Guest blogs put in the frame by Google

or, What's in a name for guest contributions?

Google's head of webspam Matt Cutts has put the cat among the pigeons once again, this time by declaring "stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done".

This rather bold statement comes in response to a spam email he received, offering free content for his blog in exchange for one or several 'dofollow' links placed in the article text, in order to pass PageRank to the target page.

You have to wonder about the kind of person who would target Matt 'Head of Webspam' Cutts with a spam email, but that's another matter entirely - the question here is, Is guest blogging dead?

It's nice to have a much more specific question to ask than the usual Is SEO dead? (no, it's not) but whichever side you're on, it's impossible to entirely disprove the opposing argument.

The argument for guest blogging

The notion that Google might be about to penalise websites for publishing guest blog posts is absurd - although that doesn't mean that they won't (I'd have said removing the buttons from the Chrome scrollbar was absurd, but they did that too).

But the benefits of guest blogging are clear when it is done right, as a way of gaining a different point of view on an issue, a more specialist analysis of a topic, or just injecting some freshness into a single-author blog.

As always, the important thing is to focus on good-quality content, which is what Google have been saying for years, with any 'dofollow' outbound links placed in logical positions, and not just spammed into the middle of the article wherever the desired long-tail keyword phrase appears.

The argument against guest blogging

This can be summarised fairly easily:

  • People do it for the wrong reasons (purely for SEO rather than for quality content);
  • People spam you with poorly written emails offering you free content;
  • Matt Cutts says No.

Put this together, and you can understand why people might side with Cutts - eliminate guest blogging, and you hopefully eliminate all of those spam emails and poor-quality articles published simply as a means of building links.

But you also eliminate legitimate guest contributions.

How many newspapers, magazines and large websites do you know of that only ever accept contributions from the same group of named in-house individuals?

The 'death' of guest blogging does not mean the end of contributed content - it just requires a different way of thinking. If only there was an alternative paradigm that Google are clearly in support of...

From 'guest blogger' to 'contributor to...'

If you've set up Google Authorship, you'll know that it has a lot in common with guest blogging - a linked byline or brief bio, or a separate author bio page on your site, with a reciprocal link back from the author's Google+ profile, in their 'Contributor to...' section.

Are Google about to declare that this is spam? Of course not. Cutts' own blog has Google Authorship set up, as you might expect, and he has clarified the conclusions of his original post:

"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'm also not talking about multi-author blogs. High-quality multi-author blogs ... have been around since the beginning of the web, and they can be compelling, wonderful, and useful."

So all of the current furore is over nothing new, as Cutts' intentions in his article were to say something along the lines of:

  • Don't spam.
  • Do publish high-quality content.
  • Choose your contributors carefully.

Follow these simple rules, and regardless of where your content comes from, it should continue to underpin your on-page SEO, link-building and social media strategies without any problem at all.

The title of this piece was inspired by tweets I saw from people suggesting the 'solution' to this is to host blog posts on your own website, and 'contribute' them to other sites by allowing them to embed your page in an HTML frame or iframe. Seriously, this is what some people think Google want you to do.