Back in January 2014, Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, wrote about The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO. His message was clear;
“Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done”.
14 (ish) months has passed since Cutts dropped that bombshell, so what’s changed (or not) since that fateful day?
The term ‘guest blogging’ makes people nervous
The general concept of guest blogging still makes a lot of people very nervous.
- SEO bods are nervous (or perhaps more frustrated) because Google is making it increasingly difficult for them to obtain links.
- Brands and businesses are nervous because they don’t want to risk upsetting Google.
- Bloggers and publishers are nervous because they too, want to avoid the wrath of Google.
Like most SEO-related topics, the boundaries surrounding guest blogging are still a bit blurred; whilst we all know the rules regarding links and anchor text, there will always be a degree of subjectivity around what constitutes a ‘good’ guest blog post.
A lack of hard and fast rules makes it very difficult to say what is, or what is not justifiable, and it’s up to the individual to make that judgement call. With so much uncertainty, the potential risk often outweighs the reward.
Guest blogging is not dead
SEO as a practice is in a period of transition, and guest blogging highlights this better than anything else – there are no shortcuts anymore.
I suspect that when Matt Cutts made his statement, he was not expecting guest blogging to stop altogether, but rather do enough to scare off those who were only in it for SEO gain. If this was the intention, then the message does appear to be sinking in, albeit slower than he might have liked.
I can only speak from personal experience, but standards feel like they are improving: publishers’ guidelines are getting stricter, and as a result, brands and SEOs are having to work harder to earn the right to be considered for a guest post than they might have done a year or so ago.
Furthermore, the widespread adoption of Nofollow links has made guest blogging less about the direct SEO gains, and more about the editorial value of the content itself. Whilst this should always have been the priority anyway, the shift will have undoubtedly deterred those seeking link juice alone.
Spammers gonna spam
Let’s not pretend that spam isn’t still rife. Of course it is. Just like article syndication, bulk directory submissions, press releases, and all manor of horrible link building tactics before these, there will always be those who use guest blogging as a way of trying to cheat the system.
And frustratingly, in a lot of cases, it’s working.
Google is getting better at calling out spammers, but their algorithms – no matter how advanced – will always be playing catch up.
What does the future hold for guest blogging?
When done in the right way, guest blogging is a great thing: it allows people to share knowledge and ideas; sparks discussion; and builds brand authority.
Some of the most well-respected blogs and news sites across the web regularly publish content from guest contributors, and in most cases the sites are better for it. In this sense, guest blogging is absolutely here to stay.
Guest blogging as a pure link building tactic, however, is not.
Those who are considering guest blogging as a marketing tactic should approach it not as an SEO exercise, but as an opportunity to build their brand’s authority. If there’s no value beyond the link, then there’s really no value at all.