February 25, 2014 - 1 comment.

What Google’s latest warning means for the world of guest blogging

On 20th January 2014 Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, published a post in which he openly warned digital marketers and brands that Google have had enough of manipulative guest blogging tactics for the sole purpose of gaining links.

In the article he included an example of an email that he had received himself from a “content marketer” offering money to pass PageRank. This is something which has always been against Google’s guidelines.

I would like to know who would email Matt Cutts asking for a follow link in exchange for money!

My name is XXXXXXX XXXXXXXX and I work as a content marketer for a high end digital marketing agency in [a city halfway around the world]. I have been promoting high quality content in select niches for our clients.

 “We are always on the lookout for professional, high class sites to further promote our clients and when I came across your blog I was very impressed with the fan following that you have established.I [sic] would love to speak to you regarding the possibility of posting some guest articles on your blog. Should you be open to the idea, we can consider making suitable contribution, befitting to high standard of services that your blog offers to larger audience.”

As you can imagine, there’s been a mixed response to this article from the digital community. Some agree with Matt’s stance:

“Can’t say that I’m surprised Matt, most of what people call “guest blogging” is just posting content with links.”    

“That’s a great move!”

“Hello user experience. Goodbye low quality content.”

There has, however, been a large number of people questioning Google and Matt Cutts. One that stood out for me was a comment from Danny Sullivan. I can sense his frustration, which I think most of us in the digital community have felt for a while now:

“I think the problem is that you talk about this being the type of activity Google doesn’t want to reward. That would be fine if Google would just do that, not reward the links with credit.

“Google basically doesn’t want people trying to build links any longer, despite that having been Google advice for many years.

“So just say that. Just say any attempt to actively build links might get someone banned in Google. That would sure make things easier.”

I agree with the last point. If Google don’t want any links built, then just say so.

Then again, I don’t see why there has been such a big uproar since guest blogging is only a small part, if any, of successful integrated digital marketing campaigns. If you adhere to Google guidelines, add the no-follow attribute to links that are in the article purely for reference and don’t manipulate page rank, then in theory you should be OK.

I have always believed that producing good quality engaging content is the answer. I hate to use the term “content is king” but never before has it been so true.

At Bloom, before we start any creative campaign we hold several ideas sessions looking to answer questions such as, ‘will this content offer value to the end user?’ What we don’t ask is, ‘how many links will it get?’ or ‘how many guest posts can we buy?’

I like the fact that ‘the number of links’ is no longer a major factor in creative campaigns. There have been too many occasions where amazing ideas have been left behind because you can’t quantify the number of links it’s going to get.

I think the recent developments and penalisations by Google have levelled the playing field and stopped big budgets dominating rankings.

It’s no longer about how many links you can buy, but rather how creative, innovative and adventurous you are. This will eventually benefit everyone, as the internet will now stop being flooded with poor, low quality content that has been produced purely to manipulate page rank. I think this is what Google and Matt Cutts are trying to put an end to.

So, in conclusion, without sounding like a naïve idealist, if you create amazing content that is engaging and offers genuine value, and you promote that content in the right circles, then you will get natural pickup and earn the links instead of having to buy them.

You will also future proof the content without having to look over your shoulder to worry about algorithm updates and getting caught by Google.