Making use of SEO concepts is an important part of achieving a high ranking for your web page or blog post. Understanding the algorithms used by search engines, and tailoring your published pieces to meet the standards set by those algorithms helps get you on Page 1. However, Google, the world’s largest and most-utilised search engine, has issued a warning against the use of one particular tactic: guest posting for links.
In a tweet by Google’s John Mueller, he stated that “guest posting for links results in unnatural links.” He then went on to state that Google is now devaluing them, and has actually been doing so for the past several years. Simply put, this means that Google is downgrading the act of guest posting for links, which results in less value for material posted on blogs, social media pages, and other websites.
Is Google Penalising Guest Posting?
The official answer from the search engine itself is, no, they are not issuing penalties for guest posting. Mueller’s tweet went into some detail as to why he believes guest posting is wrong. He further stated that Google has years of data which makes it easy for algorithms to identify and devalue guest article links. This action ensures that the article does not benefit from the guest post, allowing it to achieve a better ranking.
In the past, Google has issued warnings related to the use of specific techniques designed to increase rankings prior to taking action against them. This was not the case with guest posting. By the search engine’s own admission, these restrictions were implemented several years ago, and Google is just now addressing them.
What’s Wrong With Guest Posting?
In a 2014 article written by former Google engineer Matt Curtis, he advised that “guest posting for links was over.” Unfortunately, it seems Curtis’ warnings were never heeded by the SEO community. “White hat” SEOs began demonstrating the use of “black hat” scraping software to pull email addresses from existing websites, and convert that data into spam. This is done to streamline the guest-post process. In many ways, guest posting can be a very costly waste of time.
However, guest posting does present undeniable value in terms of increasing brand recognition. But for Google (as well as other search engines) problems arise due to guest posting because they lead to a plethora of unnatural links. In his tweet, John Mueller also said: “Essentially if the link is within the guest post, it should be nofollow, even if it is a ‘natural link’ that you are adding there.”
Furthermore, adding links to by-lines are also considered by Google to be an issue, as it is the links themselves which create problems. Even in the instance of a “natural link,” such as the inclusion of an author page, will be devalued.
What is Google’s Process for Identifying Guest Posts?
Stefan Dubois is the CEO of Survey Anyplace. He has stated: “Traditional guest blogging for link building is becoming less effective because Google is able to detect links to your domain in articles authored by you. A better tactic is to link to a variety of sources and to realize that every outbound link is an opportunity to start a relationship with the author of the article you’re linking to.”
Mueller claimed that, as far as Google identifying guest posts: “usually it is pretty obvious.” Obviously, if an article is labelled as such, it would be crystal clear. However, for articles that have no such label, it becomes considerably more difficult. Although building links from unlabeled articles or guest posts does bring with it another set of concerns: it may not be strictly legal. US guidelines which govern native advertising define such advertising as “promotional articles that are paid for and published in a way that makes it look like a regular article.”
FTC guidelines warn against these kinds of practices by stating “it is considered deceptive to mislead consumers about the commercial nature of content.” It is, therefore, reasonable to assume that Google is less considered with identifying unlabelled articles as there is existing governmental oversight already in place to safeguard against their usage.
Is Google Right to Devalue Guest Posts?
Google isn’t doing anything sneaky, malicious, or otherwise wrong. It is not their position, or the position of any other search engine to stifle content, or intentionally hamper result rankings. The information and comments provided by Google (and Mueller) were nothing more than the transparent relaying of the basic facts of the situation. Content creators within the SEO community are wasting both money and time if they chose to ignore these warnings.
Attempting to achieve a higher rank by utilising a technique that is guaranteed not to work is ultimately self-defeatist. Creators should use this information in a positive way, and simply avoid the use of guest posting just for links.
Think of it more like virtual networking. By guest posting and linking to other sources, you get on the radar of those authors, and you find more people who like to read your work.
Does guest posting help Google rankings? – The Conclusion
For as long as Google, websites, and SEO have been around there have been two fundamental ways of improving Google rankings that remain unchanged – even with the changes made to the Algorithm:
- Create great content for your website
- Getting genuine backlinks to your great content
That’s it, no more, no less.
The grey area caused by Google articulating how guest posts are treated simple doesn’t change these two things!
Guest posting is still a valuable part of any content strategy, here’s why…
- Brand awareness. With you posting on other sites, you increase the opportunities people have for finding you, which in turn brings people back to your site (they’ll click the link in your guest post) and into your ecosystem.
- The potential for genuine backlinks. Ok, so Google juice won’t flow to your site from a guest post, but we know that. However, if someone likes what they see, they check out more of your content, and link to it in their articles, boom, you’ve got your natural link just as Google intended.
- Compound interest. Guest posting, outreach, creating content, it’s a long term play. By doing it consistently you create a bank of valuable content, which teaches Google you’re worth ranking, which improves your search result, which gets more clicks, which leads to more backlinks, which improves your search result, which gets more clicks, which leads to more backlinks (you see where I’m going here) which ultimately gets more people doing what you want them to do, i.e. subscribe to your list, book a call, buy a product.
So while it’s disappointing not to get the link juice for going to the effort of writing a guest post, the benefit still outweighs the time cost involved, and is why I still make it a part of my strategy for trying to improve my Google rankings.