A few weeks ago, with very little fanfare, Google quietly made some changes to the Webmaster Guidelines page about link schemes. Now considered a link scheme are “Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.” There are hundreds, if not thousands, of marketing-minded sites out there that explain the lasting SEO value of guest blogging as a link building tactic, as a way to build your online authority, grow your organic search presence, increase touch points with your target audience and much more. But with this small change to their Webmaster Guidelines, Google has changed forever the way site owners and marketers can use guest blogging as a way to build links. While all the other benefits remain the same, failing to adapt to these new guidelines could land your website in very hot water.
In addition to the Webmaster Guidelines changes, a recent Webmaster Central Hangout has Google’s John Mueller saying that it’s best practice to add nofollow tags to any links in stories and guest blogs you write. As Barry Schwartz explains in the Search Engine Land article, if you wrote a guest post for some site, no matter how authoritative it may be, you are the one who put that link in there; therefore it’s not “natural.” Even if your primary goal of guest blogging is to generate traffic and leads for your site, not just add a few extra links to your link profile, having that nofollow tag in place ensures Google doesn’t question your motives.
Let me say that guest blogging is still an incredibly viable part of your SEO program, but unfortunately, like any link building tactic that proves successful and then is spammed to death, those of us who were doing it the right way now have to pay the price for those spammers actions. If you have a great guest blogging opportunity in the wings, or even a short list of repeat opportunities, you don’t want to throw those away just because of these changes! However, in order to protect your long-term SEO successes here are a few new rules for guest blogging:
1. Stick with branded anchor text in your author bio.
From the changes Google made it looks like keyword-rich anchor text is out entirely. Depending on how many guest author bios you’ve got kicking around it might be worth editing those biographies to remove any keyword anchor text (like “SEO company” or “link building services”) and stick with branded anchor text (like “Brick Marketing”). You don’t want hundreds of author bios coming back to haunt you down the road and many sites have a CMS where you can change one thing and it automatically updates across all guest posts.
2. Add the rel=”author” tag to your author bios.
Google+ is Google’s personal social network, and you can bet they aren’t letting that data go to waste. While we can’t say for sure that adding the rel=”author” tag to your guest blogging profiles will help that content rank any better organically, there has been studies showing that the rich snippet helps increase click-throughs. Adding that tag also ensures that Google sees you as the original author in case another site tries to steal your content.
3. If you link back to your own blog/site (even if it’s purely information) add the nofollow tag.
The nofollow tag can still pass visitors along to your website/blog, and adding that code lets Google know that you aren’t blogging just for the links. The idea is to stay as transparent and above the board as possible so Google has no reason to doubt your efforts. Should another site’s editor quote/cite your content on their own then it can be a follow link because that’s “natural,” but any guest post YOU write and YOU submit should include nofollow tags.
4. Be okay passing on some guest blogging opportunities.
Just because a site accepts guest blog posts that doesn’t mean you should automatically add that to your editorial calendar. There are plenty of general submission sites still kicking around that will take content from any and all comers, but if the site doesn’t operate in your niche what’s the point? The primary goal of your guest blogging efforts should be to connect with your target audience. If a site doesn’t reach into the heart of that audience then you’re just doing it for the links, which is what can get you in trouble.
Guest blogging is still an incredibly important component of your overall SEO program, you just have to make sure you are abiding by the new rules!
About the Author
Nick Stamoulis is the President of full service SEO firm Brick Marketing. With over 13 years of industry experience Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by writing in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter.
Contact Nick Stamoulis at 781-999-1222 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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