Guest posting has been the subject of much controversy this year. Unfortunately, much of that controversy is deserved – as it is now the only link-building SEO tactic still available to use without incurring immediate penalties from Google, it has become full of spam. Google’s Webspam Team, headed by Matt Cutts, is aware of the declining purity of guest posting. The SEO experts of the world have been hanging on Cutts’ every word for news on any guest posting policy changes – particularly since he announced that guest posting was dead in a post on his personal blog, then amended it to say that guest posting for the sake of SEO is dead.

A few months later, the axe was swung at MyBlogGuest. MyBlogGuest is a web service that provides a community for guest writers and publishers. Cutts announced through his Twitter account that the webspam team took action against a “large blog network.” Later, Ann Smarty of MyBlogGuest confirmed that it was her blogging community that was penalized. MyBlogGuest.com no longer shows up in any Google search results as a consequence.

Only a week later, an entire website was punished due to a single guest post they had published from an author found at MyBlogGuest. DocSheldon.com, an SEO website, found in their Google Webmaster Tools a message that claimed “Google detected a pattern of unnatural, artificial, deceptive, or manipulative outbound links on pages on the site. This may be the result of selling links that pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.” When Doc Sheldon, the owner of the website, reached out to Cutts, he was informed that one single outbound link that leads the reader to a website detailing SEO data for the Hispanic community was the cause of the punishment. According to Cutts, that link was irrelevant to SEO.

These most recent developments have caused some outcry from SEO experts, despite their fear of Google’s – and Cutts’ – wrath. “The reality is, Matt Cutts is using us for the PR game: To get more people scared. We are the hugest guest blogging brand out there: He could not have got more publicity by hitting anyone else,” said Smarty of MyBlogGuest in a comment to Search Engine Journal. Doc Sheldon similarly spoke out in an open letter, where he claimed that Google punished MyBlogGuest as a scare tactic rather than a justified consequence. Gerald Weber of Search Engine Marketing Group said in his own open letter to Google “they are OK with innocent sites getting penalized so long as they accomplish their goal of FUD [Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt].”

Google’s actions against MyBlogGuest and DocSheldon.com have businesses quaking in their boots over guest posting. Cutts’ message in January that guest posting was still a viable option if done authentically was short-lived. However, a select few, especially those without much to lose, are speaking out against Google’s behavior. Those who work in SEO are between a rock and hard place: as Google is the largest search engine with over 60% of the traffic, it is impossible to ignore. It’s also next to impossible to fight back against Google, though open letters and outraged tweets seem to be a start. Marketers will just have to wait to see if Google will respond to their complaints, or if Cutts will continue to kill guest posting.

Sources:

Sullivan, Danny. “How A Single Guest Post May Have Gotten An Entire Site Penalized By Google.” http://searchengineland.com/guest-post-google-penalty-187707. (1 April 2014).

Southern, Matt. “Ann Smarty of MyBlogGuest Responds To Google Penalty.” http://www.searchenginejournal.com/ann-smarty-myblogguest-responds-google-penalty/95325/. (1 April 2014).

Weber, Gerald. “Guest Blogging Penalties and the Decay of Links as a Ranking Signal: An Open Letter to Matt Cutts (Part 1).” http://www.trafficgenerationcafe.com/myblogguest-open-letter-to-matt-cutts/. (1 April 2014).

Sterling, Greg. “Market Share: Bing Continues Gains, Yahoo “Stabilized,” Google Flat.” http://searchengineland.com/market-share-bing-continues-small-gains-yahoo-stabilized-google-flat-162915. (1 April 2014).