Google's Matt Cutts appeared on a web radio show on Wednesday and indicated that low-quality guest blogging could result in a Penguin attack.

Guest blogging: The good and the bad for SEO

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On Wednesday, Google’s Matt Cutts appeared on This Week in Google, a web radio show hosted by Leo Laporte. While most of the conversation dealt with the current issues related to Google Maps’ absence from iOS 6 and the iPhone 5, Cutts touched on Penguin, link schemes and guest blogs.

The host asked Cutts (“Dr. Spam”) for his take on a barrage of emails he’s received from hopeful guest bloggers. Cutts gave a word of caution.

“It used to be the case that guest blogging was a very respectable thing. You’d hand write something really thoughtful,” he said. “There’s a lot of guys who are now writing one article and they’ll make 50 copies of it, changing a few words and they’ll ask to do a guest post on your blog. They’re just doing that to try to get links.”

“There’s a lot of guys who are now writing one article and they’ll make 50 copies of it, changing a few words and they’ll ask to do a guest post on your blog. They’re just doing that to try to get links.”

Matt Cutts
Distinguished Engineer

Thoughtful guest blogging is a good thing for brands. As content marketing strategies evolve, adding a new voice to an external site that provides readers with different perspectives and ideas improves marketers’ authority and credibility in their industries. However, many web writers and marketers abuse guest blogging as a way to boost link building without offering quality site content. More or less, Cutts suggested sharing low-quality content through guest blogging has increased. Prefabricated content is not useful for readers, and links detected around shallow guest blogs are targeted by the search giant’s quality algorithms.

Penguin, which targets links schemes, attempts to deal with strategic black hat practices. “The spammers will move from the easy types of spam to the slightly harder … ” Cutts said.

This shouldn’t discourage marketers from offering to guest blog on relevant sites, or lead them to discount every guest blog inquiry for their sites that comes their way.

“Sometimes they are legitimate,” Cutts said.

Any valuable guest blog efforts center on providing information to target audiences. Links generated from these posts are not inherently problematic, but it might be most useful to think of link building as a tertiary benefit, rather than the sole reason for the content. Like any other form of content in the post-Panda and Penguin searchscape, anything done without users as the focus will hurt a site in search rankings.

“Sometimes [guest blog requests] are legitimate,”

Matt Cutts

Last month, SEOmoz blog contributor Carson Ward detailed some of the reasons many of the top minds in search have tried guest blogging. More than anything, Ward urged marketers to use guest blogging as part of their content marketing strategy and apply the same editorial and SEO standards they use for all site articles and blogs. The links received or given may seem like a benefit, but they could lead to Penguin issues if the posts are low-quality.

Brafton recently detailed some of the warning signs that a site is hit by Penguin in a video tutorial. Penguin focuses heavily on webspam and punishes sites using dishonest practices to drive inbound links and boost search standing. If a site relied on guest blogging to drive inbound links, a loss in traffic may indicate Penguin discounted the endorsements from these pages.

Joe Meloni
Joe Meloni is Brafton's former Executive News and Content Writer. He studied journalism at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and has written for a number of print and web-based publications.


  • Jason Bean

    So, the question becomes how accurate Google’s algorithm’s are so that the “legitimate” guest blog requests and deliverables aren’t penalized with all the content vomiting that they’re trying to catch.

    • Evan Jacobs

      Agreed – a lot of the code and spam cues in play for guest blogs surround external links and keyword usage.

      Google will know very quickly if the content is drastically dissimilar from other pieces on your website and outbound links to spammy or low quality websites are a fast flag for Penguin.

  • Chris Barber

    I think one thing that’s clear is Matt Cutts has his eye on Spammers. If you can do guest blogging in a way that ads value to the blog host and your own website then it should be a strong SEO strategy. But like Matt Cutts stated if you’re cheaply just recycling content then you’re wasting your time.

  • Tash Hughes

    I don’t understand why anyone would put low quality guest posts onto their decent blog, but people do it so there’s another reson for spammers to keep on giving it a go…
    I agree Jason that it is hard to do things the right way but yet risk an algorithm could decide you’re spam…

    • Evan Jacobs

      “Filler”. I’ve heard that word thrown around a lot – especially for sites that do not have the manpower to write consistently themselves, so they turn to guest blogs for additional content. It’s really a poor decision, 99% of the time.