Original illustration by Mark Armstrong.
A couple of months ago, Matt Cutts stated that guest blogging was dead. This wasn’t just one random guy’s opinion – as head of Google’s Web Spam Team, what Matt Cutts says typically goes. At the very least his comments give a clear indication of what the future will hold for digital marketers. Fast-forward a few months, and we’ve already see the first real effects of his decree. MyBlogGuest, a tool for facilitating relationships between content creators and blog owners, was penalized by Google. MyBlogGuest was removed from Google’s search results for brand terms, and several brands that used MyBlogGuest received penalties and warnings as well.
This came as a major blow for some SEOs and created headaches for many more. MyBlogGuest has been instrumental in bringing together brands and publishers, allowing those brands to increase exposure and gain backlinks through the use of original content, and allowing publishers to get free content for their blogs in the process. MyBlogGuest isn’t the only tool out there that facilitates these exchanges, but it is the only one that received a penalty. Why?
The reason for this is that MyBlogGuest requires all bloggers to use “dofollow” tags on their links, meaning that the links pass weight, thus contributing to the overall search engine ranking of the website receiving that valuable backlink. To help reduce the amount of spam links, Google requires a “nofollow” tag if money or goods are exchanged. Because no actual money is exchanged via MyBlogGuest, they have been staunch in requiring “dofollow” tags. Google, however, considers this to be a sort of payment. Up until last week, Google and MyBlogGuest had agreed to disagree on this key point, but because Google needed to set an example for others in the industry, MyBlogGuest suddenly found itself a martyr in the SEO world.
What Does This Mean for the Future of Guest Blogging?
Contrary to Matt Cutts’ proclamation, guest blogging is not dead. As a strictly SEO tactic, yes, it’s fair to say that guest blogging is in its throes. But as a means for increasing awareness and building thought leadership, it is still very much alive and well.
Cutts stated as much in an update to his original blog:
“There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there.”
Accepting content from guest contributors has been around since the inception of print publications. It is a way for the publication to provide their readers with the most credible information in innumerable areas, without needing to hire experts in every field. When an expert writes an article or provides a quote to a publication, they are verifying that the information their readers receive is the most pertinent and useful.
This perfectly aligns with Google’s vision – to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful. Providing a voice and platform to subject matter experts is a key ingredient in making their vision a reality. So doing away with guest blogging entirely would not be in step with their mission, and will simply not happen in the future.
What’s a Brand to Do?
The fundamental approach is to adhere to another of Google’s tenets: “focus on the user and all else will follow.” What do your customers want and need from your brand? How can you help improve their lives? Sharing this knowledge with the world and ceasing to think of how it fits into your marketing objectives is the key here. Some other more tactical recommendations are:
- Be Selective: Don’t just approach any old site that accepts content. Look for sites that are a natural fit for your brand and products/services, or that have a similar audience. Check traffic numbers and view sharing and comment volume, if available, to understand how popular the site is and how engaged their readers are.
- Create Good Content: You’re probably as tired of reading this particular piece of advice as I am of writing it (and it’s silly that it even needs to be stated), but high-quality content is essential. Before even pitching an idea, ask yourself, would I be interested in this content if I didn’t work for the company? Do I have something new to add to the conversation? If the answer is “no” to either of those questions, then you need to try harder.
- Build Long-Term Relationships: Take a PR approach and focus on building relationships with bloggers that you can leverage in the future. Don’t just contribute once to the blog; become a columnist and contribute on a frequent basis. Periodically send your bloggers tips or updates, without asking for anything in return. When the time comes for them to cover your area of expertise, they’re more likely to think of you.
Luckily for SEOs, the increased exposure and sharing that comes with quality content can lead to increased brand searches and traffic, two factors in ranking potential, as well as increased backlinks. But digital marketers should not focus on these; they should instead see them as benefits to the other advantages already provided by guest blogging.
The MyBlogGuest penalty only helps to further the reality that SEO and social media professionals must work together. SEOs need social media channels to increase visibility of the content for which they are seeking to receive backlinks in return. Social media folks need to optimize content to help drive traffic and acquisitions, not just conversations and engagement. In the end, it must be a symbiotic relationship between the two – a melding of the left and the right brains in order to create a more complete digital marketing mind.
Many thanks to Mark Armstrong for creating the original illustration for this piece. Check out more of Mark’s amazing work at http://markarmstrongillustration.com/.