The big guys knew that it was coming. The signs were all there that Google was going to take action against guest blogging. Some anticipated that they would be making use of Google Authorship verification as a means to track and punish guest bloggers; others thought they would go after paid and low-quality guest blogging such as the many listings selling blog posts on Fiverr or the sites offering free spun blog posts through Worpress plugins. No one though expected them to go after My Blog Guest, a site that has always tried to adhere to all of Google’s guidelines and where high-quality guest posts have always been encouraged. The idea behind My Blog Guest by Ann Smarty was pretty simple: authors provide good-quality content for webmasters, who, in exchange, would endorse the author by providing a byline with a link back to his site. There is nothing fishy about this. It’s a legit way to earn a link, since by choosing a web post to appear on his blog, a webmaster is automatically endorsing the author, and a link is therefore due. Well, Google sees it differently obviously!
We’ve seen it coming…
After Google started penalizing websites for mass link building and other shady SEO techniques, guest blogging became one of the very few methods that webmasters were still allowed to use to get ranked. Things started changing over a year ago. Go to YouTube’s channel for Google, “Google Webmasters” and see what Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Anti-Webspam team had to say on the subject throughout the year. Comments on guest blogging started up as mildly negative at the beginning of 2013 (“it’s perfectly fine as long as it’s not spammy or paid”) to more hard and condemning by the end of the yea (“if you’re using guest blogging for SEO, you should stop.”). At the beginning of this year, Cutts published a post on his blog, basically declaring guest blogging to be dead. The people in the know knew that this was coming. They became very selective and careful with the guest blog posts, which they allowed on their own sites. No one though expected such harsh punitive measures from Google’s part.
Why Did Google Penalize My Blog Guest?
Was that site such a huge threat to the well-being of the SERPs? Was it engaging in extremely shady practices? Was it promoting buying and selling links? None of the above. In fact sites such as Fiverr, Digital Point, Warrior Forum and even eBay engage in much more shady guest blogging practices by allowing their users to buy and sell guest post opportunities; something that My Blog Guest, instead, condemns and prohibits. If anything those bigger sites would deserve a penalty way more than My Blog Guest. So why this choice, that most webmasters — even the strict white hats — have harshly condemned? Well, My Blog Guest is the largest site that is wholly powered by guest blogging. Those others, which I mentioned, do allow the sale and purchase of guest blog posts, but those practices play a very minor part in the sites’ overall functionality. Therefore MBG was chosen to “set an example”. Most agree with this, and it’s very sad because there’s all the hard work of a person/team of people behind that site, and it was one that, unlike many others, wasn’t promoting link manipulation or a marketplace for guest posting. Besides the site itself, many sites listed on MBG that accepted guest-blog posts have been hit. Some have been spared, most notably the bigger names.
So What Now? Has This Made the World a Better Place?
I don’t believe so. Licit guest blogging for SEO purposes is dead. There is no point in arguing about that. This will not stop people from trying to manipulate the SERPs. There is only one thing that will achieve that purpose: doing without links and focusing instead on what really counts. If Google wants to deliver search results that would truly benefit the search-engine users, they should stop relying on links and instead focus on user interaction with a website (which they already do, but not to the extent they need to in order to give up on the whole links craziness). The Black Hats won’t be stopped. They weren’t using guest blogging to rank their sites anyway. They were and are still using paid links, networks and spam. Choose any low-to-medium-competition keyword and inspect the link profile of the first ten sites in the SERPs. You will not find one that doesn’t have a bunch of paid links or links provided by co-workers, business partners or otherwise manipulated. Those are NOT “editorial” links. In fact a link obtained for reviewing or recommending someone else’s product is, in my modest opinion, a lot less “editorial” than one obtained through quality guest blogging. True editorial links don’t exist for small to medium businesses. If you’re Facebook, Twitter, eBay, Bluehost or ProBlogger, than THAT is a different story, but for the average Joe getting such links is next to impossible, especially now that Google has spread terror and fear across the web that anything you do can lead to your site being penalized. Authority sites will be very careful whom they link to and if your site has no reputation, the chances of you getting a link are next to nil. After all isn’t that what Google wants? Authority sites linking to other authority sites and poor sites linking to poor sites. The problem with this is that a new site or brand, not only has to start online from scratch, but also has to survive with the handicap that no authority site will want to deal with them. So basically, no, getting rid of guest blogging didn’t solve the problem. It likely made it worse because, now that they can no longer resort to that to build links, webmasters will go back to buying and selling links, using link schemes, networks, tiered pyramids on web 2.0s and all the other spammy link-building techniques you can imagine. Let’s face it: while Google is able to detect plugins and html code that the big sites like MBG or Backlinks Dot Org used in order to provide their services, what can they really do to tell the difference between a paid link and an editorial one? Yes, some are obvious to spot and it’s likely that even a robot could detect them with certainty, but, if inserted organically in a post, there is really no way to tell. In fact, it’s hard to tell even for a human being. As an example, I was looking at a blog’s profile, one that is very similar to mine here. I came across a series of links and I started suspecting that they were paid links. It’s only upon inspecting a series of posts on the linking blog very thoroughly that a pattern could be seen, which made me 99% convinced that they are artificial links. This took me half an hour of my time. What are Google going to do? Spend thirty minutes to inspect every link for every single site manually? Smart black hats are very hard to spot, and like I said, there are thousands of sites that pay for their links to rank high in the SERPs. Now, I am not endorsing these practices. My point is that MBG and guest blogging in general weren’t an issue.
So What Now?
Now that the main source of links for White Hats has been outlawed, what are we left with? Truth be told, we can assume that no link-building technique can be considered to be white hat anymore and rather than distinguishing between white, gray and black hat SEO methods it’s best to distinguish between those that are easy detectable and high risk, such as comment spam and link networks and others that aren’t, such as private deals, networking, anonymous guest blogging, etc. The only certainty we should have is that creating great content and waiting patiently for editorial links will lead nowhere. Risks have to be taken. The thing we need to figure out is how big a risk we want to take. It’s best to have many sites, so that if one gets hit by a penalty at least there will be others, and just don’t rely too much on Google alone. There are other platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, other authority blogs, etc. where we can get traffic from. Google has become way too unpredictable. Don’t get me wrong, we can’t live without it, but putting all our money, time and resources on it? Bad move! So what do you think? Are you shocked, horrified, scared or even suicidal due to Google’s latest move? Share your thoughts and advice!