Google may be cracking down on sites that publish guest posts. There are several reports of unnatural outbound link penalties.
Outbound Link Penalty
An outbound link penalty is a manual action against a website. In this case the publisher relates that Google may have stopped PageRank from flowing from his website.
Related: 10 Bad Links That Can Get You Penalized by Google
Guest Post Manual Action from Google
The publisher reported (possibly a paraphrase) that the manual action email said:
“We have detected that some of your articles are guest posts… We have disabled your authority for your outbound links. Please set your outbound links to nofollow and submit a review request.”
That publisher is not alone. Others have reported guest post manual actions from Google.
Forensic SEO Alan Bleiweiss (@AlanBleiweiss) tweeted about a client who reported an outbound link penalty. That penalty was also related to guest posts.
And a client just got slapped with an unnatural outbound link penalty. This is the price you pay when you allow "guest posts" without proper due diligence, or without ensuring your site is not exposed to shady tactics.
— Alan Bleiweiss (@AlanBleiweiss) February 15, 2020
Related: 6 Things You Must Do Before You Ever Accept Guest Posts
Is Google Going After Guest Posts or Paid Guest Posts?
One question is if Google is issuing manual actions for guest post articles, for guest post articles that are paid or guest post articles that are over-optimized.
The warning email received from Google states that this manual action is specifically about paid guest articles.
The publisher reported that his site does not mention that they accept guest posts.
He also said that the outbound links only used branded anchor text, not keyword-optimized anchor text.
Over the past four months his site only posted 15 guest posts over the past quarter (an average of one guest post per week).
What’s interesting is that in Google’s example of a problem page, Google accurately identified the one guest post out of a total of five outbound links in the article.
That meant that Google was able to exactly spot which of the links was benefited the person making the guest post.
No Official Statement from Google
As of this writing there is no official word from Google.
Google Webmaster Trends Analyst Gary Illyes tweeted that he didn’t know of any specific campaign.
But, Webmaster Trends Analysts aren’t search engineers and shouldn’t be expected to know about everything that’s happening on the search side.
For example, last year the Webmaster Trends team belatedly discovered that Google had stopped using Rel/Next link attribute years earlier. Yet John Mueller had been recommending the use of the defunct link attribute during the period it was not in use and Google’s own developer pages were still recommending it.
Should You Continue Accepting Guest Posts?
Google’s manual links warning asks the publisher to add the nofollow attribute to paid links that are embedded in guest posts. In my opinion that suggests that there’s nothing wrong with accepting guest posts or asking to publish guest posts and if there are paid links, be sure to add a nofollow link attribute on the sponsored link.
Publishing guest posts without a nofollow link attribute may be risky at this time, at least until Google issues a formal announcement.
Google’s email also mentions compensation. So it may be that Google’s main concern is removing paid links from artificially influencing search results.
The publisher believes this may be the beginning of a Google campaign against guest posting for links.
“I see here a tactic from Google to fight against guest posting as it’s one of the most popular link building strategy.”
What’s Google’s Problem with Guest Posting?
It appears that this is part of Google’s perpetual fight against paid links in general and hammering paid links in guest posts in particular.