In January 2014 Matt Cutts warned that guest blogging for SEO is dead and it caused lots of discussion among online marketers.

After revising his original statement, Matt Cutts said: “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. 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…

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.”

Whew, okay Matt… I thought you were throwing guest blogging under the bus. I mean, what online business doesn’t get lots of link requests for not only guest blogging but for link exchange, comment spam, directory listings and much more?

Another reason online marketers were disappointed with Cutts statement is because it adds more fear into the world of blogging. Trisha Agarwal expressed it in her comment:

“Google has said many times to produce great content that will earn links but they have embarked on a mission to scare webmasters into being very selective with who they link to… This article does nothing but scare webmasters and makes it harder for us to create value and gain traffic.”

In mid March, Matt Cutts publicly announced that Google had taken action against a large guest blog network. Soon it was confirmed that it was Ann Smarty’s (MBG).

If you’ve used MBG as I have, you know there are checks and balances in place so that articles are published when and if the editor approves it. If a submitted article isn’t considerably good, it will likely never be picked up since there are so many authors to choose from. MBG has done a great job of bringing authors and editors together and facilitating collaboration. This along with other reasons make MBG a great place to find high quality content and plublishers. MBG did what they could to prevent link buying.

Steve Gerencser of SEO Training Dojo made this point about G’s action:
“This is no different than hiring a copywriter… the only difference is instead of handing them cash, you’re saying yes I will link to your author profile…”

Within days of Google’s MBG penalty, they also handed out manual penalties to many of the blogs that have participated in MBG’s free community. Obviously, G thinks that some of the links in MBG guest posts violate their quality guidelines.

I asked Ann Smarty, owner of MyBlogGuest, what she thinks:

Our biggest issue was there were LOTS of genuine guest bloggers and authors – and it was alarming a lot of people would be sacrificed in this war against low-quality guest blogging – which actually did happen.

It was also obvious Google is unable to tell a good link from a bad link – so instead of fixing their algorithm, they are using PR to scare people off and have them report each other – which is just evil

Me: Someone said Google is using fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) to scare people about this issue and they are using a well known brand, MyBlogGuest, to do it. What is Google attempting to do and what has been your response?

Ann: Yes, that’s the overall conclusion from the community. I am not sure what Google is trying to accomplish there. Such a scare campaign against the most transparent guest blogging brand that has been trying to promote Google’s standards and rules clearly shows that following the rules does NOT work. This means it will scare away only genuine people who try to do what Google says and encourage others to be sneakier. My response is here:

In her post, Ann apologizes for being transparent, “We never hid our sites or users, we never dropped the word ‘guest’, we were publicly sharing our best achievements, etc”

And she explains what to do if your blog received a manual penalty due to participating in MBG’s community.

Many speculated that because MBG required publishers to keep all author links as do follow Google penalized them and MBG publishers. MBG now allows publishers the flexibility to nofollow byline links, but publishers must specify so authors know what to expect.

It’s likely that guest blogging will soon be considered a spammy practice that SEOs came up with to game G – a far cry from what guest blogging really is and has been. But that seems to be of no concern to a media giant like G who will use their influence to make a point regardless.

And let this be a lesson to the rest of you web people!credit

What you could be wondering now is why did Google pick on a reputable community like MBG when there are numerous blogs, splogs and real link networks that obviously run under G’s radar with respect to links and web spam practices?

This reminds me of a US President who seeks to solve big problems with politics. For example, Obama’s campaign to drum up more Affordable Care Act subscribers and Michelle Obama’s campaign against vending and “unhealthy” snacks sold in public schools (programs that seem good for all the people until you dig down to the details).

Yes, Google is involved in politics and politicking, a.k.a. public relations (PR).

Every time Google interacts in a public forum for any reason, whether it is speaking at a conference, posting on a forum, releasing products, press releases, publishing blogs, conducting a hangout or employees interviewed, this is a form of public relations.

Ok, but why would Google need public relations, it’s so big anyway?
Google needs public relations for many reasons primarily because they don’t want to be perceived as a jerk who exploits other businesses for profit to maintain market dominance. Google has been considered a monopoly numerous times for different reasons and challenged by the US Justice Dept:

  • Acquiring DoubleClick
  • Digitizing books
  • Acquiring the travel software company, ITA
  • The Google antitrust probe in 2012

According to an article in Bloomberg Businessweek, Google launched a full-throttle public relations campaign years ago to explain why Google should be loved, not feared.

“Part of what’s prompting this charm offensive is the view within Google that Microsoft (MSFT) mishandled similar complaints… The Justice Dept. sued Microsoft in 1998, claiming it abused its monopoly power to curb competition in operating systems and Internet browsers, and there was talk about busting up the company.”

So it’s critical that Google attempts to keep public opinion of them more on the positive than the negative.

Matt Cutts is Google’s public relations agent to the online marketing community
He’s invited to all the major online marketing conferences like PubCon, SES, SMX, SXSW, etc. Matt answers questions on his blog, Youtube channel and focuses on webspam – he’s head of the webspam team at Google.

Sometimes Matt Cutts says things that can easily be misinterpreted by the SEO and online marketing community. For example, when Danny Sullivan (a well known tech journalist) interviews Matt, he clarifies, restates and sometimes interprets what Matt is saying to help marketers understand what is really being communicated. And sometimes Matt avoids answering Danny’s questions. Matt really needs Danny more than he may realize.

What I’m saying is in recent years Google solves problems without their algorithm:

  1. Matt Cutts makes an announcement or issues a warning
  2. At some point Google’s web spam team begins handing out lots of manual penalties related to the warning
  3. The word spreads that what Matt said is true or much worse and the majority of marketers adopt it as the new best practice

Now you might be wondering who is manipulating who?

The Matt Cutts PR machine is working quite well and if you haven’t noticed, Cutts spends a lot more time making short videos than ever before. Hmm, I wonder if there’s a correlation?

I could go on about Google’s PR, but if you still have the opinion that Google is all good you’re a tiny bit naive to not acknowledge that Google is very much involved in public relations designed to win the public’s love and trust and to push their agenda on webmasters and marketers.

Tom Shivers
Tom Shivers

I'm a ecommerce SEO consultant and President of Capture Commerce. I've managed digital marketing campaigns for scores of clients since 2000 and found that every business is unique with its own challenges and opportunities. When I see that I have contributed to the success of a business by helping them grow, it makes me feel awesome! That’s the coolest thing and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to do this.

    9 replies to "Google’s Crack Down On Guest Blogging And How To Avoid It"

    • Tammi L. Coles

      “This is no different than hiring a copywriter… the only difference is instead of handing them cash, you’re saying yes I will link to your author profile…”

      Excuse me? You’ll find that most quality copywriters are far more concerned about being paid well for their labor than getting yet more pledges of “exposure.” Copywriters, like the marketing professionals and business owners with whom they work, need to pay their rents, health insurance, and child care. Please do not hide your interests in gaming Google (and deceiving search users) behind such easily dismissed claims of “altruism.”

    • Tom Shivers

      Hi Tammi, thanks for your perspective as a copywriter, but you missed the point completely. This post is not about SEO.

      You might find it enlightening to click the link and watch the video of the guy you quoted.

    • Harsh Wardhan Singh


      It seems like you are closer to Ann Smarty and have been one of the victims of Guest Blogging penalty by Google. Well Tom, I really have no idea of why you people are blaming Google when the mistake was completely from the guest bloggers. MBG has not been hammered because of Ann but because of the spamming members. I am also a part of MBG, have several sites with guest bloggers content I found there but none got penalty and the reason is simple. I followed Google, I followed what is right. I mean you even want to rank in Google, wnat to be at top within its space and you can’t even follow its ruels which are good for all bloggers and bad for sploggers. Can anyone deny that MBG has huge members who were just there to get links, instead of contributing quality content and information?

      From so many comments on Barry’s blog you found comment of Trisha Agarwal who doesn’t even have a verified identity and a avatar? I mean come on what has happened to the respected members of blogging community!

      And when you say Google’s politics then you should simply know that it’s their rules and to sustain within their space you will have to follow their rules. Matt has warned that guest blogging for link building will not be tolerated. MBG has become a Link Exchange site where one writes and the other links. Google’s torment was important to send a reminder and the message has reached well to every corner.


    • Tom Shivers

      After you’ve become a respected member of the blogging community you will likely see through the double speak of Google, come back then and update your comment. But while you’re here, go ahead and read the rest of my article, especially the last sentence.

    • Lee Roberts

      The problem is not the writers that don’t know how to write quality material. The problem is the blog owners who accept crappy material.

      If the material is not relevant to the blogger’s website, it should not be accepted.
      If the material is poorly written, it should not be accepted.

      Everyone wants links to their website and the search engines demand it.

      If you accepted quality articles for your blog, then you did the right thing. Google should not be penalizing MBG. Rather, Google should be penalizing the bloggers that accept crap for their blog. If Google did that, they would be putting out the relevant message that quality is relevant and people would stop accepting crap for their websites. Google did that for the article industry. Now, they need to do it for the blog industry.

      Bloggers should also be more strict on what they except. When they add crappy blog entries for their readers to read, they IMHO insult the intelligence of their readers. Bloggers should also make certain that the article they add to their site is unique and not duplicated on any other website. If they don’t, they simply spam the search engines.

      Thanks for sharing this article. I really appreciate your research into this issue.

    • Tom Shivers

      Well said Lee!

    • Shannon

      Hey Tom, great post! I’m with ya on this. MBG didn’t do anything wrong. The Mighty Matt Cutts decided to make MBG an example, right as he gleefully cackled away while pressing the doom button on the site while *Ann was about to speak at Pubcon*. Yeah, you think that was planned too? I bet it was.

      Kudos to Ann who has remained quite professional and level-headed about it all. I know for a fact I wouldn’t have behaved with as much grace.

      I get so tired of people spouting off with their opinions about how the MBG public shaming PR stunt was earned and valid, somehow. People who don’t know Ann, or have never used the site (as both author and publisher) probably can’t find their own arses with both hands.

      Ironically, I wonder who really benefits from this fiasco? Sure incensed the SEO community, didn’t it? And the majority has rallied to support Ann. I wonder what kinds of changes will happen as a result of this Google PR stunt? What happens when you piss off the SEO industry enough that everyone stops using Google products?

      Well, I can dream anyway. It’s about time Google got taken down a notch or two, or three. I’m rather fond of the “I don’t endorse Google” WordPress plugin.

    • Tom Shivers

      Hi Shannon, thanks. Google has a history of rolling out “big” updates at the big events where lots of SEOs and marketers are. And the timing for the MBG penalty went right along as if this was the big update for spring of 2014.

      The MBG penalty was 90% PR stunt and maybe 10% legit in my opinion and there were plenty of innocent bystanders who got slapped as well.

      I’m very much in favor of Google’s many competitors to bring G back to the real world again: Bing, Apple, Yahoo, Amazon, etc.

    • Stella

      It is quite clear that its not the Blog networks whose action make Google annoyed and finally result in penalizing them instead it is the Guest Bloggers and Guest Blog seekers behind this all. As they are misusing this platform and not following the guidelines of the Guest Blogging even. Their sole purpose is just to get a link back instead.

      The Guest Blog seekers were offering links directly even. I have seen there were sites which have low as well as no PR and asking for the Guest Posts from PR 4 sites and offering 2 to 3 backlinks in return.

      I am not saying that the Guest Blogging networks are not the accuseds. If they had ever put a check on the activities happening on their platform and had ever tried to overcome from that, then probably they would have been protected themselves from Google penalty.

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