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Guest blogging, Matt Cutts and a whole lotta hoo-ha

Matt CuttsThe world of SEO was excited to a crescendo yesterday (21 Jan, 2013) as Matt Cutts of Google was quoted pronouncing guest blogging to be dead.

Matt Cutts is the head of webspam for Google and when he gives advice about how to behave, with regard to search engine optimisation, you should pay attention. But he did not declare guest blogging dead – depending on how you define guest blogging.

What is guest blogging?

Guest blogging is not bad and it is not spammy by definition, but it has become such a popular SEO practice over the past 18 months because of the Panda and Penguin changes to the Google algorithm.

People have been guest blogging for years – since blogging became a popular thing. The basic idea is about reaching an audience, not purely about building links for SEO reasons. One blog writer provides an article to another blog in order to gain exposure and reach a new set of readers. This is a legitimate practice and it should and will continue.

Before Google introduced its Penguin algorithm in April 2012, SEO professionals had an easy life. They could simply find any number of directories and low quality websites on which to place links and they would see their websites rise up the rankings.

Penguin changed all that by setting a more rigid requirement for links. They now need to be navigational and contextual and they need to exist for legitimate reasons on relevant sites, rather than just to try to trick Google into thinking a website is popular.

So, SEO professionals jumped on the concept of content marketing, and guest blogging in particular, as a great way to get more links within legitimate content.

Why is guest blogging bad?

Guest blogging is not bad. The reason Matt Cutts has been making such a point of talking about it is because too many low quality marketers are doing it badly and they are polluting the atmosphere.

The internet is full of low-quality blogs, which are easy to set up and which exist purely to give Google content to read. In my view, there are three types of blogs that marketing managers should consider.

  • Professional publications, with reputation. These are the online equivalent of self-publishers, building brand authority through their professionalism and hard work. For example, The Blogess, World War II Today and Problogger.
  • Lesser known niche blogs, professionally run. These blogs are managed by editors who care about what they publish and they care about quality. Examples: Able Traveller, All In Beauty, Scottish Mum.
  • Blogs that appear to have little focus and few editorial values. These blogs might be based around a theme but they often are not. You could submit any article to these blogs and possibly get it published. Or the owner is just using the blog to publish random things on behalf of clients, regardless of relevance. I won’t share examples.

What Matt Cutts said about guest blogging

On his own blog, Matt Cutts has written about guest blogging, and he has recorded several videos answering questions about the subject. You can read his article in full but here are some highlights:

In his article, Matt says, “Back in the day, guest blogging used to be a respectable thing, much like getting a coveted, respected author to write the introduction of your book. It’s not that way any more.”

He goes on to explain, “Someone sent me a spam email offering money to get links that pass PageRank. That’s a clear violation of Google’s quality guidelines. Moreover, we’ve been seeing more and more reports of ‘guest blogging’ that are really ‘paying for PageRank’ or worse, ‘we’ll insert some spammy links on your blog without you realizing it.'”

Despite saying, “guest blogging is done”, Matt did go on to qualify his statements further.

“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 just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to “guest blogging” as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.”

How has the SEO industry reacted to Matt Cutts’ statements?

There are lots of articles springing up (including mine), so here’s is a round-up for you to explore. Join in any of the conversations wherever you wish.

And here are some earlier articles on the subject

Guest blogging advice for marketers

There’s a simple rule you should follow if you want to use guest posting or any form of content outreach – make sure the content you are sharing is valid for the publisher’s audience. Here are some golden rules:

  • Don’t pay a website owner to place content on their site, unless it is a valid advertorial transaction (but even then, the placement of links should be handled with care).
  • Think like a classic PR person – build relationships with quality publications where you want to gain exposure.
  • Think about brand mentions as well as links.
  • Don’t just write boring articles designed to shoe-horn in a link. When it comes to the articles, think like a journalist, not a marketing manager. What would people want to read and share? What would an editor be happy to publish for free?
  • Think like a marketer, not an SEO professional. Use content marketing as a way of gaining reach for your brand first. If you build your brand, people will naturally link to you anyway.
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