I read the Matt Cutts article: “The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO,” written by the veritable demigod of Google — “the head of webspam.” You may have read it, too.
It dropped a bomb into SEO agencies and digital enterprises all over the world. Coming on the tail of Expedia’s blowup and Gawker’s expose, it seems like the whole world is crying “foul” at this whole guest blogging thing.
I beg to differ. In fact, I’m saying that Google is wrong: Guest blogging is not dead.
That’s a huge statement, and it’s kind of hard to even write it. Talk about David and Goliath. (As in, I’m David, the little guy … just in case that wasn’t clear.)
Here’s Where I’m Coming From
Cutts’ message hit me between the eyes, because, although I’m an experienced digital entrepreneur, I’m relatively new to guest blogging.
However, I’m a convinced practitioner of “guest blogging.” And Cutts’ message has not dissuaded me. Here’s why:
Guest blogging is legitimate, high-quality content marketing. It simply happens to be posted somewhere else.
Following the commands of the content marketer’s bible — the “Webmaster guidelines” — I write “useful, information-rich” content.” I post it on my site. And, because I’ve been invited, I write fresh and different information that I share as a guest on other sites.
This is nothing more and nothing less than the type of strong and reputable content marketing that Google has always encouraged.
Guest blogging doesn’t always mean “paid.”
Getting paid for guest blogging is rarely a dependable stream of income for most guest bloggers. In fact, I often gladly provide such content for free for reasons that I will detail below.
I don’t slip in links, or pawn off spots in my content to the highest bidder. Just because someone is guest blogging doesn’t mean that they’re a digital snake oil salesperson, hoping to make a scammy buck.
Guest blogging has been defiled by the spammers.
In a repeat of recent history, SEOs have sullied the reputation of guest blogging. I totally agree with Cutts’ statement. He wrote:
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.
So what does he go on to quote? Some offshore, autosend, spam-bot operator who is phishing for links and likely doing black hat SEO on the side. That does not do justice to the term “guest blogging.”
Guest blogging can and should maintain a semblance of respectability, in spite of those who are selling links and cutting under-the-table deals.
I get it. Cutts works in a world where spam is the enemy, and it’s lurking just around every digital corner. But there are those of us who abstain from spam, who love integrity, and who simply want to blog … as guests!
Can we do so, and not get vilified, penalized, or demonized by the powers that be? Can we be reasonable?
Why I’m Committed to Guest Blogging
That’s where I’m coming from, and here’s what I’m doing — I’m going to keep guest blogging, as long as great sites in my industry like my content. Here are the reasons that I guest blog, and why I think you should, too:
Community. As digital mavens, engaging in remote work with distributed teams, this is how we do community. We do it in Google hangouts, over Adium chats, with Skype calls, and back-and-forth Gmail conversations. And we blog.
We blog for each other and with each other. Call it guest blogging if you want, or call it community content building. I don’t care. Whatever it is, we’re forging community, and we’ve got to keep that going, regardless of what the algorithm does or doesn’t do in response.
As a community of internet marketers, we are content creators, content consumers, and content lovers. I’d rather not see this community shattered into splinters of isolated bloggers or microbloggers with a single peevish blog post.
Give Back. I want to give back. I’ve been engaged in some form of digital marketing for 15 years. I owe much of my lessons to great bloggers like the team at Crazy Egg, Neil Patel, Peep Laja, Unbounce, and others. Now, I have an opportunity to give back. It’s called guest blogging. I see this is a privilege and a responsibility that i can fulfill in the industry that I know and love.
Sharing. I want to help people and share my knowledge with others. I’ve learned a thing or two, and I want to share this with others. Guest blogging is the most widely accepted and received way to do so.
Great Content. I want to create great content, and build a solid brand. Part of my motivation for guest blogging is the visibility that it provides me. My brand is my livelihood, and I gain increased exposure as I provide guest blogs.
I could care less about the bio backlink to my site. I’m not in it for the SEO. I’m in it for the opportunity to put awesome content on the web, and have people know where it’s coming from — from JeremySaid.
Regardless of what Cutts said, I know that if I create killer content — here on my blog, or somewhere else — the content will be shared by others. It will be tweeted, bookmarked, emailed, liked, Reddited, and I’ll be happy. Why? Because great content is reaching more people.
Now, let’s talk facts.
In the brouhaha that followed, Cutts got taken to the woodshed. Later on — and, yes, he deserves a smile of approval for this — he wrote this:
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.
So, after taking a warm bath or eating crow in the comments, Cutts came back to clean things up. After simmering down, he realized that he needed to “add a bit more context.” Let me break it down, and tell you what’s really happening with guest blogging.
Google will continue to develop their algorithm to identify spam. Cutts wrote, “given how spammy it’s become, I’d expect Google’s webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward.” Well, since Matt is the head of said webspam team, he probably has a pretty good idea of how that’s all going to roll out.
But the truth is, Penguin did that to a large extent. What’s more, Cutts’ message does not signal an algorithm change at all! It’s simply Cutts saying “stop the spammy link-building!” The algorithm, however, is a living, growing, changing, evolving entity, and it will continue to mature. As such, it will probably begin nailing more and more spammy guest bloggers as time goes on.
When Cutts writes “guest blogging is done,” what he really means is “quit creating boilerplate spam content with a bunch of links and pawning it off to high-PR and low-integrity sites.” What you should be doing, however, is providing great content to industry-specific and relevant sites, and providing the greatest content you can possibly produce for people who will benefit from it.
Be careful who you write for, and be careful who you accept content from. This is a no-brainer. I’m actually just parroting Cutts. Work with reputable sites and reputable writers.
Have clearly defined goals with guest blogging. Hint: SEO link-building doesn’t count as a good goal. Since guest blogging is in the algorithm’s crosshairs, you have to be extremely careful how you go about it. Links, anchors, exact-match — all that stuff — be careful. The algorithm is becoming more adept at identifying co-citation and co-occurrence, which may become even more important and legitimate than linkbacks. Rand stated it well in last week’s whiteboard Friday.
People start out with good intentions but eventually get really greedy. They see the possibility of easy money, and they start stooping to get it. Don’t stoop. Instead, create the best content you can every time you put your fingers to the keyboard.
Neil Patel talks about guest blogging and still thinks there is valid SEO value, especially with longer-tail searches. I agree. Most likely, 80 percent of your traffic will come from such searches. I recommend that you check out Patel’s article to find out some dos and don’ts in the new post-Cutt’s-article landscape.
Author authority will be even bigger now than ever before. When author authority was rolled out almost two years ago now, it got a few “huh, cool” comments, but it wasn’t a sweeping revolution to the content marketing industry. I think Authorship Rank is the next big thing in SEO and content marketing.
The takeaway here is to protect your personal brand, and build great content that you’re proud to connect your name and face with. Web 3.0 is intensely social, and is built upon the digital platforms of individual people, not gargantuan corporations. You as an individual are responsible to create good content — on your own site or others’ — that will enhance your brand, your person, and your product
So, let’s tie it up with a bow.
I’m into guest blogging. I’m still doing it. And if Matt Cutts ever reads this article (please leave a comment, Matt!), then I think he would agree with me.
Matt Cutts is a one-note Johnny. I mean that in the best way possible. He says one thing, and he says it over and over again (viz, the four videos in his blog post). That one thing he repeats is don’t be spammy.
His entire team at Google gets paid to help people not be be spammy by levying manual penalties, tweaking algorithms, and adjusting rankings. (They probably have more fiduciary power than the U.S. Treasury.)
What you should do is keep writing awesome content. And do it for the right reasons. Content marketing is not code name for “SEO trick.” It is what it is — creating content that helps advance marketing. So, let’s shake hands with Matt Cutts, and be done with black hat techniques.
But let’s not let go of guest blogging. What do you think?