SEOs looking to build inbound links through guest blogging should stop and think about whether their approach is going to be labeled spammy.

SEO puts a lot of emphasis on inbound links as a ranking factor, so it’s no wonder some webmasters will go to great lengths to solicit them. Google is slowly but surely eliminating any and all benefits for low-quality link building schemes, and that includes discouraging spammy behavior. The latest change to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines has been a tweak to explicitly turn sites off to some kinds of guest blogging.

Specifically, the updated text adds “low-quality guest blogging” to its list of factors that identify a page as having little or no good original content. Basically, what Google is saying is that badly executed guest blogging belongs in the same conversation as autogenerated content, doorway pages, scraped content and affiliate sites.

What separates guest blogging from bad guest blogging?

Matt Cutts has been adamant for most of 2014 that guest blogging should be eliminated. In fact, he famously stated webmasters should “stick a fork in it.” However, it’s important to remember he didn’t say guest blogs were automatically poisonous to a site’s SEO health. Rather, he said it was finished as an explicit link-building strategy. That is, brands shouldn’t use it as a bargaining chip for links.

But can guest blogs that add value for users still work? In theory, as long as they aren’t specifically designed to siphon traffic from a guest blogger’s site, there shouldn’t be a problem. For example, framing contributions from other bloggers differently, either as interviews or questionnaires, is a great way to cross-pollinate two websites. The key is to avoid producing something that isn’t original or valuable, per Google’s guidelines.

It’s also important to avoid counting social marketing out of the picture. As Brafton reported, Facebook is the single-biggest driver of referral traffic on the web today. Trying to get other blogs and websites to host links to content means walking a fine SEO line. On the other hand, a better use of time and resources might just be to promote a blog or interview on social media and hope other users share it with their followers. Google has said a strong social presence is indicative of a website’s health, and the exposure and traffic from these networks could be more valuable than SEO juice gained by questionable guest blogging arrangements.

Stop and look both ways before posting

A webmaster with the best of intentions shouldn’t have trouble identifying what’s spam and what’s genuinely useful content. All it takes is asking oneself a few simple questions:

 Does this provide value to a reader?
 Is this original and unique on the web?
 Am I publishing this just to get links and rank better in Google search?

Search engines only want to provide helpful results to their user bases, and cross-promotional guest blogs don’t do this if they only exist to create a bridge between sites in need of extra inbound links. Organic link building through genuinely readable and shareable content, on the other hand, certainly does.

Alex Butzbach is a Marketing Writer at Brafton. He studied Communications at Boston College, and after a brief stint teaching English in Japan, he entered the world of content marketing. When he isn't writing and researching, he can be found on a bike somewhere in Metro Boston.