Guest Blogging Penalties and the Decay of Links as a Ranking Signal: An Open Letter to Matt Cutts (Part 1)

Guest Blogging Penalties and the Decay of Links as a Ranking Signal: An Open Letter to Matt Cutts (Part 1)

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Although the most recent MyBlogGuest.com penalty is the main topic that inspired me to finally speak my mind, this post isn’t just about guest blogging and how Google and Friends Google Inc. unfairly penalized MyBlogGuest.

There are other issues I am going to address as well (that will be in Part 2 of this post), but let’s start by discussing the MyBlogGuest debacle, shall we?

This is a guest post by Gerald Weber – the views expressed in this post may or may not be those of Ana Hoffman.

Matt Cutts and “Stick a Fork in It [Guest Blogging]“

I actually agreed with Matt’s overall sentiment in his “stick a fork in it” post regarding low quality guest blogging.

In fact, in 2011 I wrote a post titled:

How Guest Blogging Can Send Your Brand and Reputation Straight to Hell (dammit, forgot to use generic anchor text here!)

Not only did I talk about the possibility of Google one day taking action against low quality guest posts, but more importantly I discussed how guest blogging for the wrong reasons could come back to bite people in the ass and damage their brand and reputation.

Since I am a very strong advocate of guest blogging the right way, I partly agree with the idea of Google taking action against low quality guest posts.

BUT, I also believe Google has gotten way too penalty-happy. So I think a better description of my belief is that I agree with the idea of Google not counting low quality guest posts or discrediting them in some way.

Unfortunately, instead of taking that kind of balanced approach, they are attacking the practice itself and anyone who is part of a community that guest posts.

google penalty hammer guest blogging

Google is not judging the posts individually or actually judging the quality.

Instead, everyone is guilty by association. NO fair trial. In fact, no trial at all. Just a guilty verdict, and then the hammer comes down; BAM!

This is the exact comment I left on Matt’s post:

matt cutts stick a fork in guest blogging: gerald's comment

Shortly after, he revised the post title to imply that you should not guest post solely for SEO benefits.

I agree that you shouldn’t guest post just to try to manipulate Google. Fair enough. We can still guest post without fear so long as we aren’t being spammy about it and aren’t doing it just for SEO reasons.

BUT then Google penalized MyBlogGuest and the ENTIRE COMMUNITY just because the site is promoting guest blogging.

This does send the message that all guest blogging is bad, you should not be guest blogging, and if you are guest blogging, you will suffer the wrath of the big G.

This is contradictory to the message in the “put a fork in it” post that implies guest blogging for SEO purposes is the problem.

MyBlogGuest and Google’s PR Stunt

It’s very clear that this was a PR stunt by Google to scare everyone away from the practice of guest blogging.

But if not all guest blogging is bad, and it’s OK to guest blog as long as it’s not for SEO, then it must all boil down to intent.

Then that means Google needs to judge every guest post on an individual basis.

You cannot, in all fairness, blindly cast judgment on everyone who was part of that community in one fell swoop and say that they are all guilty of guest blogging for SEO.

Also, let’s be clear about a couple of things:

  • MyBlogGuest is not a blog or link network. It’s a community of guest bloggers.
  • Not all guest posts are low quality.
  • Not all guest posts are spam.
  • MyBlogGuest did nothing that violated Google’s quality guidelines.
  • Guest post links ARE editorial links

It never makes sense to require a nofollow link on a guest post because they ARE editorial.

The blog owner has to agree to publish the post and trust the author enough to publish the post. And by allowing an author to publish on their blog, they ARE in fact endorsing that author.

It just doesn’t make sense to require a nofollow on guest posts BECAUSE THEY ARE EDITORIAL LINKS!

Obviously, if the intent is for SEO purposes, technically according to Google law, they should be nofollowed. OK, I can follow that rule. And IF you find someone abusing guest blogging for SEO purposes, then punish that person instead of everyone who guest posts.

Some speculate that Google took action because Ann Smarty, MyBlogGuest founder, stated that she would not allow nofollow links in guest posts within MyBlogGuest.

Ann Smarty has since then changed this policy not to bend to Google’s will, but because she did it for users who were scared and wanted that option.

 

That being said, not allowing nofollow links is still not a violation of Google’s quality guidelines because:

  • The links in the guest posts are still editorial.
  • Publications or links are never paid for. (MyBlogGuest has strict rules against paid posts. It’s not allowed, period.)
  • There is never any compensation for links or posts.
  • MyBlogGuest has always been transparent.
  • MyBlogGuest does moderate for quality and works to keep out the obvious spammy types of posts only made for links.
  • MyBlogGuest has made many changes and updates to their linking policies to be sure everything is non-spammy and in line with Google’s quality guidelines.

Here is what concerns me the most about Google penalizing MyBlogGuest and all of its users:

  • Google knows MyBlogGuest wasn’t really doing anything wrong.
  • Google knows that not every MyBlogGuest user was doing something wrong.
  • If they are trying to set an example, what is the example?  Why have they not been as transparent as MyBlogGuest has been and said exactly what they believe MyBlogGuest was doing wrong?

The bottom line is Google’s still OK with penalizing innocent websites to accomplish their end goal.

Google knows that most of the users haven’t done anything wrong. They are getting slapped just because they are guest blogging and a member of a popular guest blogging community.

MyBlogGuest is the biggest and most well-known guest blogging related site on the Internet. While there are plenty of spammy services out there that deserve to get the Big G slap, Google instead picks on the best known site so they can send their PR scare tactic message to the entire SEO world.

And Google definitely accomplished that:

Google Penalizes MyBlogGuest, a Guest Blog Network - searchenginewatch.com

Ann Smarty of MyBlogGuest Responds To Google Penalty - searchenginejournal.com

Google’s Matt Cutts Implies MyBlogGuest Publishers Will Receive Penalties - searchengineland.com

MyBlogGuest.com Confirms It’s Been Hit By Google Penalty - marketingland.com

Google’s Matt Cutts: We’ve Penalized A Guest Blogging Network - seroundtable.com

Myblogguest.com is penalized? After Matt Cutts Tweet! - inbound.org

Great job, Google Inc! Your PR message that Google will get you for guest blogging was spread far and wide!

But that still doesn’t change the fact that MyBlogGuest and its users did nothing wrong.

And here is what troubles me the most. Even though Google knows MyBlogGuest and its users did nothing wrong, they are OK with innocent sites getting penalized so long as they accomplish their goal of FUD.

google fud penalty policy

Doc Sheldon said it best in his post about Google’s PR stunt attack on MyBlogGuest:

I have a theory… one that I think is well-founded. I think MBG is simply a large enough target to make a good “example” of. I think that by hitting not only that network-that-isn’t-really-a-network, but also people that had ever linked to them, had a profile on that site or published a post they had acquired there, enough FUD would be generated to effectively destroy not only MBG, but their business model.

As a corollary to that theory, I think that Google knows that in doing so, they’re hurting a lot of innocent sites, and has made a conscious decision that those are “acceptable losses”. It’s easy to consider them acceptable, provided the losses aren’t yours, aren’t they, guys? Is a scorched-earth approach really the one you want to employ?

It’s very disturbing to know that as long as they are able to accomplish their goals, Google is OK with innocent casualties. Very disturbing indeed!

This is wrong and unethical on so many levels. Dare I say, in fact, a bit evil? Knowingly penalizing innocent websites to accomplish your objective is WRONG and unethical, period.

The general consensus in the SEO world (and I mean people that really eat, sleep and breath our craft) is that the MyBlogGuest penalty is complete bullshit.

To illustrate this point, check out the Video from my friends at the SEO Training Dojo:

They also make another interesting note that Google is OK with accepting ads from those offering guest blogging services:

google still accepts guest blogging services ads

A bit contradictory to your overall message, eh?

Ann Smarty, MyBlogGuest.com Founder

Now that we’ve discussed MyBlogGuest issue, let me back up and tell you a few things about my dear friend Ann Smarty.

Ann is a shining example of how to guest blog the right way by adding immense value and usefulness to readers. She is a prolific writer and constantly creates some of the most outstanding and useful content I’ve ever seen on the web.

Ann can regularly be found publishing on some of the web’s top blogs, including Mashable, SEOMoz, Internet Marketing Ninjas, MakeUseOf, Social Media Examiner and MarketingProfs.

She is someone who “gets it” when it comes to guest blogging the right way, and she has instilled these same values into the MyBlogGuest community. She is someone who you should be looking to as an example to teach others the right way to guest post.

Additionally, she has written several times about why you shouldn’t guest blog solely for building links. You can see examples of that here and here.

(note how I forced myself to link “naturally,” or linking without thinking about SEO…. I mean NOT think about SEO when I WAS thinking about SEO… no, I mean I wasn’t thinking about SEO when I was linking naturally… hmmm, never mind).

As I was saying…..

Ann is the perfect role model for marketers interested in guest blogging.

She is truly is one of the good guys. She’s not the one you should be hating. She has made every effort to do everything right.

Yet she is the one Google decides to make an example of?

Gerald Weber

 

Gerald Weber is an internet entrepreneur from Houston Texas, founder of Search Engine Marketing Group, team member at MyBlogGuest (the free community of guest bloggers), and long time friend of Ann Smarty, the founder of MyBlogGuest.com.

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18 Comments (click here to leave a comment)

  1. It was perfectly put Ana! It is like the webspam team is putting another burden to the shoulders of SEOs. They are cutting our lifelines one after another.

  2. I completely agree with you. A few months earlier, prior to Matt Cutt’s announcement, Guest Posting has been regarded as the purest and most safest way for exposure. But now, that door has been closed as well.

  3. Jay

    I have received excellent articles from MyBlogGuest in the past and now it seems that Google is making a ridiculous blanket statement that no authors can be trusted enough to link back to them. This is simply a demonstration that Google has reached a limit in their ability to tell good content from bad so are now using brute force methods to punish. Their techniques do remind one of repressive regimes from past times that created FUD in an effort to exert control.

    Not to mention that the Goog Fellas have really overstepped rational bounds by indiscriminately punishing all the sites using MyBlogGuest.com services.

    • Ana Hoffman

      It’s really convenient for them to reduce the potential pool of content to deal with by intimidating the webmasters first, Jay.

  4. I just await the actual reason for which the website was penalized. Promoting guest post is always the same as generating revenue from advertisers with adwords. An Ethical point should be an ethical point and it should be same for everyone and every circumstances. If they can’t respect the rules for their own business model how can they impose the penalty for the same to the rest of the community.

    • Ana Hoffman

      I don’t think we’ll ever know more than we do now, Abhinab – Google doesn’t like to just tell us WHY; that’d be too much to ask. lol

  5. Nice post Gerald and Ana! Guest posting, even if directed at links, good. IF the article is well-written, relevant, and would benefit google and searcher ranking #1. Guest posting, if the article is poorly written, and irrelevant, bad.

    Many guest blog owners panicked after the change and went no follow, and became more strict. I do not fault them but of course, this is playing right into google’s hands.

    Create good content, and relevant content, link up, and I see no problem with this….nor any need to panic.

    Thanks for sharing!

    • Ana Hoffman

      Problem is Google won’t look at it on a case-by-case basis and why should it, right? So it’s much easier to cut down most of it [guest blogging] at the root – becomes more manageable to deal with the rest.

  6. Love the article. Agree with all this. I’m just about fed up with the scare tactics and collateral damage handed out by Mr. Cutts. Guest posting, done correctly. is difficult and any links acquired are earned!

  7. Nice write-up, Gerald! This mess has the potential to do some good. I think that until recently, the folks that were aware of Google’s heavy-handedness were primarily those that work in SEO and digital marketing. Now, thousands of bloggers are more aware and perhaps it will double and re-double, until Google realizes that THEY are causing much of the problem.
    As I told Google in my piece on The Meld this morning:

    “You could instead, continue with your present approach. You could just continue to alienate the folks that could be helping you clean up the mess. The folks that advise their clients on the best marketing strategies and techniques. The folks that tell their clients where their optimisation efforts will be more effective. The folks that advise their clients on where their advertising budgets will deliver the best results.

    The direction Google selects is the company’s choice.

    The end result could be our choice.”

    Kudos for running this, Ana!

    • Ana Hoffman

      What’s the latest on your penalty, Doc? Good to see it going public like it did…

      It was my pleasure to run Gerald’s post.

  8. Jorge Enrique Aguayo

    I mentioned on Twitter I didn’t even notice the penalty at first because I do not use Google, and I would state the same now. The main problem, in my humble opinion, is not whether or not Google has decided to penalise or ban My Blog Guest. I think the problem is that we have all consistently helped create an atmosphere in which we feel Google “is entitled to” or “has the right to” decide anything on the Internet. That is not true. Despite the fact Google is one of the most popular websites out there, it is still yet another .com domain name which could be bought for just $12 a year if it was not taken. It does not have any authority.

    I invite you to look at this situation from another point of view: My Blog Guest appears perfectly fine on Bing, DuckDuckGo and Blekko when I search for it, but it does not appear on Google when I do the same search. Which search engine is giving me a bad service now? Right: Google.

    Further, rel=”nofollow” was not part of the HTML 4.1 web standard. It just appeared a few years ago with HTML 5, which is not even a W3C recommendation yet (just checked: it is a working draft), so why bother?

    Add to that the fact that only whose who are knowledgeable about building websites know the difference between placing a followed or a non-followed link. A photographer (or a dancer, or an actor, etc.) who only cares about showing his or her work online can’t care less about it, so it makes no sense.

    Has anybody wondered what would happen to Google if we all placed…

    User-agent: googlebot
    Disallow: /

    …on our robots.txt files? That would have a great impact, don’t you think? =P

    Sorry, it seems I am writing too much. My point is that I think that if Google is pushing its limits it is just because we allow it, and that it doesn’t really take much to make a change about it.

    My 0.02 on the debate, and I will wait for part #2 of this.

    Bye,
    Jorge

    • Ana Hoffman

      Very good point about providing bad search results, Jorge.

      I remember Google penalized BMW site for something, but when users searched for it and didn’t find it?… Needless to say, Google put it right back in a jiffy.

      Truth is most of us can complain about Google all we want, yet we still want their traffic, so would never have the guts to block Google.

  9. lol @ (note how I forced myself to link “naturally,” or linking without thinking about SEO…. I mean NOT think about SEO when I WAS thinking about SEO… no, I mean I wasn’t thinking about SEO when I was linking naturally… hmmm, never mind).

    I deal with this on daily basis!