guest blogging is an OK way to build sweet links for SEO gains. Put simply, guest blogging is cool, guest blogging for SEO gains is not cool.
2. Nofollow = no party
To reiterate, guest blogging for SEO gains is not cool, and therefore you should not concern yourself too much with whether or not a link placed within a guest article is followed. A link within a guest article should serve as nothing more than a nod to the author, or a signpost to a resource. It should not exist for the sole purpose of passing delicious link juice from one domain to another. On Google’s Link Schemes page, it specifically references the act of large-scale guest posting with keyword-rich anchor text links as an activity which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results, so just don’t do it.
While the practice of actively trying to gain followed links through guest posting is a big no-no, the fact remains that links from authoritative websites help with SEO. But – and it’s a big but – links obtained via guest blogging should form part of a natural link profile, which has been built up through earning the right to be linked to. Links should be seen as a byproduct of producing good content, and not the other way around.
3. Without SEO value there is no value
Guest blogging will always exist regardless of SEO because most people don’t do it for SEO reasons. So long as people read things on the internet, guest blogging will serve as an effective method of self promotion, sharing knowledge and increasing brand awareness.
Naturally, social media plays a big part in guest blogging, both in terms of securing opportunities and promoting content afterwards. Recently I analysed 40 of a client’s most popular blog posts – 20 guest blogs hosted on external sites and 20 oblog posts hosted on their own site – in an effort to establish which type of content drove the most social engagement. I discovered that, on average, guest posts receive 130% more social shares than blog posts published on their own site. If that’s not a statistic to get excited about, I don’t know what is.
4. Guest blogging sends loads of traffic
One of the most common arguments for guest blogging is that it sends loads of referral traffic. It doesn’t. Sure, there are exceptions, but as a general rule guest blogging is not a good strategy for generating website traffic.
Don’t take my word for it though. In a recent study into 239 guest posts that were published in the marketing niche, the average number of referral visits was just 56. While some of you may be thinking, “I’d sure like 56 visits”, when you consider the time and effort that goes into guest posting – the research, the outreach, the content creation, the editing, the social sharing – that’s a pretty depressing ROI. If it’s traffic you want, there are better ways to get it.
5. You should NEVER pay for guest blogs
Rule 1 of SEO school: paid links are bad. Nestled at the very top of Google’s “things that will get you in trouble” list, sits the following:
“Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link”.
Needless to say, if you do these things you should stop now.
There are, however, situations when an exchange of money is perfectly justifiable, such as a site owner charging an admin fee for the time it takes them to edit and publish a post (time is money, yo). Further, no website gets popular by luck alone, so if a site owner has earned the right to a massive audience, then they’ve likely earned the right to ask you for a few quid to get in front of that audience.
Crucially though, if you do find yourself paying for guest blogs, you need to be sure the links are natural (no keyword anchor text, thank you) and preferably nofollow. Even with the best intentions, if Google thinks you’re paying for the links within content, then it could spell trouble.
Guest blogging is not dead and is unlikely to die anytime soon. So long as it is viewed primarily as a brand building exercise, and not as a means of obtaining links, the rewards can be huge.
If you’re looking to incorporate some guest blogging activity into your marketing strategy, you know where to come.