Note: For clarification, if you’re not familiar with the difference between “legitimate” Guest Blogging and Guest-Blogging-for-SEO-purposes, check out this article first. I promise, it will make the rest of this post/episode make more sense.
And of course, the latter type of “guest blogging” is what we are talking about today: the spammy, no-real-content, plaster it all over the internet kind. The kind that someone may offer to you at some point. It strikes me as a kind of cyber drug deal: “Hey, we all know that content is what makes you more popular on Google, so do you want some cheap content?” [Insert villain-type character here] “It’s cheap; just link back to us and you, too, can have great page rank.” But don’t fall for it! Like in Real Life, the good stuff ain’t cheap, and it can land you in hot water.
Sage figures this is the next step in the evolution of Link-Building schemes: first there were link exchanges, then link farms, then link “brokerage” sites where people paid for links, and now another scammy, spammy way to try and outsmart Google by calling it “guest blogging.”
Yes, this seems like maybe it should be common sense, but as we all know, sometimes common sense isn’t all that common. Even Chrome fell victim to a quick fix, paying bloggers to write about their new browser (back when it was new, of course). Google caught them and kicked them out of the search results for a while, which looks like some Tough Love for sure from this parent!
Google’s Webmaster Guidelines
According to a recent article on Search Engine Land, Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are now reflecting this more specific change in what’s ok and what’s not. What we’re talking about is “low quality guest blogging that aims at manipulating search results” (Sage), not good quality, informative, original content. The bottom line, as written by Google: “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.” This should always be your goal for content, anyway. So unless you’re doing something sneaky, you probably don’t have anything to worry about.
For example, if the Mayor wants to write a guest post on your blog because you’ve got a great local business following, the consensus is that this is a legit use of Guest Blogging. As long as you know what you’re doing, you should be fine. But if you’re not sure, better to err on the side of caution and be safe, because your ranking and website’s reputation could be on the line. Just like in high school, protect your rep because that’s all you’ve got.
Sage’s (sage) advice: “If there is a noted authority in your community or industry, and there is a legitimate reason why they would want to write on your blog, then by all means have them do it. If, however, more than, say, 20-30% of your posts are written by guests, you are putting yourself at risk.”
So if you get a request from a potential “guest blogger,” check them out: if they aren’t an expert in their field, or have stuff all over the place that doesn’t make sense, or the content all looks the same or extremely similar (“scraped” content), run away! The vast majority of content on your site should be written by YOU and your team.
Other Things NOT To Do
(Google will find you and punish you)
- white text on white background (although this seems like an easy way to get keywords on your pages, it’s actually cheating)
- same for super tiny text
- blocking your entire site from being found: This happens often when a developer forgets to un-block the robots.txt file from a new site, so that Google’s “spider-bots” can crawl it to index the site
- getting links to/from low-quality directories (a page full of links with no content), or an irrelevant one (a plumber on an accounting site)
- creating multiple websites and cross-link them to try and make it look like there are lots of links
An Old Penguin
So Google’s last algorithm update (not counting that silly “Pigeon” we talked about last week), Penguin, hasn’t been updated in over 300 days. So what?
Well some website owners are upset because, due to changes to the algorithm that targets spammy behavior in order to manipulate Page Rank (see above), they have been (not penalized) “algorithmized.” And without a new update, even if the problem has been fixed, they may still be suffering from the lack of organic search results, which could shut down a business that primarily relies on online search traffic as their main source of income. Sage makes the good point that surely some of those sites have gone out of business by now.
Although there are some supposed workarounds out there, like this “Orca” technique, it seems like it all comes down to rebuilding a new website. Of course, the rational person’s suggestion would be to rebuild a website without all of the spammy bad links, but there is a feeling of “once a spammer, always a spammer” here at SageRock. If someone is always looking for the “easy way,” especially when it comes to online marketing, then they will most likely continue to be
targeted “algorithmized” by Google, who only wants their innocent users to find good, relevant, useful search results, not cheesy websites full of crappy so-called content and a million links to nowhere.