A few weeks ago, Matt Cutts released a video asking a user's question about guest blogging. In it, he didn't say that Google treated guest blog posts against you in the ranking algorithm, but suggested that Google is catching on to what people are trying to do with them. Yesterday, though, Matt Cutts wrote on his own blog about how too many people are taking advantage of guest blogging for linking and are falling away from providing quality, relevant content. Watch today's Daily Brown Bag to learn about what Matt Cutts said, what he really thinks about guest blogging and how it could impact your website in Google's search rankings.


Hello, and welcome to The Daily Brown Bag. Today, we’re going to be talking about Matt Cutts’ recent announcement that guest blogging is dead. I’m Chad Hill, and I’m joined by Adam Stetzer.

Yeah, good morning, Chad! Welcome to The Brown Bag. This is a very interesting topic. I think there’s a lot of demand for information and insight into what Matt Cutts has just said yesterday about guest blog posting. Chad, we just did a video on this, trying to decide whether guest blog posting is good or not. We ultimately said that it was, in moderation. We also provided guidelines on how people in internet marketing should do it the right way, and we talked about the idea that getting link should not be the main reason for partnering with someone to provide a guest blog post. It’s obviously an incentive, and no one can deny that, but you need to put the audience value first, and we talked about that, so I’d reference people to our earlier video, which I think we still stand behind.

But, here’s the breaking news. Yesterday, Matt Cutts figuratively pulled the pin out of the grenade and tossed it out onto the internet. He said some pretty strong things related to guest blog posting, and specifically that it’s done. He said that it used to be a respectable thing, but the practice is now being abused. If you’re doing a lot of guest blogging, then you’re hanging out with really bad company, and he referenced a lot of his previous videos -- one from October 2012, then July 2013, October 2013, and December 2013 -- and now he’s saying, “Put a fork in guest blogging. It’s done,” really not tongue-in-cheek. He’s really taking a pretty big swing at this. I think, as we look around the internet, Chad, probably no one disputes that there are people using this to promote really crappy content masquerading as guest blog posts.

But, I think the discussion here, and what has probably caused the biggest controversy, is that Cutts really threw the baby out with the bathwater, because he certainly made a lot of people angry. He was claiming that guest blogging is just not respectful anymore, and that’s pretty much a slap in the face to someone who puts in a lot of hard work either to earn an opportunity for guest blog posting, or to edit and wade through what’s coming in to make sure that what’s put up is high quality content. I think the discussion here, Chad, is what about sites like Moz and Search Engine Watch? These are very well-known, respectable sites, and they used a lot of guest content, but put in a lot of staff time to make sure it’s good. Danny Sullivan’s also weighed in here, and I’d be really interested, Chad, in your opinion. He said, “Google basically doesn’t want people trying to build links any longer, despite having Google tell us that that was the advice for many years.” He said, “Why not place a bigger emphasis on authorship and creating good content? This seems like a much more rational approach than telling people not to basically guest blog post.” So, it’s an interesting controversy here, Chad. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Well, I think, later in the day, he tried to come back and clarify some of the things, because, as with any statement that Matt Cutts writes, people really are hanging on his every word, in many cases. But, he did come back later in the day and say that if your sole purpose is to seek out an audience who is interested in your content, then there’s still some value in guest blog posting, but it shouldn’t be about the link building. He also said, to the point of the Moz community and other sites like that, that multi-author sites have become spammy, but there’s still some value out there. Then, he said that, at the end of the day, guest blogging should never be done solely for the purpose of SEO, and I think this is where you get into going back through his videos where he says that if there’s ever a doubt, you should always no-follow the link. But, it’s always interesting to look, Adam, at the open site explorer, which keeps track of the no-followed links, and it’s still some really small percentage like 2.9%. So, this idea of coaching people to always be cautious about no-following links isn’t, as far as I can tell, catching on in the internet, just given the sheer number of links out there. There’s only a relatively small number. So, it is confusing, and I think that’s really kind of where this is.

Yeah, and this is interesting. You said people are hanging on his words, and it does sort of remind me of the Fed. Chairman, you know Ben Bernanke, and the previous one, Alan Greenspan. He makes these statements, and then everybody rushes around to try to interpret them and figure out if that’s going to be the future policy in the Google algorithm, and I do think that, by itself, is fascinating, in terms of where things are, and how much control Google has over the internet, but that’s probably for a different Brown Bag. Back to the point of whether he’s really saying that you have to remove all incentive for people to want to guest post, because that seems like a fairly untenable position. I think we’ve all accepted that money changing hands for links is something they really frown upon. We’ve accepted that as a rule, and we’ve counselled clients all the time not to do that. But, the idea that you can’t trade hours for exposure and receive a link back -- a do-follow link, even -- because it’s been brokered and there is real audience in play, and all those things that used to be in place -- I’m struggling to understand why that’s not okay. I understand that there are people who abuse that and who don’t use high quality content, but are trying to claim that they do. But, it seems like there should be another method for distinguishing the two, rather than, as Danny Sullivan said, throwing the baby out with the bathwater and declaring that anyone who’s doing this, giving legitimately great efforts on a high profile site, is bad. So, it’s gotten really confusing.

I wish I had the answer on that, and I think that’s where a lot of the discussion today is going. We can see all the sites lighting up with ways to interpret this, but I think, you know, to sort of end this, our advice still stands. You want to, basically, have a diverse online marketing program. We think guest blogging can fit into it, but it should be part of your overall program. I do think you need to take some of this recent information from Matt Cutts into account, because there always needs to be an audience value, but I think the place where people really struggle is, “What I’m doing, is that what Matt Cutts is talking about, or is that what somebody else is doing? BI don’t really know what they’re doing, so it’s hard for me to figure that out.” That’s often where we end up with these things, because they never give you super concrete examples of an acceptable guest blog post and an unacceptable one. So, we’re always sort of left guessing in the middle, but that means we have to go back to our advice, which is to always make sure there’s an audience component in it, seek out the highest quality content you can, and contribute something newsworthy or a new opinion that hasn’t already been out there. That’s really, at the end of the day, what we suggest, and also, ultimately, that guest blogging should be with a relationship and a partnership. It shouldn’t just be an e-mail blast you send out to get a guest blog post and then you never talk to that person again. It should some kind of ongoing exchange and relationship with that partnership.

Yeah, that sounds like solid advice, and I think your point on staying close to news and how-tos and sharing information that really has a strong audience value is probably just the safest advice, because the closer you are to that, everyone sees that, and they can tell when they read something or see a video or infographic that is high quality and something they would share. We’ve talked about that in the past. Would you share this on your Twitter feed? If it doesn’t pass that test, maybe you aren’t in the right place. So, there’s some good advice, and hopefully this will help people digest the recent statements. We’d be interested in your comments. We know there’s a lot of comments out there and a lot of opinions. Our forum lit up on this instantly. Please share your thoughts, and we hope to see you back at our Brown Bag tomorrow. Subscribe to our YouTube channel.