Search Results for: guest blogging

The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO

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.

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. Here’s an example unsolicited, spam email that I recently received:

My name is XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX and I work as a content marketer for a high end digital marketing agency in [a city halfway around the world]. I have been promoting high quality content in select niches for our clients.

We are always on the lookout for professional, high class sites to further promote our clients and when I came across your blog I was very impressed with the fan following that you have established.I [sic] would love to speak to you regarding the possibility of posting some guest articles on your blog. Should you be open to the idea, we can consider making suitable contribution, befitting to high standard of services that your blog offers to larger audience.

On my part, I assure you a high quality article that is-
– 100% original
– Well written
– Relevant to your audience and
– Exclusive to you

We can also explore including internal links to related articles across your site to help keep your readers engaged with other content on your blog.
All I ask in return is a dofollow link or two in the article body that will be relevant to your audience and the article. We understand that you will want to approve the article, and I can assure you that we work with a team of highly talented writers, so we can guarantee that the article would be insightful and professionally written. We aim to write content that will benefit your loyal readers. We are also happy to write on any topic, you suggest for us.

If you ignore the bad spacing and read the parts that I bolded, 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.”

Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains. We’ve reached the point in the downward spiral where people are hawking “guest post outsourcing” and writing articles about “how to automate guest blogging.”

So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.

For historical reference, I’ll list a few videos and links to trace the decline of guest articles. Even back in 2012, I tried to draw a distinction between high-quality guest posts vs. spammier guest blogs:

Unfortunately, a lot of people didn’t seem to hear me say to steer away from low-quality guest blog posting, so I did a follow-up video to warn folks away from spammy guest articles:

In mid-2013, John Mueller gave spot on advice about nofollowing links in guest blog posts. I think by mid-2013, a ton of people saw the clear trend towards guest blogging being overused by a bunch of low-quality, spammy sites.

Then a few months ago, I took a question about how to be a guest blogger without it looking like paying for links (even the question is a clue that guest blog posting has been getting spammier and spammier). I tried to find a sliver of daylight to talk about high-quality guest blog posts, but if you read the transcript you’ll notice that I ended up spending most of the time talking about low-quality/spam guest posting and guest articles.

And then in this video that we posted last month, even the question itself predicted that Google would take stronger action and asked about “guest blogging as spam”:

So there you have it: the decay of a once-authentic way to reach people. Given how spammy it’s become, I’d expect Google’s webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward.

Added: It seems like most people are getting the spirit of what I was trying to say, but I’ll add a bit more context. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. 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.

I’m also not talking about multi-author blogs. High-quality multi-author blogs like Boing Boing have been around since the beginning of the web, and they can be compelling, wonderful, and useful.

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.

Company blogging 101

Here’s a short summary of the recent Google blogging brouhaha:

– Google has a new health advertising blog. This weekend Lauren Turner, a Google employee, did a relatively negative post about the movie Sicko. She also mentioned that health care companies that disagreed with Sicko could use advertising to get their viewpoint out.
– Philipp Lenssen at Google Blogoscoped called foul.
– When I read the post myself, I thought “Hmm. That was a bit impolitic. I’ll sit out round one of the reaction. Let’s see how this goes.”
– Lots of bloggers piled on negative commentaries.
– Lauren quickly did a second post this weekend to clarify that she was giving a personal opinion of Sicko, not Google’s opinion.

Things will die down from this post eventually, but there are a few evergreen tips to consider if you’re thinking of blogging on your company’s behalf.

The easiest time to make a blogging gaffe is when you’re starting out. When you’re about to start blogging, ramp up slowly:
1) Ask someone experienced to read the first several blog posts you do. They can flag inaccuracies or tell you if you misjudged the tone of a post.
2) Write a few posts that you’re willing to throw away. You still get the practice, but without as much pressure.
3) Do a guest post or two on someone else’s blog first. At Google, we have lots of official blogs. It’s better to try things out as a guest before you step into the spotlight on your own blog.
4) Practice on forums first. For example, Google has a lot of discussion and help forums where Googlers chime in from time to time. For Googlers, that’s a great place to start. For other companies, find the most relevant forum and practice chatting with people (make it clear that you work for your company so that people don’t think you’re astroturfing).

Don’t criticize other companies or people. This isn’t a hard and fast rule. But for a company blog, it’s usually unnecessary and unwise to throw dirt at other companies. For one thing, it lowers the level of discourse. Plus Silicon Valley and the blogosphere is a small place; the person that you publicly rake over the coals now might work with you down the road. I know that the temptation is strong, but resist it as often as you can.

Don’t post when you’re angry. Pretty much every time I’ve posted angry, I’ve regretted it later. The pace of the blogosphere conversation can be torrid, so reacting quickly can be critical to get your side of the story out on Techmeme or other places. But if you can afford the time, take an extra day to get a little perspective. Sometimes other people make the same points that you would have made.

Learn which stories matter and which ones don’t. You don’t have to respond to every criticism that someone makes. If a story is little more than insults, maybe it’s better to work on developing a thicker skin. And sometimes people are just baiting you trying to get attention. Usually there is a core issue that someone is angry about though. Tackle that issue and don’t sweat the insults.

If you make a mistake, don’t clam up. If you work hard enough for long enough, you’ll eventually make a big mistake. Think of it like skiing: if you never fall down, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough. The important thing is to keep participating in the conversation. Post again to clarify your stance. Don’t yank the original post. If you have to change the original post, make it clear how you changed it, e.g. adding a postscript or striking out what isn’t right.

Here’s a bonus tip specific to this situation: include a datestamp on all your posts. The posts on Google’s health advertising blog are currently month-stamped and time-stamped, but not date-stamped. I’d recommend changing that template to be like most other Google blogs. That lets people see that a clarifying post went up within a day or so after the original post.

In the grand scheme of things, I’d say this Sicko controversy is only 100 milli-iPhones of blog storm (it looks like Sicko had a strong opening weekend, by the way). I think Michael Arrington identified the most important issue:

What I don’t want to see is Google start to reign in its bloggers. As a public company Google is almost certainly putting blog posts through their legal and PR departments before they go live (how this slipped through is a mystery). If too many situations like the one above occur, they’ll start to add more policies and layers of review. If that happens, we’ll all have less insight into what’s going on there. I’m hoping it doesn’t.

Agreed. I’d rather be communicating a lot and sometimes get scalded than not be blogging. I think Google realizes the importance of communication/blogging and tries hard to get it right. Sometimes Googlers mess up, just like anyone else. But I expect more Google blogging over time, not less.