Over the last few years there has been quite a push by Google to close down the loop holes us SEOs have been using. As a freelance SEO consultant the mainstays of promoting a website for someone is the ability to create content and get it on another website in order to get a link back to the website you want to rank. Over the years the big G has got wise to this and has slowly but surely closed down many of these loop holes.
I remember when I first got into SEO the technique I used off site was all online PR, I used to get press releases out and get some amazing rankings, in fact online PR is probably all I did for months at one point and it was an incredibly effective way of marketing. Then as well as carrying out PR I did some article marketing, which quickly turned into some admittedly dodgy stuff I did at one point which involved producing a few different versions of the same article and then mixing parts of them together.
I wouldn’t say this was as dirty as spinning content in the way some people did it but it wasn’t clean white hat SEO at that point – anyway it worked. Of course there were forum links, blogs posts comments, book marking, footer/sidebar links, directories and meta-linking but I’ve always found its the links from decent content work the best.
Saying that even though Google has officially cracked down on all of the aforementioned tactics, done right, and done with the right intent if you get the odd link from these you will feel the benefit. The blog networks came along later and everyone got involved with those – sometimes we got involved without even realising we’d got our work on blog networks, it was such an insidious factor in SEO that even the white hat guys were doing it and had convinced themselves they were clean. Looking back at it now, no one was very clean at that point!
Earlier this week Google’s Head of Spam fired a warning shot over our bow – this one basically said “enough’s enough, it’s time to stop guest blogging”. Over the last couple of years the clean white hat SEO guys have evangelised guest blogging as the only form of acceptable offsite SEO and Google had made some noises that they didn’t mind it as well. I mean what’s so bad about producing some decent content to go on someone’s website?
The main problem Google has been facing is the content that people have been letting going on their blogs generally isn’t great, it’s often pretty tenuous, keyword rich, spammy crap that adds nothing to the debate and is purely there to get a link back. Google knows this and is determined that you should no longer guest blog. In Matt Cutts’ own words “we’ll take a fairly dim view of guest blogging”.
I’ve spoken to a number of SEOs who say they’re still going to carry on with guest blogging and are convinced that as long as they produce great content, don’t mention the phrase guest blog and include a followed link in the content they’ll be fine. I’m not so convinced. I think when Matt Cutts gives you this kind of warning you’ve got 6 months or so to clean your act up and to counterbalance some of that side of things with some decent marketing that gets you some better brand signals around those terms you’ve got ranks for with blog posting.
In the comments on his blog post Cutts is very explicit that if you’re producing content to go on someone else’s blog post – for both websites involved you need to make sure your link if you get one is a no-followed link. I think this is a good rule of thumb at the moment and I think no followed links are still important as a ranking factor even if they don’t pass page rank.
After getting hundreds of comments from irate SEOs Cutt’s added:
There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimisation (SEO) purposes.
Many SEOs around the place are saying guest blogging is dead, I’d be prepared to say guest blogging is not dead, it’s just changed and it’s taking us once again in the direction of being marketers rather than simply content mills producing a ton of crap content to put on other people’s websites with little thought of their audience simply to get a link back. It’s going to be much more about relationships, brand awareness and links are going to be much less important.
The other thing is citations, Google is smart these days – they know your brand, they understand what a piece of content is about so it makes sense to me that if a piece of content is out there that mentions your brand name and is related back to a specific keyword or phrase you’re going to have some positive impact on your rankings from this. I also believe strongly right now that the focus should be on improving the signals that direct people back to your Google Plus account (especially if you’ve included links to your various properties on that age) you’re going to get some love back from Google.
I think it is time they started to get better at the whole authorship area – but maybe that’s to come – they’ve still not got enough people using Google Plus, I can’t even get my head properly into it and I know it’s going to be of benefit to me to be using it.
Good luck guys – but I really do think it’s time to forget about guest blogging as the panacea for your ranking woes.