Stick Your Fork Elsewhere… Thoughts On Matt Cutts’ “Guest Blogging Is Done” Statement

Fork imageYesterday, Google’s Head of Webspam Matt Cutts posted a new blog post containing a very strong statement:

“Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”

As expected, the SEO industy went nuts on Twitter (I have to admit that a lot of the responses were actually pretty funny). In the 12-ish hours or so that have passed since the announcement, there have already been some great response posts by SEO greats including Joost de Valk and Ann Smarty (to name just a few). Given that I’m a strong advocate of guest blogging, I wanted to chip in, too.

My immediate thought was this: the statement is intended to scare the spammers. People who spam guest blogging will (hopefully) be put off. But people who do guest blogging properly aren’t (or shouldn’t) suddenly be thinking of stopping everything. That would be crazy.

Here are some other thoughts…

Matt specifically mentions paid guest blogging

In Matt’s post, he complains about some guest blogging outreach that he received, especially the fact that they offered him money if they published it:

“If you ignore the bad spacing and read the parts that I bolded, someone sent me a spam email offering money to get links that pass PageRank. That’s a clear violation of Google’s quality guidelines.”

I’m curious to know if Matt would’ve made such a fuss if they didn’t offer him money. Granted, it was still a lousy outreach attempt (and of all the people to target…!), but it’s true: money shouldn’t be involved in a conversation about guest blogging (more on this below).

Not all guest posting is spammy

My concern is that people will suddenly think: “oh no, guest blogging… eee!” and run for the hills. But Stephen Kenwright makes a cracking point:

YouMoz, man! I challenge anyone to read YouMoz and find one post where someone’s blatantly only done it for the SEO-ness. I’ve had the pleasure of writing for YouMoz 6 times (2 of which were promoted onto the main blog), and not once did I think: “this is gonna boost my SEOz” – if anything, it’s an added bonus.

Speaking of which…

Don’t just guest blog for SEO

Guest blogging shouldn’t only be done for SEO. In perhaps the most meta guest blog post of all time, I once wrote a guest post on MyBlogGuest’s blog (now there’s a tongue twister!) talking about the other benefits of guest blogging, all of which I still look out for today. What’s the point of guest posting on a high PageRank/Domain Authority site if they have no social media presence or it’s not visited by many people? Often when I look for guest blogging opportunities for my clients, PR/DA will be an afterthought, not the driver…

As Nick Eubanks says below – do it for the traffic, not the links.

Don’t make guest blogging your only (SEO) tactic

During the Twitter frenzy, the wise (and often hilarious) Dr Pete said this:

And that’s the problem – as Matt himself says in his post, some opportunistic people have taken guest blogging too far, looking to scale it. Often these folks will only concentrate on the tactic, as they’ll have heard that it works, so why try something else?

The best thing to do with link building? Do a little of a lot, not a lot of a little. So guest blogging should be 10% of your strategy (along with a myriad of other high quality tactics), not 100%.

It works both ways (i.e. people accepting guest posts can also be the bad guys)…

Let’s not forget that the people contacting blogs about guest posting aren’t the only bad guys in the equation. It can work both ways.

A while back I published a rant about the state of guest blogging, about how people were treating it as a new form of article marketing (I called it ‘Article Marketing 2.0’). But I also made the point that blog owners are making it harder, with some saying: “we’ll publish your post – but only if you pay us.” The problem here is that if someone’s willing to pay, they’ll publish it – they could be turning down gems that they could’ve had for free, but instead choose to accept potentially mediocre posts simply because they can make a quick buck from it.

It’s still true today. I’ve been meaning to blog about the time I accidentally conducted outreach from my email and the blog owner said something like: “ahh, if you’re an SEO, there’s a fee.” I asked him if he still would’ve charged me if he didn’t know I was an SEO, to which he pretty much admitted that he wouldn’t have done. How bad is that?! Sorry Matt, but SEOs aren’t the only bad guys here… Remember that.

Guest blogging is an admirable tactic

I love guest blogging. It’s something that I always encourage my clients to do. In fact, one of my proudest SEO moments is helping a client remove/disavow the triple-digit made-for-SEO directory and spun article links and replace the work with single-digit guest blogging links (among other high quality links), and the latter not only improved their organic search rankings/traffic but also improved their branding and social media presence. So for Matt to suddenly say it’s “done” is competely bonkers.

Like anything, it’s fine if you do it properly. Reciprocal linking is fine if it’s relevant, e.g. you’re linking out to people in your network and they’re linking back. I’d even go so far as to say paid links are fine if they’re relevant, e.g. it’s advertising on an industry-relevant directory. I mean for goodness sake: where do you draw the line otherwise?

As stated above, let’s all hope that it puts off the spammers and low quality posters who blindly follow Matt’s writing as gospel, while those of us who have been doing it properly since Day 1 continue to do so…

What are your thoughts? Are your guest blogging days over, or couldn’t you give less of a damn? Leave a comment below!

[Fork image credit: Martin Eckert]


  • Jon Rhodes

    January 21, 2014 at 11:37 am Reply

    I wonder how many frightened bloggers are going to go through all the guest posts they have published and nofollow them all? This is probably the future of guest blogging now.

    • Steve

      January 21, 2014 at 11:43 am Reply

      Haha, indeed – or delete them altogether… :-/

  • Nick Rink

    January 21, 2014 at 12:52 pm Reply

    Nice write up Steve. Have been doing entirely too much reading on this subject so far today! I think guest blogging will always be a viable tactic as long as the “link” is not the primary purpose for doing it. And as Dr Pete says, you need multiple tactics in order to be successful.

  • Ria Parish

    January 21, 2014 at 2:27 pm Reply

    How can you tell if something is written for the purposes of SEO or as an actual thoughtful contribution to the blog though? Aside from those stupidly obvious posts…. but otherwise, if a piece is written well and contains a relevant link or two to the person’s site, how can you tell whether their sole purpose of guest posting is just to get those links?

    • Steve

      January 21, 2014 at 2:30 pm Reply

      Exactly, Ria… That’s the tricky thing. It might be simply because Google’s algorithm isn’t that sophisticated. Someone else made a great point on Twitter saying that this whole thing (Matt Cutts’ response) might be happening as a scaremongering tactic, to put people off, because they can’t determine good or bad…

      • Rob

        January 27, 2014 at 11:49 am Reply

        Yup, this is another one of those propaganda. I’ll continue my guest blogging because I think it works too well that they can’t stop it! Couple of pointers I would start doing from now on though – I won’t be adding links in the author section, the article needs to have 3 or more authority outbound links, I will be very selective on the type of guest posts that I submit and make sure not to force a keyword and only use natural anchor text.

  • JB

    January 23, 2014 at 5:24 pm Reply

    >”I’m curious to know if Matt would’ve made such a fuss if they didn’t offer him money.”

    They didn’t even offer him money. He jumped to a conclusion about what the specific phrase “suitable contribution” means – he thought it meant money, I’m positive that was just referring to the article. That’s the most amusing part of this development. Seems like poor reading comprehension to me.

    • Steve

      January 23, 2014 at 5:27 pm Reply

      That’s a good point actually. I can see why he thought it though… although it could just be bad English from the sender. It’s tough to know for sure whether they meant just the article, or if indeed this is some sort of “…if you know what we mean, hint hint, nudge nudge” undertone to it.

  • Andrew

    January 24, 2014 at 7:14 pm Reply

    I think that it is a little bit disappointing that Matt is going to target Guest Posting now. However, I think every internet marketer knew that this would eventually happen.

    Basically, in the eyes of Google any form of SEO is “bad” because they are a business and want to “crush the spirits of SEO’s” – Matt Cutts

    • Steve

      January 25, 2014 at 10:35 am Reply

      Is that a genuine quote from him, Andrew? If so, do you have a source please? I’d be interested in reading more.

  • richard mclachlan

    February 25, 2014 at 3:25 pm Reply

    If this was in fact a shot across the bow, way back in 20 January 2014… I am not seeing the cannonballs hitting the fan yet.

    See this example

    • Steve

      February 25, 2014 at 3:32 pm Reply

      Hehe, I like it… 🙂 Some people have argued that Cutts has come out with this because Google just cannot rule out mass guest blogging spam. So the best thing they can do is a mass scolding about it…

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    April 18, 2014 at 11:40 am Reply

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