Google on Guest Blogging: How to do it without bending the rules

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Last updated: November 2023

If you’re familiar with outreach marketing and guest blogging, you’ll understand the value in acquiring backlinks from authoritative websites. Not only is it a PR coup to have your articles featured on leading publications, but search engines view backlinks as votes of confidence, so the more you obtain from high-quality sites relevant to your niche, the more authority passes onto you, giving your website a healthy bump up the rankings.

Google’s raison d’etre is to be the very best source of information, ensuring users keep coming back to fulfil their search queries. As such, giving weight to backlinks has long been regarded as a reliable way of returning the most accurate search results; if one website has hundreds more links pointing to it over another, it’s fair to assume their information is better quality, hence ranking it higher.

However, you can see how this scoring system is open to manipulation, and it used to be common for unscrupulous marketers to build hundreds of low-quality links from decidedly dodgy websites, tricking the search bots into rewarding their site with undeserved high rankings.

Thankfully, the Penguin algorithm update in 2012 tackled this issue, penalising sites that had previously succeeded with their dark arts, restoring integrity to the indexing practice by focusing on the quality and authority of links. No longer was it possible to get away with buying links from content farms built specifically to deceive the SERPs, and there was a renewed emphasis on earning links from trusted websites that have active audiences related to your business niche.

Google’s link-building reminder in 2017

To a large extent, Penguin has done a great job of refining the quality of search results, making certain grey areas all the more black and white. However, some crafty souls have still been playing the system, conducting large scale article marketing campaigns whereby the same content (or almost the same content, with a few minor tweaks), is submitted to several websites, obtaining several backlinks but not really adding value to the wider Internet community.

You can see the proposed benefits of such actions – “sweating” your content until you drain every last drop, gaining maximum exposure with minimal effort, obtaining multiple links without breaking your back – but this whole approach to online marketing is inherently dishonest.

In May 2017, Google issued a reminder on links in large-scale article campaigns, clarifying its stance and taking aim at spammy SEO tactics.

Reassuringly, they do not discourage outreach articles and guest blogs per se, especially when they educate and inform. That is to say, they appreciate quality content that says something meaningful, which is the Bespoke Digital mantra, and why we recommend guest posting as part of a fully-integrated content strategy.

However, Google does have cause for concern in the following areas, so here’s a few words on staying safe:

Keyword-stuffing within anchor text

The words used within the links that point to your website are a signal about the type of content on offer, a signal that search bots use to better understand, and therefore rank, your web pages.

If you wanted to rank for the term “copywriting”, it’s fair to assume you’d work variations of the phrase into the links within your articles, perhaps pointing to your relevant service page.

Nevertheless, it’s clear such a link in the below sentence seems somewhat out of place:

If you want to get ahead online, you have to prioritise copywriting, ensuring your website is optimised for search bots and users alike.

Reading that within a guest article would be a red flag indicating the author is attempting to rank for that specific term. Rather than overtly promote your service pages (which can be deemed an advertorial practice), a much more natural way of doing things would be to link to related blog posts, adding genuine value to the conversation:

If you want to get ahead online, you have to be aware of digital copywriting best practices, ensuring your website is optimised for search bots and users alike.

So long as the target blog links through to your service page, the “link juice” will still flow through your site, increasing your search presence for copywriting-related terms. Opting for long-tail anchor text also looks more natural, and you can still weave your target phrase in there, helping your keyword relevance in a more legitimate manner.

Publishing articles across numerous sites

Where to start with this one? There are various negative implications when you litter the web with duplicate content, harming your own reputation and website authority, not to mention that of the sites that you supply copies to.

Ultimately, Google’s goal is to return the best content that matches searcher intent, so several sites publishing exactly the same or near duplications obviously causes confusion, potentially meaning the search bots ignore your content altogether.

Whether you’re a naive newbie or a manipulative marketer trying to trick the search algorithm, the key thing to bear in mind is the ‘V’ word we keep coming back to: value.

Are you really adding value to the Internet at large by submitting the same content to every website that will publish it? Quite simply, no, especially if you approach websites that are in no way relevant to your business and target customer base. Read our guide to researching publishing websites for further information on doing things the right way.

There’s a big difference between blanket bombing the web with replicated or “spun” articles (saving you the time investment of creating new content) and repurposing one article by discussing it from a different viewpoint, or using different examples to underline your argument.

There may be a limit to how much new material you can regularly produce, but copy and pasting will amount to time wasting, shooting yourself in the foot when Google cottons on.

On the flipside, Google is also wary of seeing you publish a few articles on very high-authority websites. The benefits of targeting premium websites are obvious – they have large audiences and you’ll benefit from their authority passing through to your site, but, again, only having very few backlinks from top tier sites looks unnatural whereas a range of links from a spread of relevant sites is far more normal.

As such, you should vary your target publications, so they have a good mix of mid-to-high Trust Flow – the metric used to denote how trustworthy websites are. You can read more about this in our guide to using Majestic SEO.

Using writers that aren’t experts

A stumbling block that often prevents hard-pushed marketing managers to outsource content production is the belief that nobody will “get” what the business in questions does and be able to write about it eloquently.

This may be true in many cases, and much of the web is undoubtedly a junkyard of poorly-written, inaccurate, lazy text.

If you do hire help on the cheap, you’re setting yourself up for failure, as not only will you be putting your reputation on the line, Google will also notice if you’re publishing material that is either outdated, incorrect or unoriginal.

You should always scrutinise the work of others to check their sources, and ensure they’re equipped to paint you in the best possible light. We take great care in our process for researching blog posts, meaning we can write confidently and authoritatively about everything from fork lift truck maintenance to expert advice on Google’s rules for guest posts.

Do not upset the Google gods

Successful online marketing hinges on playing by the rules and steering clear of Google penalties. If you fall foul of the law, your website will be in a perilous state and it can take a very long time to regain traction in organic search listings.

Ultimately, if the primary purpose of your outreach campaign is to generate backlinks, you’re on dodgy ground. Every single article you produce should add value to readers with original insights, promoting your company on the back of sound advice.

You can’t get away with 300 wooly words and a quick keyword-rich backlink, as it’s impossible to say something of merit in such a short space. The Panda algorithm punishes thin content, and that goes for off-site articles as well as your onsite content.

If you’d like further advice on SEO and forming a successful content marketing strategy, you can call us on 0117 230 6010 to book a FREE Digital Health Check consultation.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, or would like to discuss a specific issue with your site, please get in touch using the form below.

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Magnus Linklater SEO Consultant

Author: Magnus Linklater

Magnus is an SEO specialist and online marketing professional with over 25 years of digital and traditional marketing experience.

As the founder of Bespoke Digital, Magnus has worked on technical site audits and content marketing campaigns for hundreds of clients and regularly writes about SEO strategy, tips & tricks.

Find Magnus on LinkedIn

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