Do You Follow Google’s Rules On Guest Posts?

By: Chris Crum - July 14, 2013

Google’s view of guest blog posts has come up in industry conversation several times this week. Webmasters and marketers have long engaged in the practice in writing articles for third-party sites as a content marketing strategy. Some have taken it to higher extremes of “SEO,” but regardless of how hard your pushing for a boost in PR from these articles, you might want to consider what Google has been saying about the matter.

Do you write guest posts for other sites? Include guest posts on your site? Are you hoping to just provide good content or are you looking for linkjuice to help your Google rankings? Let us know in the comments.

As far as I can tell this week’s conversation started with an article at by Marie Haynes, and now Google’s Matt Cutts has been talking about it in a new interview with Eric Enge.

Haynes’ post, titled, “Yes, high quality guest posts CAN get you penalized!” shares several videos of Googlers talking about the subject. The first is on old Matt Cutts Webmaster Help video that we’ve shared in the past.

In that, Cutts basically said that it can be good to have a reputable, high quality writer do guest posts on your site, and that it can be a good way for some lesser-known writers to generate exposure, but…

“Sometimes it get taken to extremes. You’ll see people writing…offering the same blog post multiple times or spinning the blog posts, offering them to multiple outlets. It almost becomes like low-quality article banks.”

“When you’re just doing it as a way to sort of turn the crank and get a massive number of links, that’s something where we’re less likely to want to count those links,” he said.

The next video Haynes points to is a Webmaster Central Hangout from February:

When someone in the video says they submit articles to the Huffington Post, and asks if they should nofollow the links to their site, Google’s John Mueller says, “Generally speaking, if you’re submitting articles for your website, or your clients’ websites and you’re including links to those websites there, then that’s probably something I’d nofollow because those aren’t essentially natural links from that website.”

Finally, Haynes points to another February Webmaster Central hangout:

In that one, when a webmaster asks if it’s okay to get links to his site through guest postings, Mueller says, “Think about whether or not this is a link that would be on that site if it weren’t for your actions there. Especially when it comes to guest blogging, that’s something where you are essentially placing links on other people’s sites together with this content, so that’s something I kind of shy away from purely from a linkbuilding point of view. I think sometimes it can make sense to guest blog on other peoples’ sites and drive some traffic to your site because people really liked what you are writing and they are interested in the topic and they click through that link to come to your website but those are probably the cases where you’d want to use something like a rel=nofollow on those links.”

Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land wrote about Haynes’ post, and now Enge has an interview out with Cutts who elaborates more on Google’s philosophy when it comes to guest posts (among other things).

Enge suggests that when doing guest posts, you create high-quality articles and get them published on “truly authoritative” sites that have a lot of editorial judgment, and Cutts agrees.

He says, “The problem is that if we look at the overall volume of guest posting we see a large number of people who are offering guest blogs or guest blog articles where they are writing the same article and producing multiple copies of it and emailing out of the blue and they will create the same low quality types of articles that people used to put on article directory or article bank sites.”

“If people just move away from doing article banks or article directories or article marketing to guest blogging and they don’t raise their quality thresholds for the content, then that can cause problems,” he adds. “On one hand, it’s an opportunity. On the other hand, we don’t want people to think guest blogging is the panacea that will solve all their problems.”

Enge makes an interesting point about accepting guest posts too, suggesting that if you have to ask the author to share with their own social accounts, you shouldn’t accept the article. Again, Cutts agrees, saying, “That’s a good way to look at it. There might be other criteria too, but certainly if someone is proud to share it, that’s a big difference than if you’re pushing them to share it.”

Both agree that interviews are good ways to build links and authority.

In a separate post on his Search Engine Roundtable blog, Schwartz adds:

You can argue otherwise but if Google sees a guest blog post with a dofollow link and that person at Google feels the guest blog post is only done with the intent of a link, then they may serve your site a penalty. Or they may not – it depends on who is reviewing it.

That being said, Google is not to blame. While guest blogging and writing is and can be a great way to get exposure for your name and your company name, it has gotten to the point of being heavily abused.

He points to one SEO’s story in a Cre8asite forum thread about a site wanting to charge him nearly five grand for one post.

Obviously this is the kind of thing Google would frown upon when it comes to link building and links that flow PageRank. Essentially, these are just paid links, and even if more subtle than the average advertorial (which Google has been cracking down on in recent months), in the end it’s still link buying.

But there is plenty of guest blogging going on out there in which no money changes hands. Regardless of your intensions, it’s probably a good idea to just stick the nofollows on if you want to avoid getting penalized by Google. If it’s still something you want to do without the SEO value as a consideration, there’s a fair chance it’s the kind of content Google would want anyway.

Are you worried that Google could penalize you for writing high quality blog posts for third-party sites? Let us know in the comments.

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • John

    if you want to avoid being penalised by google, just stop using google products, anyway recent studies show that there are 0 ( yes zero ) to 7% natural results displayed on the front page real estate.
    Google has killed the search, it’s now only about advertising ( adwords and other shopping cr*p ).

  • Wintress Odom

    Question: It sounds like it would be ok to accept a few quality guest posts, as long as they are original content. But writing them for others might be risky without a no-follow tag. Do you think that’s a valid assessment of the situation?

  • Jonell Galloway

    I’m chiefly looking for good content, because I don’t have time to produce enough on my own. The linkjuice doesn’t hurt, of course.

  • Gerri Jensen

    Time for webmasters to say “Enough” to Google! No paid links, no guest article links — What only ad links that they make money from? We recently got a Google Webmaster warning that we had “paid links” on one of our sites. It wasn’t true, what we had were guest posts. We made the link nofollow and they revoked the penalty.

    We have filed a compliant with the FTC ( Federal Trade Commission) that this is unfair business practice and a monopoly. Google is trying to control content and advertisements unless they are their “approved” ads and their approved content. In essence price fixing and monopoly building.

    An FTC Complaint can be filed here, no matter how small or big your business is,

    • wmaster

      exactly. Google trying to create own personal internet where no any freedom, you even cannot create/manage your website how you like.
      All queries (excluding few non-commercial) is have places reserved for wikipedia and big brands. I mean reserved in real, just check last study from searchenginemetrics. According to their reports at almost top 3 – brand sites, which not follow any standard rules like onpage seo, “natural anchor links profile”, links quality, etc.

      So it easy to see now what serp is being manipulated.

      • wmaster

        you even cannot write article in normal style you like. And nobody know what is normal style since this “panda”.
        such updates give google ability to manipulate organic serp as they like.

  • Enviro Equipment Blog

    We don’t accept guest bloggers – mostly because blog’s subject is a very narrowly defined niche – but if we did, so long as it was a unique article on the same topic that our blog covers, I don’t see why Google would penalize us for the author for doing so. After all, Google wants unique and quality content and is a blog post meets both those criteria, why would they penalize us for accepting their link?

  • Cliff

    In all fairness, the problem raised in the video is more that if a blogger is constantly guest blogging for others for the SOLE purpose of getting a link by producing replicated/spun/bad content. I’m sure there are much more ways of building unnatural links and that guest blogging is provides more value than directory submission and many other forms of link building.

  • NT

    As someone relatively new SEO, excuse my ignorance.

    Are there any case studies that demonstrate a site has been penalized from (unpaid) Guest Posting?

    Doesn’t adding a no-follow attribute to guest posts dilute or nullify the link juice? If so, why bother?

    I understand Google want citations to be natural, rather than induced. But as John ^ indicates, that doesn’t reflect the rankings.

    But if we post original content onto high quality sites (not article farms) we’re unlikely to be struck.

    That’s my rookie assessment. I’m open to experienced opinions though.

    • wmaster

      google not penalize linked url from guest post. It just not pass the link juice. Google just penalize page on site which posted this guest post. Try to use any keyword anchor in guest post and you will see it.

    • John Colascione

      Like this rookie opinion. I tend to often just ignore all of this nonsense. All this nofollow this and nofollow that. Producers of quality content should be able to just ignore all of this. Webmasters and Publishers shouldn’t have to deal with all of this to write, report, link and run an internet property.

  • Danny

    Chris, guest posting has been getting rorted for a number of years.

    Getting backlinks and gaining some exposure, are not such bad motivations, and make sense in the bigger scheme of things.

    Though, a number of people now run some kind of ” link wheel meets traffic swarm ” style, guest blogging systems….

    Also, the spun or same content is showing up all over the place, in many cases under a different Authors name….

  • Blogger24

    It all comes down to how you use your guest posts. The problem is there is always going to be quite a large quality ballpark for the acceptance of guest posts on different sites.
    I try only to choose posts on the quality and added value the post will give to my readers, and not as a way only to build links.
    I think this is the only way to go until Google beast has punished or removed the plethora of poor sites that inundate our search engines.

    • wmaster

      i think now is only one correct way for google. To ban all internet. They banned lot of good sites, now time to ban wikipedia (only trouble what it hard coded into their algorithms), and brands (they not follow any standard rules as natural anchor chart, onpage seo, etc). “Money Exceptions”

  • Cheryl T Campbell

    I publish a magazine for women entrepreneurs and just designed a new website to compliment it. 90% of the posts are written by women entrepreneurs who want to share their expertise with others.

    The whole notion of being penalized for having contributors or ‘guest bloggers’, who’s intent is to serve others, makes absolutely no sense to me.

    • wmaster

      and peoples still don’t know what is Good guest post is it. Is it guest post promoted in social networks??? I think so, from google perspective. No quality control except punctuation, but that bloody machine love to see likes and +1

      • wmaster

        punctuation, spellchecker and articles use – i mean.

  • Cris Monde

    Such a good point to consider when doing a guest post.

  • Nick Stamoulis of Brick Marketing

    “While guest blogging and writing is and can be a great way to get exposure for your name and your company name, it has gotten to the point of being heavily abused.”

    Like any worthwhile tactic guest blogging has been pushed to the limit. Which is really unfortunate because I have seen it work so well for both my own company’s site and many clients. But I think it’s worthwhile being a little discerning with your links in guest posts. I would steer away from linking to your site to much and look for other resources instead, a mix of yours and others as much as possible, to create a really flushed out post with lots of extra information at hand for readers.

  • Bryan Quinn

    A great post with Google being the biggest spinner!

  • moammer

    free gift harry

  • wmaster

    google continues killing internet to make more and more of bloody money!

    • Rank Watch

      Guest posts when done by a reputable or authoritative author not only gives different views to users but also helps the author and his site get lot of traction in the form of traffic and quality links but the other side of it has spam spreading its wings on the web with low quality spun content which is trying to manipulate their site’s search rankings & traffic on Google.

  • Name

    What is a good guest post? One that goes along with the party line? Is there a list of criteria?

    Who made Google god?

  • Martin O’ Neill

    I feel guest posts are diluted over and over again, thus offering no value to a reader or the site it is published on. I have also found that the quality of these articles from supposed “industry experts” are average at best. By using the Google authorship tag and sticking to what you are actually an expert on will provide competent authors a chance to shine.

  • Matt Blank

    So does having a few of my own blogs posting the same content hurting me now?

  • Mick

    I think that Google’s intentions here are to only give credit to natural links, but how can you verify what is and what isn’t a natural link anymore. Obviously link farming is easy to detect and so are other forms but how can you possibly work out (with an algorithm_ whether a guest post or write up on another website is natural or not? I think Google is trying to do things right but because of the complexity of everything sometimes people or websites who do nothing wrong get punished. I think if Google is implementing all these changes it needs more of a human department you can talk to or email who can actually look at cases that have been wrongfully punished, this would give a way to get Google to revoke any ‘unfair’ penalties and such.

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  • Neil Bryan

    I think Guest Post is always a good option if you feel the content is relevant and worth for your users.Quality content always values.

  • Paul

    I would like to know how Google knows how a link would be placed on a site by guest blogging. Without physically viewing the situation how can Google be certain it was put there by the web master as a link to an article or as a guest post accompanied with a link?

    I am sure Google does not physically check all the sites in the www, so how is it possible to tell?

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