Google's Matt Cutts recently took a strong stance against guest blogging, but there is another side to the story.

Google’s Search Engineer Matt Cutts recently broke his New Year’s resolution (a pledge to stay off social media for 30 days) so he could shake up the search marketing world. What spurred the Head of Webspam to break his digital silence? Spammy SEO strategies, of course. Cutt posted a blog post declaring guest blogging was dead.

The SEO statement heard ’round the web

Cutts’ exact words were that we should “Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”

According to the post, Cutts received an unsolicited spam email from someone interested in contributing a guest post to his blog. The sender claimed to be from a digital marketing agency that would provide a 100 percent original, editorially driven blog article tailored to the site’s readers. And all the company wanted in exchange was just a backlink or two. Cutts gave a shadier interpretation of the sender’s offer to make a “suitable contribution” to the blog, insinuating it was offering money for links*.

*This is explicitly against Google’s Quality standards. So is participating in excessive link exchange networks, for that matter.

Why spammy guest blogging is dead as a doornail

Marketers began creating guest blogs as a white hat practice.

Cutts takes a strong stance about guest blogging in the post – going so far to say the influx of black hat practices is “Why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space.”

His take on the downfall of guest blogging is something like this:

Phase 1: White hat guest blogging: Content writers discovered a great organic strategy: Posting their custom content on other publishers’ blogs when there was demand of opportunity to offer the audience value.

Phase 2: Guest blogging as a link strategy: Marketers began to exploit this as a loophole for generating backlinks, and thus, manipulate ranking signals.

Matt Cutts' strike back against black hat guest blogging will impact the SEO landscape in the future.

Phase 3: Automated black hat guest posts: Spammers began soliciting postsĀ on a large scale, pitching the same articles to numerous blogs that may or may not have been relevant. Some of these exchanges were for money and others might have been pure link plays that were outside of Google’s Quality Guidelines.

Phase 4: Smarter guest blogging that still crosses a link-exchange line: Realizing the widespread distribution of the same articles across the web was a fast and blackhat way to generate low-quality links, a new wave of companies began investing in unique and targeted editorial for third party sites – still asking publishers to reward their efforts with links (or offering to pay them to do so). While this is a gray area, the practice supports building links in a fashion that’s not purely editorially driven. Plus, any paid content posted through this method is supposed to be marked as advertorial (for readers) and feature no-follow links (for crawlers).

Chances are this type of guest blogging will be dead in the future because Cutts says Google’s webspam team will take a grim view of it (i.e., A potential spam-fighting algorithm in our future?)

Why guest blogging for reach & awareness is alive

Perhaps guest blogging for link building is a strategy that Google will try to fight against, but there are still plenty of reasons why guest blogging deserves to live on:

  • Building brand awareness
  • Reaching a wider audience
  • Driving more traffic to websites

Organic guest blogging opportunities are still an effective way for brands to network with other publishers, build relationships and bring value to online readers through relevant content.

It’s time for marketers and SEOs to show Cutts we can totally have nice things.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.