Is Guest Blogging Dead? The Definitive Answer
“Stick a fork in it; guest blogging is done!”
On January 20, 2014, Matt Cutts of Google wrote the above in his post on guest blogging and sent shockwaves through the SEO world. Guest blogging had been a favorite tactic among marketers to get backlinks. With this single post, Google made it clear that it was going to start penalizing guest blogging as a link building strategy.
However, nearly two years later, guest blogging continues to thrive. Every major blog has at least one post from a third-party blogger, often with a link to the blogger’s website.
What gives? Is guest blogging truly dead? If so, why do so many content marketers continue to use it?
In this post, we’ll examine the facts and take a closer look at the evidence. Once we’re done, you’ll have a definitive answer to the question: is guest blogging still a relevant SEO technique?
Two Types of Guest Blogging
When we talk about guest blogging, it is important to understand the two reasons why marketers create guest posts:
- For SEO: The blog post is stuffed with keywords, is posted on blogs with high PR (regardless of actual audience size), and includes keyword-rich links back to your site.
- For authority: The blog post is high quality with a focus on thought leadership or teaching a new idea or concept. It is posted on high prestige publications with the intention of building an audience and establishing yourself as an expert.
Of course, these two reasons aren’t mutually exclusive. You can create guest posts for authority and still enjoy the backlinks. Similarly, a post made for backlinks can also pass on authority.
However, if you’re guest posting only for backlinks, there is a good chance that you’re not exactly focused on quality content. You probably don’t care where the post gets published or how good it reads as long as you get the link(s).
In fact, if you look at the email Matt Cutts quotes in his post on the ‘death’ of guest blogging, you’ll see that it is focused exclusively on getting backlinks:
Such backlink-focused guest blogging is bad for the internet and it is bad for Google. It games search results in favor of spammers who can pump out post after post, while reducing the quality of content in the top SERPs.
Little wonder that Google chose to penalize it.
Guest Blogging for Backlinks is Dead
From Matt Cutts’ blog post and the subsequent action against backlink-focused guest bloggers (including platforms such as MyBlogGuest), it is clear that guest blogging for backlinks is dead.
In fact, there is evidence to suggest that this guest blogging penalty was a part of Penguin 3.0.
If any SEO tries to offer you guest blogging services as a SEO technique, you better run in the opposite direction. Not only will this tactic not work, but it will also harm your site’s rankings.
It works the other way around as well: if you accept keyword-stuffed, backlink-focused guest posts on your site, you may be penalized by Google.
Guest Blogging for Authority is Alive and Well
While guest blogging for SEO is dead and irrelevant, guest blogging for authority is thriving.
You’ve probably seen this yourself: countless established sites continue to accept posts from guest authors.
Examples include Forbes:
And Buffer, among others:
There is a distinct difference between these guest posts and the kind Matt Cutts’ singled out in his missive. Instead of backlinks, these guest bloggers focus on:
- Building an audience.
- Increasing authority by associating themselves with an influencer.
- Thought leadership.
- Providing genuinely useful content.
This is pretty much like a movie star appearing on a talk show to promote a movie. The star answers the host’s questions, interacts with the audience, and adds value to the talk show’s content.
Since the purpose and the quality of these posts are very different from backlink-focused guest posts, they don’t get penalized in SERPs. In fact, Google itself has clarified that guest blogging is okay as long as you don’t do it for SEO.
So the verdict is simple: if you are guest blogging for SEO, prepare to be penalized. If you’re doing it to build an audience and provide quality content, feel free to post away.
How to Guest Blog Effectively
There is a lot to effective guest blogging than simply writing and submitting a post. Follow these guidelines to make sure that your guest blog gets you traffic without earning any penalties:
- Target relevant blogs: Backlinks from relevant web pages have a stronger impact on rankings than those from irrelevant pages. Keep this in mind when targeting blogs for guest posts. For instance, if your site is about cars, don’t go guest posting on a home decor website. Not only will the backlink be less valuable, it might also earn you a penalty.
- Don’t focus on the PageRank: PageRank should be the last metric you should look for when trying to find target blogs for guest posting. Not only is the metric largely irrelevant today, it can also lead you to blogs with limited authority or audience. Instead, focus on finding blogs with large readerships. Look at their RSS subscriber count, social media followers, comments per post, etc. to gauge their authority.
- Include links to sources: Most spammy guest bloggers have just one aim: to maximize the link juice back to their site. This is why they almost never link to sources. Instead, they include just a single link back to their website. This not only affects the post quality, but is also bad for SEO since external links are a ranking factor. Not including links to sources might just trigger Google’s guest blogging penalty.
- Focus on quality: Your aim with guest blogging should be to establish your expertise. The only way to do that is by associating your name and brand with quality content. Every guest blog you write must be the best content you can create. It must be long (data shows that 1,400-1,750 is the optimum length), focused, and must include plenty of visuals. Readers must feel that they’ve learned something once they finish your post.
Guest blogging is one of the most powerful content marketing strategies you can use today. It can get you backlinks, mentions on authority sites, and help establish you as an expert. For instance, Neil Patel, who has published over 300 guest posts, attributes the strength of his personal brand to the quality and frequency of his guest blogs.
So to conclude, guest blogging is definitely not dead, provided you do it for authority, not SEO. If your entire aim is to get some backlinks, you’ll probably see negative results from your guest posts. On the other hand, if you are serious about building an audience, guest blogging will do wonders for you and your brand.