Case Study: MyBlogGuest.com
In a blog post on his ‘personal’ website, Google’s head of the webspam team, Matt Cutts, announced that guest blogging was over. Dead in the water. The post from January (2014) was in response to several spam blog posts and thousands of low-quality guest blogging websites. Matt, himself, referenced an email he had recently received—unsolicited, from someone wanting to guest post on his blog in exchange for one link in the article. This type of activity isn’t new and has always been a violation of Google’s Quality Guidelines, because it isn’t quality (duh).
Guest posting isn’t dead and it is still acceptable when done with clear connections. What does that mean? In search positioning, namely the 200+ factors used by Google’s ranking algorithm, social and authenticity are incorporated. When a guest post is published on a blog or website, there should be clear connections between the guest, the article, the website, and the hosting site’s owner or team. When these signals do not exist, users and search engines can assume that the post was generated for rank manipulation or the post was paid for; both of which violate guidelines of the major search engines.
What sparked this latest guest blogging conversation? This did:
Today we took action on a large guest blog network. A reminder about the spam risks of guest blogging: http://t.co/rc9O82fjfn
— Matt Cutts (@mattcutts) March 19, 2014
In that announcement, Matt links to his January post. Over the course of the day, several guest blog websites and networks evaluated their index status. The sad winner here is believed to be MyBlogGuest.com, a guest blog network utilized by many in the SEO community to share updates, techniques and news. I say believed because no response has been given by Google as to the target. The principle of MyBlogGuest, Ann Smarty, offered this tweet and response while at PubCon New Orleans (c/o Search Engine Journal):
— Ann Smarty (@seosmarty) March 19, 2014
Yes, we realize and recognize the problem of many people abusing our community. We have invested lots of effort in educating our community members on how to do guest blogging right. We have been fighting paid links, duplicate content issues, link farms, etc for years. We have had some awesome success stories from our members and we have always believed in adding value to the web.
Have we deserved the “hit” (now I know what that means lol!)? I’ll let the community decide. So far we’ve had some amazing support from the community which I could not be more thankful for!
The reality is, Matt Cutts is using us for the PR game: To get more people scared. We are the hugest guest blogging brand out there: He could not have got more publicity by hitting anyone else.
The future? I’ll be honest. I am not sure yet. I am a human being and as much as I believe in doing the “right thing”, I am getting tired of all that publicity. We’ll re-brand out of “guest blogging” niche in the near future (we’ve been working on more functionality for a few months now and we have lots of features allowing to connect to influencers already in place now). We’ll keep supporting and helping our community members and advocates as much as we can.
We have some great technology and we’ve build the most awesome team in the world. I’ll fight for them and you’ll hear more from us in the near future!
The SEO community has rallied around Ann and her network. One big supporter is a well-known, well-respected search expert Joe Hall, who offered this simple retort:
— Joe Hall (@joehall) March 19, 2014
In the end, what does this clear action against guest blogging mean for the world of organic marketing? It means be wise with your content, your brand, and your name. Organic strategies are not and have never been the rabbit in the race.
A quality marketing strategy takes time, effort and attention to details. Guest blogging isn’t over and done, it is getting back to what it was meant to be: sharing of expertise and wisdom with a targeted audience through relationships with like-minded, closely connected individuals.
Matt suggest ‘nofollowing’ guest blog links as a remedy, but this can be considered a business infringing on the freedom of the Web.
If the links are nofollowed, then they don’t affect PageRank, so it would be outside the scope of my team at that point. A high-quality guest post with nofollowed links can still be a good way to get exposure to a new audience, branding, etc. – Matt Cutts
However, the point of a ‘follow’ link is to show the association between the context of that section of the article and to support the focus of the section from a search standpoint. It takes an extra step to add in that ‘nofollow’ and if we are talking about natural, quality content, the links embedded in an article are valuable to the reader so they should be valuable to search systems that are built to serve users, right?!
But the same applies to Google. They have the right to change their policies, website and algorithm as they see fit. They make the rules in their kingdom and we have to follow suit or be subject to penalties.
Was Google using MyBlogGuest.com as an example? Yes. Were they wrong to do that? Maybe. Is Google above the ‘law’ in terms of calling others out while continuing to do, what some may say are ‘shady’ tactics? You, as the audience, have to be the judge.
What we know is that there are always good people, doing good things and bad people, doing bad things. As any organization grows, there are naturally going to be more of individuals in both categories wearing the same hats, uniforms and working in the same building. For as much good that this large guest blogging network may offer the Internet, there is some number of bad coming from their system and service; that is no different then any other business, including Google, a global business. The only difference is Google has transcended to another level, “google” is now a verb.
MyBlogGuest.com and it’s team are being held responsible for the content and methods by which some of their users are ‘gaming’ the system. By the same measure, Google has an entire business department focused on this type of problem (see the beginning of this article) that impacts their product/service quality.
A better approach Google could’ve taken, would have been to reach out to the managers/owners with clear examples of the problem and suggestions on how to fix concerns from Google’s perspective, especially if the overall value the website in question provides the Internet is great. The motto is to make the Internet and search better for the users; dropping search results that best answer the queries of many does not seem like user-centric thinking. Maybe Matt did reach out to Ann, maybe he didn’t. Maybe they used this site as an example without having any clear examples of wrong doing. As the general public, we have to wait for the gates to open; we have yet to be given the keys to the Google Kingdom.