Guest Blogging and Matt Cutts: One Year Later
It’s been a year and a day since Matt Cutts infamously called an end to guest blogging (for SEO). So where are we at now? Is guest blogging over, done, kaput? In a word: no.
It’s been another tumultuous year in SEO, with plenty of changes, updates, adaptations. Included in this year’s changes:
- Google Authorship came to an end.
- Google manually penalized sites tied to guest blogging (My Blog Guest), which they referred to as a “guest blogging network.”
- Penguin was finally updated after more than a year.
- Panda 4.0 was rolled out.
- Google Pigeon shook local SERPs.
- Google announced SSL would be a “slight ranking signal.”
- The Knowledge Graph continues to expand.
- Matt Cutts himself is now on leave, with no confirmed return date (it’s looking more and more likely his leave is permanent).
…it’s been a busy year, regardless of what your role is within SEO.
I would contend that guest blogging can still play a vital role, and that you’d need to be blind to miss the SEO implications, which of course includes links. So no, “guest blogging for SEO” isn’t dead, nor will it ever really end.
Would I guest blog/post for links alone? No – but that’s only because guest blogging comes attached with so many other opportunities as well. Why stop at the SEO implications when there are relationships, philosophy/message dissemination, brand building, and authority to be had as well?
The Value of Guest Blogging (Done Right)
Guest blogging offers a variety of potential benefits, including but not limited to:
- Tapping into new audiences
- Engaging throughout your industry/community
- Building relationships
- Disseminating messages
- Establishing authority
- Building brand presence
- Creating links.
No small potatoes there, huh?
Within each of those points there are considerations. For example, let’s consider a potential website for guest blogging. What would I look at?
Here are the aspects I would consider when looking at a potential website to guest blog on:
- Audience: do they have an established audience? How does it compare to my own site? Are they interested in my products, services, or goods? Will they be interested in my messages and information?
- Engagement: is there likely to be engagement with this post? Will enough people see it? Will enough people find it relevant? Is there an active and engaged audience for my subject matter?
- Building relationships: is this a site I want to build a relationship with? Will there be further opportunity? Will this help establish other relationships beyond the site itself?
- Disseminating messages: will their audience welcome my messages? Will the site be open to my messages? Will my messages resonate? Do we share similar philosophies?
- Establishing authority: is the site an industry authority? Do authorities interact on the site? Are the other contributors authoritative?
- Building brand presence: will having my brand represented on this site be a positive reflection? Will my brand be easily visible? Will my brand be noticeable? Are our brands compatible?
- Creating links: will I be reasonably allowed to link to relevant content? Do they have an editorial process (they better!)? Is the domain relevant to my own? Will the page be indexed? Will the links be followed? Does the domain have strong DA/PR/search visibility?
Long story short, if you’re concerned about the right things—building an audience, growing your authority, representing your brand, and building worthwhile links—you don’t need to worry so much about Google. Sure, they need to be a consideration, but Google is only part of the equation.
Guest Blogging Lives On
Guest blogging remains one of the most vital ways to interact with your community. Although many agencies famously shied away after Cutts’ post, Google’s action against guest blogging was extremely limited in nature.
The long and the short of it is that guest blogging strictly for links took a serious hit, and is coming to an end. It was never a very sustainable strategy to begin with. The problem was scale – as agencies, companies, and SEOs attempted to scale the process quality naturally dropped off. As the quality of the content went out the window, the quality of the sites targeted did as well.
It all boils down to greed. Too many SEOs were too greedy, and willing to sacrifice, well, everything for the sake of more links.
This is obviously not behavior Google wishes to encourage. And if there’s one unavoidable fact about Google, which should be abundantly obvious since 2012, is that Google’s getting better with age.
As Rand Fishkin of Moz says, we should be trying to match Google’s intent, not specifically follow their rules to the letter. If you’re looking for a loophole to exploit because it’s not technically or expressly against their rules, you’re going to (eventually) pay the price.
Instead, think about what Google really wants, what Google really needs.
It boils down to this: Google, the company, still makes the large majority of their revenue through ads in search. They need to retain their majority share of the search market to retain that vast revenue. To retain their majority share they need to overwhelmingly have the best search experiences. Anytime someone searches for something and is unhappy with the result, Google loses. What does all this mean? If you want to rank in search, you need to be the best result in search.
I’m going to say that again: If you want to rank in search, you need to be the best result.
If you accomplish that, Google will want to feature you prominently in their search results. It’s what all of their algorithms work to accomplish, and they’ll continue to work to improve their ability to serve the best result (you).
What does this have to do with guest blogging? Well, it’s a forest versus the trees explanation. After reading Tad Chef’s post “SEO Has Evolved – It’s About Popularization Now” (which I recommend you read) I realized we often get obsessed with details and lose sight of the big picture.
Google doesn’t want to waste their time punishing spammy guest blogging. Or even creating an algorithm that attempts to suss out legitimate versus spammy guest blogging. And they don’t want to end all guest blogging period. Google just wants to serve great results for searches.
This is why you shouldn’t be so concerned about tactics, but instead application. That is what’s important: what you create, and the value it adds.
Build Links Along With Your Company
Google wants to count real engagement and value. They want real signs of authority, relevance, and popularity.
It’s why links still matter. Despite the link spam of the past, the fact of the matter is it’s harder to game links than just about anything else. Think about what goes into a real link: a relevant, worthwhile site with an engaged audience and credibility editorially reviews your link and decides you’re worth featuring in a valuable way.
Can you game links? Sure – but they won’t last forever, and their value is questionable. Building links is about getting the links you deserve. If you don’t establish value and explain that value persuasively, you’ll never get all the links you deserve.
The best way to build links is to add value and engage with your community. Make sure that your website has a unique value (as well as your company), and grow your online presence. Meanwhile, ensure you’re optimizing for the links you deserve. Don’t be afraid to go out and pursue links. There’s nothing wrong with asking another website to link, especially if there’s a compelling reason for them to do so.
At the end of the day, if you build a company that matters, use best practice on-site SEO, and ensure you’re getting the links you deserve, your search visibility will follow.