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.
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.