“So, stick a fork in it. Guest blogging is done, it’s gotten too spammy.”
Every marketer with an internet collection gasped when Matt Cutts, Google’s head webspam fighter, published these words on his personal blog a little over a week ago. For decades, guest blogging’s been the backbone of many brilliant brands’ outreach strategies, and often with remarkable results. Case studies have reported remarkable results, including 400% jumps in subscribers from landing a single post on a high-authority site:
So, is it truly pointless to publish guest content? The authorities, and even Cutts himself, have admitted that the point wasn’t to forbid guest posting for eternity. It was to mitigate the spammy trap that many brands have fallen into, of blindly reaching out to irrelevant sites with offers of low-quality content. If your entire marketing strategy is based on guest content to sites that may or may not be in your niche, it’s probably time to recalibrate. If you occasionally create blogs that offer real value to your peers’ audiences, you’re probably in the clear. And if you’re unconvinced? Well, here are 7 reasons why guest blogging definitely isn’t dead:
1. Matt Cutts Says So
A firestorm of comments and social media posts broke out after Cutts published his original post, causing him to quickly add an addendum. He admitted “There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.).”
Turns out, his intent wasn’t to completely forbid the practice, or insinuate that Google would one day punish individuals who engage in it. In many ways, things are status quo - people who create high-quality content will be rewarded, and individuals who spam will struggle to rank well in search. And Cutts himself admits there’s a ton of ancillary benefits to gain from publishing on other blogs that you can’t replicate easily elsewhere!
2. It’s Not Like Google’s Going to Catch You
Here’s the thing: Google, Bing, and Yahoo are whip smart, but they’re not smart enough to tell the difference between guest blogging and regular blogging. As content expert Elisa Gabbert points out, things can actually get pretty “murky” when you really start to think about it. Is someone writing an article for the New York Times guest blogging if they’re not a full-time journalism staff member? Is your company’s latest press release a guest blog if it gets picked up by a major publication?
There’s really no distinct definition of what’s a guest blog and what isn’t, and it’s a pretty sure bet that search engines don’t understand where the lines fall, either. Don’t publish terrible content on your blog, don’t include irrelevant links in your content, and don’t drastically vary from your usual subject matter unless you have good reason to - all of which are hallmarks of the kind of guest blogging Cutts is trying to stop.
3. Spam is Spam
With each passing year, good SEO becomes much harder to hack. When someone figures out a tactic that works, it isn’t long before it leaks, is emulated ad naseum, and Google updates their algorithm to ensure no one’s gaming the system. This very phenomenon is why Cutts humorously wrote “this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space.”
Why algorithms may change, spam today looks much like it did a decade ago: it may or may not be written by a human, and it doesn’t offer any real value. I’m certain there’s a ton of ways to distribute spammy content that I’ve never heard of, but they’re not going to be effective for long (if they work now). Low quality content’s never going to get you anywhere fast, but people who are able to publish high-quality thought will. If your content fits into the latter category, you’re in the clear.
To learn more, we recommend 7 Ways Google Changed in 2013, and How it Should Affect Content Creation.
4. There’s Really Few Ultimatums in the SEO Space
If it ever feels like Cutts is being pretty vague about just what constitutes quality content, it’s because he is. Cases in point: duplicate content is a horrible practice, but curated content is fine. Indiscriminate curating is ineffective, but putting time and effort into sharing the right kind of content with your audience is legitimate. Don’t use more than 100 links per page, but sometimes it’s okay. See what I’m getting at?
The deeper Google delves into natural language processing (also known as semantic search), the more vague and confusing SEO will become. Building an authoritative website isn’t about checking boxes off on a checklist, it’s about actually doing the legwork to be better than anyone else. There’s no one formula or secret code to crack to become a thought leader - you’ve just got to do it. There’s few ultimatums in the SEO space, and Google’s become a lot better at simply recognizing good content when it sees it.
5. Guest Blogging Can Be Altruistic
Guest blogging, when done correctly, can be a generous act. Perhaps you share content with a good friend in your niche in order to provide value to their audience on a topic they’re less of an expert on. It can be altruistic, not a selfish bid to grab some backlinks to your website, and altruism is the stuff that relationships are made out of. Building the kinds of friendships that foster mutual, organic social sharing and promotion of eachothers’ content is going to yield many more benefits than just jotting off a guest post for a stranger. Altruism will never die, and Google’s pretty unlikely to ever punish people who are really contributing something to a conversation.
6. Collaborative Blogs are Thriving
There’s no question that some of the most outstanding websites - sites that invariably rank really high in search - are comprised almost entirely of guest posts. Social Media Examiner is a powerful example of this phenomenon. So is Boing Boing, HubSpot’s Insiders’ Blog, and the Huffington Post for that matter. Content Marketing Institute, MarketingProfs and Jeff Bullas publish others’ work often. These websites are a clear example of guest blogging done correctly - capturing the leading thought in a space from people who know what they’re talking about. If you emulate or participate in a similar strategy, you’ll surely reap rewards.
7. Exposure is Exposure
Every marketer has heard the age-old saying that “no press is bad press.” It’s probably not true, but what’s undeniable is the fact that it’s tougher than ever for brands to gain notice. As more and more companies discover just how effective content marketing is, quality, originality and author authority are mattering more and more. Landing a guest blog on just the right site can lend the kind of exposure your company needs to rapidly expand your audience, subscribers, and fans.
Will Matt Cutts’ recent announcement change your guest blogging strategy at all? Why do you think the practice is here to stay? Share your thoughts in the comments!