Matt Cutts Pronounces Guest Posts Dead: Is It True?

Earlier this week, Matt Cutts posted a new blog that seems to deliver a death stroke to guest posting as we know it. Essentially, Matt announced that the SEO tactic of guest posting in order to gain links is over and will only hurt SEOs moving forward. If you’re trying to build links using guest posts in 2014, Google is going to start cracking down.

CuttsHeadsUp

However, he made an important distinction – guest posting for the purpose of gaining links is over, not guest posting in general. If this still seems like bad news, there was already a problem with your SEO strategy! Before we consider the ramifications of this distinction, let’s take a look at what Matt Cutts said.

Why Matt Cutts is Ready to Kill Guest Posting

Guest posting isn’t a bad tactic in and of itself, and Matt Cutts fully recognizes that fact. Unfortunately, it has become a strategy that can easily be manipulated to serve the purposes of black hat SEOs. Matt Cutts, as well as every other influential blogger, receives tons of those obnoxious, spammy emails from underhanded SEOs who want to post a blog on his site in exchange for links. Consider this example that Matt included in his post

Cutts Spammy Email

There’s no way around it – the proposal outlined in this email is an obvious violation of Google’s quality guidelines, which are put in place to try to rid the internet of low-quality links. Honestly, someone really screwed up when they sent this email to Matt Cutts – he’s been warning SEOs about the increasing dangers of guest posts for several years now, such as in this recent video.

Matt Cutts’s point through all of his recent blogs and videos about guest posts is that it has become an increasingly spammy practice, so even if you are using high quality, relevant posts to get those links, Google is going to penalize you. Like too many SEO practices, guest posting began as a good, authentic idea, but has been corrupted to the point that guest posting for the purpose of link building is no longer feasible.

Honestly, I’m in full agreement with Matt. In fact, I recently wrote a post about how to avoid allowing spammy guest posts on your blog. As Matt clarifies, however, there are still plenty of great reasons for SEOs to post guest blogs – they just can’t rely on those blogs to get link-building benefits. Even if you don’t include a link in a guest post, you can enjoy the benefits of interacting with the community, furthering your branding, increasing reach, and gaining greater exposure.

How Did SEOs React?

As is to be expected, Matt’s blog inspired a wide range of reactions within the SEO community. On the whole, most SEOs seem to support this pronouncement, although there were some mixed feelings.

–          Elisa Gabbert points out that this shift allows SEOs to focus on building relationships as opposed to links, which means that the emphasis is on the community and authority instead of simply gaining exposure.

–          Joost de Valk agrees with Matt that guest posting has gone too far. Hopefully this change will force SEOs to rely on a better variety of tactics to achieve their goals.

–          Kevin Phelps was not so pleased with Matt’s blog. In fact, he believes that this viewpoint demonstrates that Google is so focused on penalizing bad link-building tactics that it has completely misunderstood the point of guest blogs.

Great News for Content Marketers!

Matt Cutts’s crackdown on guest posts is actually great news for content marketers. Without the burden of trying to gain links through their guest posts, awesome content writers are free to focus on simply creating outstanding, relevant content that contributes new ideas to the conversation. In fact, Christopher Penn goes so far as to suggest that SEOs should be happy that Google is ready to kill off guest posts.

As mentioned above, this move is also great news for bloggers and sites that receive dozens and dozens of spammy emails about guest posts each day. If Google is truly going to penalize these low quality guest posts, then hopefully these annoying emails will start to abate.

The New Guest Posting for 2014

So what should SEO best practice be in relation to guest posts as we move forward into 2014? The overwhelming trend in SEO for 2014 is a focus on quality, which certainly applies in this situation. As long as you’re committed to writing and posting high quality, original, relevant guest posts, you shouldn’t have a problem with Google. However, there are several steps you can take to ensure that guest posts are up to snuff in order to avoid the wrath of Google.

–          Don’t put links to your own site in your guest posts. This one is a little obvious, but it has to be said. Sure, you can promote a brand and even include the name of your business, but don’t insert a link. Readers aren’t stupid – if they want to learn more about your business, they’ll Google it.

–          Start slow and build your way up. If you’re new to guest posting, it’s essential to start with baby steps, such as commenting on industry blogs so that you are an active contributor to the conversation. Take time to establish a reputation within the community before trying to share guest posts.

–          If you are in the position to post guest blogs, only accept posts from people that you know personally. A guest post can have a huge effect on your own reputation, so don’t stake that reputation on a guest post from an unknown source.

–          Create quality content, no matter what. Even if a guest post doesn’t provide a single direct link back to your site, it can provide a host of other SEO benefits, such as enhanced authority, increased exposure, and relationship building. Quality content is still king.

The moral of the story is that high quality SEO practices will continue to succeed in 2014 while spammy tactics continue to eventually fail and trigger heavy penalties. Maintain high quality standards for every single guest post and you shouldn’t have any problems!

What is your reaction to Matt Cutts’s blog post? How do you plan to adjust your approach to guest posts?

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Sarah Beth

Sarah Beth Wiltse earned her BA in English at Boston University. Though she currently lives in Dallas, TX, she spent a year in Paris, France after college, cultivating her love of the French language and a passion for travelling. She has spent much of her life developing her skills in the arts, primarily as a ballerina, violinist, and pianist - and now, a writer! Follow her on Twitter!

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