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Should Writer’s Sites Even Accept Guest Posts?

noguestpostNot long ago I ran into a someone who knows a whole lot more about marketing with search engines (read: google) in mind than I do  and he said something that led me to do this search:

does google penalize guest posts?

Darn!

Right up at the google results is (tenses can sure be confusing online – this post won’t be on top forever):

Why Blogs that Allow Guest Posts Will Be Penalized in 2013  

Alexa Traffic Rank for http://www.problogger.net/archives/2013/02/15/why-blogs-that-allow-guest-posts-will-be-penalized-in-2013/: 3,885www.problogger.net/…/why-blogs-that-allow-guestpostsw
Jeff Foster
by Jeff Foster – in 110 Google+ circles – More by Jeff Foster

Feb 15, 2013 – Why Blogs that Allow Guest Posts Will Be Penalized in 2013 blogging is bad, nor that all bloggers who do it will be penalized by…

And there are a bunch of similar articles listed on the same page.



So what’s going on?

All these guest posts “offers”  we’ve gotten from folks who assure us an article on anything except writing is exactly what we need are really an attempt to scam google by collecting inbound links from other sites (ours if we fall for it). In theory, the more of those, the higher the site will rank on a particular search term or two.

Except, those links are considered by google as “unnatural.” They’ve built an algorithm that helps them spot unnatural links and if “enough” are found, will penalize the site where they are found. An example might be a link here to something about pitbulls. (And yes, as writers we find ourselves writing about anything and everything. We’re talking about guest posts here.)  Frankly none of us needs even one of those unnatural links.

“Natural links” are those that make sense to the reader. When I link to Lori Widmer‘s site or Sharon Hurley Hall‘s or to any writer’s site or any article about freelance writing, it’s a natural link.

When I write a guest post for another writer it’s natural, and it can be natural when I write for a blog on a totally different topic as long as I’m really addressing that blog’s audience. Google’s goal is to make it possible for us to find what we’re looking for without the junk.

Does this really mean no more guest posts?

No, it doesn’t.

It does mean we need to be more careful about the guest posts we accept for our writing blogs. It also means we need to handle them differently than we have in the past.

Stop labeling them guest posts – we really don’t need to do this. When Lori writes for me it’s just like she’s writing for any publication. The label guest post is superfluous.

Be super strict about not allowing non-writing related links. That definition is broader than you might think at first, but if someone wants to write about writing and link to, oh, I don’t know, their site about selling boxing equipment, you probably ought to refuse at least that link if not the post.




Include author bio’s with every post that isn’t yours. A three or four line author bio explaining who they are and why they are qualified to write for you with a link to their writing site or their writing blog is a must.  If they are going to write more than one post for you, create a page for them as well, with links to all their articles on your blog.

Make sure any outbound links are also natural. Every outbound link in their post must be natural. If you’re dealing with someone you know, this probably won’t be a problem, but double check all the links anyway. It’s a good habit.

Be sure the content is unique. Do I even need to say this to writers? I know how time pressed we can become and how tempting a guest post is when the wheels are coming off your life. Just be careful. Another way to say this is it’s your blog so it’s your content. It’s your responsibility, period.

Does this change your thinking or your policy on guest posts? I’m rewriting mine. Does this mean it’s okay to just delete those bogus requests? I think so, don’t you? What’s your take?

[sig]

Image: Attribution Some rights reserved by Oi Vey




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{ 11 comments… add one }
  • I think anyone who’s been doing guest post right will be just fine with Google. They’re out to get the spammers. Guest posts themselves are just the digital version of an old PR tool where businesses and professionals submit free features to trade magazines. The problem is that, like with many things in Web publishing, the SEO bad apples seem to be out to ruin it for the rest of us.

    I’ve always had fairly strict guest posting rules — like making sure links are relevant to my readers (whether that means another writing site or a link to a business freelancers might actually want to use, like an online invoicing company). If it’s not relevant in some way, it doesn’t make sense to publish it anyway. It goes back to the PR element of it — it’s about your own reputation.

    A while back I did stop calling them “guest posts” on AFW, and I plan to make the same change on my small business blog today or tomorrow. But I did that to cut down on requests. I was tired of the spam crowd running generic searches for the phrase “guest post” and pitching me their lousy ideas and poorly-written material. I don’t have the time to sift through all of that. And I’m having the same problem on the business blog now.

    Instead I refer to them as “guest contributors,” and that seems to work so far. I do still believe in separating the “guests” from others because I also have paid regular contributors on the site. When they’re doing it for free for marketing purposes, that’s very different than being a paid freelance contributor, and that’s something I think readers have a right to know up front. If you don’t have two different types of contributors posting, it might not be as big of an issue.
    Jenn Mattern recently posted..Weekend Reading: Writing for Trade MagazinesMy Profile

    • That’s how I read this too, Jenn, and the small changes are just that, small changes. I’m not sure I’m going to title contributors anything – several of the articles pointed out that newspapers and magazines don’t make much fuss about people other than staff writing for them and that just makes sense to me. But I suspect your desire to separate them is just fine.

      • I separate them because I post all guest contributors under a single guest account. I don’t give them access to post directly and I don’t manage separate accounts for each of them. I manually add a byline at the top and they get their bio at the bottom just like our regulars do. But I prefer to let readers easily see the guest posts by clicking on that guest account so they know who has a marketing motive in posting one-offs as opposed to the regulars. Some like to avoid those, as one person made very clear in our last guest post (even upset that the bio came at the end so they didn’t figure it out sooner — not that it’s a secret up front).

        Just for fun, I looked over all of my recent guest post requests while updating contributor guidelines on the small business blog today. I received 19 submissions over the last month for that particular blog. Not a single one actually followed the submission guidelines. So I’m hoping we’ll cut back on most of those by removing that “guest post” mention on the site. I’ll cross my fingers!
        Jenn Mattern recently posted..When Marketing your Services, Let your Passion Shine ThroughMy Profile

        • I have a guest post category, and some of my regular contributors have their own intro page with links to their articles. I don’t give them access either and I often do some editing as well as adding the bios.

          I’m thinking that instead of tagging them guest posts I’ll now just put by xxxxxx maybe with a link at the top, then the bio at the bottom – and I may go back and remove guest post, from the past, but probably not.

  • This doesn’t surprise me. It’s like anything else Google has done. Google will penalize people that are trying to “game” the system. I’m in the process of working on a batch of guest posts and the first thing I always do is check out the blog guidelines.

    • Actually I’ve enjoyed google’s searches getting better and better.

      • Me, too. I’m very thankful that Google penalizes people trying to spam blogs.

  • One of the biggest issues about the outbound links is following Google’s rules on “no follow”. Many companies or individuals want the outbound links because it boosts them in the eyes of Google and can index them higher but if the links aren’t natural or relate to the topic that’s being written about then Google will actually punish the site where the content appears.

    Blogging Basics101.com has a great post about NoFollow and DoFollow and when and where to allow those kinds of links.
    Nikki recently posted..Monthly Wrap Up: March 2013My Profile

    • Good reference for bloggers, Mikki, thanks.

  • I read something similar about Google’s stance on guest posts. Of course, I can’t remember where. 😉 I had not heard that there could be more Google slaps in the future. If it would help cut down on the inane requests I receive for guest posts, I’m all for it.

    Having never understood how Google makes decision, all I can do is go about my business. As you know, Anne, I decided to amend my guest post guidelines to accept posts from people I “know.” Like people who actually DO read my posts and DO participate in the discussion.

    The only thing I would hate to see happen is eliminating the opportunity to guest post on blogs outside your own blog themes. Because I have a business writing blog does not mean it’s my only interest.

    For example, I wrote a guest post at the Daily Retort about birth order due to my fascination with the topic (as a middle child of seven). Should the blog owner be penalized because he linked to my business writing site in my bio?

    The Pollyanna in me finds it sad that a good gig gets ruined by the spammers/scammers of the world. *Sigh* such is life. 🙂
    Cathy Miller recently posted..5 Tips to Avoid Business Writing Death by CommitteeMy Profile

    • Google actually makes a lot of this information available in their google analytics section… it’s really hard reading.

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