Why Matt Cutts Can’t Kill Guest Blogging

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I’d hate to be in Matt Cutts’ shoes. He’s often in an incredibly difficult position, serving as a mouthpiece for Google, passing on the company’s unpopular and even hated policies, and then bearing the brunt of the ensuing criticism from the digital marketing industry. I have tremendous respect for Matt, and am grateful for the information and updates he shares. I have no doubt we would complain a lot more if Google refused to share any information with us as to what they are thinking and doing.

That said, I was dismayed by his recent blog post declaring the death of guest blogging as an SEO tactic, not because of the declaration itself, but because of how it was communicated.

While Matt Cutts is a prominent figure on both the Google and the digital marketing landscapes, he’s not the final word on Google policy. While his frustration-fueled post may be an indication of things to come from the search engine, we—especially those not in the digital marketing industry—need to keep some important things in mind.

An Abuse of Trust

Matt’s blog audience isn’t just made up of SEO and marketing professionals. Being in a highly visible position has made him known to business owners and others in the digital space as well. One of the comments on Matt’s guest blogging post came from a representative of a fitness blogger network who was expressing not just concern, but actual fear that his websites may now be penalized for the way they were handling guest blogging:

“We are a health and fitness community which has always allowed our members to submit guest articles and blogs for editorial review. We have always steered clear of spammy articles, not allowed optimized keyword links and made sure we used the correct Google+ Authorship.

I am worried now my website will be penalized for this activity ??

Are you saying “ALL” Guest blogging is bad or can high-quality publishers still carry on if we make sure the posts are high quality and relevant ??”

Despite Matt’s efforts to stress that he was referring to guest blogging as a link building tactic, there was clearly still a lack of understanding from those who are not digital marketers or SEO professionals.

Hopefully that commenter will find someone who can allay his concerns. The point is, using broad language like “guest blogging is dead” and “guest blogging used to be a respectable thing” is at best careless, and at worst, irresponsible, and can have real consequences for those who don’t live and breathe digital marketing and SEO.

SEO Isn’t Everything

In “Why Your High Ranking in Google May Be a Failure Point“, I showed just how dangerous it can be to rely solely on a high-ranking in Google. Smart business owners stabilize their marketing and conversion sources. Their businesses take advantage of multiple marketing channels.

If you think about it, guest blogging is really the Internet’s version of traditional PR. It’s a valid and legitimate strategy on its own, and doesn’t need SEO to be a powerful promotional technique. Guest blogging can be a form of link building, yes, but it doesn’t require links to be effective, depending on what your goals are.

For example, at this moment, you’re reading a post I wrote for Search Engine Journal, a respected site. My goal is not to acquire a link, but to build my brokerage’s brand and reputation, as well as my own. Whether you agree with my post or not, the mere fact that you’re reading it means I’m gaining exposure for my business, and building my authority. As far as I’m concerned, this is already an instance of successful guest blogging.

The Threat to Small Business Owners

Guest BloggingThis is why issuing  a statement such as: “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy”, is so dangerous. Small business owners may abandon a valid technique for promoting their business because they may see it lumped together with other spammy practices.  They don’t have a deep enough understanding of how guest blogging works—or should work—and they don’t have the knowledge or experience to differentiate between spammy guest blogging and the legitimate promotion tool it can be.

That’s the part I find dismaying. We all know the Internet has lowered the barrier to entry for a lot of people to become business owners who otherwise may not have had that kind of opportunity. A lot of the people who make a living from their online business are single moms, retirees, students, and others for whom it may be difficult to work outside the home.

They’re not SEO experts, or even marketing experts, and they shouldn’t have to be. So when someone like Matt Cutts takes it upon himself to “call it” and declare a perfectly valid promotional technique “dead,” without a fuller, clearer explanation, those people can become frightened, and their businesses can suffer. And that is a greater travesty than a link building tactic becoming more difficult, or even obsolete.

The Unofficial Last Word

The most important thing to note about Matt’s post is that it was published on his personal blog—not the official Google blog. To the uninitiated, it may have seemed like a change in Google policy when it was actually Matt expressing his frustration with the 8,436th guest blogging pitch email he’s received.

Matt is perfectly within his rights to complain about, well, anything on his personal blog. While I do think a little more care is warranted when blogging about topics like this, small business owners must also change the way they respond to posts like this.

So if you’re a small business owner, what are your actual takeaways from Matt’s post?

  • Identify good guest blogging partners: Avoid sites that offer “open invitations” to guest bloggers, unless they’re moderated and edited.
  • Look for strong metrics: This is important in both the SEO and audience areas. Do they have a responsive audience? Is the audience targeted to your industry? Can you legitimately add to the conversation?
  • Avoid linking to your content in the body of the article: Links to your website should be mostly saved for your bio. Focus on your brand and develop thought leadership.
  • Be creative: Put in the time and effort to create high-quality content, whether it’s on your site or someone else’s. Any benefit you may get from guest blogging will be negated by poorly written, thin content. Besides, if you are paying attention to the first point (Identify good guest blogging partners), they hopefully won’t allow you to publish thin content.
  • Develop relationships: Be a true partner to those sites that publish your content. Your job isn’t done once the post goes up. Be available to respond to comments, and stay in touch with the site’s publisher.
  • Diversify your marketing efforts: If you’re using guest blogging as your sole method of building links or marketing your business, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Use multiple marketing techniques to not only broaden your reach, but to ride out changes such as one of those techniques eventually being killed by Google. And it will happen, whether it’s guest blogging, or some other tactic.

Stay on the Course

Above all, see posts like this for what they are—a reason to do things better. Guest posting as a link building tactic is on its way out because too many people have abused it. The same can be said for several past SEO tactics. Too many people out there look for the loopholes they can exploit, to the point where Google changes its algorithm, and the process starts over again.

Don’t let yourself fall victim to the latest marketing trend or tactic. Keep things above-board, maintain quality in everything you do, and don’t make business decisions based on one person’s blog post, whether it’s Matt Cutts or anyone else. Weigh the pros and cons, and seek out more information before you make changes that could put your business in jeopardy.

And Matt, next time you get frustrated, maybe you can give it a day or so before you write that exasperated post. I think we’d all appreciate that.

Featured Image: FrodoBabbs via photopin cc
Additional Image: Ingka D. Jiw via Shutterstock, modified by author

Mark Daoust
Mark Daoust discusses issues relating to the valuation and sale of established and profitable websites. He is the founder of Quiet Light Brokerage, a leading... Read Full Bio
Mark Daoust
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  • Wow! what a great post! Maybe Matt get frustrated.
    Always I like SEJ’s posts. But this post is just awesome.
    Thanks Mark

  • Hey Mark Daoust,

    It was a good read though, but I must say matt cuts was never against of Guest Blogging, he just said people who are using guest blogging as a guest spamming need a pause.

    By the way I am still confused that am I supposed to remove all the links which I have already posted on my blog.

    • Mark Daoust

      Yes, he did qualify that at the beginning of his blog post. But then he also said “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is dead”. His post can be read as an implication on guest blogging in general – that it is a general practice that is too spammy. The topic has been discussed by many people clarifying what he should have said, but there is a responsibility he holds to be careful with his words.

      There is also a responsibility for the rest of us to hold things up to a basic ‘sniff’ test. A lot of people are scared that their guest blogging will lead to problems for them in the near future. Well, take a look at what you’ve done. Is it spammy, low quality content published filled with highly targeted anchor text on low-quality websites? If so, then it might be worth taking a closer look. On the other hand, have you focused on publishing good content with good partners? If so, I wouldn’t sweat things too much.

  • JB

    This is the first post I’ve read since his rant that says you should not place links in the body of guest posts, but instead to continue placing them in the author bio. What advantage does that have? There’s a lot of speculation that it will be easier for Google to identify a pattern and potentially penalize you if you always put them in the bio.

    • Mark Daoust

      It depends on your reason for linking within an article. I’ve done a lot of guest blogging – it is rare that I find a real need to link within an article to my own site. I often link over to other articles I’ve written, but that’s because it fits with the content of the article.

      Matt did a good job of clearing things up: “I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future…I’m also not talking about multi-author blogs…I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to ‘guest blogging’ as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. ”

      Google knows if you are guest blogging – that’s not a difficult thing to figure out. The question is whether you are guest blogging crap on crappy sites so you can get links. So much of this comes down to simple motivation: why are you guest blogging? Is it so you can get inbound links? Is it for an audience?

      I, for one, don’t care if Google knows that I am guest blogging. But what I want them to know is that I am guest blogging on high quality sites because I care about building an audience and establishing myself and my company’s brand.

  • Thank you for this tips, for me i try a seo strategie on my new blog with a relatively easy ,, but i have a question , how much day can i get Fisrt on google .

  • I have been wondering about this as it seems to be an impossible thing to kill. You really have to feel for Matt on this one cause on one hand posting relevant responses to peoples blogs is what drives the online community forward and keeps us all connected but on the other hand it is something that is vulnerable to abuse by black hat seo tactics. My interest in seo was peaked years ago when trying to get my flowers shops website ranked better. It has been fun to keep up with and SEJ has the best and most relevant blogs. 🙂 Thanks for the info guys.

  • Amen, my friend. It is good to hear some clear thinking on the most recent MC outburst. I daily speak with people who are freaked out as if God decreed the demise of blogging from the Holy mountain.

    Calm down and proceed wisely. Content still matters. AdWords, without articles, is like billboards without a highway.

  • Google, Google , Google! They’re big and they’re mean. And they make the rules. They do what they want and to hell with genuine hard working webmasters- we’ll give them a scare too and see if they’ll go running to the disavow tool and work their butt off (and the y will too, make no mistake-) disavowing good useful guest posts just to be on the safe side. They break the rules they set all the time and they won’t play fair. So Mark, you’re absolutely right on the (mark?) when you say you never want to depend solely on the big G, and to take advantage of multiple marketing channels to build your business. Businesses that have relied on organic traffic from Google as their only marketing channel have collapsed overnight. And that’s never a pretty sight.

  • Very well put Mark. I also thought Matt was reckless in his utterances since he did not make a lot of things clear in that post.

    • Mark Daoust

      His update at the bottom of the post does well at clarifying his statement.

  • Hay Mark ,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts , Read many posts on the same topic written on Matt Cutts’s Gust Posting Bomb , enjoyed this one most.


  • Hi Mark,

    You just made a valid point we all have been missing since. The post is on Matt Cutts blog? So was it is personal frustration or Google’s view point. While he might be in a position to say something due to his access to information, we still should not take all his word too seriously. That has always been my position.

    Thanks for sharing this post

  • The whole web will be destroyed if Matt Cutts kill blogging LOL

  • Almost 50% of the internet sites are based on blogging, is Matt kills blogging, it means he is killing the whole world wide web, which is not possible!

  • Hey Mark

    Kudos to you that you gave Matt Cutt such a good suggestion. Every now and then he keeps on shocking us by posting blogposts that goes viral because of his popularity and then people start following what he says. In this context what I feel is it is the content that matters, if its good for end-user then it doesn’t matter if it is a Guest post

  • That post by Matt was pure propaganda. They can’t kill guest blogging. They can only hope to kill crappy content. Unfortunately, this post by Matt tells us Google still isn’t quite able to do that. If they could, attacking guest posting would have been unnecessary.

    • Totally agree with that Stoney!

  • Guest Blogging is a better way to build links but only if the websites on which you are posting is good. I mean I have posted around 5-10 guest post but I don’t think I got something beneficial out of it.

  • A lot of people had started to say that guest blogging was dead. Thanks for this great article that has revealed the answer to these questions. I always was telling that when used properly, nothing is dead. The efforts are made only to prevent spamming.

  • Hey Mark,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Guest Blogging is a better way to build links. and you can continue guess blogging as long as you post quality content. Google will not take any action if content is of high quality and relevant to the blogs.

  • I think this is another example of Google telling us to “write for your audience, not for our algorithms”. Hence there is so much buzz nowadays about “content marketing”.

  • Love this rebuttal! Thank you for sharing these thoughts and tips! I’ve been working to diversify my marketing and one of my tactics is simply meeting new people once a week so that I may build relationships and, hopefully, gain word-of-mouth referrals! My website shows up in the first-page results for my keywords but that’s not enough for me! Yes, SEO is important but it’s not the end all be all to let folks know about your business!

    Great article!

  • Guest bloggers are contacting me daily to remove their links.
    Alot of their articles get me really good traffic and subsequent sales.
    Their loss my gain?