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You Wrote What?: Are Having Guest Bloggers Worth The Risk?

Since Penguin 1.0 first exploded onto the scene last April, I think it’s fair to say that guest blogging has become the link building method of choice for many SEOs and online marketers in the industry. The process of creating (what should be unique) content and posting it on other people’s blog, guest blogging has two major benefits for any site; it helps to drive valuable traffic to the site and it also helps to up the number of links (and unique IP addresses) feeding back into the site.

Now, in the early days of guest blogging (which incidentally hark back to pre-Penguin times), everything was great. Only a small number of blogs in any one niche accepted guest posts which meant quality was always the focus and securing a guest post on such a blog for a site was seen as a major win for SEOs and link builders alike.

Penguin Changes The Game

These days, that’s not the case. Thanks to that nasty Penguin stamping down on every other old-school link building technique, guest blogging quickly became the favourite link building method and as a result, lots of sites opened their blogs up to guest bloggers in an attempt to cash in – in some cases quite literally!

The problem? Quality went out the window – and so did the hard work that went with it! Suddenly guest bloggers were popping up all over the place on the most random blogs you could imagine – and securing a guest blog was now no longer considered a major win but a part of everyday life.

Of course, with any new link building technique, the question of how risky and viable guest blogging was as a technique quickly arose and, while many ‘experts’ threw their two cents into the debate, a month on from the release of Penguin 2.0, we’re still no closer to a real definitive answer.

Matt Cutts Speaks Out

Google’s opinion? Well, thanks to their new ‘open and honest’ policy, Matt Cutts actually waded in to the debate and released not just one but two videos on the subject last year. I’ve embedded them both below (if you can’t see them, you may want to refresh this page) but if you don’t have time/can’t be bothered to watch them, I’ll fill you in.

As you can imagine, there’s no clear-cut answer here. In the videos, Matt says that when it comes to guest blogging, it all depends on the site and the writer. If the writer is of a high quality, is an expert and has a clear message that they want to put out, guest blogging is definitely a viable option because it allows them to bring their expertise to another platform and reach a new audience.

He goes on to say that it’s when guest blogging is taken “to the extreme” that it starts to become an issue. He says that Google are “less likely to want to count” links from guest blogs that are of low quality (spun articles, same blog appearing on multiple sites), while they’re more likely to “want to count links” that have come from more high quality articles where it’s obvious a lot of work has gone into it.

In the second video, Matt pretty much clarifies what he said in the first video and also goes on to say that Google will take action if they come across instances of low quality guest blogging (spun articles etc). He says you should “be cautious” if you’re using guest blogging as “a primary link acquisition strategy” and you should be wary of sites that let anyone post. Finally, he says that you should think about whether the site you’re planning to guest blog on would make the end-user happy because if it wouldn’t, that’s the type of site they’re most likely to take action against.

The Bubble View

I’ve written about guest blogging before on this blog and taken you through how some sites are now starting to charge for guest blogging, the top mistakes people make when offering up guest posts and the Dos and Don’ts of guest blogging but I’ve never really talked about whether I think it’s worth the risk before because, as you can see from the contents of this blog, it’s a bit of a tricky subject – and in a way, I agree with everyone who tweeted in.

Yes, just like every other well known link building technique out there, guest blogging as a technique is being massively exploited and taken to the extreme right now – but I definitely don’t think that means you can rule it out as a link building or traffic driving technique as a whole.

When it comes to the risk-factor, at the end of the day, I think it all comes down to specifics. Remember how it’s all about quality over quantity when it comes to link building these days? The same goes for guest blogging. Don’t just post on every site that lets you – in fact, I’d say don’t go for any site that just accepts posts from anyone and everyone. Take your time. Be picky. Look for the best sites and make those your target. Think about the sites that have the biggest audience, are the most powerful in your niche and which site’s audience would benefit most from your content – yes, it’s great that you’ll get a link but you also want to drive traffic and raise your profile.

Just like any other link building technique, guest blogging does have its risk but I think if you’re careful, approach it responsibly and always think about how useful the link would be for the visitor before you post, you won’t have that much to worry about when the next Penguin, Zebra or Skunk (hey, I’m going with the black and white theme here!) update rolls around!

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