Is Google’s inability to distinguish between low-quality guest posts and high-quality guest posts and admission that they cannot evaluate content as well as they would have users of their search engine believe? I’ll be the first to admit, I’m no computer scientist and perhaps this is harder than it sounds. But to me, Google’s incapability to deal with this issue brings into question the effectiveness of its search algorithm.
Before jumping into my reasoning, I’ll first go through a timeline of Google’s ever-changing stance on links from guest blog posts.
Timeline of Google’s Stance on Guest Blog Posts
Oct 9, 2012
Above is a video of Matt Cutts discussing links from guest posts. By saying that they are “less likely to want to count those links [from unoriginal/low-quality guest posts]” Cutts implies that acquiring a link from guest posting by and industry expert or an industry up-and-comer is within their guidelines. So Google via Matt Cutts is telling us that they want to count links from guest posts written by experts and up-and-comers.
In short – Google wants to count links from experts’ and up-and-comers’ (high-quality) guest posts.
Feb 25, 2013
The discussion relating to nofollowing guest post links takes place around 49:56
This find was originally reported on www.hiswebmarketing.com along with another video from the same time period which basically states the same thing, that links to an author’s site from a guest post should be nofollowed. The video is of John Mueller having a discussion with webmasters on a Google Webmaster Central Hangout. Mueller is much more straight-forward than Cutts, stating that links from guest blog posts are “probably something [he’d] nofollow because those aren’t essentially natural links from that website.”
In short – Google doesn’t want to count guest post links.
Oct 16, 2013
Matt states, “for example, whenever we get a spam report, and we dig into it in the manual webspam team, usually, there’s a pretty clear distinction between an occasional guest blog versus someone who is doing large-scale pay-for-links kinds of stuff.” He goes on to say that usually there’s an about-the-author paragraph in guest posts and “hopefully the guest blogger isn’t dropping keywords in their anchors nearly as much as these other sorts of methods of generating links.”
He goes on to say “if you’re doing a guest blog and it gets pretty close to what looks like paid links, then that might be the sort of thing where we decide we don’t want to count those links, regardless.” Essentially, this says that they do want to count guest post links that are high quality or at the very least don’t look like paid links. When asked how to differentiate a guest post from a paid post, he never mentioned anything regarding using nofollow.
In short – Google wants to count links from high-quality guest posts and it’s ok to place a few keywords in anchor text.
Jan 20, 2014
In this post on his blog, Matt Cutts declares guest blogging for links is dead. He states that, “In mid-2013, John Mueller gave spot on advice about nofollowing links in guest blog posts.” Strange, because Cutts seemingly gave contradictory advice afterwards.
Cutts goes on to say “So there you have it: the decay of a once-authentic way to reach people. Given how spammy it’s become, I’d expect Google’s webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward.”
In short – Google no longer wants to count links from guest blog posts.
Oct 9, 2012 – Google wants to count links from experts’ and up-and-comers’ (high-quality) guest blog posts.
Feb 25, 2013 – Google doesn’t want to count links from guest blog posts.
Oct 16, 2013 – Google wants to count links from high-quality guest blog posts and it’s ok to place a few keywords in anchor text.
Jan 20, 2014 – Google no longer wants to count links from guest blog posts.
Talk about inability to pick a course and go with it. At least it seems they have finally made up their mind.
What I take from this is that Google did want to count these links, yet then eventually could not tell the good from the bad.
Google’s Reversal & Major Questions It Brings Up
- Does this mean that Google cannot differentiate between spammy guest posts (low-quality content) and high-quality guest posts (high-quality content)?
- If so, is this an admission that Google cannot differentiate between low-quality content and high-quality content?
- Can Google not algorithmically understand whether or not an individual is an expert, an up-and-comer, or a spammer?
An Expert’s Profile
An expert’s site is likely to have a wide range of links both high and low quality along with high-quality content and a legitimate-looking social profile.
An Up-and-comer’s Profile
An up-and-comer’s site is likely to have fewer links along with high-quality content and a legitimate-looking social profile.
A Spammer’s Profile
A spammer’s site is likely to have many low-quality links along with low-quality content and a spammy-looking social profile.
Detecting these 3 things, content quality, a legitimate link profile, and a legitimate social profile should seemingly be core abilities of Google’s search algorithm if it is to deliver quality results. One would think that by evaluating a site’s link profile and the content quality of a post that Google’s algorithm would be able to distinguish between a spammy site doing spammy guest posts and a legitimate site doing a few quality guest posts.
When these two factors (spammy link profile & low-quality guest post linking to the site) are both present, don’t count the link. Heck, don’t count links from any piece of content with more than three spelling errors (that alone would eliminate the value of links from most spammy content). It would also force quality content writers to do a better job proofreading their content. Two birds.
I imagine reviewing reconsideration requests and maintaining the system to send out notices via Google Webmaster Tools along with employing people to do manual reviews costs Google a decent amount of money. If they do have the ability to understand the differences mentioned above then they should be able to make changes to their ranking algorithm and save everyone, including themselves, a lot of time and money.
Perhaps Google had a major shift in their thinking on guest blog posts. Maybe it isn’t a question of them not being able to understand the good quality from the bad. It could be a fundamental change in how they envision contribution from experts should be evaluated in their algorithm. Whatever their reasons, there are some takeaways we can learn from.
What We Can Learn From This
As Digital Marketers we need to be aware of Google’s past actions and think ahead to what they my do next. I’ve been trying to do this since I started marketing online and for the most part I’ve been pretty good at it. Keep a list of places you get links from as you acquire them. Even though a link may fall within Google’s guidelines today, there is no guarantee they won’t reverse their stance on a type of link in the future. So follow the Boy Scout motto and “Be Prepared!”