All of the blogger friends out there, I’m sure you must have leveraged guest posting at some point of your blogging career. To either generate quality content for your own blog or seek juicy backlinks towards your blog.
Either way, if that’s the case then here’s an important news for you. Lately, Google has been found cracking down on the websites that publish guest posts and has been imposing outbound link penalties to these websites.
What is Outbound Link Penalty?
Outbound Link Penalty is the restriction by Google on the page rank to flow from one website to another which normally is referred to as “Link Juice”.
The story is that one of the publishers recently reported that he received a “manual action” email from Google asking to convert the “Do Follow” backlinks on his website to “No Follow”.
The exact wordings are:
We have detected that some of your articles are guest posts… We have disabled your authority for your outbound links. Please set your outbound links to nofollow and submit a review request
Mind you, this is not just one case taken out of the blue and blown out of proportion. Many other website publishers and bloggers have reported to receive the same sort of emails from the godfather of internet search.
I will cut it short as the objective of this article is not to regurgitate the cases again, however, if you want to read the complete story then you can read it here:
So does this mean that Google is really penalizing guest posts?
The short answer is YES.
However, this does not mean that the days of guest posts and articles are numbered.
It’s not that Google is mindlessly hammering down on the guest posts. Doing so will not even serve them as they’ll risk losing useful content that is generated by guest writers across millions of websites on a daily basis. In fact, many popular websites’ major chunk of content is created by guest authors.
This begs a question here. After all, what kind of guest posts are at risk?
What’s at stake?
To fathom Google’s decision, it’s necessary to understand why many guest posts irks the search engine.
Although generating content for other websites is a handy practice but people have been misusing it for a long time now. Espcially with paid outbound unnatural links and spammy articles.
Paid outbound unnatural Links and Guest Posts
Paid links are considered as the easiest way to get your website quickly ranked in SERPs; but only if you have good funds with you to spend on your SEO campaign. However, it is against the natural SEO which affects organic search results. And, it’s unfair with other website owners who either don’t have that much SEO budget or believe in natural SEO.
This means that Google is actually after that low-quality content which is aimed to rank higher in SERPs using shady SEO practices.
This is not unexpected at all. Google has been constantly working on improving the quality of its search result. About time that these spammy and paid guest posts came under its radar.
Now, just in case you happen to follow these “illicit” practices, what kind of message can you expect from Google?
Manual Spam Action
What the webmasters have reported, it’s not that Google penalizes you straightaway. It does give you respite to do things right. In fact, the below is the message you will see in your Search Console when Google notices anything fishy with your content.
Google’s own words:
If you see this message on the Manual Actions page, it means that Google has detected a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative outbound links. Buying links or participating in link schemes in order to manipulate PageRank is a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. As a result, Google has applied a manual spam action to the affected portions of your site. Actions that affect your whole site are listed under Site-wide matches.
Actions that affect only part of your site and/or some incoming links to your site are listed under Partial matches.
How severe can the penalties be?
Certain penalties will effect your rankings, traffic and sales adversely. The severity of your penalty depends upon the stiffness of your disapproval from the guidelines.
Depending on the situation, your website can lose rankings and certain keywords position, your whole website rankings could be penalized or your whole website will be down graded by google.
To be honest, this notice from Google really stirred the blogging community but the thing is that Google never really discourages guest posting.
However, when the main intent is for link building rather than coming up with a creative, unique and quality content that provides value to its readers then you’re really in hot waters.
When Google detects that a website is publishing articles that contain spammy links, and believe me, by the pace at which Google is updating its search engine by employing all the machine learning and artificially intelligent technology and not to mention, the whole army of bright engineers working day in and day out to detect any heinous moves to deceive the search engine, it’s not matter of “if ” but “when”, this may change Google’s perception of the quality of the site and could affect its ranking.
Search engine starts penalizing sites that accepts guest posts when low quality spammy and non unique content is guest posted on the website full of spammy unnatural paid links.
There have been cases when even big guns such as New York Times and Huffington Posts were found allowing posts that are “self-sufficient” with spammy links and inferior content. In other words, the tempation to keep your hands from the low-hanging fruit is unavoidable.
Recommendations to avoid Google Penalties
Now, this doesn’t mean you should not allow guest posts on your blog. Rather, it means that you need to be pickier. Don’t just accept guest posts because you think it will increase your traffic. Accept them because the content will benefit your readers.
Although these tips are quite subjective but still they will help you in avoiding any downgrading in the search results. Here’s a general guideline about what you should be looking for when authors offer you a guest post:
1. Check for spam
Perform a quick search on your writer’s name to make sure that they aren’t pushing out spammy content throughout the web. Lookup their history, ask for their portfolio to gain a better idea about their past work and reputation.
2. Check for links to spammy websites
Make sure the writers aren’t linking out in their bio or within the content to spammy websites.
I agree that this is a subjective tip but having a quick look at their links can give you a good idea about the quality of the websites that they’re linking to.
3. Check the depth of their content
Look to see how detailed their past content is. Look for authors who write content that is at least 1,000 words, if not 2,000. You can’t put much advice in a 400 word blog post, so avoid writers who are just trying to crank out content for links.
In no way I’m advocating that more words mean higher quality but still if you are to compare two writers one constantly generating more than 1,000 plus words content on a regular basis while the other doesn’t get past 200-300 words, chances are that the latter is trying to deceive search engines. Again, this is not a hard and fast rule but proves to be right in many cases.
4. Avoid Keyword Stuffing
This is an age-old advice suitable not only for guest posts but for “first-hand” content as well. Google despises keyword stuffing so make sure that your guest writers also avoid it all cost.
5. Use rel=”nofollow” for your paid links
If you charge in any way for a link, nofollow the outbound links as advised by google. For the technical juggernauts, this means using rel=”nofollow” attribute on your paid outbound links.
The rel=“nofollow” meta tag tells search engines not to follow the specific outbound link. This is done in cases when a website doesn’t want to pass authority to (or “endorse”) another webpage or because it’s a paid link.
Nofollow links do not pass PageRank. Therefore, using a nofollow link means that link won’t pass the proverbial link juice (a Google-only measurement of the quantity and quality of links) to another page.
This means, on the one hand, that Google cannot penalize you for linking to a site that’s known to be a low-quality site. They also can’t penalize you for linking out too much (yes, that’s actually happened).
On the other hand, this also means that a link from your site bears no value to other sites, which means they’re much less likely to include you in announcements of new products or exciting developments unless you already have a large user base.
Many of the largest sites like CNN and NFL, now place no-follow on all their outbound links. This means that a link on their site has no PageRank value. However, links from these sites still have high value because of the quality and size of their user base.
Never forget: Even a nofollow link has value, because it gives potential visitors the opportunity to visit your site and expands awareness. Even a mention on a site without a link is valuable for raising awareness.
The above article is not to scare you from blogging. The whole purpose of sharing the above story and the guidelines is to make sure you do not get hammered by Google in one way or ther other.
Considerable amount of google policies and algorithms are meant to be acknowledged as they keep on changing time to time but it takes few easy steps and guidelines to do things naturally rather to depend upon artificial, unnatural and offensive sources.
To keep it simple and short, don’t try to game Google. It’s getting better at detecting such shoddy manoeuvres. Just be natural and focus on creating high-quality and unique content. Market it on legal platforms and the traffic will eventually follow.