Matt Cutts: Guest Blogging Is Dead… For SEO

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Google SEO guest blogging

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Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s webspam team, announced yesterday that guest blogging is dead. After receiving a spam email from an agency halfway across the world, asking to guest post for their client, paying him, and adding “dofollow” links, Matt simply got fed-up with spammy, low-quality guest posters, and announced that Google was taking action against guest bloggers:

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.

The internet went into a panic after Matt made this statement:

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.

Being the owner of a multi-author blog myself, and the fact that the InNetwork blog has regular contributors made me very nervous and question our content strategy for 2014. And for good reason – Matt didn’t make it very clear what would happen to multi-author sites in his post. A guy with that kind of influence over marketers needs to be better with his words!!!

After quite a few comments on his blog, Matt replied to the questions and worries that most marketers and bloggers had:

Added: It seems like most people are getting the spirit of what I was trying to say, but I’ll add a bit more context. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.

So let’s dig deeper into what this means for you, as a marketer or blogger, in 2014:

  • Guest posting is no longer a viable strategy for SEO backlinks. If guest posting was a part of your SEO strategy, then you’ll have to revise this.
  • Guest posting is still a viable way to increase credibility, personal branding, awareness, community, and web traffic.
  • If you do publish guest posts on your site, make sure the article is of high-quality, and that all links are rel=”nofollow”. This is absolutely important! If you’re not sure about the quality of the article, or you find the link too spammy, don’t publish the post.
  • Multi-author sites are OK, as long as articles are of high-quality, and that your authors have Google Authorship set-up. This will let Google know that your authors are regular contributors to the site, and links will be fine.

Why Should You Guest Post Besides SEO?

A lot of you are probably wondering why you should still invest time into guest posting if it won’t boost your SEO. Guest posting and multi-author sites existed long before Google SEO, and for good reason.

Increase Personal Branding and Awareness

Think about how a lot of influencers and thought leaders develop their personal brand and awareness. Writing your own blog is great, but writing for Hubspot, Huffington Post, Mashable, TechCrunch, Ragan.com, etc., looks great on a bio/résumé. Being associated with publications of that reputation increases the value of your personal brand, and raises your visibility. Once you start writing for reputable websites, you’ll see a natural flow to your own blog as well, as your credibility increases and people want to hear from you more.

Reach New Audiences and Communities

Often times, when you blog on your own, you reach a limited audience and community. It takes a long time to develop an email list, twitter network, social communities, and regular readership on your own blog. And it also takes a long time to develop high-quality content. So by posting high-quality content on someone else’s blog, you’re able to reach a new audience that you couldn’t through your own blog, spreading your thoughts even further. This will organically increase your own community, as they start following your personal website as well, because they just LOVE your high-quality content.

Drive Targeted Web Traffic Through Links, Not SEO

Even though you should use rel=”nofollow” links in guest posts, it doesn’t mean it can’t drive web traffic to your site. One of the posts we wrote about how to increase Facebook likes way back in February on SteamFeed had a nofollow link to a social media tool that we had recommended using for posting on Facebook. That link received thousands of clicks, and hundreds of registrations, even though it did not affect the SEO of the company. Links can still drive traffic to your websites, especially in your bio.

What Can I Do To Replace Guest Posting for SEO?

Now that Google is pretty much treating guest posts as advertorials, which have implications in terms of SEO, you’ll need to come up with a “new”, better strategy to get backlinks. Some of us have been using this strategy for quite some time, so it’s really only new to spammers. There are two strategies that come to mind that everyone with an SEO strategy should consider:

  1. A well-planned content marketing strategy, with long-form high-quality articles.
  2. An influence marketing strategy, targeting influential bloggers in your industry.

Content Marketing and SEO

The main driver of SEO, on any search engine (not just Google) is content. And for Google, which is the search engine that sparked-up this post, written content is the most important. Google has always made it clear that they want to present the best, highest-quality content to people using their search engines. In order to do this, marketers and bloggers need to spend a lot of time on improving the quality of their own content.

300-word articles don’t rank well on Google. 700-word articles are OK. 1000 words are better. 3000 words is amazing! Google likes to present complete ideas to whoever is searching – relevant content, formatted in an easy-to-read way (i.e. proper headers, sub-headers, bullets, lists, numbers, bold fonts, italics, etc.). Well-written, complete ideas, will always outrank crappy, half-baked content.

And guess what – do you know what attracts the most organic backlinks that affect SEO? You’re right – high-quality content. When people read engaging, valuable articles, they share them, they write about them, they link to them, etc. The only way to achieve this is to revamp your content strategy, and focus on quality over quantity.

Bonus: Individual keywords in your content aren’t as important as they used to. Focus more on natural language patterns – think about how Siri (and other voice recognition software) is changing the way people search for information. Grab your phone (or tablet), and start asking questions about, well… whatever you want to find! Take note of how you asked the questions, and use this as your starting point of an SEO-rich article. Focus on keyphrases, not individual keywords, and you’ll rank better.

Influence Marketing Strategy – Focus On The Author

I recently read a great article on Moz that confirmed what I’ve been doing for the last couple years in terms of influencer relations. The premise was instead of focusing on webmasters and high-quality websites (you can determine this with opensiteexplorer.org, with domain ranks) to guest post and build links, focus on building relationships with key authors.

For example, we built close relationships with Danny Brown (@dannybrown) and Sam Fiorella (@samfiorella), authors of Influence Marketing, for our own content marketing strategy at InNetwork. We had several online conversations with them, promoted their book through our website, had several offline conversations, and even sponsored their book launch in Toronto last summer. By doing this, they built a keen interest in InNetwork, our software, our story, and our process, and decided to write about us on their own blog, blog comments, on other websites they guest post for, and share our content through their social networks. This allowed InNetwork to be introduced to their community and audience, as well as build organic backlinks to our blog posts and website.

A New Outlook on SEO in 2014

The SEO landscape has been changing a lot over the past few years, and Google is adamant on getting rid of spam. No longer will you be able to send mass email outreach to hundreds or thousands of bloggers to guest post and drop a link on their site. No longer should you accept lower quality guest posts, just to get that extra content and pageviews (not that you should have done this in the first place). Spammers, be gone! But multi-author sites are safe. And high-quality guest posts are safe. If you’re unsure, just use the rel=”nofollow” attribute on links, or decide not to publish guest posts at all.

What do you think about this move from Google? Do you think it will improve the quality of web-content? Do you think they’re too harsh, and risk penalizing legit guest-posters in the process? What’s your take on SEO moving forward in 2014? Please leave a comment below!

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Daniel Hebert

Daniel Hebert

Marketing Lead at InNetwork Inc.
Daniel Hebert is an award-winning graduate of Mount Allison University, Marketing Lead at InNetwork Inc., and Co-founder at SteamFeed.com. He has a passion for digital marketing and entrepreneurship. If he wasn’t a marketer, he would take his love for food and become a chef
Daniel Hebert
Daniel Hebert

Comments

  1. Danny Brown says

    Wait – you only wanted us to talk about you??? You used me, Skinner – you used me! ;-)

    It's an interesting time to be building a content strategy – algorithm concerns, validation of authority, etc. The guys that will succeed are the guys that are willing to do the legwork to connect the dots between content and consumer/audience. Then again, hasn't all great marketing been done like that? :)

    • Daniel Hebert says

      Haha, whoops! You weren't supposed to find that out Danny, my bad! :P

      Content strategies constantly evolve, and this is just one step where some people need to adapt. Like you said, the ones that do it well have been following these guidelines for years now – quality content that's valuable to the readers, over quantity and backlinks. Spammers are panicking, as they need to completely revamp. The rest of us only need to be a bit more strict on our publishing guidelines, and move on :)

  2. says

    It's a valid point but perhaps oversimplified. If I read someone's useful guest post on another website, then visit their site, then read, subscribe, or share other blog posts on social media, then that is good for SEO. Guest blogging still allows people to find your website and business (naturally), and if they engage with your site once discovered, than that is very good for SEO.

    • Daniel Hebert says

      Thanks Robert!

      Matt did a poor job of adding context in his post. What he was getting down to is quality of content, versus quantity of content. If your SEO strategy involves creating compelling, valuable content, that people organically link to, or you're providing high-quality guest posts to multi-author sites, then you're fine. Keep doing what you're doing.

      What he's trying to get rid of is the quasi-advertorial guest posts that game backlinks for SEO, because they're wide-spread. So instead of writing 10, low-quality posts on different sites for 10 backlinks, focus on one quality article that provides tremendous value with 1 link on 1 site, and it will do much better.

      Guest posting was never meant for SEO anyways. It's a way to introduce your thoughts to a new audience, and increase your credibility. People will organically follow you on your own site if they see value from your guest posts.

  3. says

    There is a lot of publishers and writers using guest blogging to provide us with great content so it would be a huge shame for the whole industry to be penalised. Obviously something needed to be done as it has turned into a spammy tactic for a lot of people but I would hope Google can identify and only target the low quality stuff.

  4. says

    As usual, this raises more questions than it answers not helped by the fact that for SEOs, Google is essentially 2 entities now: the algorithm and the Web Spam Team. Both have different capabilities and can see things the other can’t.

    The advice appears to be: “Build high quality links to your site. Just don’t *look like* you’re trying to build high quality links to your site.”

  5. Nate says

    Great article Daniel.

    I agree with you. I don't think GP's are dead as an SEO practice. Just refined. Jon Cooper (Point Blank SEO) recommends 800+ word articles and in-context anchor text, not author bio links.

    From here on out I'll be producing GP's with the primary intent of driving traffic. If there's an added rankings boost so be it. As a white-hat webmaster I'm forever on page 2 for primary search terms. I'm tired of chasing Google's tail.

  6. says

    Asking someone to contribute a guest blog for very legitimate reasons will be much harder if they're required to write 2,000 word instead of 500 words, particularly if that means padding for the sake of length. (The SEO irony is not lost on me.) As David Platt said, in his book Why Software Sucks, "know thy audience! and thy audience is not you". So Cutts had a reaction to being asked to blog. And from that, he concludes that people want to read 3,000 word articles? There is some flawed reasoning there. The other question is whether it's recommended to go back to all of the contributions to one's site and change the links to no follows. (I did a content strategy series where I asked industry luminaries to contribute a deliverable and discuss it in 250 to 500 words.) I don't know if it's clear yet which pieces of the baby are being sent down the drain with the bath water.

    • Daniel Hebert says

      The length of an article is not always an indicator of quality, nor is it always necessary. But in some cases, it does help complete an answer. Google wants to present the best possible answer to its users, and it's hard to give a complete answer in less than 500 words. I'm not saying it's impossible, I'm just saying it's hard. But you might not need 2000 words either. The goal is to write until your answer is complete, whether that's 500 words or 3000 words. Writing/padding an article for potential better search results isn't any better than writing a poor quality guest post.

      I don't know what Google will actually penalize, or if we need to go into older posts and no-follow. I guess we'll see how it plays out in the future, and what we need to do to protect our assets.

  7. says

    Well, it's good while it lasted. Guest blogging had been a helpful way for bloggers to connect with other writers. It was also a great way to boost a website's online visibility. The spamming thing, though, it is really what destroyed its credibility.

  8. says

    I Haven't Done Any Guest Posting from Last 2 Years. I am Just Focusing on My Content. Although Guest Posting is Good when Done for Purpose of sharing Knowledge.

  9. says

    First of all I would like to thank Daniel Hebert for this valued and really impressive and engaging post. I appreciate your effort to share such valuable information with us. And I think Google's take on guest post and SEO will help improve the quality of guest post for sure. As Matt Cutts said the guest posting is great and acceptable as long as it is of high quality and deliver value to the readers, and we can use it for branding, exposure and outreach, we can go for guest posting. However, we need to focus on the main issue that the guest post must be written in a way that it becomes for the readers and the writer too.

  10. spookseo says

    Great overview Dan. I appreciated the historical, present- day, and future outlook included. Rather than back linking the guest blogging can be used for brand promoting and content marketing. Guest posting is still a viable way to increase credibility, personal branding, awareness, community, and web traffic.

  11. says

    This was expected. Guest blogging as a method to get backlinks has been spammed a lot and such as all methods that become mainstream now holds no positive value to the eyes of Google. Connecting with your niche's top influencers and providing top notch content for them to share with their audiences, blogs and social media accounts seems like the way to go.

  12. says

    But who can say that what will happened in next year again? In the last year Guest blogging was mostly demanding but in this year it is dead. So we don't know that what will be happened in next year. It can be possible for GOOGLE to banned anything in next year. Always staying in the middle of confusion. :(

  13. says

    Matt Cutts has directly said no guest blogging, i was thinking that Google would actually come up with something for bad content, but it seems that they just simply want to kill ways for new bloggers to gain visitors.

  14. says

    There is a lot of publishers and writers using guest blogging to provide us with great content so it would be a huge shame for the whole industry to be penalised. Obviously something needed to be done as it has turned into a spammy tactic for a lot of people but I would hope Google can identify and only target the low quality stuff.

  15. says

    Its a valid point but perhaps oversimplified. If I read someone's useful guest post on another website, then visit their site, then read, subscribe, or share other blog posts on social media, then that is good for SEO. Guest blogging still allows people to find your website and business (naturally), and if they engage with your site once discovered, than that is very good for SEO.
    Thanks

  16. says

    Although Matt Cutts confirmed in his blog post that Guest blogging is dead, but still i am getting results for my client's website with Guest blogging. Guest blogging if it is done on relevant and niche related blogs can still give you results that is what i believe and that is what is still working for me. And if even Guest blogging will end than what else that we should do in SEO?

  17. says

    Guest blogging is not very different from any other link-building activity. It all boils down to quality trumping all.

    I believe guest blogging has matured as with many other "SEO" activities. To stand out, be effective and be on Google's good side, we need to continue to provide useful and quality content.

    If Google kills guest blogging then many other link-building activities should logically die as well.

  18. says

    Guest blogging is dead, directory submission is almost finish, than what to do? or how to increase visitors on site. The only way to quality content. How a now blogger can generate good content. oh, google you make it very difficult to rank a site for a new user………

  19. says

    First of all I would like to thank Daniel Hebert for this valued and really impressive and engaging post. I appreciate your effort to share such valuable information with us. And I think Google's take on guest post and SEO will help improve the quality of guest post for sure. As Matt Cutts said the guest posting is great and acceptable as long as it is of high quality and deliver value to the readers, and we can use it for branding, exposure and outreach, we can go for guest posting. However, we need to focus on the main issue that the guest post must be written in a way that it becomes for the readers and the writer too.

  20. says

    The two are very important in promoting your website and also it will help you to get additional PR. SEM and SEO are very good tools to be top ranking to each search engines. Nowadays, many company are offering good SEM and SEO but only few can give good results because of the difficulties of doing SEO and SEM. You need experts for this to become successful.

  21. says

    Its not like guest blogging is dead, you can take out something very important for your business, i.e. the buzz and branding. Sure spammy, low-quality guest bloggers need to revise their strategy. But those who are doing it over reputed resources with a branded link for whole sole purpose of generating buzz need not to worry about it.

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