In an uncharacteristically forthright blog post, Matt Cutts, head honcho of Google’s webspam team, lashed out at the practice of guest blogging. Apparently infuriated by what is probably the millionth automated spam email from low-grade online marketers offering to produce content for his blog, Cutts seems ready to go to war with guest bloggers.
“Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.”
If you haven’t already, you should check out the post to understand the nuance of his position. Of course, a backlash is already well underway, with many apparently having missed that nuance.
A second’s thought would show that if we construe guest posting in the way that its best practitioners do, Cutts can’t possibly mean it’s a bad thing; and if we construe it narrowly as low-quality content distribution with the sole aim of gaining links, then there’s nothing new here — that’s always been a dumb thing to do. A close reading of the blog post shows that Cutts is making the second point.
“Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains.”
The problem is that many online marketers see guest posting as a link-building technique to replace the comment and forum spam that is no longer effective. They want to automate the process of finding guest post opportunities, create sites full of spammy content that only exists for the links embedded in it, and generate low-cost, low-value junk content that’s of no interest to anyone.
Content is the Internet. All the other stuff is just there so that people can access content. Content requires content creators. It also requires a space in which it can be published and reach an audience. A world of one-person or one-company sites in which people only publish their own content is unthinkable. It’s contrary to the community spirit and interconnected nature of the web, and so content will be distributed to sites other than those directly connected to authors. There’s nothing at all wrong with placing content, including blog content, on a variety of sites.
But, that content has to have value in its own right. It can’t be merely the vehicle for a link: that puts the cart before the horse. If a company creates high-value content that generates a readership, it’s entirely legitimate to offer that content to reputable authoritative sites within the relevant niche so that it finds the widest audience possible. Reputable sites don’t take content with obviously spammy keyword anchor text links and they don’t take junky content: that’s how they became reputable in the first place.
So Why Guest Blog If It’s Not For The Links?
The link-building aspect of guest blogging should be regarded as an advantageous side-effect rather than the sole motivation. Guest blogging is a powerful marketing technique for many reasons:
It generates exposure and a wider audience for a brand.
It establishes the expertise and reputation of a company or individual.
It helps build relationships with others in the same niche.
It provides potential customers with something of value.
All of these motivations for guest blogging are undercut by a link-obsessed approach. And so, Cutts is right, if intemperate in his expression (which he later moderated somewhat with an edit to the original post).
Guest blogging purely for the links with no regard to the quality of the content or its value to the audience is a form of spam. Creating awesome content to share with sites in your niche is a positive and beneficial approach to marketing, both for the individuals and companies who guest blog and for the wider online ecosystem.