Google Are Driving Guest Bloggers Underground

The advice of Googler’s over the recent months have lead webmasters to fear the wrath of the next algorithmic update and many sites are dishing out nofollow links like it’s 2007 all over again.

In a webmaster hangout earlier this year Google employee John Mueller advised that if you are guest posting as part of your SEO strategy then links within the articles should really be made nofollow as they are not editorially given. After all if the blog has a significant audience and the content is of a high enough quality then the reward for the post is that referral traffic will flow via these links to your web properties, not PageRank. Since I started this article Marie Haynes has covered this in more detail.

I am sure you and many bloggers will disagree with John.

The fact of the matter is that the majority of bloggers do actually care about the quality and the relevance of the links referenced within the articles they choose to host, but these types of comments do nothing to help dispel the many myths that circulate. It would be naïve to assume that all blogs are well managed but if the post has to go through any kind of manual review process why must Google feel the need to treat all bloggers who open their doors to others as a criminal associate?

As of today July 8th 2013 this is what Webmaster Central states about nofollow links and unnatural content (emphasis mine):

Untrusted content: If you can’t or don’t want to vouch for the content of pages you link to from your site — for example, untrusted user comments or guestbook entries — you should nofollow those links. This can discourage spammers from targeting your site, and will help keep your site from inadvertently passing PageRank to bad neighborhoods on the web. In particular, comment spammers may decide not to target a specific content management system or blog service if they can see that untrusted links in that service are nofollowed. If you want to recognize and reward trustworthy contributors, you could decide to automatically or manually remove the nofollow attribute on links posted by members or users who have consistently made high-quality contributions over time.

That’s right it clearly states that if a webmaster wants to recognise and reward people who add a meaningful contribution to a site s/he can make links dofollow.

But with more FUD flowing from Google employees mouths it’s no surprise that bloggers are adding plugins or hacking WordPress Core to make all external links from their sites nofollow, which is iterated in this post by James Agate on the breakdown of SEO/Blogger relations last year.

Guest Blogging Going Underground

ghost-posting

When Google eventually work out an effective way to lower the PageRank of sites that host  guest posts (as they already try to do with obvious paid links) this will just drive more people into avenues such as paid link schemes, private blog networks or other agreements with more deals struck away from prying eyes.

One area I see rising significantly will be “ghost posting” where link builders will find webmasters who are willing to publish guest articles under the webmasters own name or pseudo-authors who write for the site regularly.

Putting “Ghost Posting” to the Test

Two weeks ago I pitched 183 bloggers in various niches who clearly advertised they accepted guest posts on their sites on guest blogging newsletters or via advanced search operators with Scrapebox.

I decided against using a throw away Gmail account for this exercise and bought myself a fake domain and threw up a quick coming soon splash page to make my “fake content and PR firm” look a bit more legit.

All the blogs had a minimum Domain PR2 and a Domain Authority of at least 30. The email template I sent is below:

Hi [First Name],

My name is Jason from [Company] in the UK and I represent a number of clients in the [Niche].

I noticed that you accept guest articles on your site and I wanted to make a proposal to to see if there is an opportunity for us to work together.

We have a team of great writers who we work with on a regular basis and we would be willing to contribute regular articles to your website if you would be happy to post them under your own name.

Would you be interested in this type of arrangement?

I look forward to your reply,

Regards,

Jason

Community Manager

[Company]

Email: Jason@[fakedomain].com

Tel: [Fake Tel Number]

Surprisingly from this email I had 11 people immediately say they would be happy to post my content under their own name should it meet their guest blogging guidelines and several others asked for payment or some further details…

With a poor email template I would have scored a potential 11 links on blogs ranging from DA 31 to 47.


The Ethics of “Ghost Posting”

Personally I have battled with hitting the publish button on this article as I will no doubt be lambasted for bringing another tactic out in to the public domain but the fact is that if Google get heavier with the link penalties people will find new/creative/shady ways to get links by any means necessary.

Yet, it is not surprising some people showed an interest in this type of arrangement.

We can debate the ethics and potential legalities of this type of tactic until the cows come home but obviously there are individuals who are happy to accept content that is written by others and pass it off as their own work.

Most bloggers have a full time job and can only dream of the day that they make the big time and can make their hobby a full time job. Often the main motivator for a blogger to open their site to guest authors in the first place is because they do not have the time to write for their site.

It’s a zero sum game, the rewards can be huge and this simply means some people will push the boundaries – cheat, lie or steal their way to the top of the rankings, despite the ethical, legal or financial risks they are willing to gamble with.

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  • http://www.northsideseo.com/ Anthony D. Nelson

    I’m glad you published this post. I don’t think this is a great tactic but it’s certainly no worse than paying a generic or possibly fake named freelance writer to submit posts under a name that’s not attached to your actual company’s website.

    How many “A-list” bloggers probably have ghost authors writing content for them, under their name?

    • ChrisLDyson

      I’m sure there are quite a few.

      And it’s well known that many A-listers outsource their social profiles too

  • James Norquay

    Hi Chris, nice post, the thing is I think websites which are just a Guest Post hub full of spammy guest posts are not even worth contacting. It is only a matter of time before Google comes in swinging and starts hitting sites with penalties. IF you are going to do guest posts my advice is to go for sites that don’t even advertise that they do guest posts ;)

    • ChrisLDyson

      Thanks James

      I was quite surprised that so many people were happy to contemplate posting an article under their own name – but as you pointed out the quality of the sites wasn’t the best.

  • http://robduckers.com/ Rob Duckers

    Chris I’m glad you’ve published this post under your own name…who wrote it though? Really? ;)

    I’ve found a few sites will publish under their own name (as WordPress admin/Google Authorship), and didn’t ask for an Author Bio – so the only clue they’re posing Guest Posts are from associated Categories and Tags (and the value a Guest Post category or tag has is what exactly?).

  • http://www.elevatedsearch.com/ Steve Peron

    Thank for highlighting the update to their no follow policy. I love how in the videos they say “Yea generally it is a bad idea”, but then officially “its up to the webmaster to decide”. Way to be consistent Google .. or is it on purpose? (WAG THE DOG)

  • Brian Dean

    Great post, Chris. I’ve actually dabbled with this in the past (but called it “Buddy Guest Posting”….your name is 100x better). I definitely see this as the next big thing in link building once Google finally officially recommends that site owners make all guest post links nofollow.

  • Sophorn Chhay

    Good post. Lots to consider. The best thing is to manually review each site before posting an article. We shall see in the coming months.

  • http://www.magneticwebcontent.com/ Lyndon Antcliff

    My mantra has always been if it works it works.

  • Spook SEO

    Hello Chris,

    Google is already hunting down guest posting with low quality content, excessive inks and keywords. For the past months, after the release of successive algorithm updates, negative SEO techniques were targeted and those who practiced it suffered the most. As a rule of thumb, it’s better to be safe than sorry so it’s better to do SEO’s that is amenable with Google’s rules.