The internet marketing community is trying to find the answer to guest blogging, a practice that Matt Cutts deemed inappropriate for link building, which people took advantage of to get them higher in the search rankings. In abusing the algorithm, lesser quality content began appearing and flooding the internet, which caught the eyes of Google. Because of this, Matt Cutts, in a blog post said that the practice of guest blog posting has been abused and suggested that it's now being seen in bad light through the eyes of Google's search algorithm. Bloggers all around the web, though, are reacting and providing their thoughts. Today's Daily Brown Bag responds to a blog post written by Pratik Dholakiya on E2M Solutions' website.


Hello, and welcome to The Daily Brown Bag. Today, we wanted to continue our discussion about guest blogging. We’ve run across a very interesting blog post and wanted to discuss that today. I’m Chad Hill, and I’m joined by Adam Stetzer.

Yeah, good morning, everybody, and welcome to the Brown Bag. This has been a hot topic, this guest blog posting controversy. Matt Cutts obviously kicked it off a short while ago by declaring it “dead,” and that sort of lit up the internet marketing community with a lot of controversy, some hurt feelings, and a lot of variation in opinion, so we want to move that discussion forward today, Chad, by highlighting a blog post written by someone who authors at Search Engine Watch, where I also have a column, over at E2M solutions. This post was written by Pratik, and we both found it pretty interesting. So, I want to get into some of what Pratik is saying in his blog column and see if we can push this dialogue along, because I know a lot of people out there in our audience are confused. Matt Cutts says this is dead, then he backs off a little bit. Can I do it? Can’t I do it? What is the state of guest blog posting? It really generalizes pretty quickly into “What’s okay in link building in 2014?”

Yeah, absolutely, and I think one of the first things I saw in here as I was reading through this article, which we’ll link to, was really just the idea of “why is guest blog posting difficult, and why is it the topic right now?” We’ve already talked in the past about directory links and a lot of other tactics like doorway pages and stuff that are very clear, and people know when they’re on the right side and the wrong side. But guest blog posting is one of those topics that’s really, really hard, because at the end of the day, it’s ultimately what people want to be doing about helping promote their messages and getting out in front of new audiences.

I think what Pratik talks about here is that Google is having a hard time with this one, and Matt Cutts, I think almost in a sense of frustration, said, “Let’s put a fork in it,” but at the same time, it is something that a lot of marketers get a tremendous amount of benefit from. I think one of the things that Pratik said is that that’s precisely why Google is so concerned about this, because it is very hard to say what is allowed and what’s not allowed. I think he really digs into some reasons in his blog post, specifically talking about making sure that what you’re doing has an audience value. Even if that link wasn’t there, would it be beneficial to you and your audience to actually have that post there?

Yeah, so that’s interesting, Chad, and I read that, too, with some interest. It sounds like what Pratik outlined is pretty similar to Danny Sullivan’s position, which is, “Google, if you’re having a hard time with this, it doesn’t mean that it’s okay to push the responsibility back on the community. Work on your algorithm and figure out how to get the signals you want instead of trying to throw the baby out with the bathwater when it comes to guest blog posting.” So, I think that’s an excellent point made by E2M Solutions here, and we probably agree with it. One of the other things I found very interesting Chad -- and I want to have some dialogue with you on this, and I’m hoping Pratik will chime in here as well and further articulate his thoughts on this -- he wrote, “Rule of thumb: If your guest blog posting strategy wouldn’t make money if it could only include no-follow links, it’s the wrong strategy.” So, that’s taking it way over to the super purist end of things.

I guess what Pratik means there is that the standard is extremely, extremely high. If this wouldn’t make money as a stand alone activity, then it is what Matt Cutts is talking about. Now later, he softens that a little big, Chad. I think this is interesting, because he later says, “Please don’t misunderstand me. If you don’t care about search engine traffic, you’re not an SEO.” He also says, “As an SEO, you have to consider how your actions will impact search traffic.” So, here I see a little bit of a contradiction, and I’m not critical -- I think this is a great blog post that they’ve put up -- but, I think that it just puts right in the limelight this whole contradiction of how your intentions somehow cloud the quality of the output. At least that’s how I read it, so we all have to check ourselves on our intentions, yet we often have multiple intentions and multiple competing demands on what we do. How did you take that, Chad?

I take it the same way, Adam. I think that one of the things in marketing is that you often measure your activities with multiple conversions, and a lot of talk in conversion optimization right now is around micro-conversions. So, I think that when you put effort into getting a great guest blog post up, you certainly have some intent to capture that audience and get that person to read the article or come learn a little more about you on your website. But, at the same time, you also hope that there is some value that the search engine might get from it. I know Matt Cutts wants us to just forget about the search engine, but given that Google controls such a large percentage of the traffic on the web, I’m not sure how any marketer could really wake up in the morning and truly do that and completely divorce the two, because the two are connected and critically important.

Yeah, I hear you. We joke about this in the training room here at Semify and in our SEO reseller community. Think about the state trooper who is giving out tickets on the highway. They’ve got their laser gun, and if you’re going over 65, in most states, you get the ticket. Regardless of your intentions, you get pulled over, and if you say, “Well, I didn’t mean to speed,” [it doesn’t matter]. You were, and so you get the ticket. So you take what Google was saying on using intentions as measure of negativity here, and if you play that through to the analogy on the highway, the state trooper can pull you over going under the speed limit and say, “I could tell your intentions were to start to speed in about five miles.”

So, you can see how this whole thing just gets very gray and very hard to measure, because you’re in the world of intentions. I think that is where Pratik and his piece on E2M Solutions blog post gets caught up in trying to defend it. On the one hand, we want to be super pure because we are seeking the best quality content. I truly believe that. But, we almost have to fool ourselves, because that’s what Google says we have to do, and pretend there’s no value for the link, because they’ve told us that the minute we have an intention to have that incentive, we’ve suddenly turned the corner to something negative. So, I understand and fully appreciate the contradiction in that. I would love to hear Pratik’s thoughts.

Hopefully he’ll reply to this. I think it was an excellent blog post, and it just outlines just how crazy things are with this Google-dominated search world and how hard it is. But, I think the bottom line is that our prescriptions are always the same, Chad. Do the best you can, and try to make quality the highest that you can. Well, that’s our Brown Bag today. We hope you’ve enjoyed the blog post we’re highlighting. We’ll see you back here tomorrow.