Actually, it depends.
Look around the web, and you’ll find dozens of posts saying variations of the above, all referencing this post by Google’s Matt Cutts titled “The decay and fall of guest blogging.” They contradict each other, split hairs, and generally try to be as confusing as possible.
After reading them all, you probably feel like looking at the computer and shouting, “WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?!”
Let’s examine the facts:
Matt lost his mind
Ever lost your cool and blown up in public?
Something happens, and it just pushes you over the edge. You’ve tried to be patient, you’ve tried to be calm, but people just keep doing stuff that irritates the hell out of you, and one day, you just can’t take it any longer.
So, you let them have it. In front of everyone.
…and then you regret it for a long, long time.
- Because you made a bunch of general statements that aren’t entirely true
- Because what you said only applied to a small group of people, not everyone who was listening
- Because people spend weeks or months debating what you really meant, and you have to clarify yourself over and over again
Well, that’s exactly what happened to Google’s SEO spokesperson, Matt Cutts, when he declared:
The sky is falling! The sky is falling!
As soon as it happened, hundreds of people flooded my inbox with emails, wondering if they had done irreparable harm to themselves by using guest blogging to promote their sites.
Why did they contact me?
- I own GuestBlogging.com, a site dedicated entirely to the topic
- My team edits guest posts for dozens of the most popular blogs in the world, including Copyblogger, Tiny Buddha, Lifehacker, Zen Habits, Get Rich Slowly, and Forbes
- Collectively, more than 20,000 people have attended the talks I’ve given about guest blogging
So, surely I must know, right?
Yeah, I do. I can’t predict everything Google will do in the future, granted, but I live and breathe this stuff.
Still, I hesitated to respond. I make a rather nice living from teaching guest blogging, so really, you should be suspicious of anything I say to defend it.
As it turns out though, I didn’t have to say a word.
Matt explained what he meant
A few hours after blowing up, Matt realized what a terrible mistake he had made and published a correction:
I’m also not talking about multi-author blogs. High-quality multi-author blogs like Boing Boing have been around since the beginning of the web, and they can be compelling, wonderful, and useful.
I just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to “guest blogging” as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.
Crisis averted, right?
Well, not really. Yes, Matt acknowledged that guest blogging is still valuable for “exposure, branding, increased reach, community,” and so on, but he left two big questions unanswered:
- If you accept a guest post, will it hurt your search engine rankings?
- If you write a guest post for someone else, will it hurt your search engine rankings?
Hmm. Let’s see.
Matt Needs a Translator
Since posting the correction, dozens of blogs have offered their opinions on exactly what Matt meant. And unless you’re an SEO expert, it’s still as confusing as hell.
So, let me make this as simple as I possibly can:
This has nothing to do with guest blogging. Matt was talking about spam.
The three things you need to know are:
- If you publish spam on someone else’s site, it can hurt your search engine rankings.
- If you accept spam from other authors and publish it on your website, it can hurt your search engine rankings.
- If you associate yourself with anyone publishing spam, it can hurt your search engine rankings.
In other words, avoid spam at all costs. And by “spam,” I mean unoriginal, low-quality content no one wants to read.
But what about the opposite?
What about high-quality content? What about high-quality authors? What about high-quality sites?
In two words:
In fact, Google is in the process of implementing a new system called Authorship that rewards authors and publishers for creating high-quality content. We’ll be publishing a monster guide about it in the next couple weeks.
In the meantime, type “authorship” or “author rank” into Google and you’ll see that guest blogging isn’t going anywhere. It’s actually about to become more important than ever.
So, why didn’t Matt just say that?
Frustration. Anger. Annoyance.
A lot of bloggers have been cranking out and accepting hundreds of low-quality guest posts because they think doing so will improve their search engine rankings. I can’t read his mind, but I’m guessing Matt wanted to squash the tactic once and for all, so he wrote a rant, probably hoping to scare people into doing the right things.
But it backfired. Now everyone is confused, and he’s wasted a lot of time trying (and failing) to explain himself.
Granted, Matt has a difficult job. Whenever you have millions of people analyzing every word you say, you’re bound to screw up sooner or later. And well … it happened.
Still, let’s not get too worked up over this.
The only people it applies to are the morons trying to abuse guest blogging to game the system. On the other hand, if you’re doing your best to publish quality content, and you’re surrounding yourself with other writers who do the same, you should have absolutely nothing to worry about.
The key to winning with Google is simple:
Start a blog and publish unique content people enjoy reading and talking about.
It worked yesterday. It works today. It’ll work tomorrow.
Nothing has changed.