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MyBlogGuest penalised... does it matter?

Gareth Cartman

The list of penalised websites goes on - Halifax, Lastminute.com, Expedia.com... if Google carry on like this, it will be a level playing field with everyone having received a penalty.

And now, we can add to that list MyBlogGuest.com - a community website for guest bloggers to exchange guest blog posts. It wasn’t MyBlogGuest who had the dodgy backlinks pointing to them, it was the fact that they were a “guest blog network”...

Here’s Matt Cutts, Google’s Head of Webspam, on his latest PR mission:

Subsequently, it turns out that guest bloggers on MyBlogGuest are receiving penalties, too.

Why the penalty, then? What did they do?

  • Their policy was to ban “nofollow” links
  • In other words, the links could only be followed (for SEO benefit)
  • The majority of sites on myblogguest.com were low quality
  • Unfortunately, many of the bloggers on myblogguest.com were also quite low quality
  • Many were using keywords in anchor text, which is an obvious SEO footprint
  • Many were relying on keywords in author bios, which is another obvious SEO footprint

Google doesn’t like anyone trying to manipulate its rankings - they are very precious about their link graph. They know there are loopholes, and they know that they’re nowhere near where they need to be when it comes to interpreting backlinks in order to rank websites in order of quality.

Google viewed MyBlogGuest not as a community, but as a form of “link network” where people were effectively exchanging links. Never mind the quality of the articles, or the quality of the blogs - if you were on MyBlogGuest, you’re probably in trouble.

What’s Google’s plan here?

The obvious best way forward for Google would be to define a method of separating out the manipulative links from the natural links. This isn’t easy.

Google once recommended Guest Blogging as a way of getting natural links, but quickly found that SEOs, when given an inch, form a community. Some scaled it up to ridiculous levels, getting hundreds of guest blogs per month on low-quality websites.

So, instead of targeting the quality of the blog post - or the quality of the link - Google is going after networks.

Again, this is all about the link graph. Google are so heavily dependent on links for rankings that perceived abuses will be punished. And because they’re unable to accurately penalise low-quality guest blogs, they’ve taken a blanket approach.

What do CLD think?

We had a look at MyBlogGuest a couple of years ago, and liked the community feel. However, we didn’t like the quality of blogs on there - bar one or two specific, successful niche websites. And we probably haven’t been back since. We even asked for guest bloggers, but were overwhelmed with spam from Indian SEO companies.

However, MyBlogGuest was a very useful community for niche bloggers who wanted to meet other bloggers within their sphere - and it didn’t need Google in the first place. Not much, anyway.

The penalty is spiteful, at best. At worst, it’s crude PR on behalf of Matt Cutts who is fighting his corner at Google. If Google were to cut links out of the algorithm, then Cutts would be cut out of a job. He needs to posture, he needs to claim victims, he needs to show he’s doing something.

This is as much about Cutts and his bosses, as it is about Ann Smarty and MyBlogGuest.

In order to stay safe from penalties, you have to understand what makes an unnatural link - and what creates a footprint.

  • keywords in your anchor text links
  • irrelevant links (e.g. a travel blog linking to a technology company)
  • networked links (e.g. lots of links from sites on myblogguest.com? Maybe)
  • easily obtained links (e.g. web directories, article marketing, guest blog farms)
  • unnaturally scaled links (e.g. 100 guest blogs this month, look at you!)
  • many links in author bios (we know what you’ve been doing)
  • links to sales pages (who links to a sales page unless they’re selling?)

And what’s a good link?

  • on a contextually relevant site (technology - technology)
  • using a natural link (maybe across many words, not including keywords)
  • on a socially active website (lots of tweets, shares, comments, etc.)
  • it drives traffic to your website (proof that it’s added value to the page it’s on)

Maybe we’ve come to a point where we can’t actually quantify what represents a good link. Perhaps it’s going to come down to personal judgement, and that’s a good thing because it shakes out the spammy SEO companies who think that “DA:60+” is a basis for selling links. It’s not.

As for guest blogging - it’s a brilliant way of driving traffic and getting exposure for your thought leadership. It helps you get in front of new audiences and potential customers. So long as you are contextually relevant, not using keywords in your anchor text, and giving editors something their readers would want to read - everyone wins.

To that list, you might as well add “don’t mention guest blogging”.