For years, Google’s webmaster, Matt Cutts, has been dropping hints that the days of guest blogging as a link strategy were ending.
Once a safe, approved way to increase awareness and drive relevant inbound traffic, guest blogging became a top practice for-link building spammers who stuffed guest blogs so full of keywords and links that the blog itself became almost unreadable.
So what about legitimate
guest blogs? What about those valuable op-ed pieces placed on leading industry sites? How does Google’s latest warning affect legitimate guest blogs and their authors?
Guest blogging is the practice of writing an article for a website owned by someone other than yourself or your company. Ideally, the blog would be relevant to readers, and provide useful, interesting information, much like an article written by a reporter or journalist.
If you write these kinds of guest blogs, do not panic. As Cutts noted in October 2013, when his team looks at guest blogs, there is usually a clear distinction between organic blog content and those simply blogging for links. In other words, if you are not completely sure that your guest blog is guilty of spammy link building, it most likely is not.
Here are eight best practices for safe guest blogging:
1. Do create a Google Profile so you can set up Google Authorship.
2. Don’t make guest blogging your only strategy for link building.
3. Don’t send out a mass email offering to guest blog to random sites.
4. Don’t use the same guest article on two or more sites.
5. Don’t stuff your article with keywords or links; use natural phrases and include links only when it helps round out your article.
6. Don’t take one article and spin it multiple times.
7. Do write good content that is highly relevant to the host site and its readership.
8. Do make sure the blog hosting your content is a high-quality site both in the eyes of the reader and Google. If they don’t follow best practices, don’t submit your content.
If you are a publisher or editor of a website that accepts content from guest bloggers, here are six key steps for you to follow to ensure your site is not penalized during this latest Google program. After all, if your site publishes spam content, it will be categorized as a spam site by Google’s Web team.
1. Add No Follow links to any links included in a guest blog.
2. Offer Google+ Authorship to associate the post with the writer.
3. Do not accept unsolicited offers for guest posts unless they are from a known writer or industry expert.
4. Do not accept an article published or hosted somewhere else.
5. Do not offer to promote “free links” on your blog, either in a guest post or otherwise.
6. Don’t allow commenters to include links in the comments, as those will be seen as spam links.
If you are guilty of blogging for links or hosting spam filled guest blogs, stop immediately, before you find yourself and your website penalized by Google.
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The best way to build useful links is to create and share organic, unique content relevant to your highly specific audience. The more targeted your content, the more relevant it is, the more likely interested parties will be to share it, creating and generating links without additional efforts on your part. Guest blogs can be a part of your huge content distribution program; just don’t mistake it for link building.
Serena Ehrlich is director of social and evolving media at Business Wire.
A 25-year freelance journalist that has covered everything from
entertainment to technology, Fred is also a regular contributor to BusinessWired, the company's blog. Find her on Twitter @Serena.