For years, one of the best link building strategies was guest posting because it allows you to show off what you know while helping consumers hoping to learn more. You get a link back to your company, Google takes notice, and the website accepting your content gets new material. In theory, it should be a win-win situation all around. Last week, however, Head of Google Webspam Matt Cutts turned this mentality upside down in a post on his blog. Cutts had people questioning their guest blogging strategy and wondering whether or not it was really worth their time. To use his exact words, “So stick a fork in it, guest blogging is done.”
Fortunately, when you really read into Cutts’ opinion, he isn’t discounting the benefits of guest blogging at all. What he said was a very positive thing for small businesses everywhere—you don’t have to stop guest blogging, but you’ll probably want to alter your strategy if you want to be successful moving forward.
A Quick Overview: What Matt Cutts Said (and Clarified) about Guest Posting
Cutts started by writing a very to-the-point article about how sick he is of people guest blogging for SEO reasons. He included all of the videos he has ever created—from Oct. 2012, Jul. 2013, Oct. 2013, Dec. 2013—where he specifically told us, small business owners and Webmasters, not to guest blog in order to get a link back to your website (aka SEO reasons). When he breaks it down like this, it’s easy to see why he wrote the article with an almost angry tone. This isn’t new information.
After quite a bit of backlash, he had to add something to his post to clear things up. He said:
“There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality bloggers out there.”
He went on to say that he isn’t talking about multi-author blogs, which is important to note because there are so many quality blogs out there that thrive on guest content. Whether you’re a website that accepts guest content or you are a guest on other websites, all this post highlighted was the idea that building links this way should no longer be your goal. If it is, don’t bother because then you’ll be “hanging out with really bad company.”
How to Move Forward and Alter Your Guest Posting Strategy Accordingly
Of course the biggest question here for marketers is this: How do I need to change my guest blogging strategy to continue to grow and remain successful in the future? Consider some of the steps you can take moving forward:
Focus on writing for only authoritative blogs.
Offering your content to websites that publish poor quality content just to have something up on the site (articles less than 300 words, with bad grammar, etc.) is going to get you in trouble. It always has and it always will, so make this a priority when revising your guest blogging strategy. Whether you hire an agency or have your own writers, give them a list of pre-approved sites or have them run the sites they want to work with by you first. If time doesn’t allow for such a hands-on approach, create a list of guidelines explaining what is considered an authoritative site (sometimes quality isn’t enough—focus on authority in your niche).
Consider putting a nofollow tag on your links or the guest links on your website.
Show the world and Google that you’re guest blogging for reasons that are not SEO related. Cutts suggests you put nofollow tags whenever you publish articles on your website, but also take the initiative and let other sites know that you’re OK with nofollow links. This will also help you get your content on those authoritative sites (which you’ll find isn’t an easy task).
Try to establish regular relationships.
The name of the game is relationships, not links. Whenever you write for another website, make sure you continually write for that site and establish that relationship. The same goes if you’re publishing articles on your site—only accept writers if they are well-known and/or can write regularly.
Don’t label articles on your site as “guest post.”
This idea came from Wordstream and I think it’s pretty brilliant. Feel free to put an author bio at the bottom of an article, but you don’t have to say in the content or on the page “this is a guest post.” This could trigger something with Google that would make your site look spammy.
It’s also important to understand the reason all of this is coming to an end. As discussed above, guest posting is a great idea and should work wonderfully in theory. Unfortunately, too many spammers ruined it for the SEO community, which Cutts admits. Whether you like it or not, this is the reality and now is the best time to start making sure you’re not teetering on this line. You’re either spamming by trying to get links or you’re not.
How do you plan to alter your guest posting strategy now that Cutts has made this announcement? Do you take what he says seriously, or do you think he is just trying to scare us off? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.