When Google's Matt Cutts penned a blog entitled 'The decay and fall of guest-blogging for SEO' early this year, he delivered another heavy blow to an increasingly-criticised practice.
Guest-blogging - that is, the creation of articles for publication on an external blog or website - started out as an extremely effective way to establish a following for your business.
Unfortunately, like many other online marketing practices, it slowly and inexorably slipped into questionable territory in some quarters - over time, as Cutts wrote in his piece, it's become a 'more and more spammy practice.'
His article spawned a pretty vociferous debate about guest blogging, and whether it's still something businesses should be doing in 2014 and beyond. We thought we'd weigh in with our own thoughts on the matter.
Why did people start guest-blogging?
The original idea behind guest-blogging is brilliant in its simplicity. Essentially, two awesome writers, dealing in related issues - but not in direct competition, naturally - exchange high-quality pieces to be published on each other's sites.
Not only do these quality pieces add value and variety to both audiences, they also help create valuable exposure for the authors. This gives them the chance to reach a new (highly relevant) audience, potentially helping them build their following, generate leads and, ultimately, grow their business.
In this scenario, everyone's a winner. And, under these circumstances, of course, guest-blogging is still highly useful, and always will be.
So what's wrong with guest-blogging?
But, as understanding of SEO - and particularly the importance of back-links - has developed, guest-blogging has come to be seen as an ideal vehicle for murky link-building tactics.
It's perhaps unsurprising - ethically questionable strategies have always been a part of SEO. Practices which begin with the best-intentions are often hijacked by grey and black-hats who aim to 'cheat' search engines into artificially boosting undeserving websites up the results page.
What we've seen - and this is, admittedly, a generalisation - is a declining emphasis on high-quality, useful content, at the expense of spammy, low-quality articles which are solely designed to build back-links and spam the search engines. If you're hosting or writing this sort of article, then it's probably time to stop.
Why guest-blogging isn't dead just yet
Whereas Matt Cutts' article was picked up by many as pretty much the death knell of the guest-blog, it isn't quite that cut-and-dried. In a later clarification, he even wrote 'There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they'll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there.'
The original point of his article - which is pretty inarguable - is that guest-blogging has been latched onto by spammers who are churning out low-quality content purely to manipulate search engines. And it's important that you - as a person interested in either writing or hosting guest-blogs - are aware that Google could start to penalise guest-blogs which don't follow certain guidelines in the coming months and years.
By keeping abreast of these developments, you can ensure that you continue to maximise your guest-blogging efforts for many years to come.
Essentially, the question 'is guest-blogging still useful?' is pretty redundant unless you pair it with the question 'what do I want to achieve from guest-blogging?'
If you're looking to build links and cheat the search engines with low-quality, spammy articles, then the party's almost certainly over. In Matt Cutts' own words, "I'd expect Google's webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward."
If you're looking to branch out into new, relevant audiences with high-quality, informative and relevant content which adds value to your target audience, then there's little doubt; guest-blogging has many benefits and is definitely here to stay.
It's difficult to find any fault at all with Matt Cutts' claim that guest-blogging as a spammy SEO tool is dead. At the end of the day, as with any of your content marketing efforts, you can verify whether you're doing the right thing by simply asking a few questions.
- Is it relevant to my audience?
- Is it useful?
- Does it add value to my readers?
If you can answer both these questions with an emphatic 'yes' then go for your life - there's always going to be a place online for relevant, high-quality, value-adding content.
Do you agree with our thoughts in this article? Leave a comment below and let us know!