Google Spells the End of Guest Blogging for SEO

January 24, 2014

The search world has been thrown into a slight frenzy over an announcement by Google’s chief search guru Matt Cutts, who stated earlier this week in a blog post that guest blogging “is done” as an SEO tactic.

According to Cutts:

“Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.”

Guest blogging – the process by which you are invited to post on someone else’s blog – has been a popular tactic for many marketers over the years. It is important to clarify there are other benefits apart from pure SEO ones, for example, gaining wider audience awareness and building a thought leadership profile.

But it’s the practice of gaining that all important backlink that Cutts has taken aim against:

“Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains. We’ve reached the point in the downward spiral where people are hawking “guest post outsourcing” and writing articles about “how to automate guest blogging.

“So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.

Ultimately what Cutts is saying (and it is a common sense approach that works for many ‘SEO issues’) is that Google’s web spam team will take an increasingly hard line against guest blogging being used as a spammy way to gain links.

Relevance and quality

So the advice here is simple, make sure you select guest bloggers (or place guest blogs) on the merits and appropriateness of the content. Are guest bloggers really experts in their field? Does the content match the blog it is placed on? Does it seem out of place?

Lastly, never include links within a blog post that are merely intended to pass link juice rather than being something that is useful to the reader.

Following this announcement, the debate raging in the SEO is community is whether Google will effectively and efficiently be able to differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ guest blogging practices. In the past, many brands have suffered when Google’s rule changes have penalized them for relatively innocent practices.  And there is every chance that this could happen again.

Time will tell, but if guest blogging is a key part of your existing SEO strategy, then it would be wise to take note of the advice above and tread carefully.

With a wealth of experience working in digital marketing and PR, Danny Whatmough is an Associate Director working in the digital team at Ketchum and is a thought leader in the wider PR industry. He is chairman of the PRCA’s Digital Group and is currently heading a PRCA working group looking at the ‘future of the PR agency.’ He is also an influential industry commentator through his own blog (dannywhatmough.com) and as a guest blogger on Econsultancy, The Wall, Huffington Post and Social Media Today. Danny is often quoted in the industry press as well as being a regular speaker at industry conferences and events. He is on Twitter at @dannywhatmough