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:
- A well-planned content marketing strategy, with long-form high-quality articles.
- 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!