Why You Should Continue Guest Blogging (Spoiler Alert- It’s Not for SEO!)

There is one man who holds an enormous amount of power in all things SEO, and that man is Matt Cutts – head of Google’s web spam team.  What Matt Cutts says, goes.  Recently Cutts came out publicly to say-  “Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done!”

Guest blogging is the practice of soliciting bloggers to write for your site, and contributing content to others, with the ultimate goal of generating links back to your own site. The number of inbound links to a website is one measure of performance in search engines.

Guest blogging was once was a reputable and recommended SEO practice for increasing visibility and website traffic. It’s become very spammy as unprofessional marketers and black hat SEO providers not only jumped on board – but started sending out generic emails soliciting guest blogging and link building opportunities to anyone, and everyone, who would listen.

An example of an unsolicited, spam email reads something like:”HI!! My name is X and I work as a content marketer for a high end digital marketing agency in [a city halfway around the world]. I have been promoting high quality content in select niches for our clients. I would love to speak to you regarding the possibility of posting some guest articles on your blog.  All I ask in return is a dofollow link or two in the article body.” Pretty bad.

So, is Cutts right – should you really give up guest blogging? In short, no. There are still many good reasons to keep guest blogging as part of your content marketing efforts:  build your brand identity, develop online authority, introduce your company to a wider audience, and expand your networking with social and online connections.  But you do need to rethink your guest blogging strategy, and pay more attention to a specific technical component (we’ll get to that in a minute).

There has never been a benefit to guest blogging only for SEO purposes. This scenario produces spammy, low-quality content (often written by a machine or outsourced), and submits it to hundreds of low ranking, non-trusted websites, blogs and directories –  typically promising reciprocal links in return.  The value of guest blogging has been and will always be in writing interesting, original content that is relevant to the reader, and submitted exclusively to authoritative sites. That means sites that Google trusts, and those that have an acceptable Alexa rank. In addition to these tips, if you do continue to guest blog for other sites it’s critical to use the “no-follow” attribute on all links.

A good rule of thumb is to use “no-follow” with any links that would not naturally link your site to another if you hadn’t taken action. Not using “no-follow” indicates to Google that you are link baiting, and your website may very well be penalized by Google and pushed lower in the search engine results pages (SERPS). In the big picture, it wouldn’t actually make sense for Google to do away with guest blogging entirely. Think about any established online media outlet that relies on a system of guest bloggers to produce content everyday – they’re not likely to be penalized for using guest blogging, because their authors are expected to write fresh, sharable content for a target audience. Penalizing every site that utilizes guest blogging would actually hurt Google in the long run because it would remove popular content from the search engine.

If you use an agency for SEO, a good test of their quality and professionalism is to note whether they categorize guest blogging as solely a link building exercise. A better approach would be to utilize guest blogging as one of many content development strategies.