From sharing value to spam: the decline of guest blogging

May 1, 2014 by
From sharing value to spam: the decline of guest blogging

As you may have heard, back in January, renowned Google engineer Matt Cutts posted an article on his personal blog declaring that guest blogging for SEO purposes is dead. Cutts described the increasing prevalence of spammy guest bloggers soliciting site owners as the cause for this demise.

No spamThe guest blogging services of these spam merchants are really just underhanded link building strategies designed to boost page rankings without any intention of generating the quality content which would merit them.

As expected, the SEO world responded to Matt with polarised comments, with a legion of SEO specialists and guest bloggers opting to post their own thoughts on the matter. Since then, much confusion has ensued and conflicting advice continues to proliferate regarding the subject of guest blogging.

So now that the dust has settled a little and without further ado, this is our take on the matter.

The slippery slope to spamland

For several years now, the transformation from content-rich, insightful guest blogs to spun articles and low quality content laden with spammy links has become more and more apparent to us and other SEO practitioners. Since Google have developed their search algorithms significantly in recent years, boosting SEO performance using low quality guest blogs is no longer a viable strategy, and for this reason we decided to terminate our own guest blogging activities during mid-2013. Even though we always aimed to provide valuable and interesting content for bloggers, it was getting harder and harder to demonstrate the SEO benefits to our clients.
Crammed mailbox
As Matt rightly points out, back in the day the practice of guest blogging used to have significance: getting a reputable name to come and publish a high quality article on your blog which drew from their expertise but also provided value to your core audience was a great thing. Any benefits as far as SEO metrics were generated organically, due to the value of the content. However, as with many previous SEO tactics, spammers quickly moved in and sought to replicate the ranking benefits without providing any of the value.

Brand exposure versus link building schemes

After the frenzied response to Matt’s original article, he subsequently added a conclusion to the post, clarifying that it was guest blogging for SEO purposes that belonged in the graveyard, but legitimate high quality guest blogging was still okay. In one of Matt’s previously recorded videos (which he included in the article), he was keen to elucidate the fact that Google are pretty adept at differentiating between good guest blogs and spammy ones.

Cutts goes on to say:

“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.”

As Elisa Gabbert points out, writing for Word Stream, even without links and referral traffic, guest blogging can be a great tool for brand exposure. If you’re an expert in your field and feel like you have something informative to contribute to a reputable blog, it’s very unlikely that Google will punish you for doing so. Elisa advises that if you are worried about repercussions from Google, you can always just not include links in the article or simply ask the publisher to addnofollow tags to your hyperlinks.

Content is still king

With Google increasingly catching onto and penalising more underhanded and manipulative SEO tactics, the phrase ‘content is king’ seems to be cropping up more frequently in SEO discussions – and rightly so! As Jonathan Allen of Longneck and Thunderfoot says, “Content could not be hotter right now.”

Boosting rankings by generating an abundance of organic links via guest posts is a tactic that’s dead in the water, but the strategy of generating high quality content for the benefit of the end-user will live on forever, regardless of whether the content is written by yourself or by a field expert you can personally vouch for (as Matt Cutts advises). In addition to content, as we’ve also pointed out in an earlier post, attention needs to be given to elements such as headlines, visual presentation, and the inclusion of links.

Finally, get that Google isn’t out to get you, and if you’ve included the occasional guest blog in the past, you’re unlikely to be penalised under new algorithmic updates.