In a recent article posted on Matt Cutt’s Blog, The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO, he states that ‘guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.’ Coming from the head of Google’s Webspam team, this comment tells us that there will have be a negative impact on SEO rankings in the near future for organic searches within Google for blogs that publish articles by Guest Bloggers.

While this may be your initial reaction to the news, there is likely to be some sort of compromise based on website reputation (we hope).

What is guest blogging?

Guest blogging is the practice of publishing articles on your blog that are written by a third party. Many websites use this practice to increase the volume of their content and to offer insights from experts on topics that they may not be the authority on. For instance, a travel blog’s author may not be an expert on every city around the world and so may accept a guest post about a location that they’ve not yet visited or a cruise ship that they have not yet personally traveled on.

Guest blogging’s journey into SPAM territory

As Cutts points out in his article, there are companies out there that focus solely on guest blogging, writing low quality content and often paying the blog’s publisher for including the article on their sites. In return for providing the content and, and possibly a monetary transaction, the guest blogger includes links back to their website or their client’s website in hopes of increasing their page rank in Google’s organic algorithm. This essentially is paying for backlinks to their website in order to increase their rankings in organic search results, a violation of Google’s quality guidelines.

Matt Cutts answers the question ‘What should I be aware of if I’m considering guest blogging?’ from a user on Dec 10, 2013.

What this means for your blog

If you accept guest blogs from various authors it’s possible (or probable) that in the near future Google will adjust their algorithms to discount links (even if they are dofollow links) from blogs posts that they label as ‘guest posts’. It is not outrageous to also predict that the blog that has posted the article may also be penalized; as Cutts states that he would ‘expect Google’s webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward’.

The Caveats according to Cutts

Within his article, Cutts states that he’s ‘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.)’. Unfortunately, it is difficult to imaging how Google would police his statement that it would be reasonable to still accept guest posts if ‘you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well’. Due to the algorithmic nature of Google’s spam detection it is hard to imagine exactly how their crawlers and spam detection would be able to validate this relationship.

How to proceed with your content

There are no strict guidelines from Google regarding whether or not to accept or write guest posts, so as with all content make sure that the articles are well written, in context and containing information that is relevant to your audience. The best practice for any content-based website is to focus on quality rather than quantity.

Bloggers and giveaway sponsors

Many bloggers have great relationships with brands and companies that sponsor giveaways on their websites. The majority of these do include product reviews and/or information about the sponsor’s product or service. When publishing this type of content be sure that you are not re-posting canned content from your sponsor that is duplicated on hundreds of websites, as this is going to have a negative impact on your blog’s reputation in Google’s eyes. Writing your own content and reviews from your perspective about products that your audience is interested in will allow you to continue your current practices without getting penalized from the search engines.