So one of the latest pieces of “clarification” from Google came in the shape of Matt Cutt’s explaining his take on Guest Blog Posting and if it’s OK for SEO?
For those of you who havn’t yet seen it:
Matt explains in so many words:
- Guest blog posts that are recycled over and over will be discounted – don’t do it
- Guest blog posts that write the “bare minimum” of 300 words are generally not considered good quality and are probably ignored
- If you have something insightful, valuable or genuinely interesting to say it is OK to guest blog post
- Make sure the content is well written – it helps if the writer is an expert in the field
Generally speaking guest blog posting has worked well for SEO for a few years now (extremely well to start with) but over the last 12 months in particular it’s really become one of the standard/out of the box link building approaches for many brands – and is therefore now less valuable/harder to find the gems. Typically the best way of identifying the right guest blogging opportunities is to use various Google commands to track down content and URLs that are looking for guest blog posts, there are even command generators available now to make it that little easier for you.
So what makes a Non-Friendly Google guest blog post?
I saw this great tweet from MyCool King:
He really hits the nail on the head with this one, whatever Matt Cutt’ says in his videos always use that information with a pinch of salt. The bottom line is that more than likely the only way Google will be able to detect if you’re abusing guest blog posting is if you do something glaringly obvious to them that makes you stand out:
- Use the same author bio or boiler plate
- Mass syndicate the same guest blog post on multiple blogs
- Create different blog posts that include the same links to the same pages
- Talk about topics which are not relevant to the blog itself
- Write posts in bulk and distribute all together
These are only some of the ways I believe you run the risk of Google’s algorithm taking more of an interest in what you write for guest blog posts.
Time invested will equal a good SEO return
If you want to play the numbers game it’s quite simple – you can either write many low quality guest blog posts which will give you direct links and a slight uplift or you can spend time writing few big guest blog posts of much higher quality that will give you immediate links PLUS social signals, reference links from other bloggers and more author-rank. Now i’m probably not alone when I say; I’ve created guest blog posts of 300-400 words but those words have been written very well by someone who knows what they’re talking about – unfortunately that probably isn’t going to cut it for returning enough value to make the process worthwhile anymore – the goalposts have just moved (or were they always this far apart..)
How to write a perfect guest blog post for Google?
- Finding the right blog will play a big part in determining how well the content will perform, obviously bigger brands with a good social profiles will give you a larger stage in which to talk about your subject. You’d actually be surprised how many high street and large brands are willing to accept content. They’re not always under an obvious URL too so you might need to do some digging around for email addresses – commands will not always find the gems people.
- Theme and topic of your blog post is equally important. If you’re trying to build links to uninteresting keywords (like finance) it can be quite hard to be imaginative and still produce something relevant but it’s essential you capture the right audience. Look at Google Trends and insights for inspiration and time-relevant angles may present themselves.
- The content itself should obviously grammatically well written but always support your blog posts with references, data and images where possible. If it looks like you’ve produced something that has taken hours then more people will value and respect the content you’ve created.
- Adding the links is often the part where people slip up – adding links in the first paragraph to a commercial website will look artificial to users and search engines. Don’t force the links in and don’t write for the links – create a blog post as if it was simply an essay and look to where you can add opportunities afterward.
- Author Bios are often a good place to include a branded link to your website – explain who you are and also link to your Google+ profile if you have one
Examples of Google friendly guest blog posts
For the SEO’s we don’t have to travel far to find a location that illustrates guest blog posting done well – YouMoz. A section for SEOMoz’s users to write freely about the various topics within the industry with the added ability to include external links. What makes this so special? Well, they have a strict content guideline and really push users to write to the best of their ability, there’s also a review process which is undertaken for each blog post to ensure quality is continued.
A very high percentage of the posts on YouMoz look valuable – so when thinking about writing content for another blog use similar guidelines for yourself or writers before sending to blogs – you’ll find the blogger will love it and you’ll reap the rewards for much longer than before.
Google UK seems to be testing SERP layouts again; this time the Meta description seems to be impacted, I’ve seen listings move from the typical 2 lines of description to 3 and 4 lines per listing, note the example below:
Now Google has actually shown these kind of results for quite some time now but typically only get displayed when you type a phrase that is very long tail, like: buy seo services in the london area of soho for cheap. However I’ve never seen 4 lines of text before, which actually moves from around 158 characters to 324.
Above you can again see examples of both 3 and 4 lines of a Meta description being displayed for the same search query “tom cruise films”. From what I can see this is only being triggered for movie/film related queries but what’s interesting is that it’s for more generic keywords – imagine if this gets rolled out everywhere, the number of organic listings above the page fold would most likely be only 2!
I guess the latest Google
update penalty shouldn’t have been a surprise for many of us, we’ve all known that exact match domains have had extra punching weight when it comes to rankings in Google for some time now. For those that were not aware, on Friday 28th September Matt Cutt’s announced the following algorithm update:
Like many other SEO’s I run a number of affiliate or adsense site, these help pay for my server and for content development – so I checked out what impact this update has had. For the data below I have used 10 of my exact match domain websites as an example to see what aspects if any contribute to the algorithm change – out of the 10, 9 are .co.uk domains and 1 is a .org.
Change in Rankings since update
The graph above illustrates ranking changes over the weekend for the keyword that is targeted in the EMD – you can see that the results are quite dramatic, with only 2 of the 10 sites not dropping rankings. The largest drop in rankings came in at minus 191 positions but the overall average in ranking drop came in at minus 81.
Ranking Change Versus Age of EMD
What’s interesting in this graph is that certainly looks like there is a correlation of the EMD site age and what effect this latest has update has had on them. The 3 youngest EMD sites in Medical, Insurance and Beauty are all over 1 year old but have sustained the most drops and the 4 eldest sites have had the least amount of drops in rankings.
Ranking Change Versus Number of Links
Now I realise that number of links is not really a very useful metric as it’s always quality over quantity and unsurprisingly there is no correlation against the ranking drops.
Ranking Change Versus EMD Search Volume
So search volume is one metric I guessed would play some part in the update and this really does play a big part in the EMD strategy – it’s historically been the higher the search volume the more expensive the EMD is worth. Although you can see that the domains with the least amount of search volume are generally the least effected it’s not clear cut – there are some sites with low EMD search volume that have had big drops in rankings (beauty niche) and other sites with a low number of drops with higher search volume (film niche 1) – so there must be other factors that are taken into consideration.
Ranking Change Versus Content Quality
Ok, so this is probably the least scientific metric as I’ve personally graded my own website content quality. I like to think that none of the sites in this study would be considered spammy, I’ve either written the content myself or paid someone a decent wage to write content for me. What I’ll also admit is that within these 10 websites there are some which I believe have very good content and some that are probably now out of date or towards the lower end of the quality scale. What I find interesting is that 2 of the top 3 sites (in order of website content quality) have had the least impact – but what I find more frustrating is that the site I work on the most/consider the most valuable is one of the EMDs that has suffered the biggest drop (Medical Niche). As well as that Insurance Niche 1 site has low and certainly out of date content but has not really been impacted at all (but this is one of the sites with the lowest EMD search volume).
Ranking Change Versus MozRank and MozTrust
Now this graph above surprised me the most – you can see that there very clearly seems to be some correlation between Moz Trust and drops in the rankings (besides Film Niche 1) but it doesn’t make any sense – surely websites with good MR and MT would have good links and therefore be treated well by Google, but for EMD this really doesn’t seem to be the case.
Takeaways from this study
- The age of your exact match domain does seem to play a part and anything under 1 years old will most likely have received a drop during this recent update
- If your EMD is targeting keywords with fairly low search volume you may be ok, those with higher search volume appear to be further impacted (although at a very high 50k+ searches a month I am not sure)
- Google seems to be counteracting the negative value of EMD’s with the sites true content value. My Medical Niche website has the best content (text, video and images), the most valuable links and the highest MR and MT but has dropped 143 positions
This update from Google has certainly reduced the value of EMD which was needed in many areas of the web, that being said not all EMD’s are spammy and some are certainly more valuable than a user generated Wikipedia page (which seem to have prospered from this update). Will Google release a second update? Maybe – for the sake of some of my websites I certainly hope so.