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I’m Not Afraid Of A Google Update Against Guest Posting

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Let’s face it – the SEO industry has a tendency to stomp a tactic into the ground.  Some of us even get lazy (pleny of this kind of junk around).

Directory submissions were once wildly valuable, then SEOs started creating directories by the thousands thanks easy-to-install directory scripts.   Some SEOs / webmasters blatantly charged a fee for the “SEO value”.  Additionally, cheap directory submission tools popped up like Directory Maximizer.  Back then there wasn’t as much fear of Google making sweeping changes; thus, the tactic was pushed hard for years.  Eventually Google sussed out the tactic  - directory links aren’t even close to what they were.

Article marketing worked for a while as well.  The same suit followed.  Article sites and tools like Unique Article Wizard and Article Marketing Robot came and left a huge footprint.   Originally some article marketing was even editorial when the webmasters scrutinized each article before publishing, but it was quickly outshadowed by services and bloggers that would take (and publish) any crap.

Next came blog networks.  ALN and Build My Rank (now redirects to were among the first to get a real Penguin beat down.  Spinning tools (that literally “spun” your content to look unique, but rarely made articles that users could understand) became popular as content for these blog networks.  These illegible articles were pumped out by the thousands.  For some SEOs this (somewhat) resembles what we think of today with the guest post tactic.

Now SEOs are waiting for the guest blogging [filter|penalty|panda|penguin] update.

Google Doesn’t Hate Guest Posting

As far as I know, Google doesn’t hate guest posting, at least according to this video 2012 video.  Things may have changed, but I don’t think so.

Google has made some illogical decisions.  Really, obvious mistakes.  I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt and been wrong before.

Dumb Bill Sebald quotes:

“Negative SEO can’t exist.  Google knows how easy it is to blast a bazillion garbage links at a website.  They’ll figure out the fraud!”

“Google doesn’t need help with duplicate content.  They told us so!”  (Next day they came out with the canonical tag).

They’ll reverse Penguin.”

The truth is, at the risk of putting my foot in my mouth again, I really don’t want to jump onto the guest post scaremongering band wagon.  As I said with the great Anthony Pensabene, I think we’re reading too deeply into things:

But aside from a few a lot of bad eggs, why would Google hate guest posting?  This can be amazing, user-loved content!

This is what Google’s infamously vague Google Guidelines say:

Additionally, creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines.

An editorial piece of text is an unpaid, opinion piece.  It is a piece placed by an editor to give value to the reader.  In newspapers (for example) editorials have often been the opinions of authors who may not have been associated with the publisher.   Google might be powerful, but I don’t see them having the power to change a definition.

We live with a noisy web, where soundbites are everything.  Tweets are our headlines. Sometimes newsreaders and social bookmark sites give us the news with a short 70 character headline.  Sometimes it’s even exploitative.  This leads to major misinterpretation and FUD.

The truth is, there’s a big difference between this and this vs this, this, and this.  One is a clear play for a link, the other is the intention of sharing something awesome.

What I Think Could Happen

While Google’s done a great job in the last year of pruning gamed results out of their index (I actually found it quite difficult to find some truly “bad” examples using Google), they could still possibly monitor heavier for footprints.  For example, they may be able to tune up their recognition of certain footprints left in the byline.  SEOs will adapt, and maybe start seeding their backlink elsewhere in the text other than the byline, and vary up their bylines more frequently, but the lazier SEOs could probably get swept up.  Have you created a sea of trash guest posts?  You might need to worry, but you couldn’t have thought your thin content was a long term play.

Authorship may come into play more, and either highlight good authors or flag spam authors. I just don’t think Google will be able to get too liberal here.  They’re the best search engine we have, but they’re still not talented enough to truly understand the intent of any content online.  They’re just not that good.  They have to know that.

Famous last words.

Sites like Moz, major tech sites, recipe sharing sites, entertainment sites, countless online newspapers,etc., would likely get swept up if Google pushed this update.  We’ve seen so many babies get thrown out with the bathwater just with Panda and Penguin alone.  For me, I’m going to sit back, have a homebrew, and keep on recommending guest posting where it makes sense and proves out to be a real marketing opportunity.

Related: Why I Will Continue With Guest Blogging As Part Of My Strategy!

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    The comments are do-follow. However, any comments that use keyword anchor text as the name will be removed.

    1. Brian Dean
      August 23, 2013

      I’m with you 100%, Bill. Like anything in SEO, it’s not so much what you do…it’s about HOW you do it.

      Even certain directories — which as you said aren’t very powerful anymore — still have some SEO value. And it’s the same with blog networks, scaled guest posts etc.

      As you said: the execution is what separates the wheat from the chaff. Smart SEOs that guest post on high quality sites and minimize their footprint will be sitting pretty if Google does devalue guest posts in the future.

      The lazy ones that posted spun 350-word garbage on any site with a “write for us” page will get nailed.

      PS: I’ve also made my fair share of SEO predictions that turned down to be dead wrong (luckily I made most of them before I started my blog).


    2. Ian
      August 23, 2013

      I’d place my bet that when Google says ‘editorial link’ they mean this definition:

      “of or pertaining to the literary and artistic activities or contents of a publication, broadcasting organization, or the like, as distinguished from its business activities, advertisements, etc.: an editorial employee; an editorial decision, not an advertising one.”

      Basically, when Google says they want to see/reward editorial links, they mean links you didn’t place yourself – links that would still exist without your direct involvement.

      A guest post is still a link that you placed, promoting your own site/URL/content. It’s still what you say about yourself – not what others say about you. Since it’s you talking about you – it’s basically an advertisement, which would make it non-editorial.

      Their take seems to be…

      If you’d do that guest post anyway, without the SEO benefit being there – fine. Nofollow the link. You don’t lose anything you wanted anyway, right?

      If you *wouldn’t* write that post without the link value – then it’s spam.

      Given that seems to be their take, and the fact that we’re (the general ‘we’) abusing the holy hell out of guest posts, a crackdown wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

      I would take the pretty basic and logical step of making sure that your rankings aren’t totally propped up by guest posts. It’s one tactic – use others, and don’t let any one tactic account for more than ~15-20% of your total mix.


      • Bill Sebald
        August 23, 2013

        Great points here.

        If they go with that definition, which is different than a media definition or what MC said in that video, that’s a pretty big differentiator. It’s possible (especially based on the nofollow link part). I guess Author Rank should eventually be nofollowed too when/if it becomes a ranking signal. What a mess.


      • Dave Morken
        August 23, 2013

        When is an attribution or credit advertising? I doubt that’s the definition they use.


        • Ian Howells
          October 4, 2013

          If it’s you attributing to yourself (dropping an in-content link) it’s an ad.

          Just like when actors do the press circuit to do an interview about their latest movie – it’s an ad. The point of doing the interview is to advertise the movie, much like the point of a lot of guest posts is to get the link.

          Google wants to reward what’s genuinely popular and useful – not who can manually go out and place the most links to their own content.


    3. Spook SEO
      August 25, 2013

      With all the things that Google is capable of, we shouldn’t over think things. I completely agree with what Ian said about one tactic not accounting for more than 15% – 20% of your total mix.

      The thing is, regardless of what we do, there’s almost always a way to use it in a spammy way.

      That said, we should all be “penalty ready” by spreading our ranking sources on different tactics since we have all these spammers making the tactics that we’re doing the right way spammy. And of course guest posting is no exception.

      Considering this, we shouldn’t over think things. Let’s just do what we gotta do and not think about “will Google penalized this strategy in the future?” because all strategies are prone to penalty.


    4. Cory Collins
      August 28, 2013

      Love this post Bill. I definitely agree. Obviously plenty of people are spamming guest posting right now, but I would be pretty surprised to see Google kill off quality guest posting when they go after the spam.

      As with everything, just make sure you’re actually contributing to the web, linking sensibly, and diversifying your strategies.

      On a side note – what kind of homebrew do you have? I just got done brewing an oatmeal bourbon stout I’m pretty excited for.


    5. Vince
      December 31, 2013

      Great post!

      What are your thoughts on using the Canonical tag in guest posts?

      For example, if I were to feature content on both my site and on another site in a guest post, could the canonical tag correctly identify to Google which site I want to index? In theory without penalty (if it is authentic content of course)?

      If this were executed in mass, would it be possible to not get hit with penalty? I’m considering a blogging partnership/site merger wherein over 500 posts from another site would be added to my site. The content is great, our site topics are absolutely related, and I could implement the canonical tag correctly – but I still fear how Google would react.

      Difficult questions! Appreciate any insight. Thanks.


    6. Tanja
      May 7, 2014

      Thank you for sharing your insights. A great post and even greater comments ;) I see a lot of SEOs spamming guest posting lately, as Cory noticed.