John Mueller, a Google senior webmaster trends analyst who has been with the company for almost 13 years now, recently said on Twitter that links within guest blog posts or contributed content should be nofollowed. This is not necessarily new messaging from Google but whenever Google talks about guest posts, it seems the SEO world wakes up to a lively debate.
Google’s recent statement. Here is what Mueller recently said on Twitter about links in guest blog posts: “The part that’s problematic is the links — if you’re providing the content/the links, then those links shouldn’t be passing signals & should have the rel-sponsored / rel-nofollow attached. It’s fine to see it as a way of reaching a broader audience.”
Here are those tweets within context:
He then was questioned about this and said two days later on Twitter, “Essentially if the link is within the guest post, it should be nofollow, even if it’s a “natural” link you’re adding there.”
Not new. This is something Google has said before. We recently touched on some of the history around guest blogging when SEMRush got into some hot water over a new service they discontinued. Google said, “Guest blogging is done” in 2014 after numerous warnings to SEOs and site owners about using guest posts as a link building tactic.
Way back in 2013, Mueller said to nofollow links in guest blog posts. But some may argue that only large scale guest blogging for links is against Google’s guidelines. Maybe? But Google clearly has said, place nofollow link attributes on all guest blog post links, period.
A penalty coming? Nah, Mueller also said in that tweet quoted above “FWIW none of this is new, and I’m not aware of any plans to ramp up manual reviews of this. We catch most of these algorithmically anyway.”
Google can and does ignore these links algorithmically. So guest blogging for links is probably not very effective. In another recent tweet from Mueller on this he noted that because the practice has been in place for so long, Google’s algorithms “have a lot of training data” so it’s likely “the largest part of those links are just ignored automatically.”
Should Google not trust these links? Some in the SEO space feel Google is wrong about this policy. Some say that Google should trust links in guest blog posts. Rand Fishkin of SparkToro said on Twitter, “Strongly disagree w/ this Google rep’s take,” adding, “Really? All contributions to a publication not by an author employed there should have links ‘nofollowed?’ C’mon. Most publications ignore this. They trust & endorse contributors or they wouldn’t publish ’em.”
Does Google even know what is a guest post and what is not? That is what Will Critchlow of Search Pilot and Brainlabs asked on Twitter. He said, “It’s also ridiculous because there is literally no way to tell from the outside whether a writer is an employee, a contractor, a freelancer, or a contributor (e.g. my status when I write for Moz.”
As a matter of note; we nofollow links from our contributors here on Search Engine Land. In fact, even the links on my bio are nofollowed, and I am a daily writer here at Search Engine Land.
But it works. Many SEOs say that links in guest blog posts still work. It still works in that Google still somehow counts those links and they help you rank better in Google. Of course, it is almost impossible to test this to be true, since there are so many variables when it comes to ranking in Google search. But some believe it works.
A fun Twitter poll conducted by Dan Petrovic showed that many SEOs still do guest blogging with the sole intent of link building.
Why we care. Sadly, when Matt Cutts in 2014 that guest blogging is done, stick a fork in it, it was done. Meaning, Google probably took a firm stance then that it cannot trust links in guest blog posts. So it used both manual and algorithmic methods to not trust those links anymore.
We, as SEOs, tend to find something that works to help our sites rank better. We then push it to the limits where it becomes so overused that it no longer works or Google has to take action because it is being manipulated.
It is not just Google. Yandex for a period of time ignored all links related to commercial queries because they were overly manipulated. It didn’t end up resulting in SEOs stopping building links, so they dealt with it other ways anyway.
It seems that guest blogging for links is not a good strategy for SEO. If you do it for traffic and brand building, go for it. But don’t be upset or discouraged if those links are nofollowed by the publisher, Google is probably already ignoring those links anyway.