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What does Matt Cutts mean: ‘Guest Blogging is Done’?

Hardly has guest blogging become all the rage in SEO than Matt Cutts says it is ‘done’ or ,for want of a better word, ‘dead’. But where did the fashion come from and is it really all over?

A little history

In the early days it was all about getting links to your website and the easiest way to do that was just swapping links. I’ll link to you if you link to me.

All too soon it was obvious to Google that it couldn’t run a search engine where pure links had much of an influence so webmasters were guided that links from within a textual content (in other words links in an article) counted rather than a loose link on a page full of links.

Thus was borne the article sites industry. Some were just spam, some (like Buzzle and Ezine) made a vague effort to ensure the writer was offering something original, some (like Howto) vetted authors for their expertise more thoroughly.

But the end game was the same. Provide an arena where people could post text content in which there would be a link back to their own websites.

Google now names these services ‘content farms’ because more often than not they don’t provide anything of great value to internet users. They are purely there for the search engine bots.

Google’s answer was to discount links from content farms and this instantly made spending any time on them pointless from an SEO point of view.

The rise of the guest blog

For link builders then it became a question of “where could they now create links within a text content?” The answer was obvious: on other people’s blogs.

Things Matt Cutts might have wished he'd said!

Things Matt Cutts might have wished he’d said!

As the article industry fell away the guest blogging industry came to life and, for some reason, everyone thought being a guest blogger was, by default, clean. These weren’t articles, they were blogs.

Had they stopped to think they would have realised that there is not much of a difference between an article website and a blog made up of guest bloggers. It’s exactly the same thing but in different clothes.

So not surprisingly Matt Cutts has announced that guest blogging is ‘done’, in the same way that he once announced article sites were dead as far as SEO was concerned.

The baby and the bath water

I can’t count the number of times Matt Cutts murmured something and half the SEO industry stampeded in the other direction. So let’s be clear:

  • not all article sites are ‘dead’
  • not all guest blogging activities are ‘done’

I’ll explain…

Not all article sites are dead

Not all article sites have been written off by Google. Wikipedia is an article site. The articles are written, edited or updated by groups of individuals but ultimately the site is just millions of articles.

Yet a link from Wikipedia to your website is gold dust when it comes to SEO.

Article websites that are of value to real people have survived and grown in importance. Getting a link from them takes a great deal of time, effort and patience but it works.

So, for example, writing something highly original and informative for a site like Wikipedia can work and referencing your website as the source of that information (in other words the link to you) is completely legitimate.

In short, article sites are alive and well and getting links from the better ones is still a valid SEO activity.

Not all guest blogging is dead

Matt Cutts is not saying all guest blogging is dead. He makes the point that he wants to “highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to ‘guest blogging’ as their link-building strategy, and [Google] sees a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging”.

So as with articles any blog that has sprung up, or springs up, for the sole purpose of guest blogging is going to be sidelined very quickly. Google already knows how to spot such article sites and the process for doing the same with blogs is almost identical.

Think about it for a moment. If Matt Cutts offered you the chance to guest on his blog would that count for nothing? Not likely! But if someone offers you space on among the random ramblings of thousands of other webmasters or SEO amateurs you know deep down that it is not going to make a blind bit of difference to your rankings.

How to find a blog worth guest blogging on

Here are a few pointers if you don’t want to waste your time guest blogging in places which, for Google, have no value:

  • The blog should have a stable author, or group of authors, who write the majority of the work.
  • The blog should have a constant theme that is related to your website’s or page’s theme.
  • The blog posts written (both by the author(s) and other guest bloggers) should be genuinely interesting and you should be able to walk away thinking “yep, what they say adds value”.
  • You should expect to have to jump through many hoops before your guest blog is accepted and most of those hoops should be to prove that you are truly knowledgeable about the field in which you are writing.

Blogs to run away from

I thought I would share this example from someone who approached me with their service on fiverr:

“I have a large private network of blogs on Web 2.0 sites (eg WordPress, Tumblr, Livejournal, etc) and will scrape and spin an article related to your niche, and submit it to this private network. 1 Link Per Post. You can provide an article, or I will scrape one for free.”

Now what is wrong with that? Plenty of people say it seems to work even if it does occupy the moral low ground in terms of copying others.

It’s like this:

  • a big network of blogs with no consistent subject line is going to get trashed and any juice it passed on will disappear.
  • Google is getting better at spotting spun articles, another reason why such a network will fall over the edge quite quickly.
  • When it does go over the edge your website will not only loose link juice, it will suddenly come into Google’s radar as a website that is receiving ‘spammy’ links. When Google follows the trail and sees this is the sort of thing you do you may well end up slapped with a manual penalty and thrown out of Google’s index.

This isn’t idle theorising. After Google uncovered the scraping software Traffic Master it was able to understand how it scraped and spun content so it was able to track down all the websites with such content and ban them as well.

“Guest blogging” schemes like this (if you can really call it guest blogging which I struggle to do) will leave you joining the endless queue of webmasters that end up on forums proclaiming their lost ranks were because of an ‘evil SEO company’.

But really you should have known better – these are exactly the kinds of systems Google spends so much time killing off and you don’t want to be anywhere nearby when it does.