Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, recently came down on guest blogging in a big way. In a post on his personal blog, Cutts had this to say about one of SEO’s most popular link building tactics:
Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.
That’s a broad, sweeping statement that has a potentially enormous impact on the content marketing community. Keeping in mind that Cutts wrote this on his personal blog, not an official Google outlet, it’s important to consider the implications of Cutts’ post. First, there is nothing wrong with guest blogging unless it’s done in a spammy way. Anyone who runs a website has gotten the emails promising free content in exchange for links. These days, that’s on par with keyword stuffing and doorway pages. Low-quality is obvious to Google, and more importantly, to your readers.
Conversely, there is a entirely legitimate guest blogging operation happening on some of the best sites on the Internet. It’s called journalism. Journalists frequently write for multiple sites and it’s hard to imagine that Google would want to bury their articles on the 15th page of search results. In each case, authors write for different sites. The difference is simply quality.
If you were running your site like a true media production, this whole “no guest blogging” thing would be even sillier to you.
— Brian Clark (@brianclark) January 20, 2014
Here are some actionable tips to keep your site visible in search and your readers engaged with your content.
3 Ways to Avoid Guest Blog Spam
- Think like a journalist. Despite the fact that most journalists are cynical about content marketing, all writers can learn a thing or two from seasoned journalists. First and foremost, a good journalist will never publish an article that isn’t insightful, accurate and authoritative. You want guest bloggers that are well-known to your audience and engaged in the community. Anything less is disservice to your readers. As a general rule, if someone wants to write for free, you should be wary.
- Insist all contributors use Authorship. Imagine if you could check a writer’s authority by running their Google+ profile through a tool like Open Site Explorer. We aren’t there yet but when Google Authorship officially becomes a ranking factor, it will solve a lot of the problems Cutts discusses in his post. To prepare yourself for the future, insist that anyone who writes on your site has authorship setup properly.
- Stick with quality over quantity. Remember, less great content is better than more mediocre content. The best blogs serve their readers first. Strong search traffic is merely a side effect. Jerod Morris nails it in his recent Copyblogger post:
Google fails as a search engine if it starts penalizing sites that deliver quality content just because that content happens to be in the form of a guest post. And we all fail as publishers if we follow a strategy of chasing hypothetical algorithm changes.
Quality will always win.
There are plenty of sites that use multiple contributors who will never have to worry about getting dinged by Google. Here are a few examples:
3 Ways to Use Guest Blogging Effectively
- Think social. It’s never a good idea to write for search engines anyway. Write (or solicit) posts so informative, insightful and useful that people will want to share them on social media. When people come to your site to read an article, they are giving Google useful data. For example, when you drive traffic via social media and those visitors don’t bounce, Google can immediately begin collecting data about engagement. This, in turn, helps them decide where to rank new content.
- Pay for great writers. If you don’t have time to write as much content as you want, consider paying a professional. Yes, it costs money but it’s one of the best ways to get great content. It’s an investment in your site and business. Rates vary from $30 per article to $2 per word. Ideally, you want someone who understands your industry so check with your peers before posting on a site like Elance. Here are few good places to find people who can write about marketing and social media:
- Try inbound marketing. That’s right, practice what you preach. Write content for your own site that is so good, the best blogs in your industry will beg you to write for them.
The Alternative to Guest Blogging
Given all this advice, it’s important to remember that accepting and contributing guest content is entirely optional. Rand Fishkin of Moz makes a compelling case to take an alternative route by avoiding guest posting entirely. He explains in the video below:
Strive for quality, serve your readers and don’t let an algorithm define your content marketing.