On January 20, 2014, Google’s Matt Cutts published an article on his [blog] that strongly advised online marketers to refrain from using guest blogging as a link building tactic. “If you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it has become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company,” stated Cutts.
Cutts also provided a screenshot of an email he’d received from a content marketer who’d offered to write and post guest articles on his blog. The content marketer offered financial compensation in exchange for do-follow links in the article that would pass PageRank. These and other unethical link building schemes clearly violate Google’s quality guidelines.
To maintain its quality standards and improve user experience, Google has embarked on a crackdown on unethical link building and other forms of black hat SEO. Google’s quality guidelines clearly indicate that participating in link schemes can get a website penalized, and repeat or serious offenders can be permanently banned by Google.
“A trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains. We’ve reached the point in the downward spiral where people are hawking guest post outsourcing and writing articles about how to automate guest blogging,” stated Cutts.
Cutts advised online marketers to “stick a fork in it” and abandon schemes that utilize guest blogging primarily as a means of obtaining inbound links. On the other hand, does that mean that link building is now illegal, and that all forms of guest blogging will be penalized? Fortunately, the answer to both questions is “no”.
To avoid getting penalized, online marketers need to familiarize themselves with Google’s definition of legitimate link building and guest blogging.
First of all, what is link building?
In a nutshell, link building is concerned with establishing relevant inbound links to a website, which in turn helps that website achieve higher rankings on SERPs. While link building is in theory a legitimate practice, many unethical methods have been used in the past to try and game the system.
Unethical link building methods include:
• Generating automated spam responses to blog posts.
• Spamming various web forums with fake responses that include links to websites.
• Creating “spam directories,” which are websites that are created for the sole purpose of linking to other websites.
• Purchasing or selling links that pass PageRank.
Google also considers placing unnatural links on web pages to be in clear violation of its quality guidelines. These and other unethical practices can get websites temporarily or permanently removed from Google’s index and search results.
So what is Google’s definition of legitimate link building and guest blogging?
In a recent interview, Cutts affirmed that link building is not illegal, but that online marketers often approach the task with the wrong mindset. Instead of focusing on creating great websites that contain compelling, high-quality content that other netizens would want to share with others and link to, some online marketers focus on link building schemes to improve their rankings on SERPs.
Instead of trying to game the system with link schemes, Cutts advises online marketers to focus on the quality and value of their content. High-quality content will be seen as relevant by others who will then want to link to websites that host such content. A good example of a value endorsement would be when an editor or reporter chooses to write a story about a company’s press release, with the resulting article then being linked to the company’s website.
Another great way to do link building would be to create a strong social media presence, garner a devoted following, and create excellent content that the audience would be inclined to share. These, and other acceptable link building strategies, can help websites rank better on SERPs.
Google’s dire warning about guest blogging does not cover high-quality, multi-author blogs, as such blogs produce genuinely high-quality content that readers find relevant and useful. Cutts advises online marketers to limit their guest blogging to high-quality articles from reputable and authoritative authors. These guest posts should then be published on highly reputable domain names, which in turn can potentially build links and boost rankings on SERPs.
How effective your link building and guest blogging have been? How are you adjusting to Google’s standards that go stricter and stricter by the day?
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