When Google condemns something publicly, or makes a sweeping statement like “guest blogging is dead,” anybody who’s got an interest in Internet culture tends to sit up and pay attention. Google’s decisions and changes throughout the years have been driving forces in the blogging world, so you can imagine that the purported death of guest blogging has both professional and casual bloggers alike bracing for sweeping changes.
So What’s the Story?
The reports of the death of guest blogging began to circulate not long after Google’s Matt Cutts made a series of very public statements about his and Google’s shifting opinions on the practice. He calls out guest blogging as an increasingly “spammy practice.” Google has an entire branch devoted to combating spam, after all, so it should come as no real surprise that they’d eventually turn their attention to low-quality guest posts.
Cutts’ public warning goes so far as to suggest that if marketers are still using guest blogging as a link building practice in 2014, then they need to stop. He suggests that guest blogging as a whole has run its course, which has, understandably, left a lot of bloggers wondering what the heck they’re going to do now.
Has the death of guest blogging been greatly exaggerated? Time will tell. Until then, what does the current landscape look like? Let’s take a look.
Guest Blogging Is Dead; Long Live Guest Blogging
Matt Cutts has a point, but one needs to wonder if he’s not throwing out the baby with the bathwater. While there’s no denying that guest blogging can create mountains of spam if done improperly, or by people who don’t care about quality, many in the blogging world are questioning the wisdom of Cutts’ stern words, and wondering if it’s not a prelude to some sweeping, scorched earth-type solution to spammy guest posts.
Google has yet to take any irreversible or sweeping courses of action; in fact, in follow-up interviews, Cutts has backpedaled – at least slightly – and told readers that his warning was against spammy guest blogs only, rather than against the practice as a whole.
Indeed, guest blogging is something arguably best left up to each marketer’s and blogger’s discretion. Cutts has urged bloggers not to accept guest posts from anyone that they can’t vouch for personally, or with whom they don’t already have a working relationship. That doesn’t paint a hopeful picture for people just now trying to break into the industry, but it does mean that writers who already have great relationships with high-quality sites won’t have to change their practices much, if at all.
What Should Bloggers’ Response Be?
Google’s anti-spam team regularly responds to spam reports, so should bloggers need to brace themselves for an expanded anti-spam crusade from Google, leveraged against guest bloggers? The answer is complicated.
Cutts has referred to a “spectrum of quality” when referring to guest blogging, which is as apt a description as any. The order of the day is, and will continue to be, “organic” link building. If you want to guest blog without it seeming as though you’ve paid for links, both links and keyword phrases need to be relevant to the post, and appear to have been written by an expert in the given field. In other words, Matt Cutts has described a world where we will no longer find links to generic Viagra on a construction industry blog, or vice versa.
What this means is that if the quality of your guest posts is high, you probably have nothing to worry about. Cutts’ harshest comments remain directed at bloggers whose only livelihood comes from low-quality guest blogs, or from “spray and pray” tactics, wherein pitch emails get sent everywhere and to everyone, with the writer trying to commandeer whatever soapbox will have them.
What Are the Alternatives, and Will They Hurt Guest Bloggers?
Even now, however, some sites have sensed the winds of change and begun to adopt byline-only linking policies in an attempt to ensure that the overall quality of the guest post won’t suffer for having had keyword phrases and off-topic links jammed in. This is a decision that each blog will have to make for themselves, but it’s fair to say that it’s an unnecessarily heavy-handed solution to a problem that is, quite frankly, not a problem for everybody.
Most guest bloggers take pride in providing high quality content, and may start taking their work elsewhere if blogs overreact to Google’s epitaph for guest blogging and begin to restrict outbound links to the byline.
Finding the Middle Ground
As with many things in life, the best course of action is to be found somewhere between the two extremes on the continuum. As any respectable guest blogger can already tell you, it’s entirely possible to create a piece of content that not only performs well SEO-wise, but is also useful in some way to the average reader.
Do we need Google to hold our hands and tell us the difference? Probably not. If nothing else, though, Google has reminded every last one of us that quality needs to be the first priority.