Guest blogging is the practice of inviting writers to publish posts on your blog. It does not cover comments which are not regarded as posts, but genuine blog posts made by a guest. Google expects guest blogging to meet certain protocols. However, just as all other Google rules, they are not explicit and you have to put your own interpretation on them.
Most times that interpretation is opinion, but in the case of guest blogging Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam, has offered some advice. The video below is what Matt says about guest blogging.
Watch the video, then read our interpretation, based both on the video and on the experience of what Google generally means by such statements. The Panda and Penguin algorithm updates and the Disavow tool were preceded by similar videos so we can extend the way they were rolled out to what might be another update based on guest blogging.
Fundamentally, Matt is saying that guest blogging should be honest – failure may impact negatively on both the guest blogger and on the blog itself, but mainly on the latter. Here is our analysis on guest blogging.
The Reason for Google’s Concern
Google places its flag firmly in the corner of inbound links as a major factor, if not the major factor, considered in ranking positions. Just like their introduction of keywords did, this resulted in a scramble to create as many backlinks as possible. The same content was being published all over the web, each publication providing a valuable backlink.
As a result, backlinks became devalued so Google started with the duplicate content algorithm, and then extended that significantly with Panda to include publication on content farms. It then tackled repetition of anchor text and landing pages plus other similar issues with Penguin.
It is not surprising, then, that Google might be turning its attention towards backlinks from blogs – particularly guest blogs and maybe even comments. We should all be prepared for what might become another update in the Panda and Penguin mold, although Google has not yet indicated this to be imminent. Nevertheless, Matt’s comments are very similar to those offered prior to previous algorithm updates.
GUEST BLOGGING: THE WRONG WAY
The way we see it, the wrong way to provide guest blogging is to allow anyone to guest blog on your site without first being invited. When guests do a blog for you, the wrong way is to permit them to provide links within the blog to their own website. Google sees that as free links in return for the content.
That is against Google’s linking guidelines that states:
“The following are examples of link schemes which can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:
Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link Excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”)”
Never Promote “Free Links” in Exchange for Anything
If you offer free backlinks in return for anything – money, content or blog posts, then your site will suffer. Not just the one page on your site that makes such offers, but your entire domain. If you offer free links in return for a guest post to anybody, no matter how respected they are in the internet world, then you will suffer, and the person belonging to that link will also suffer.
Another problem is that if you allow spammers to post or even comment on your blog without you acting as moderator and refusing them then Google will associate you with them and punish your blog. Google has a list of known people and URLs that are associated with spamming, and if you allow such sites to publish their links on your blog, expect to disappear from Google rankings overnight. Not immediately, but unless you remove them, one day you will wake up and find your site disappeared from Google’s listings.
GUEST BLOGGING -THE RIGHT WAY
Invite the Guest Blogger
The correct way to allow people to guest blog is first for you to invite them. If you like a blog and it seems to have a good following and perhaps even a high Google ranking (though that’s not important), then contact them and ask if they want to guest blog for you.
You should never say ‘if you blog for me for a link, then I will blog for you for a link.’ Google will pick up on the reciprocal linking and you might be in trouble. Make them ‘nofollow’ links, and you might get away with it because you are not then trying to manipulate Google’s algorithm.
That does not mean that links cannot be used, and if they lead to a genuinely useful web page then Google is likely to allow it as a genuine backlink. However, you must check every link yourself to make sure they don’t land up on a betting site or worse! You may be surprised at the destination of some seemingly innocuous looking links! Or perhaps not!
It is a good policy to make all links ‘nofollow’ and once you are happy with any specific link, add the ‘dofollow’ relation to it. By doing that you are unlikely to suffer from any bad links on guest blog posts or comments that get below your radar.
Setting up the Google+ Link
If you are a guest author, you must first have a Google+ page. The link to your profile should be formatted thus:
There are author bio plugins that enable you to do this, such as ‘Social Author Bio‘ and ‘Author Bio Shortcode‘ which you can find when you search for ‘author bio plugins’ using the WordPress Plugin search box. These also enable links to your Twitter, Facebook and other social media accounts which you can ignore or choose to include.
Note: Google discontinued authorship functionality completely but there is no harm using this tag.
The bio can be hyperlinked to the name of the author of the guest blog post. You can use the same plugin to link your name to posts that you make yourself.
Advantages of a Guest Blogger Bio
A guest blogger bio proves that the guest blogger truly is a guest, and not just made up by you in an attempt to show your diversity. It not only enables you to exclude spambots but also enables guest bloggers to receive a genuine reward for their work that is recognized by Google. Both you and your guest blogger will be rewarded with more points in the Google ranking race, irrespective of how that race is scored.
Do what Google wants, and you will not be punished. Try to second guess Google, or misuse the way you think its algorithms work, and you might achieve a temporary gain but will eventually lose – as thousands found when they lost their entire income and livelihood when Google cottoned on to the Adsense keyword spinning scam.
Importance of Original Blog Content
Article spinning is likely to be next on Google’s list, and Panda and Penguin are the first shots at that. Ultimately, articles created by article spinners and scrapers, using sections of existing web content, will be hit hard, and many other livelihoods will disappear overnight.
Make sure your guest bloggers are reputable because if they create their content using scrapers and spinners, expect to be hit hard yourself in the not too distant future. Manually written original content is what Google expects and will ultimately get.
It should not be long before bloggers are punished if the post does not inform Google of the identity of the author. Also, if Google believes the author might be a spammer, then the blog will also be punished.
A blog that is not listed on Google will not go very far! Those that say ‘to heck with Google’, and focus on Bing and Yahoo, also do not go far. Try it and find out for yourself. Google gets more traffic than Yahoo and Bing combined – in fact over 65% of all web searches.
Problems with Comments
Never allow comments to include links to a website that you have not checked. The name of those making comments should be linked to their Google+ account – if they have no such account, then no link! It’s your own safety you should think about, not their linking strategy. Link comments to the author’s bio if they have one – no bio, no link!
Many comments are spam – created by ‘commenting software.’ These are constructed to provide a link directly to a web page that generally has no relation to the topic of your blog. Allow this, and your blog listing is liable to drop rapidly. All links in your comments section should default to ‘nofollow’- only the name of the poster should be linked to their bio. This not only increases the value of the comments to both you and the person making the comment, but both of you are given credit by Google.
Association with Penguin
All of this makes sense when you consider the Penguin update. Penguin demands most links in article marketing to be either naked links (the actual URL) or for the anchor text to be either the name of the business or the name of the author. Keyword-based anchor text should comprise no more than around 20-30% of the total links.
Google is following a trend whereby the name of the author of the content is more important than the keywords used in the link. Google+, the G+ button, and authorship were apparently designed to enable this, and an understanding of what is in Google’s corporate mind will enable you to make the best use of guest blogging and understand better what to avoid. What do you think about guest posting, just share your thoughts with us in form of comments below.