With all of the Google updates we’ve seen recently – Panda, Penguin and now Hummingbird – we have had to be more and more careful on our SEO practices. One method, however, that seemed foolproof was guest blogging. This, apparently, is no longer the case. Let’s see why this is changing and what we can do to ensure we don’t fall victim to Google’s latest crackdown.
What’s the problem with Guest Blogging?
Guest blogging has long been a favorite tactic of savvy online marketers looking for ways to increase traffic and build quality backlinks. The basic technique is very simple. You contact the owner of a blog in your niche and ask if they would be interested in publishing one of your articles. When you find someone willing to accept your post, you include a link back to your website in the article.
Guest posting can bring immediate traffic to your site, especially if the blog is popular and the readers like your post. Yet one of the reasons that guest blogging is done is to gain a backlink to your website. This is the part where Google may be watching and judging. From Google’s point of view, such a link may be considered unnatural.
In fact, recent comments by Google spokesmen Matt Cutts and John Mueller suggest that anyone submitting guest posts to blogs “nofollow” those links to avoid the appearance of building unnatural links.
The reason for this is that guest blogging, like many SEO tactics, has gotten more and more popular. When something becomes widely practiced, quality often goes down as well. This is something that happened several years ago with article marketing.
Because Google was seeing that thousands upon thousands of low quality article were being published on article directory sites for the sole purpose of gaining backlinks, they decided to clamp down and lower the status of article directories. Today, you can still submit articles as ever before, but you won’t get much benefit from it – at least as far as link juice goes; you can still benefit if the article is widely syndicated.
Guest blogging seems to be moving in a similar direction. To prevent the spread of poor quality guest posts, Google is starting to discourage the practice. To quote John Mueller from Google:
If you’re submitting articles from your website, or your clients’ websites and you’re including links to those websites there, then that’s probably something I’d nofollow because those aren’t essentially natural links from that website.
It would be premature to proclaim the death of guest blogging. One thing you have to realize is that from Google’s point of view, any type of SEO is undesirable. The search engines want everything to be completely “natural”! To them, this means people simply produce high quality content without any consideration about ranking. In the real world, of course, this will never happen. As long as there are search engine rankings, website owners will do what they can to optimize their sites!
If you study Google’s statements on the topic, as well as the direction it has been taking with all of its recent updates, you will see that what they are really concerned with is cracking down on low quality content.
Guest blogging can be used, just as other techniques such as article marketing, video marketing and auto-blogging, to spam the web with lots of links. Some people, for example, write a single article and spin it multiple times. They then submit the different variations of the article as guest posts, in order to gain as many backlinks as possible.
This is the type of practice that Google is trying to discourage. From their point of view, it doesn’t really matter where someone places such content. It is considered low quality or redundant, so Google doesn’t want to reward people for such practices!
Guest Blogging the right way
There’s no question that if you want to stay in Google’s good graces you have to keep up with the latest news and policies. When it comes to guest blogging, it’s clear that some changes are developing. You can still gain benefits from guest blogging, but not if you treat it as simply another backlinking method.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you do guest blogging.
Focus on relevant, popular blogs in your niche.
Make your content original and compelling to your audience.
Avoid content that is too short – it’s best to have at least 1,000 words in a piece.
Think more in terms of gaining a wider audience than on getting backlinks.
If you are posting on a popular, high traffic blog it can be highly beneficial to get your name out there. Even if you place a nofollow tag on your post, people can still visit your website if they are motivated to do so. This is the safest way to guest post, as Google then can’t accuse you of guest posting simply to gain link juice.
What is the future of Guest Posting?
If we look at current trends, it appears that guest posting will no longer be as simple as it once was. It won’t do you any good to send out lots of posts in order to gain backlinks. As with other techniques, the focus is increasingly on quality over quantity!
That’s why it’s important to identify blogs that can really help you gain a wider audience to your own blog. If you make a habit out of contributing quality posts to established blogs, you can start to build a good reputation in your niche.
In that case, you don’t have to be so concerned about backlinks as you’ll be getting more traffic simply because people start to visit your website because they know your name and want to see your content! Happy blogging.