Some Thoughts on Guest Blogging and Matt Cutts’ Latest Blog Post

Last week, Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Anti-Webspam Team, wrote a post on his blog declaring guest blogging for SEO purposes to be a “dead practice“. In his post, Cutts sounded pretty annoyed—his anger, apparently motivated by an email he received, wherein some Indian guy offered to write a guest blog post for him in exchange for a do-follow link:

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.

—Matt Cutts, Head of Google Anti-Webspam Team

Cutts stated that this is equivalent to paying for a link. If you want to read his full article, click here to check it out. I have to respectfully disagree with everything that was stated in the article.

1. Links are and Have Always Been the Primary Purpose of Guest Blogging

Cutts says that asking for a do-follow link in exchange for a guest post is equivalent to offering to pay for a link. He goes on to state that blogs that offer do-follow links in exchange for content are violating Google’s rules. Reading between the lines, one can’t fail to get the impression that guest bloggers are being compared to a bunch of blood-sucking parasites (or link-juice-sucking parasites, perhaps?). In a follow up to his own blog post, he tries to distinguish between legitimate guest bloggers and spammers.

Can such a distinction be made at all, though?

The truth is that the general manager of XYZ company who meets Mr Blogger at the convention for super-successful entrepreneurs, and manages to be granted the privilege of posting an article on Mr Blogger’s PR7 blog wants exactly the same thing that thing that the Indian user who wrote to Cutts wants: a link. I have been reading a few of the posts that were posted in reply to Cutt’s post, and the only thing I feel like doing afterwards is bumping my head on the wall. Most of the people, who put in their own two cents in it, have argued that they only allow the people they know to guest blog on their sites.

But what do they mean exactly when they say that they “know them”?

Well, probably, they mean people who have bought their products, who have asked for their opinion on a previous article they wrote, who have exchanged a few emails with them to tell that their blog is the next best thing since chocolate was invented or who tweet them every morning to see if they had a great experience in the bathroom. Can you guess why all these “reputable guest bloggers” took the time to do all this? If you said that it’s because they want a link, you answered correctly. They want the exact same thing that guy who emailed Cutts wants. He was just upright honest and straight forward with what he wants, and thus he has been labeled a spammer. Had he wasted hours and hours of his life engaging in a fruitless conversation with the blogger to compliment him, then he would have been considered a “reliable and trusted” source. Oh, … most importantly he should have avoided mentioning the do-follow link, at all costs. The blogger knows that he wants one and will give it to him anyway, as a token for the butt licking fruitful intellectual exchange preceding the guest blogging request. Putting the cards over the table right away was outright rude and “spammy“. |Sarcasm Off| I wonder what would happen if the blogger forgot to insert the link or no-followed it … Speaking of no-follow, by the way, let’s not make fun of ourselves. People do not guest blog to get visitors to their sites. That does happen, but the amount of traffic gained in this way is negligible compared to that which a site gains due to a bigger blog passing on link juice to it. People guest blog for links, both those who admit to it and those who don’t. Period.

2. Guest Blogging is Not Spam

Google is a private company and can make their own rules. For all that matters, they can rule out that they will not rank websites owned by gay people, Afro-Americans, single mothers, Muslims or people with red hair (poor gingers!). The search engine belongs to them and they can do whatever they want with it. However, the fact that Google have outlawed guest blogging doesn’t mean it’s spam or “morally” wrong. Many webmasters do not have time to write new posts for their blogs every week. There is nothing bad in commissioning others to write quality content for a blog and, if the webmaster is confident enough to allow the writer to publish content on his site, there is no valid reason—none at all—to not link back to the author’s site with a do-follow link. If this has to be equated to “buying” links, then anything else should, because webmasters put links on their site for a reason. When I linked to Host Cabinet or the Who.Is directory in my Ultimate Webhosting Guide, it wasn’t to condone those services or “vote for them” in Google’s eyes, but rather because they where useful to me and to make my own article more interesting. Their sites have enriched mine, by offering a service to me, so I link to them. The same can be said of the author who provided content for my site. Google’s idea seems to be that the only “good” links are those that are earned via editorial means. This may work out in theory; it definitely doesn’t work in practice. The sites that easily achieve editorial links are very few: Google, Yahoo, ABC, the White House, any blog belonging to a Hollywood Star… Even huge PR7+ sites with a high domain authority very rarely get editorial links. If one checks their link profile, one will see that these kind of sites get their links from similar ones, typically owned by people with whom they have strong business relations.

Mr Huggins
Are you crazy, Arthur? How can you compare this to guest blogging for links?! It’s a whole different scenario. If people know and trust each other, then a link becomes a legitimate endorsement, where as a link obtained in exchange for providing content is de facto a sale!

My reply to that:

  • Teddy Bears are ignorant, by definition, and shouldn’t use Latin expressions such as “de facto”.
  • It’s not different. Neither of those links are obtained on the basis of merit alone. The webmaster is getting content in exchange for a link in the case of guest blogging and butt licking a meaningful relationship with another blogger in the case of a “legitimate endorsement”.
  • The concept that the best sites are the ones that have the most links is a mere utopia. People have, are, and will always give out links for profit. Whether that profit is monetary gain, content, an ego boost, indirect financial gain or increased social influence is totally irrelevant.

3. Google’s Stance Will Encourage the Direct Sale of Links

I mentioned the giants such as Yahoo, Google and Microsoft and then the PR7+ blogs, but what will the small business owner do? Of course, create great, amazing content that everyone will want to link to, you say?

No, that’s not the way the world spins and Google is to blame for this too. Before considering if they want to link to a small site, webmasters don’t even look at the content. They check the Alexa Rank, the PR, the Domain Authority and the SEMRush value. If you have just set up your website, no one is going to link to you, regardless of whether you post the nth post about the guest blogging debacle or one with the cure for cancer. Google says that sites linking to poor-quality websites will be penalized. All SEO experts yell, “be careful with who you link to” and dozens and dozens of wanna-be SEOs publish whole articles about “120 tips on how to avoid linking to bad sites and stay safe from Google penalties.” At the end of the day, the small guy and the new business owner are screwed. And the others?

  • Are they using their superior skills to write or create the amazing content that Google wants to rank on page one?
  • Are they hiring top-quality copywriters to write the best content?
  • Have they resuscitated Michelangelo or Leonardo Da Vinci to create awesome artwork for their sites?
  • Are they building first-class-rated apps that will deliver great value to their sites visitors?

No, they are not doing any of these things. They are BUYING LINKS. That is what most of the people on page one of Google for high-competition keywords are doing. I am not talking about Lenny from Canada who sells the blue pills. I am talking about respected bloggers and well-known people. Their best links are obviously paid for. It doesn’t take a genius to figure that out, once one inspects their link profile. Other links come from link networks. Sometimes these are private ones and sometimes they belong to small groups. In other instances you see a small group of people linking to each other’s site. The schemes are easy to spot and if Google ever decide to tackle these (which I am sure they will), it would take only the level of intelligence of a 5th grader to make them look more natural and undetectable.

Now, that “guest blogging for SEO“, i.e. earning links by writing valuable content for other websites is “done”, paid links are the way to go, for those who can afford them, that is. As long as paying for links isn’t made illegal, nothing will stop it, and, if done correctly, there will be no way for Google to stop it because if the site giving the link and the one receiving it both look legit (or maybe are legit) and the terms of the sale are negotiated in private, there is no way for Google or anyone else to determine with certainty whether the links are “bought” or “earned”.

4. Guest Blogging is Dead as a White Hat Technique. Long Live Black Hat Guest Blogging

  • Make sure any guest blog posts you publish are top-quality content.
  • Ask the author to forfeit his rights to the article; you will claim that you have written it yourself.
  • Stay away from Google’s Author Rank that can easily be used by them as a tracking system to penalize your guest blog posts.
  • Of course, give up on the byline.
  • Let the author insert one link to his site that looks 100% natural.

There you have it: effective, undetectable, perfect, black-hat,… “Outlawing” guest blogging for SEO isn’t going to put an end to it. It’s only going to make it more spammy than ever. Expect new forms of SEO services to show up with greedy marketers behind them who will negotiate deals between webmasters and guest bloggers—all for a hefty fee, which the small guy will not be able to afford.

This was wrong a move, and Google should have thought twice or trice before taking the step forward. It will make the Web more prejudiced against new legitimate businesses and biased in favor of those who can afford to buy links. So what do you guys think? Do you feel that this move is going to provide more quality for Web searchers? Or do you feel that we’re all doomed? Leave you two cents below! The best comment will get a do-follow link…oh, wait! I don’t think that I can do that, do I?

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