Matt Cutts says guest blogging for SEO is out – how should you respond?

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Guest Blogging for SEO purposes is out but there’s more…

Seeking answerHeard of ‘guest blogging’? Chances are, if you have approached your digital agency and asked about what SEO you can do to give your site a boost, or if you have read up about doing so yourself, you’ve come across this practice.

If you’re not au fait with the terminology, guest blogging is the act of posting an article on a blog other than your own. The incentive for doing so is to get backlinks to increase your own site’s search engine ranking.

In previous years, guest blogging served as a reliable tactic for building up a good backlink profile, which ultimately increased your chances of ranking well. However, over the past couple of years, since Google began focusing on quality content and domains referring relevant traffic, things have changed.

To see how much they’ve changed just take a look at the graph below – a snapshot from Google Trends which shows that since 2007, search traffic for the term ‘blogging service’ has more than halved.

On the 20th of January 2014, the head of Google’s Webspam team, Matt Cutts, posted the article that has had digital marketers, SEOs and webmasters talking about ever since. Matt’s article has a foreboding title: ‘The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO’. It’s worth reading if you’re interested in the history of guest blogging or if you’re interested in understanding more specifically why this approach to creating backlinks is no longer recommended. Matt has compiled all of his videos in one stream and added his own commentary. The conclusion: don’t guest blog unless it’s for NON-SEO purposes.

Naturally, after Matt his publish most of the digital world opted for a sensationalised headline along the lines of ‘guest blogging is dead’, many neglecting to mention that Matt says guest blogging is still a perfectly acceptable approach if you’re doing it for the right reasons on the right websites. In fact, some of the biggest SEO and digital companies (including Moz, Marketing Land and Mashable) are still doing it.

According to Matt, if you’re writing informative posts and publishing them on relevant websites, and so long as you’re not trying to ‘game’ your position in the search result pages, you’re okay:

“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.”

Scroll down and read the comments on Matt’s post and you’ll see that he is in fact still vouching for guest blogging so long as the guest blogger is not doing it to get links or PageRank and so long as you can vouch for them and their intention to inform the site’s audience. Matt also says that if you can’t tell the difference between spammy blog posts and useful, informative posts, you shouldn’t be accepting guest posts on your site.

So, if you’re going to approach guest blogging or you’re going to accept posts to your site, what can you do?

  1. Ensure the posts are relevant and that your audience will find them useful

  2. Use ‘nofollow’ links in posts you publish on other sites and according to Barry Schwartz:

‘especially when those stories are guest blog posts for the purpose of link building.’

  3. Make sure that you update all of your guest bloggers so that they know how they should now be approaching guest blogging.

  4. Check that the sites you are posting to are of good quality. If they’re not, stop posting on them.

  5. When selecting people to write guest posts on your own site or to post on other sites on your company’s behalf, choose authors that are already well-established on Google+ and who use Google authorship markup – preferably ensure they’ve got at least 50 followers.

  6. Smart Insights also recommends that you don’t rely on ‘guest posting’ as your only content marketing technique. Be sure to use other inbound marketing techniques and to work on your paid search and paid social optimisation. After all, the more irons you’ve got in the fire, the less likely you will be to suffer in the event that Google decides to completely scrap guest blogging.

  7. And finally…stay tuned for further updates. Things are always changing.

 Still need help?

If you’re unsure about how to approach blogging, content marketing or indeed wondering whether you’re current SEO strategy is still relevant, get in touch with Xanthos.