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Why Matt Cutts is targeting guest bloggers

Gareth Cartman

Last week, a man said something.

The volume of the shrieking in response says a lot about the SEO community. It says:

  • people take what he (Matt Cutts) says seriously
  • a lot of people have been scaling up their guest blogging to spammy levels, and they know it
  • SEOs are nervous types, constantly looking over their shoulders

So what did he say? He kind of said that guest blogging (i.e. writing for other people & linking to yourself) can be spammy, and if you’re doing it for links, he’s going to punish you and demote your site in the rankings.

However, if you’re doing it for brand, traffic, awareness, relationships and all that nice, undefineable fluffy stuff, then you’re OK.

So Matt Cutts - how are you going to tell the difference?

The sub-text - what he really meant

Google couldn’t care less about guest blogging - what they do care about is links - whether they’re acquired ethically or unethically. They’re very protective about the link ecosystem - i.e. the interlinking of websites which defines the popularity and context of each website. Their algorithm is heavily weighted around that link ecosystem - which is why those “quick win” SEO companies target links first and foremost.

Guest blogging used to be hard work. To many (even us), it still is. However, when article marketing and directories took a hit, guest blogging seemed (to the quick win guys) to be the only thing left. It wasn’t. Guest blogging started to proliferate.

It proliferated to the point that these people at Business2Community - who accept contributions from anyone - got flooded by rubbish articles about pills and yoga. Webmasters everywhere were offered “free content” in exchange for a link, and many websites pulled up the curtains and said “we’re not accepting guest posts”.

It’s the same as always. You give SEOs an inch, and they take a mile. This is why you can’t have nice things.

Any link tactic that becomes scaleable becomes spam.

What Matt Cutts meant was that those guest bloggers who are abusing the system will be punished - those who are doing it as part of a link-building campaign, for the sole purpose of manipulating the rankings - will see their rankings suffer.

So how is he going to do this?

Putting aside the argument that Google is punishing the wrong websites (i.e. the target site, not the spam site - read Danny Sullivan’s comment on Matt Cutts’ blog itself), the main question that arises is - how can Google sort the wheat from the chaff? Here are some handy bullet points for those who are exhausted with paragraphs:

  • Anchor text links: well, it’s obvious isn’t it - if you’re linking with “cheap wrist watches” back to your Cheap Wrist Watches page, you’re an SEO. Easy win. Doesn’t have to be a guest blog though.
  • Links to product or service pages: well, who would link to a product page anyway? Would an editor really do this? It’s quite rare. An editor might link to a nice infographic, or a piece of research you carried out on the increasing market share of smartwatches... but not your “Cheap Wrist Watches” page.
  • High volumes of guest blogs: oooh look, you have 25 links coming in this month, all from guest blogs. One word: FOOTPRINT.
  • Your neighbourhood: Oh this could get really clever. Firstly, if you’re ALL guest bloggers, that doesn’t look too good, does it. But if there are just a handful of authors (all linked up to the Googlesphere via their Authorship Robot Programme) then that looks much better.
  • Site quality: again, it doesn’t have to be a guest blog, but a crappy site is obvious to everyone. If you’re on a whole load of PR1 websites called “guestblogzone.org” then you’re in the merde.
  • Context: If you’re writing about wrist watches - why are you writing about them on i-love-toilets.biz? Think context first. Metrics second.

Most of these points count for any kind of link. Not just guest blogs...

Oh, you may have thought of many more indicators - please do feel free to use the comments section below to list them out & I’ll give you the credit. No link though. Sorry. Matt Cutts says that’s bad.

But really, why is he really targeting guest bloggers?

Remember that word above - ecosystem? We’re in one.

Remember how everyone thought the world was going to end with Penguin 1.0? It didn’t, and SEOs ended up with even more work. Even the companies who created the bad links ended up with more work - removing them!

Matt Cutts is Head of the Webspam Team. Without webspam, there would be no job for Matt Cutts to do.

Really, he should be kneeling down and shining the shoes of every SEO in the world.

SEOs give him work, and Matt Cutts gives SEOs work in return. Every so often, Matt Cutts has to put his head above the parapet and remind everyone (including his employers) that he exists, and that he’s fighting to make the web a better place. When he said he had “busted” a link network (Anglo Rank) - he had the air of a swat team leader who had done a drugs raid at 6am in Moss Side.

I could have busted Anglo Rank. Just go on to Black Hat World and sign up. Job done.

No, Cutts is dependent on webspam existing and being part of the algorithm - so he needs to keep identifying new types of webspam. SEOs gladly participate in this game by scaling up tactics into easily identifiable footprints, and then react with shock when Cutts says it’s “bad”.

I can guarantee that within 6 months, there will be companies offering “guest blog removal” services.

Matt Cutts is targeting guest blogging now because he needs to. 

So what do we do next?

Nothing.

We do quite a bit of guest blogging here at Clever Little Design, and we just shrugged when we read The Cutts Proclamation.

You might think that blase, but we’re not guest blogging for rankings - we’re guest blogging for exposure in front of a new audience. We’re guest blogging to build relationships within our clients’ industries, and sometimes we don’t even bother linking. Sometimes, you don’t need to. It’s not all about the link ecosystem, you know.

We’re guest blogging naturally, and if we do link, we’re not linking to product or service pages, we’re linking to relevant items of content. And we’re guest blogging as part of an overall marketing strategy that stretches out into other digital and offline disciplines.

Those, however, who have scaled up and are not aware of where their guest blogs might be - well, start googling “guest blog removal” now. You might even find this article.