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The My Blog Guest Penalty -- Right or Wrong?

Don Sturgill | September 22, 2014

On January 20, 2014, Matt Cutts -- the head of Google's webspam team -- posted an article on his personal blog: The decay and fall of guest blogging.

Considerable backlash erupted in the netosphere, with many bloggers saying Matt was advocating "throwing the baby out with the bathwater." Some were even a tad bit irate.

On January 21, Matt changed the name of his post to "The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO". In addition, he tacked a section on to the end of the article and back-peddled a bit, saying "There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging ..."

Matt Cutts had touched off a wave of criticism that prompted many to question whether Google really has a grip on spam or is just trying to bluff netizens into thinking they do.

jason comment

THEN, JUST BEFORE NOON, on March 18, 2014, Cutts tweeted this: "Today we took action on a large guest blog network. A reminder about the spam risks of guest blogging ..."

The network in question was MyBlogGuest.com, the brainchild of the globally recognized SEO whiz, Ann Smarty -- who happened to be speaking at PubCon New Orleans when the action was announced.

In a comment to Search Engine Journal, Ann said,

The reality is, Matt Cutts is using us for the PR game: To get more people scared. We are the hugest guest blogging brand out there: He could not have got more publicity by hitting anyone else. - Ann Smarty

It has now been over six months since Google dropped the bomb on guest blogging; let's take a look at what folks are thinking now ... with the My Blog Guest (MBG) penalty in the rear-view mirror.

The discussions below were captured by way of Ann Smarty's newest platform, MyBlogU.com.

You just can't keep a good woman down.

Q. The Google penalty against My Blog Guest: Was it Right or Wrong?

[egobait author="Paul Manwaring" social="https://twitter.com/IMHBlog" company="Internet Marketing Hustle" link="http://internetmarketinghustle.com/" photo="https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/1713304118/3776603527_c728ca88d7_400x400.jpg"]

I think it was wrong, purely because it wasn't a widespread problem like some other tactics that are used. I do think MBG could have used some sort of moderation on articles to make sure the links were relevant to the article's content. MBG was mostly a free service setup, so it's difficult to administer a platform like this when no one is getting paid extra.

MBG weren't doing anything wrong themselves, it was the users who were abusing the system.

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[egobait author="David Leonhardt" social="https://twitter.com/amabaie" company="The Happy Guy Marketing" link="http://www.seo-writer.com/" photo="https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/329300650/David_Leonhardt_medium_400x400.jpg"]

Wrong. Wrong. Wrong! The whole penalty system is completely broken. Google has an algorithm for ranking websites. Unless a website is doing something highly unethical, such as breaking the law or encouraging hatred or running a scam, the algorithm should rank the sites. Those sites that run scams or break the law should not be penalized, either; they should be removed from the index.

Dishing out ad hoc penalties, doled out on a whim and without explanation, is no way to run a business. That's how tin pot dictatorships are run.

There is a related issue, as well, and that is the unethical use of NoFollow. This attribute is supposed to indicate ‘I can’t or don’t want to vouch for this link.’ (Those are Matt Cutts' words, by the way.) The use of NoFollow on a link approved by the webmaster is unethical because it is a lie. It is also a fundamental violation of Google's own definition of black hat SEO - showing one thing to users (a link they are encouraged to follow) and a different thing to search engines (a link they are encouraged not to follow). Yet Google is now penalizing websites for NOT lying and NOT violating this fundamental principle. I ranted about it here: The Dangers of Nofollow.

MyBlogGuest and its users' posts should be judged on all the criteria the algorithm is set up to determine - quality, relevance, authority, trustworthiness, timeliness, etc. As a Google searcher, I want the most useful results to turn up, not the results published by websites that rank because they play by some arcane rules or are lucky enough to fly under the "web spam" team's radar. Let the algorithm rule.

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[egobait author="Phil Turner" social="https://twitter.com/EP_pturner" company="Teaching Escape" link="http://teachingescape.com/" photo="https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/443360343905955840/uHsNl0Lf_400x400.jpeg"]

Right from Google's perspective - Wrong from My Blog Guest's: Wrong also from a fair play point of view.

Google achieved its objective of stopping people using guest posts for link building. My Blog Guest was the sacrificial doll that Google used ... it was hit by a Predator drone in order to solve a problem that was of Google's own making. The whole link-building industry only exists because of the way Google uses links. The proper way to solve the problem would have been to reduce or remove the effects of links in its ranking algorithm, but this would have taken longer and many iterations to get it right.

The Predator worked though; link-building through guest posting has largely disappeared. Unfortunately the total destruction of My Blog Guest in order to achieve this objective meant that the marketplace where bloggers and writers could meet was also destroyed. Such is usually the way with drone missile strikes; innocents are killed in order to get rapid results.

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[egobait author="Nicholas Chimonas" social="https://twitter.com/NChimonas" company="Page One Power" link="http://pageonepower.com/" photo="http://pageonepower.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/nick_chimonas-300x300.jpg"]

I’m sure my own code of ethics biases my answer to this question, but I suppose the reason Google is under an ethical spotlight at the moment is because of their “do no evil” company motto. The way I see it, if there was any amount of good coming out of this writer’s hub, it was not worth punishing in totality. Complete destruction of a community which did make legitimate connections between real writers and real digital publishers is by far too much collateral damage.

In some way, in some form, there ought to have been a path to penitence for MBG. NoFollowing all of the links? That’s absurdity. If a quality digital publisher connected with a quality writer via MBG, and their site’s readership commented, participated, shared the guest writer’s publications, etc., then why should those links be NoFollow? Why do those links not deserve the editorial endorsement of the publisher and trust signals to search engines?

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[egobait author="Cormac Reynolds" social="https://twitter.com/BrightonCormac" company="My Online Marketer" link="http://myonlinemarketer.co.uk/" photo="http://myonlinemarketer.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/corm.jpg"]

For many people MBG became a means to an end ... and that end wasn’t necessarily always to offer quality, or even anything near quality.

However, Google’s approach could not be termed as responsible and it just threw the baby out with the bath water, if we’re to be honest. Though there was what could be termed as a knee-jerk reaction that Google was making an example of MyBlogGuest, I would still say that this was the case.

Google knows guest posting works for rankings and that there’s many years left in links yet and these actions were an example of it nailing its ‘rules’ to the fence in a scattergun manner. Like all mass shootings some innocents get hurt. On the upside we now have MyBlogU.

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[egobait author="Erica Martin" social="https://twitter.com/emartin1974" company="My eBook Journey" link="http://myebookjourney.com/" photo="https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/458299164548292608/_B9dlJcW_400x400.jpeg"]

I think it was totally wrong. I could see if My Blog Guest was doing something that was against Google's policies, but they weren't. Ann Smarty has every right to make the rules she feels are best for My Blog Guest, as long as she wasn't violating Google's policies.

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[egobait author="Andrew Dennis" social="https://twitter.com/AndrewDennis33" company="Linkarati" link="http://linkarati.com/" photo="http://pageonepower.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/IMG_8999.jpg"]

Wrong, absolutely wrong.

In my opinion, the MyBlogGuest penalty was much more about generating fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) surrounding guest blogging rather than actually targeting link spam. MBG was the most prominent and transparent guest blogging community on the web – penalizing them sent a message that any type of guest blogging (even legitimate practices) could be targeted by Google.

Also, MyBlogGuest represents only a small portion of all guest blogging on the web. The penalty to the MBG community hardly put a dent in links from guest blogging online, let alone spammy links from guest blogging.

While there may have been some low-quality guest blogging taking place on MBG, torching the whole community created a lot of collateral damage. Google wanted to make an example out of MBG, regardless of the innocent people it hurt.

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[egobait author="Steve Counsell" social="https://twitter.com/stevecounsell" company="Motivational Speaker for Digital Marketing" link="https://www.stevecounsell.com/" photo="https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/1501431598/Stephen-Counsell-Head-Shot_400x400.jpg"]

Google don't yet have their algorithm as they would like it OR as we the end user need it to be. Their focus on excellent content is one that is to be applauded, although the approach on some of the penalties handed out is not so nice. Googlers hold a position of power over people and their livelihood. That power should be wielded very carefully.

Their view seems to be that if you are creating content and links for the benefit of your own Search Engine optimization, then you should be penalized for that effort -- however clean your intention was. This position is largely based on the fact that there is so much "web spam" out there that it's hard for Google to tell the difference between clean and natural content and links and the artificial links that are created in bulk by lazy SEO agencies and consultants.

The situation is difficult for us SEOs trying to earn a living by helping other businesses gain a foothold on page 1 of the Google search results. The message from Google is:

  1. Create engaging content that readers will love
  2. Don't pay for links
  3. Don't advertise on your site "too much"
  4. Make sure your content and website is accessible
  5. Ask your readers to share links to your content (natural backlinks)

On the face of it this is all good, but the other side of the story is this: if you do bad things that are outside of Google guidelines, then you'll get punished. Taking links as a prime example. Google tells us that good links help us. but bad links don't hurt us AND that bad links will be penalized.

I'm skeptical that Google actually knows the difference between a natural link and one artificially placed just for SEO benefit.

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[egobait author="Jonathan Harrison" social="https://twitter.com/infaweb_SEO" company="Infaweb Ltd." link="http://www.seocompanyedinburgh.co.uk/" photo="http://myblogu.com/forum//img/avatars/57905.jpg"]

I believe it to be wrong.

I agree that guest posting had got out of hand and that, yes, MBG could have done a better job of stopping people from gaining unnatural links. But that said, it’s not the platform's fault, it’s the users'.

The platform helped bring people together to share and develop content (unlike other guest post websites). How can that be bad? The element that Google slammed them for was the guest posts with unnatural links. You cannot blame the platform for that; you have to blame the users.

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Q. Were you affected by the MBG penalty at all? Did it cause you to do anything differently? How so?

[egobait author="Paul Manwaring" social="https://twitter.com/IMHBlog" company="Internet Marketing Hustle" link="http://internetmarketinghustle.com/" photo="https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/1713304118/3776603527_c728ca88d7_400x400.jpg"]

No, I was not affected, and I still guest blog and use MBG. Guest blogging is not dead. Using it for spam is dead, and it has always been dead. This is the big difference. Matt Cutts scared a lot of people with his recent video post but as he points out, it's bad IF YOU USE IT FOR SPAM. MBG is still a great resource to find relevant blogs who are looking for guest posts. You just need to do your own research on the website that is requesting posts to make sure they are legit.

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[egobait author="Phil Turner" social="https://twitter.com/EP_pturner" company="Teaching Escape" link="http://teachingescape.com/" photo="https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/443360343905955840/uHsNl0Lf_400x400.jpeg"]

My own sites were hit by Google manual penalties. I had to remove all guest posts and to no-follow all links in order to have the penalty lifted. I now no longer use guest posts on my own blogs, partly because of this action and partly because I am tired of bloggers contacting me to have links removed many months after I have posted their writing.

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[egobait author="Cormac Reynolds" social="https://twitter.com/BrightonCormac" company="My Online Marketer" link="http://myonlinemarketer.co.uk/" photo="http://myonlinemarketer.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/corm.jpg"]

No, I wasn't really - a couple of MyOnlineMarketer's were a little - more because of nofollowed links afterwards than anything. As regards doing this more differently I would say that we all have to. We have to examine sites on-site and also in link profile terms a bit closer. However, my belief is that quality content on sites with good editorial control will always win out.

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[egobait author="Nicholas Chimonas" social="https://twitter.com/NChimonas" company="Page One Power" link="http://pageonepower.com/" photo="http://pageonepower.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/nick_chimonas-300x300.jpg"]

Somewhat. Not in the sense that clients ended up with penalties, as a lot of the links we acquired through MBG connections became NoFollow anyways. However, it did serve as a reminder to never put all of your eggs in one basket, seeing as how you just can’t predict what the big G might do next.

Despite the NoFollow links, using MBG was worth it to build up a publishing portfolio of posts which led to better opportunities down the road. Higher quality sites with typically less than open doors for guest contributors will consider you, when you have a reputation. Establishing authority by connecting with publishers through MBG can lead to success with upper tier sites.

[/egobait]

 

[egobait author="Erica Martin" social="https://twitter.com/emartin1974" company="My eBook Journey" link="http://myebookjourney.com/" photo="https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/458299164548292608/_B9dlJcW_400x400.jpeg"]

No I wasn't affected by the MyBlogGuest penalty - it didn't cause me to do anything differently.

[/egobait]

 

[egobait author="Andrew Dennis" social="https://twitter.com/AndrewDennis33" company="Linkarati" link="http://linkarati.com/" photo="http://pageonepower.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/IMG_8999.jpg"]

I haven’t been directly affected by the MBG penalty. However, I have seen some of the effects it has had on the blogging community as a whole. High profile sites like Econsultancy quickly instituted a “nofollow” policy for guest blogging. This is an unfortunate consequence of the FUD Google created with the MBG penalty as links on sites like Econsultancy are editorially placed and have no business being nofollowed, but Google has created an environment where sites are afraid to link out within guest posts.

However, the MBG penalty has not caused me to do anything differently with my own guest blogging. I still link out to resources I reference or articles I cite within my posts. If a link will make my post stronger or provide more information for readers I include it, and I don’t ask that those links be nofollowed because I endorse and trust the content they point to.

[/egobait]

 

[egobait author="Steve Counsell" social="https://twitter.com/stevecounsell" company="Motivational Speaker for Digital Marketing" link="https://www.stevecounsell.com/" photo="https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/1501431598/Stephen-Counsell-Head-Shot_400x400.jpg"]

I was not affected by any penalty from Google. Has Google's focus on penalizing sites made me do any thing differently? Well, sure it has. I am much more careful about what content I place and where I publish. I always focus my content on guest blog sites around a single subject that is relevant to the general feel of the site.

I create much more content on my own sites than anywhere else.

[/egobait]

 

[egobait author="Jonathan Harrison" social="https://twitter.com/infaweb_SEO" company="Infaweb Ltd." link="http://www.seocompanyedinburgh.co.uk/" photo="http://myblogu.com/forum//img/avatars/57905.jpg"]

The thing I do differently is check out the people behind the websites I am interacting with. Because if they are involved with heavy unnatural links through guest posts it will flow to me and I don’t want that. I have always done this but not with the guest post element in the mix.

But that's a shame, as I bet lots of people don’t interact with certain websites just because of the link methods the owner has chosen to use. When the owner may well be a very well informed person.

[/egobait]

 

Interviewer's note:

As the Elite Gallery Editor for Ann Smarty's My Blog Guest, I cannot claim an unbiased opinion here. Google's action hurt me personally and financially. Moreover, I once held hope that Google would be a different sort of company ... that they would maintain their "Do no evil" attitude and not become another money-grabbing Behemoth. To me, the entire situation is sad.

One thing most of us can agree on is that we hate spam. The best search is one that turns up exactly what the searcher seeks -- not sites pretending to hold the information so they can redirect the searcher's attention elsewhere. Those who want to rank on the search engine results page should first of all concentrate on DESERVING to be there. For me, SEO is all about helping sites that deserve the recognition GET the recognition.

I respect Google's desire to see that those who don't deserve to rank for search terms don't get rewarded for dishonest tactics ... but slam-basting My Blog Guest and guest blogging in general is not the way to accomplish that mission.

Last year, I wrote a post for Ann Smarty that talks about Google and Game Theory. My Blog Guest simply got caught up in the game and used as a pawn ... hurting the platform and a whole lot of living, breathing people along the way.

It would seem that Google has grown too big to notice, or care about, the carnage.

Philosophy

About The Author

Don Sturgill

Writer, Dreamer, Believer: Don Sturgill is a freelance writer living in Bend, Oregon (Blogging capital of the world). Don focuses on article writing, Infusionsoft content marketing, and hiking in the Cascasde Mountains. Visit his home on the web to find out more: DonSturgill.com

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