Google does not want companies or websites to post guest blog posts in an effort to improve organic rankings. They’ve made that crystal clear. Their heart is in the right place. Unfortunately, there’s a casualty to their attack on guest posting that they probably did not intend.
The reality is that there are plenty of people out there using guest posts to try to improve their rankings. The way it works is simple: a blogger writes a piece of content that they submit to various blogs. Within the content or the author bio box is a link to their target. They get SEO juice through inbound linking from a variety of sites.
Google wanted to stop the networks that were connecting bloggers in a form of modern link exchange. Those wanting free content came there and those wanting free links came there. The problem arose when not all of those links were free – many services actually sold links that they acquired through guest blogging. More importantly, it was an unfair way for those in the networks to be able to get quality, contextual link juice and artificially inflate their authority.
Putting out the fire was easy. Now, Google has to face certain consequences that are popping up. The baby was thrown out with the bath water.
One of our sites relies on high-quality, unique guest posts. It’s more of a hobby blog than anything else but it’s been around since 2008 and ranks well for certain terms. We turned away five or six guest post submissions for every one that we included. Now, we’re shutting it off altogether. We cannot take the risk of accepting guest posts.
More importantly, we’re finding that some sites do not want to link within their own posts to sites other than Wikipedia or similar authority sites for fear that they might be confused with guest posts. This isn’t the case, of course – Google is not going after organic links – but more and more are becoming unwilling to take a chance. They simply do not want to get caught doing something legitimate and have it be confused with something false. The result – getting links to high-quality content on a low- to mid-authority site is becoming much, much harder.
Content that we would create and share with other relevant sites that would get dozens of links before are now getting pushed aside altogether. One particularly useful piece on the effects of Tesla’s quest to break the franchise model was well-researched, included strong and original graphics, and offered a spark for further discussion. It’s the type of content that would normally get a ton of good links from various automotive blogs. Instead, this particular post, sent out to dozens of sites, received zero inbound links. Instead, 4 of the sites copied and pasted the content onto their own, something they would never have done a couple of months ago.
Bloggers would rather risk a duplicate content deindexing of a piece of content than the rumored kiss of death that comes with the guest blogging witch hunt.
For our own business, we have avoided guest blogging. We never participated with sites like PostJoint or MyBlogGuest, not because we didn’t think they were valid but because we have been a “quality will win links, social signals, and Google love” type of search engine optimization company. Despite all of this, we’re still stuck in a catch-22. Even though we weren’t using guest blogging, we’re having to get more aggressive with our content outreach to counteract the effects of the recent penalty. Our clients are not seeing a drop and we’re actually moving up nicely thanks to what we can only assume is competitors being hit by the guest blogging pop. However, it’s making things harder for those who are doing legitimate SEO.
Google needs to take a look at their stance and come up with ways to keep people from getting spooked over accepting any sort of content or linking to anything other than the top sites. If not, we’re likely going to see a shift away from emerging sites in authority. In other words, if people are only willing to link to the NY Times or Yahoo News, they might be missing out on some of the best content on the internet. If they’re missing out, the searchers themselves (Google’s customers) will be missing out as well.