This guest post is by Jeff Foster of WebBizIdeas.
Just as low-level article directories (ezinearticles, articlesbase, and others) got hurt by Google’s Panda Update in 2013, I predict that Google will hurt sites abusing guest blogging in 2013.
I don’t feel guest blogging is bad, nor that all bloggers who do it will be penalized by Google. SEOMOZ.org allows guest blogging and their rankings increased during the Panda update. But when SEO companies start to abuse any link building tactic, you need a preventative plan in place because an update from Google will be coming.
How do we know an update is coming?
Quite simply, Google’s spam team has warned us.
What’s the wrong way to publish guest posts?
1. Stop telling people it’s a guest post
Would you find the information credible on the front page of the New York Times if the title said: “Guest post: 10 Ways To Improve Your Home Value”? Stop using the words “guest post,” “guest blog post,” “guest author,” or whatever phrase you’re using.
There is nothing wrong with allowing someone to contribute to your blog, but if you wouldn’t trust an article in the newspaper that says the writer is a “guest author,” do you think Google will trust it?
Notice What SEOMOZ.org does:
Does this person work for SEOMOZ? No. Do you notice what the title is? A regular title that you would use if you wrote the article. Do you notice who it is published by? A real person. When you click on his name where does it go? To an internal author bio page using Google’s recommended rel=author tag. Learn how Google wants you to link a guest author’s name correctly.
2. Stop letting authors add unnatural links in posts
Google’s Penguin update penalizes sites that link text unnaturally. What is unnatural linking? If I linked the words “Minneapolis SEO Company” to my homepage, that is unnatural. An editor of CNN.com wouldn’t link to a company talked about that way.
Should you add that to your “write for us” guidelines page? No. You should just not accept guest posts from people who submit content to you that way. Just like Google doesn’t tell you their algorithm, don’t tell people your filtering mecognizsim.
People who write content this way are spammers or a terrible SEO Company. You don’t want to be associated with their company or their clients. Why? Google has a new Co-Citation Algo that associates people with one another. Just as Google will devalue your website if you are in thousands or bad link directories, they will devalue your website if you are associated with spammers.
3. Stop letting people add unnatural links to their author bios
Many sites that were not pumping out low value content in exchange for links were still affected by Google’s Panda and Penguin updates. Why? They weren’t trusted websites. The truth is Google thinks differently than you.
- What you say: Sure, I would love to accept a well written article from you that relates to my blog. I am ok if you add only a couple of links in the author bio.
- What Google hears: If you tell people (i.e. SEO Companies) they can give you something for free (i.e. an article) in exchange for a link, it violates our link scheme guidelines.
Rationalize and argue all you want, but that is what Google will hear if you are not a trusted site. Do you think Google cares if the unnatural link occur in the article or author bio section? Do they they say, “We allow spammy links in author bio sections?”
You have a much higher chance of being penalized for this unnatural linking if you are not a trusted site—especially if Google knows your site is just built to accept guest blog posts in exchange for links. They normally don’t penalize sites they trust, but be safe and don’t give them a reason to get confused.
- They won’t penalize you if you enforce a natural linking policy.
- They won’t penalize you if you are an industry expert.
When in doubt, check out trusted websites that allow links in their author bio sections and emulate them. For example, check out this case, this example, and this one.
4. Stop promoting links as a benefit of submitting a guest post
Please read again Google’s link scheme guidelines. Anything that a person gives you in exchange for a link is spam in Google’s eyes.
Stop giving them reasons to not value your website. Nothing is wrong with having a “write for us” page with editorial guidelines. Nothing is wrong with allowing a natural link(s) in the author bio section. But saying one of the benefits of giving us an article is a link back to your site technically is in violation of Google’s policy.
You may never get penalized for it, but why take the risk? Instead of an overdone “write for us” page that begs people to submit content, why not try this?
- Create a how to contribute page.
- Have good Editorial Guidelines.
- Create an editorial calendar.
- Create a Submit News page.
Make your little blog look like the CNN.com in your industry, and Google will be happy.
What is the proper way to allow guest blog posts?
1. Allow author bios
Download an author bio plugin or create your own so people can connect with the authors on your site. A basic author bio section (bottom of post) looks like this:
What are the main features of this section?
- It’s about a real person: it links to an internal author bio page, correctly coded
- It includes social links: these allow people to follow the author socially, and are correctly coded.
The most important part of the example is the Google+ link. By default, you should have it link the Google+ anchor text to the profile of the user in the format of: <a href=”https://plus.google.com/(number)?rel=”author”>Google+</a>
Why would you want to do that? Because then the person’s picture appears in Google’s search results! Is the picture the only benefit? No. What if Rand Fishkin of SEOMOZ posted on my blog and Google could identify that it was actually Rand Fishkin? Do you think Google would trust me more if I am associated with Rand? Yes. Google’s Co-Citation Algo is already in full swing, so code correctly!
2. Provide author bios for each author
To “feed” the Google Panda Update you needed to create quality unique content. To “feed” the Google Penguin Update you needed to create natural links. To “feed” the next update that attacks guest blogging you will need to create co-citations.
Step 1: Create an author bio page to create co-citations
Here’s an example author bio page.
What is an author bio page? It is a short biography of the author with properly coded social links. It also includes links to all the content that the author published on your website.
Step 2: Link the author’s name to the author bio page
Do this using rel=”author” on each blog post when you say “By [author name]” and in the author bio section.
This way, Google will associate the person with your website. If you get President Obama to write a guest blog post on your website and Google knows it really is the President, do you think they will find that article and your website valuable?
On the flip side, if Google doesn’t know who anyone is who’s published content on your site, are they going to value—or worse, devalue—your blog posts or blog? In 2013, that is my prediction. If the blog doesn’t tell Google who wrote the article, or if Google can identify that the people who wrote the article are spammers, the blog will be penalized.
3. Allow natural outbound links in the post
Many website owners are scared of Google. Some media sites don’t allow links because they just don’t know if Google will penalize them for it or not. Worrying that Google will increase or decrease your rankings shouldn’t be a reason why you don’t allow links in your posts.
Imagine reading this article (see screenshot below) and not being able to click on the resources the author is talking about. Even if the author, CEO of SEO.com, links to his own site, it is still cleverly relevant to the post:
Does Google penalize you for allowing relevant DoFollow links in posts? Well, Google ranks this post #1 for ‘link building in 2013′
So it is not wrong to allow contributing authors to add natural links to posts. No, you don’t have to put Nofollow tags on every outbound link; Google does not want that. What do they want? They want you to ensure the content and links are relevant. So do allow contributing writers to add natural links.
4. Allow real people to comment
Are you giving real people reasons to want to contribute to your site? Do people actually read and respond to your comments? Do your comments look like this:
How should you code your comments?
- Link the person’s name to their author bio on your site using a Dofollow link; not to their website. Learn how to properly code your author bio section.
- Automatically make all outbound links NoFollow links.
The benefits of doing this are:
- More people feel part of your blog.
- More people comment.
- Which means more new/targeted content for Google.
- Authors get links back to their author bio pages.
- This increases the value of those pages.
- And this ranks their articles (on your blog) #1 in Google.
When Google comes out with its next big update, if you have followed the steps above and associated each blog post with a real, influential person, you won’t be penalized.
But if you have low-value spammers writing content for you, or you don’t tell Google who wrote your content, expect your blog to be devalued.
Jeff Foster is the owner of WebBizIdeas, an SEO, social media marketing and website design firm. WebBizIdeas Visit his seo resource center for more helpful tutorials on how to promote your business online.
I think the best way to sort this out is just go back to basics. Develop some relationships with some people who are good at what they do, and over time ask them to guest post. If they are real people with real websites and not just all made up for linking then you have nothing to worry about.
As a fiction writer, I belong to a large number of groups and loops who guest post on each others blogs all the time as a means of cross-promotion. Genre novelists (mystery, sci-fi and romance specifically) are particularly active this way, posting guest blogs of other authors whose books they like, are in the same sub-genre and who would be interesting to their regular readers. They post links to the guest author’s books on Amazon or B&N and back to the guest blogger’s own website.
There is also a thing called a blog hop where readers go round-robin style from one blog to the other and talk about their books, or a specific topic of interest to readers (how they build characterization or how they do world-building in sci-fi or fantasy).
Are you saying that these are considered negative in the new Google scheme? I guess I’m feeling as though I don’t really want to have to jump through hoops every time Google sneezes. Since I’m not well-educated in these backlinking “strategies” or other SEO tactics, could someone tell me if this type of activity is going to fall in the negative column of Google’s scheme?
I agree with Peter, if you don’t have a relationship with someone you shouldn’t allow them to put content on your site. Your blog is your baby and you wouldn’t let some stranger take your baby for a Sunday stroll in the park. Make friends with others in your industry, build trust, increase referrals and have fun!
I respectively disagree with your analogy. Even if you don’t have an established relationship with an author, you can quickly and easily vet them by the quality of their writing and their website before publishing. When it’s all said and done, act like you would if there was no such thing as SEO. Create good content and allow for good content from others.
Google has really started to heat up the battle on anyone getting unnatural links. I guess that means we all have to adapt and to change for the better. I offer guest posts on my blog and I think it is something I am going to have to start reconsidering how I do it or if I should do it at all in the future.
I hate to say that I agree, but yeah, the guest posting (generally) is bad quality and only for link building. I recently nuked all of the guest posting processes on the websites I manage since then I am only writing content myself. I want to come back on board to allow guest posts and I love the idea of just having a REAL author bio. I work in the industry so I am aware of all the tactics but i am also a writer so secretly I am overjoyed at all the crackdowns Google is making. It really is just making me look very closely at quality over quantity. In the process of re-planning everything now, so thanks for the advice as I think you are right about the coming smack down on ‘guest posting’ from Google.
Something that I noticed is that when people leave comments in a Blogger blog, their name is clickable which should link to their Blogger Profile or Google Plus+ Page , right? How is that some of these names are linked to websites instead? How do they do this? And should they be doing this?
Several well-known blogs are not allowing guest blog post in recent times.Which are really a big problem for the new bloggers.The post is really helpful.Several problem can be avoid with the help of this article.Thanks for your sharing.
This was a very thorough post with lots of important detail. I’ve already read it twice and still absorbing. I’m adding it to my list for my weekly roundup for my clients. They need to understand all this.
I have a question about #4. It’s titled ” Allow real people to comment” but goes on to explain to “Link the person’s name to their author bio.” Why would most commenters have an author bio to link to?
Thanks for clarification.
The title for this blog post must have been “Why Blogs that Allow Guest Posts Should Be Penalized in 2013”. It’s really annoying to see stupid guest posts on blogs.
Great article. I have a follow up question. It would still seem that being a guest blogger on another site would only be a benefit to your own site. Is that correct, or could guest blogging on a site that abuses some of the ideas you talk about in this post have a negative impact on your own site?
Good stuff. I only wish it is all false because the truth (what you wrote) is just damn too difficult. So it all boils down to having good content.
Hi Jeff, interesting post.
I do not believe that Google is going to penalize blogs simply because they accept guest posts. Matt Cutts clarified Google’s stance on guest posting as far back as October 2012 where he stated in a web master video that links from high quality and well written guest posts are precisely the type of links that Google wants to count.
I do believe there will be action taken against certain forms of low quality guest posting, but I firmly believe that the implementation of this penalty will be to penalize blogs that publish low quality content and exist for the sole purpose of linking out. I would be very surprised to see the sort of the sort of across the board penalty that you are suggesting here.
nickd says it right!
just another headline to trigger google-angst among bloggers…
Guest posting is not going anywhere, if you listen closely to the words straight from the horses mouth (I refer to Matt Cutt’s videos), he states that guest posting is a great way to gain recognition, and that its a viable strategy as long as its done with quality in mind. Only guest post on quality sites as opposed to cheap article directory ones, link out naturally, and don’t over do it with anchor texts. As for the hosts, don’t accept poorly written posts, work with reputable writers and don’t publish too many guest posts. Many of the top sites in the world accept guest posts and Google would never simply penalise all guest posting activity. I’ve written a blog post with more detail about over on PostJoint’s blog.
Great post. It just scares the hell out of me to even post a comment now! Maybe I should have put a competitors website address here just in case!!
These are some very gripping points you’ve made. Thanks for going into so much detail. The title for this post was what got me interested and I actually read the whole thing because of that. I agree with most of your points but I must say for a WordPress.com blog it would be difficult to install a author bio plugin as there is a limited amount of control for these types of blogs. That is why it is better to have a self hosted wordpress.org blog, I guess. I am working on that at the moment and it won’t be an easy task.