Guest Blogging: A Response to Matt Cutts’ Stupid Advice

A few days ago, Matt Cutts spoke out about guest blogging. As the head of Google’s Webspam team, many people take Matt’s word as gospel. His advice and commentary have shaped countless SEO and marketing strategies, and often for the better: but not this time. Matt’s latest post says, in no uncertain terms, that ‘guest blogging is done’. As I’m about to explain, he’s completely wrong – and his advice is nothing short of stupid.

1. Matt’s advice panders to the spammers, and makes Google look like cowards

‘Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s 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.’

 

matt cutts guest blogging

Matt panda-ing to spammers

Imagine a community of 100 people band together to build new houses. They toil away, night and day, sweating over bricks and mortar. Months of intense effort later, they stand back to admire their work – a neighborhood of 100 new homes, roads and infrastructure, adding value to the community and the area. A few weeks after completion, a handful of criminals (bad company, if you will) move into the neighborhood, build an illegal and dangerous house and begin to devalue the area. What happens next?

 

A. The police are called in. They work to remove the criminals and restore the value of the neighborhood.

B. The police are called in. They advise the community to abandon everything and start living in tree houses – this neighborhood is ‘done’.

 

According to Matt Cutts, option B:

‘So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy. In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.’

 

The metaphor is a simple one, but it illustrates Matt’s attitude to guest blogging – what was once a valuable tool, adding value and links to websites, should now be abandoned to the spammers who’ve abused it. Instead of fighting the cause of the problem – the spammers – Matt has taken the easy route, and decided to encourage the content marketing community to wave a white flag.

‘Ultimately, this is why we can’t have nice things in the SEO space: a trend starts out as authentic. Then more and more people pile on until only the barest trace of legitimate behavior remains.’

 

Google’s Webspam team are the police force of the internet – and Matt’s message makes them look inept, cowardly and unfair. Instead of tackling the root of the problem, Matt has suggested that we stop our legitimate and beneficial activities, and let the spammers claim our territory. Sound advice?

 

2. Google shares the blame for spam and black hat SEO

matt cutts guest blogging

Google vs Spam

Reading Matt’s post, you’d be forgiven for thinking that spammers and their black hat SEO practices were criminal, even unethical. Cutt’s post suggests that guest blogging is tantamount to hanging out with ‘bad company’, and risks associating your reputable brand with the undesirables of web society – but in truth, black hat techniques aren’t criminal, and they aren’t unethical.

For the most part, black hatters don’t violate laws, and the only ethical code they violate is Google’s own. Black hat techniques exploit loop holes in Google’s algorithms, and ROI is the only code that black hatters abide by. In essence, Google create black hat techniques – and whilst I don’t blame Google for the ingenuity of exploitative SEO experts, I think that tarring them with a ‘criminal’ brush is misleading and dangerous.

Spam is a problem for the internet because it devalues existing, legitimate strategies – but as Matt’s post illustrates, Google are also culpable. Until this post was released, guest blogging was a non-contentious and effective strategy – relatively untainted by spam posting. Any devaluing in the efficacy of guest blogging has now been caused by Google’s own changes. I understand the need for Google to evolve its practices – but I’d like to see a greater admission of their own responsibility in shaping the web.

 

3. There are no viable alternatives to guest blogging

Let’s assume that we’ve listened to Matt Cutts’ advice – we’ve ceased guest blogging. We no longer accept guest blog submissions, and we no longer seek out opportunities ourselves. That’s fine, right? Our business isn’t going to suffer, because Matt’s post was full of actionable, legitimate link-building strategies.

Nope. Not a single alternative to guest blogging. Link-building is a vitally important tool in improving a site’s search ranking, and for fledgling businesses, guest blogging is the only viable way to start this process. Huge established sites, like HubSpot, can rely on their followers to promote, share and link back to their content – smaller businesses can’t.

The ‘white hat’ argument is that incredible content is enough to drive link building alone. Your readers will be so enamored with your content that they’ll feel compelled to share it, and you’ll earn yourselves links in the process. True – assuming that you have an audience in the first place. Without the visibility associated with successful link-building, you’ll never be able to reach this target audience, and your content won’t increase your visibility.

Potential alternatives to link-building are more spam-ridden than guest blogging, and offer even less value to readers. Blog commenting is abused more than guest blogging – it’s easier to automate, and much easier to spam as a result. Even valuable blog commenting, offering insights and responses to posts, only provides a single nofollow link. Reciprocal link exchanges offer literally no value to the reader, and blog rolls, forums and directories are just as bad. In other words – there are no alternatives to guest blogging.

 

4. His advice damages small business, and doesn’t affect spammers

guest blogging matt cutts

Small business without guest blogging

Small businesses are going to suffer as a result of Matt Cutts’ advice. Even worse, the people Matt was hoping to dissuade from illegitimate guest blogging aren’t going to give a damn. People who abuse guest posting and use it as a Black Hat SEO technique, spamming worthless content, links and manipulated anchor text around the web, aren’t going to be intimated by Matt’s commentary. Their ethos is very much ‘keep going until it stops working’, and as long as it’s profitable for them to abuse guest posting, they’ll continue to do so.

However, the content marketers, social media marketers and bloggers who legitimately benefit from guest posting are more likely to heed Matt’s words. Legitimate guest posting will dry up, for fear of Google penalties – and the end result? Fewer legitimate guest posts, and a relative increase in spam guest posts.

‘Posts like Matt Cutts’ only hurt small businesses & legitimate content marketers. A huge brand can scale up a huge guest posting strategy, get penalised, open up a direct line with Cutts and get it resolved within days/weeks – see Rap Genius the other week as a case study.

A small business has no “Google support” , submits a reconsideration request after attempting to clean up, and gets a response sometime between a few months from now, and never. Small businesses therefore avoid guest posting / doing any form of SEO out of fear-driven knee-jerk reactions to Matt’s posts, big brands carry on to push the boundaries and dominate SERPs, and blackhatters exploit what they can to get ranked, because they just don’t care. Their sites only last for weeks or months in the SERPs anyway – and they get ROI despite that.’

William Steward, managing director of Iconsive 

 

 5. Google’s Webspam team aren’t going to do anything about guest blogging

Matt Cutts is head of Google Webspam team. In other words, Matt’s blog can be seen as an indicator of Google’s intended direction for the coming months. So we’re in trouble right? Founded in reason or not, if Matt says guest blogging is done, guest blogging is done!

No. Matt revised his post in the face of popular opinion, and watered down his argument to a staggering extent. Instead of guest blogging being ‘done’, Matt now suggests that we need to be a little bit careful about guest posting:

‘I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to “guest blogging” as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.’

 

Yes – Matt’s impassioned argument boils to exercising caution when guest blogging. In the same way that telling a skydiver to ‘be careful’ is redundant information, Matt’s post has been revised to down to simple common sense. He even goes on to say that actually, guest blogging can be pretty useful:

‘There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future.’

 

I feel almost cheated by that revision – after 1500 words of analysis, Matt has effectively retracted his opinion. In his own words, guest blogging is not done, and I firmly believe that no amount of black hat techniques and spam will kill it off. I’m so confident in fact, that I’m going to offer you a guest blogging opportunity:

If you’re a marketing blogger, get in touch with us – we’d love to publish your content on our blog.

What are your thoughts on the state of guest blogging? Let us know in the comments below!

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