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What To Do After the Guest Blogging Apocalypse

by Jon Cooper
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So, the news hit, and before I go any further, I love Cyrus Shepard’s tweet:

So let’s talk about guest blogging…

The funny thing is, for a lot of you higher quality SEOs and agencies who have been doing higher quality content placement, you really don’t have as much to worry about as you think. And that’s because you need perspective on what’s really been going on under the cover of the title “guest blogging”.

I’m talking about any of the service providers you can easily find when you Google “guest blogging service” or “guest posting service”. If you saw what’s being cranked out by those companies, and how well it’s actually been working, you’ll know that Google isn’t going after that small business with a few guest posts over the last year or two. What those service providers are doing is what’s really being targeted in the impending update hinted at by Mr. Cutts.

So again, with that said, higher quality stuff isn’t going to be targeted as badly as you might. In my opinion, it’s the obvious things that are going to be attacked:

1. Blogs that have the majority of their posts written by guests.
2. Blogs with “guest blogging”, “guest post”, “guest author”, etc. category & tag pages that are more than a few pages big.
3. Blogs that accept guest posts that may not be as frequently posted, but have other obvious signs of low quality.

And for those of you who have done just a few guest posts in the past, mediocre or not, you really don’t have much to worry about if they’re in small numbers. The reason is because you need to understand the difference between link devaluations and link penalties.

A link devaluation is when the value of an individual link either is significantly decreased or goes away altogether (we honestly don’t know). That’s why all the high quality sites that are linked to in a lot of guest posts used to disguise the client/target site are not going to be hit.

It’s only when there’s an unusual amount of link devaluations for a specified domain when you have the possible problem of a penalty. Now, in this instance, a couple things need to be taken into account:

1. The amount deemed to be “unusual” isn’t a set number, but most likely some percentage based on the total number of links to the domain. That’s why i.e. SearchEngineLand.com can get away with having 100 devalued guest blogging links, while for JoeShmoPlumbing.com, having that many questionable links will set off red flags to Google more easily.

2. If Google can deem undoubtedly that a link is, in fact, violating their guidelines (i.e. an obvious guest post), you can only guess that the amount deemed to be “unusual” is usually less since it’s more evident it’s a link scheme of some kind.

I want to reiterate that, as with most things in SEO, this is speculative. I came to these conclusions based off various SEOs I’ve talked to and articles I’ve read. I in no means know all the answers; these conclusions were just drawn from my own reasoning.

Moving on… what’s next for link builders?

Now that a specific tactic like guest blogging has had a falling out, and because I’m surprisingly on top of the news from a blogging perspective, you need to understand one broad, strategic approach that will help you avoid penalties in the future.

Always use a blended approach when building links.

Seriously. If you ever find yourself using only 2 or 3 tactics for your entire approach, even if you feel that they’re completely white hat, you’re setting yourself up for the possibility of failure.

Why is this? Well, let’s take a look at the landscape 3 years ago. Much spammier stuff was happening, and at the time, guest blogging was hailed as a high quality, white hat tactic to garner links. If you read Matt’s post (linked at the beginning of this post), he even mentions this.

But, as with any tactic, it only takes a few dozen spammers to beat the hell out of it, and evangelize it until there’s nothing “high quality” about it.

So if you use a blended approach, you don’t have to worry about this happening, because the worst that will happen is that those links are simply devalued.

I’m not saying to go out and do a lot of grey hat things in moderation, I’m saying that regardless of what you do, if it’s a significant part of your link strategy, you’re allowing yourself to be put into a position that could result in a penalty. Even if you don’t get a penalty and the links are simply only devalued, if you did rely heavily on those links to rank, your rankings will tank. Sure, you can just build new ones that revive those rankings, but you’ve not only lost time & ground on your competitors, but chances are you’re at a much higher risk moving forward if you weren’t already penalized.

So Jon, which tactics should I use next?

If you’re asking this question, then I highly suggest you do one key thing before you even think about going after any publicized tactics. I’m not trying to beat a dead horse here; I have a point, so just bare with me:

Create a high quality site first, so you’ve got leverage with Google if anything goes sour.

This goes back to Cyrus Shepard’s tweet at the beginning (ironically). There’s a good chance that a lot of you might step somewhere near that imaginary border of what Google says is OK and what’s not down the line, not because you try to, but because Google is unpredictable. So be prepared for this.

I honestly believe that moving forward, at least to some extent, you’re going to see Google being more lenient with some sites over others based on the quality of the site. If you’re by leaps & bounds the best result in a given space, and if you get tied up with a possible penalty over some ticky-tacky link scheme interpretation (i.e. not cloaking, doorway pages, sneaky redirects, etc.), I believe you’re going to have a higher chance of either avoiding the penalty or getting out of it than a site that’s mediocre at best.

So try and be the result that they’d be embarrassed not to show (someone tweeted this, sorry for not giving attribution).

Now, if you’re pulling your hair and begging me for some tactics… I’ve already published a big list. Just make sure that when you go after any of these, you’re not thinking, “how can I make this the bread & butter of my link development campaigns” but rather “how can I sprinkle this in to my link development strategy”.

 

This post was written by...

Jon Cooper – who has written 120 posts on Point Blank SEO.

Jon Cooper+ is an SEO consultant based out of Gainesville, FL who specializes in link building. For more information on him and Point Blank SEO, visit the about page. Follow him on Twitter.

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33 Comments
  1. Keith Fraley says:

    No doubt this part is right at least:

    Quote: “I honestly believe that moving forward, at least to some extent, you’re going to see Google being more lenient with some sites over others based on the quality of the site.”

    Of course after seeing Rap Genius come back after only 10 days of a manual penalty is a strong indicator that if Google likes your site ranking that they will fix so that it does. Regardless of how shady your link building has been.

    I do think that the Link Building profession will come up with some decent scalable link acquisition process at some point to replace spammy guest posting. There is too much money in links.

    I am hoping that whatever link de-valuation update Google makes for guest posting that the legitimate content marketing of quality content doesn’t get caught in the friendly fire.

    • Jon Cooper says:

      Great point Keith, I forgot to mention Rap Genius as a great example of this – the quality of their site definitely played a role in that reinstatement.

      As for your last comment, some quality marketing will always get caught in the crossfire, but for the most part, I can guess that Google is going to continue to be extremely careful when they roll out ANY update to make sure this is minimized. With that said, I think with updates moving forward, it’s going to get more & more difficult for them to avoid this inevitability. It’ll be interesting to see how they handle it.

      • Joshua says:

        I like the points you mentioned above that we should look out for. Here are some other footprints to consider… Stay away from sites that don’t have real authorship, allow auto-posting (no human editors), spun (gibberish), duplicate (nothing original), thin content with primarily embedded commercial anchor text links across every post. If the supposed guest sites you observe have these elements, then they are likely nothing more than a glorified blog network. Google has now made it clear that they are coming after these sites and those sites that receive links from them in 2014.

        Also, to your point above. It is amazing how many legitimate promotional tactics almost always get abused by spammers and lose their legitimacy. It might be that Google is throwing out the baby with the bath water, but I highly doubt it. Each and every time Cutts has addressed this topic on YT, he has focused on its abuses. I believe the issues we are seeing now partly stems from the open solicitation for guest posts by site owners on a wider scale. This practice will also change in 2014. It is going to be interesting to watch how this unfolds. What we know for sure, is it is going to be the responsibility of both site owners and guest authors to more thoroughly vet each other prior to any engagement.

  2. Nader says:

    If that pans out fairly well I am actually pretty happy about this development. I never liked the idea of having to guest post in order to generate traffic/SEO as it is a really time consuming activity with an uncertain outcome. Also quite a few of my favorite blogs are overdoing it with guest post spam.

  3. Jake Jordan says:

    Jon-

    Good point on the quality websites getting a hall pass. Surprise! Google like established brands!! The longer I’ve been in SEO, the more my link profile looks like my stock portfolio – Diverse.

  4. “Google is unpredictable” – absolutely and for tiny local businesses and those who still struggle with how to create a link never mind what to link to this is fast becoming a bit of a nightmare! I agree with you. If a site has leverage and if the focus is on quality sites on which to post there isn’t much to worry about.

    • Darren DeMatas says:

      Diane – completely agree. SMBs are being forced to rely only PPC because they dont have to resources or long term vision to create linkable content.

  5. Yeah I agree that there is too much raping of the guest blog as a link building tactic going on. It’s another case of the few that ruin it for the many.

    I have a set of criteria I stick to before even considering a guest post for a site:
    1) Are the website’s visitors geographically in line with the business I’m “promoting” and are they likely to respond to our message.
    2) Does the site have a healthy amount of traffic flowing through it? If not then I’m posting to nobody and it might as well just be for the link.
    3) Has the site been victim to a manual or algorithmic penalty by Google? If so stay away as you’re entering a bad neighborhood.
    4) Has the site got a lot of guest posts, if so the quality needs to be high and anchors natural.

    I think sticking to these guidelines I’ll be good, but none the less it would be stupid to rely heavily on guest blogging for links.

  6. Daniel Law says:

    So long as you asset common sense into your guest posting strategy, you’re fine. What Cutts mentions in his blog post should be only directed at the many spammers who use guest posting as a sole strategy to gaining a backlink, and doing so with low quality content.

    I couldn’t agree more with the statement made:

    “I honestly believe that moving forward, at least to some extent, you’re going to see Google being more lenient with some sites over others based on the quality of the site.”

    For long-term SEO growth, we should be concentrating on building a solid SEO foundation and giving Google the impression that we are a quality and trusted website who’s going to be providing value in the many years to come.

  7. Good advice Jon. I think if you go into guest blogging with the idea that you will be in front of a targeted audience (versus trying to build links) – you will still find it to be an effective tactic. Like you said though – you’ll want a blended approach.

  8. Picked up a bit of sarcasm in the title. :)

    I totally agree with you, it’s about quality- I for one am not buying this scare at all. About 50% of all SEO content out there seems to be sensationalist “Don’t do X anymore, Google will eat your children”. But when you get to reading, it gets boiled down to “Don’t spam doing X”. Which really could always be simplified to “Don’t spam”. Even Mr. Cutts had to edit that last post to clarify that his original was totally misleading.

    I’m predicting right now that guest posting will be no less powerful than it was before they really started shutting down content farms in mass, and many re-opened under the guise of being “guest post farms”. Those are spam; Google should and surely will do something about them. Possibly very soon. But of everything that Google has “killed” over the years, I see no particular link building concept that ever really died.. just the lower quality implementations that never had value to humans anyway. Things will keep evolving, but I can’t imagine the future will be all that different.

  9. Nice post Jon, but my vote is for Danny Sullivan’s reply at Matt Cutt’s Blog (my resume version):

    “You’re saying in this post that blog posts that Google deems done for only “SEO purposes” are now going to be considered spam and thus, people may get punished for them.

    Punishing people is much different, and dramatic, from not rewarding. And it feeds into the increasing fear that people might get punished for anything.

    Your update helps, but no widgets infographics press releases directories etc etc etc — the list is getting tiresome.

    It’s a strange world where when it comes to social media, Google is all promote promote promote. Or even in paid search, buy ads, buy ads, buy ads.

    But when it comes to organic listings, it’s just sit back and hope it works, and really don’t actively go out and build links, even those are so important.

    I know, I know … Have great content, that’s the way to attract the right links. I even agree.

    And yet, there’s a part of me that feels like enough is enough with the list of prohibited linking activities. I wish you’d (Google) just not count the links you don’t think deserve credit.”

    If we are all working for Google… where is our paycheck?

  10. Adam Methew says:

    Hi Jon, First of all fab post. I say many Seo people say guest blogging is dead now. But I tell them its all rumor. Guest blogging still good in Seo. Just we need to search relevant blogs.

  11. Vince Lin says:

    I enjoyed your speculation of the future. So we come full circle its going to be a “directory” based of “good sites”.

  12. I agree, guest blogging is not dead we just need to be more selective of where we share our content – ideally, on relevant blogs that have a real audience, not those shady ones built only to manipulate search engines.

  13. Nice advice. Thank you very much for Sharing. Guest Blogging is very good thing for SEO

  14. I haven’t even started figuring out how to do a guest blog and it’s dead. I don’t know why as a business we can’t advertise it wherever we can online just like in the real world. Coca Cola, Pepsi and every major brand in the world are spaming everyone and no one does anything. Links are the same thing. We are putting our “For Sale” signs out if we get link juice along the way that’s a bonus.

  15. I just can’t believe all the hype that guest blog gets and the number of people claiming it is dead. If you think about it, just about every link building method has been detested by Google so we can’t put much thought into their claims without testing.

    That being said, if a guest post on a high quality site with and editorial approval process is not a good link, we may all be in trouble as link builders.

    Great post and I love the tweet!

  16. Matt SEO says:

    Guest blogging and blogs that are just like article directories, low quality are dead. But guest blogging still works at least till now.

  17. Good article, thanks! It is not likely that Google will devalue the whole guest blogging thing. Probably it will devalue spammy blogs, poor quality posts, not-well structured blogs… But still Google is and will be appreciating flow of information and opinions.
    So, I think, it is just a shift for Google to more quality content. Otherwise, guest blogging is not dead.

  18. Frederik says:

    I opened up my blog for guest blogging months ago, as I was excited to have people helping out and writing good news articles. I wasn’t aware what I did back then…

    After about 5-10 articles, I started to realise that this is just spam and spam. By then, it was sort of too late and I found my site has been linked in lots of sites as a “site that accepts guest postings” a.k.a spammable site

    Sad, really. And I thought I could take a break every now and then and let my “readers” write 1 or 2 articles

  19. Percy says:

    Hey, indeed Matt Cutt’s latest intervention sent us all on a frenzy, but it’s not so grim.

    Just as the guy says, and I’m gonna quote him directly here”
    “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.

    I’m also not talking about multi-author blogs. High-quality multi-author blogs like Boing Boing have been around since the beginning of the web, and they can be compelling, wonderful, and useful.”

    So that sums it up. If you’re writing relevant, good quality posts, keep doing that!

  20. loyd says:

    I’ve received some awful pitches for guest blogging from big drug companies and legal firms who are just trying to get their links where-ever they can – and when I dug further because they sounded fishy I was horrified to see how many people they duped.

    This is a good thing and hope it doesn’t affect the real deal guest posts! I like to be a guest and to have people guest post on my blog.

  21. loyd says:

    Guest blog can’t be ignored and One thing is pretty clear here… Google still heavily rely upon links in judging relevancy. But at this time SEO can’t play with their clients’ online business. They have to focus on content marketing that can earn link bait even if it is low budget domain.

  22. Marcus says:

    Hey Jon, great post.

    This is slightly off topic, but do you think there’s a risk that competitors could use spammy guest blogging techniques as a negative link building strategy to knock out their competitors?

    I’ve been worried about negative SEO for a while (seems easy for anyone to do), and this seems like the perfect time for competitors to attack.

  23. Why did I have to read this post before going to bed? I have been reading your blog for a while but never commented and I think now is the time I start. This post has me nervous about my sites and my livelihood online. Is any of this really possible?

  24. Nick says:

    I agree developing relationships with influencers is a much better approach than bluntly asking for a guest post. You need to be useful before you can ask an influencer to help you out. Simple things like sharing their content, commenting on their posts, and understanding their interests will help develop rapport. Although I must admit it can be hard as an agency to do those things, much much easier for an in-house marketer to go with this approach.

  25. Brown says:

    Great article,I’m wondering, aside from free content, what the benefits to accepting guest posts are.

    I blog for my company, and have recently considered accepting guest posts. I’m wondering, though, if that will ultimately create more headaches for me as I weed through the “good” and “bad” posts.

  26. Chris says:

    If you are guest posting for a third party, try to guest post for sites that are consistent with what that third party is doing. I get guest post offers with topics listed that aren’t even close to what I write about, that doesn’t benefit my readers or that third party.

  27. Dante says:

    A lot of people will take Matt Cutt’s statements as a black & white comment to say that they should no longer guest post AT ALL. But that is not what Google is saying. Guest posting is still alright as long as you continue to deliver high quality.

    I’ve started my own guest posting campaign to other bloggers within my niche and had great success. Why? Because the articles I’m using are ones that I would easily use on my own sites; not just some 350 word garbage someone got from oDesk.

  28. Michael says:

    I was really surprised to be censored on Matt Cutts’s blog. I posted a comment on his last post about guest blogging, believe me i was not agressive like some people can be sometimes, but i asked him a simple question.

    What he (Matt Cutts) or Google believe is better, a poor quality BUT ORGANIC guest blog or a Great Quality BUT NON ORGANIC guest blog ?

    I asked this question because Google is trying to make a confusion between the concept of quality and the concept of organic. Everything organic is not necessary quality, Google is fighting against “non organic”… not poor quality

  29. Lee says:

    Guest blogging has long been an effective tactic for building a community, a way of growing visibility for both your website and your byline, a means of driving traffic, increasing the exchange of ideas and a method of building inbound links to a website. Recently, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, released an article and a video about the decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO on his website that’s been widely discussed across the industry.

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