Remember the days when you could build some nice solid links by writing guest posts on other people’s blogs and publications? Well, it’s entirely possible that those days are still here, but Google is freaking people out once again in its efforts to crack down on so-called webspam.
Have you written guest blog posts in the past? Are you worried about links from those coming back to haunt you?
Google says it’s taking action on guest blogging, and people that have written completely legitimate guest posts are seeking the removal of links to their sites that may have actually been helping them. In some cases, it’s hard to see why they would possibly hurt.
As you may know, Google’s Matt Cutts announced last week thatGoogle took action on a “large guest blog network”.
That network turned out to be Ann Smarty’s MyBlogGuest. A lot of people didn’t think her site should have been penalized, but even that is somewhat beside the point. It is a site dedicated to matching guest bloggers with blogs as an “Internet marketing tactic”.
When Cutts announced that they’d taken action, he referenced a blog post he made earlier this year in which he proclaimed guesting blogging for SEO “done”.
After he first made the post, he added an update, which lightened the guidance to a much less aggressive picture than was first painted (or at least that’s the way people took it in the beginning). He wrote:
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. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. 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.
Okay, fair enough.
But now we’re seeing people who have written high quality content as guest posts request to have their links removed. Very shortly after last week’s announcement, we had multiple emails from guest authors of the past looking to have the links in their author bios removed.
I’m not going to share their names, but these were not low-quality, or in any way spammy articles. If they had been, we wouldn’t have accepted them. One in particular was about a very specific piece of legislation that was a particularly hot topic at the time it was written, and brought interesting insight to the discussion. That’s why we published it. We made the “editorial choice” (to use a phrase Cutts often uses) to put these articles on our site. The articles weren’t published elsewhere (it was a requirement that they be unique to our site in the first place), so it wasn’t like they were all over the web as duplicate content.
In fact, when asked, one of the writers told us that Google had simply told them they had taken a manual action against their site after detecting “some artificial links”. Our article in question wasn’t mentioned in any way in Google’s messaging, but this person told us they were deciding themselves to have all keyword-oriented links pointing to their site removed.
Are these specific links hurting these sites? Probably not, but who can really say (other than Google) when Google decides that something looks spammy. I can’t imagine what would have looked spammy about these particular links. They were pretty standard author bio stuff like you see on just about every article on every site on the Internet, but Google creates this fear, and people go out of their way to remove legitimate links as a precautionary measure. Let’s hope that these links weren’t really working in the site’s favor. Then they’re just going to hurt themselves more by losing PageRank value.
Keep in mind, Links are still a particularly important signal in search quality. Cutts said this himself very recently. One could argue that a link in an author bio shouldn’t carry as much weight as a link referencing some other piece of information within an article itself, but that really depends on the situation, doesn’t it? A link to the author’s website gives you context about who’s writing the article, which can lend credibility. If someone’s writing an article about a topic, it’s nice to see that they have experience with it. On the flipside, how often do you see generic words in articles linked for no apparent reason? It happens all the time. Is someone linking the word Wikipedia to the Wikipedia site, for example, some big signal of relevance for the Wikipedia homepage? Probably not, unless the article is specifically about Wikipedia and or its homepage. Everyone knows what Wikipedia is. That link isn’t adding any value. Not as much value as the link in the author’s bio, which is showing you more about who you’re reading. If the link is to a specific Wikipedia article that’s relevant to what the author is talking about, then that’s a different story.
I don’t know how Google was viewing the specific links in question with regards to these guest articles. I don’t see any reason for them to look unfavorable, but Google isn’t always the easiest thing to understand, and plenty of people have felt illegitimately burned by Google’s wrath in the past. Maybe it is smart for these people to get rid of the links. It’s hard to say.
But it’s likely that this is only the latest in Google spreading a similar kind of link hysteria to what we’ve seen in recent yearswhen people were doing things like trying to get links removed from StumbleUpon. Or when they were afraid to link to their own sites.
Google has a lot of power on the web, but never forget that Google isn’t the web itself. It’s still links that connect the web’s pages.