Google Takes Action On Guest Blogging

Google has been warning webmasters about guest blogging for quite a while, but now, the search engine is getting serious. Will going after “guest blogging networks” improve Google’s search results? Let us know what you thinkHead of webspam Matt Cutts tweeted early Wednesday morning that Google has taken action on a large guest blog network, and reminded people about “the spam risks of guest blogging”.

MyBlogGuest launched in 2009. According to this infographic, the site had more than 73,000 users in 2013, with an average of 256 articles posted per day.

Unfortunately for MyBlogGuest's users, or those with links pointing to their site that originated through from the site, invalid link notices began appearing in their Google Webmaster Tools accounts this morning. It appears to be limited to those who used to service to find outlets for their guest blog posts and the links within them. However, as more users confirm they also received warnings, this could change.

Because MyBlogGuest had a very open policy on linking, and in fact stated that links couldn't be nofollowed, there are going to be many sites that writers happened to include in their blog posts that had absolutely nothing to do with MyBlogGuest. Those unwitting sites could face unnatural link warnings/penalties as well.

Though Smarty doesn't consider MyBlogGuest a blog network, many consider it to be exactly that. It was a well-known secret within the industry that agencies were using MyBlogGuest to promote clients as well as writers who would sell links quite openly, yet were both seemingly embraced by the MyBlogGuest community.

Whenever you have any kind of guest blogging network, especially combined with a strong policy where links could not be nofollowed, it would only be a matter of time before Google would be forced to take action.

Smarty told Search Engine Watch that it looks like Google used MyBlogGuest as an example.

"I've managed to build the huge brand – it's huge enough for Google to hit it to get publicity! Can I be more honored?" Smarty said. "There are lots of networks that openly abuse the concept and promote paid guest blogging (I won't list any names; I am not as bad as that!) but they choose to hit the oldest, best-known brand first – does it make sense? Instead of setting a good example, they make it obvious that no one is safe even such good guys as us."

When Cutts issued his warning about guest blogging for SEO a couple of months ago, Smarty responded with a blog post proclaiming that she would not change the linking on the site to nofollow, and would not bow to pressure from Google to do so:
We are against…

  • Paid guest posts (We want you to love the content; Paid options would ruin that!)

  • Nofollow links (Because we believe in the natural links and the web that's built upon them)

However, Google clearly thought otherwise.

"Like any tactic, guest blogging needs to be evaluated from an intent and goal perspective", said Ryan Jones [], manager, search and analytics at SapientNitro. "Guest blogging in itself isn't a bad tactic – if the goal is to provide useful content for a similar audience. A guest author on CNN or the New York Times, for example, is a valuable piece of content because it's vetted and visitors find it useful."

If MyBlogGuest had focused on the content and the value of the guest blogging, such as traffic or exposure, while ensuring that all links within an article had to be nofollowed, then it's likely MyBlogGuest wouldn't have been targeted and penalized.

"I guess we all knew that Google would take action against a site that would be seen to be the leader in that sector for 12 months," said Dave Naylor, of Bronco. "I have been saying that MyBlogGuest would be targeted just because it was the leader in self-promotion like TLA in the text link industry. Google needs to make an example, but really what have they done other than ban a website that doesn't look like it was breaking any rules."

However, this wouldn't be the first time that Google has penalized a network that was responsible for the spam comments instead of spamming for themselves. Many link networks have been penalized, along with the clients they did links for; digital marketing agency iAcquire was banned for their client work.

"The SEO community has a tendency to take good tactics, focus only on the link building part, and scale and automate them to the point where they become completely useless to site visitors," said Jones, who will also be speaking at ClickZ New York on the Screw Link Building: Creating Revenue from Relationships and Brand Ownership panel, where alternatives to traditional link building will be discussed. "When I hear the word 'network' I automatically assume the worst."

Supporters of MyBlogGuest have rallied around the service and Smarty, with the hashtags #isupportmyblogguest and #GoodGuestBlog.

"It's interesting to see how the community is reacting," Smarty said. "People speak up! I would have never expected that from people like @joehall, @JulieJoyce, @iPullRank and many, many others. It's really amazing!"

When asked if Smarty has any plans to change MyBlogGuest policies beyond what it's already doing in the hopes of getting the Google penalty lifted, her answer was simple: no.

"We are already policing the links: No made-for-SEO links are allowed within our platform (for at least a year now; We've been always advocating no-anchor-text links but we started actively policing them 2 years ago, then we stricken the rules even further)," Smarty explained. "You are free to link to your home page but no keywords are allowed (just names), for example. We've also encouraged brand links to social profiles and even created the separate section for Google Authorship and authors who were willing to link to their Google+ profiles."

That link points to a post from January on Matt’s personal blog where he proclaimed that “guest blogging is done.” He later clarified that he meant guest blogging specifically for SEO.

He didn’t specify which network Google just took action on, but Pushfire CEO Rae Hoffman suggested that MyBlogGuest appeared to be the “winner”.

Still, from where we’re sitting, the site is in the top three for its name, appearing only under its own Twitter and Facebook pages.


MyGuestBlog owner Ann Smarty confirmed, however, that her site was indeed penalized.

The site promises on its homepage, “We don’t allow in any way to manipulate Google Rankings or break any Google rules.” It does promise bloggers a way to build links, which everyone knows is a key signal in Google’s ranking algorithm (Cutts recently said links are still “super important”).

Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Land points out that Smarty wrote a blog post after Cutts’ January post, saying her network wouldn’t nofollow links. She wrote:

MyBlogGuest is NOT going to allow nofollow links or paid guest blogging (even though Matt Cutts seems to be forcing us to for whatever reason).

Instead we will keep promoting the pure and authentic guest blogging concept we believe in.

She went on to note that she is an SEO who stopped depending on organic rankings a long time ago.

“I believe in the Internet and its ability of giving little people (like myself) the power of being heard. I can say, I don’t care about Google,” she wrote. “I don’t think Google is THE Internet.”

She’s right, and one can’t help but admire her attitude, but one also can’t help but wonder how many of those utilizing the network have that attitude.

The phrase, “Play with fire, and you get burnt” also comes to mind. Google isn’t the Internet, but how much are people spending time and effort writing guest blog posts depending on it?

Apparently Smarty does care about Google after all. Bill Hartzer writes that she told him before Cutts made the announcement, “I really hope that they don’t target MyBlogGuest. There are other guest blogging networks that should targeted, such as PostJoint, a paid guest blogging network. MylLogGuest is not a paid network.”

It stands to reason that Google is going to be going after more of these types of sites the way it has been doing with other link networks.

Smarty, a well-respected SEO veteran, and MyGuestBlog are getting some support from the webmaster community.

Milan Tomic

Hi. I’m Designer of Blog Magic. I’m CEO/Founder of ThemeXpose. I’m Creative Art Director, Web Designer, UI/UX Designer, Interaction Designer, Industrial Designer, Web Developer, Business Enthusiast, StartUp Enthusiast, Speaker, Writer and Photographer. Inspired to make things looks better.

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