zombie-hand-headstoneSo back in January, Matt Cutts (Google’s Webspam Team Leader and Resident Gadfly) posted a rather controversial article on his personal blog entitled “The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging.” His premise was that guest blogging, which was once a respectable practice, was now being abused by black hat SEOs to inundate blogs with low-quality content and generate spammy backlinks.

Quoth Cutts: “So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”

As you might imagine, that little slice of hyperbole set all of the internets on fire. And in the wake of all the backlash, Cutts changed the title of his post to “The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO” and posted this addendum:

Added: It seems like most people are getting the spirit of what I was trying to say, but I’ll add a bit more context. I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water[…] 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.

So now that the smoke has cleared somewhat, Google’s message has shifted from “guest blogging is bad” to “using guest blogging as an SEO shortcut is bad.”

What Are the Benefits of Guest Blogging?

The basic concept of guest blogging is, in the words of every comic book villain ever, sheer elegance in its simplicity:

  • Writing a high-quality article that appears on somebody else’s blog gives you the chance to reach a new audience, which in turn helps you build your following, your online credibility, and your business.
  • Inviting others to submit high-quality articles to your blog is a great way to generate fresh content and give your readers a little variety.

I keep harping on the high-quality aspect because, frankly, that’s what sets the spammers apart from the legitimate bloggers. As a guest blogger, your primary goal should be to write an article that is relevant, informative, and original. You want to craft something that will dazzle these new readers and bring them running to your blog. And if you’re soliciting guest bloggers, you’re obviously going to want articles that will appeal to your readers.

Tips for Submitting Guest Blog Posts

If you’re a writer and you’re looking to publish some of your content on another blog, here are some things to consider:

  • Make sure you have something to say. Be brutally honest with yourself. Is the article you’re writing actually contributing anything to the blogosphere? Will your readers find it useful? In short, is it… high-quality?
  • Don’t sweat the links. If you do include links in your article, they should be organic and relevant to the subject at hand. You shouldn’t approach this with the intention of awkwardly shoehorning links to your site throughout the content.
  • Focus on building relationships. Some guest bloggers take a shotgun approach and try to publish a bunch of one-off articles at as many sites as they can. This may get your name out there, but it’s hardly conducive to building a steady readership. Your best bet is to contribute frequently to a small handful of relevant and respectable blogs.
  • Watch out for guest blogging farms. Be selective about where you submit, and stay away from any site that has a “we’ll publish anything” reputation. Especially if they want to charge you for publishing your article.

Tips for Publishing Guest Blog Posts

If you have a blog and are thinking about inviting others to contribute articles, then keep these tips in mind:

  • Don’t publish anything spammy or skeevy. Once again, it’s all about quality. You certainly shouldn’t be posting any articles with suspicious grammar, thin content, or egregious backlinks. By that same token, if the author of the piece lacks expertise or credibility, then you’re better off giving it a pass.
  • Don’t accept money for posting articles. In his original post, Cutts described an email he received from a content marketer who offered to make a “suitable contribution” if Cutts would post some guest articles. Asking respected bloggers to contribute content to your blog is a time-honored tradition. Charging money to post questionable content to your blog is a different line of business altogether.
  • Establish guidelines and set expectations. If you plan on publishing a lot of guest blog posts, your life will be a lot easier if you set some guidelines for your contributors up front. Let them know what topics are acceptable, how long the piece should be, who your audience is, when the deadlines are, etc.
  • Don’t solicit blindly. You want to be selective about your contributors. Rather than post messages and send out emails inviting any and all to submit articles, target your solicitations to people you know or with whom you have some kind of connection.

Guest blogging may have some tangential SEO benefits, especially when it comes to backlinks, but that should never be your primary motivation. Guest blogging is about driving REAL people to your site, and you do that by providing awesome content and useful links. And that’s not going to change any time soon.