Google’s Guideline Updates…and Other Stories

Google's Guideline Updates…and Other Stories

In the SEO industry, what is considered valid today can change tomorrow, and the art of linkbuilding as an inherent part of this overall strategy is no exception. However, since both novice and educated opinions about official updates–and an equal amount of spun gossip–continuously swirl around the Internet on a daily basis, we have to be careful to act rather than react.

As a subscriber to Google alerts on guest posting and linkbuilding, my inbox is barraged every week with spun interpretations on any and every statement even loosely attributed to someone at Google. These opinions range from thoughtful comments to outrageous ‘manifestos,’ and have inspired me to write this post–a vote for continued relevant content, common sense and reasonable linking, and a vote against what I call the volatile jugglers of day-to-day crazy.

Let’s take a look at one of the latest Google Guidelines updates, to see how even a minor change can spin out of control on the information highway. Specifically, we’ll look at a new revision to their guidelines dealing with ‘link schemes’ and how it might relate to advertorial guest posts.

The Facts

Google’s Guidelines have always specified that it is against their terms of service for blogs to exchange money for posting backlinked articles. According to Google, this was to make sure the playing field of online business was level, and that payment to a blog for publishing those links didn’t tilt their user’s organic search results one way or another.

Recently, Google has made a few inevitable updates to these guidelines. Delving a little further, I found this video wherein Matt Cutts, Google’s web spam point man, explains these points in greater detail. Simply summarized, they seem to be well aware that many blogs are still trying to charge for links, or are being paid for content links, and so they have re-clarified the rules.

The update explains that whether you are paying for or receiving payment for links, you must ‘call an ad an ad’ by conspicuously categorizing your advertorial content as ‘sponsored or paid.’ And for good measure, blogs must change the links within this paid copy to ‘no follow,’ just to make sure they are not skewing the search results. The revision also brings up why ‘large-scale’ targeted guest posting and advertorial campaigns are going to get you banned–à la Interflora which blasted out over 150 paid advertorials with do follow links right before Valentines Day.

The Frenzy

From the moment the term ‘guest posting’ made its contextual debut in this guideline, the cycle began – with speculation and sensational comments spun from even the more intelligent citations on SEOMoz and SearchEngineWatch.com. Our linkbuilding team immediately began getting blowback from blog owners that included misinterpretations ranging from, “Google doesn’t allow guest posts anymore,” to “We are supposed to no-follow all guest post links according to Google,” and even, “You have to pay us now for guest posts because they are ads.”

Bottom line, misinterpretation and drama spread faster than the simple truth. And, unfortunately, you don’t see many common sense comebacks to the crazy. Meanwhile, the blog owners (who have little to no real knowledge of what the actual guidelines revision was all about) were reacting to emotional outbursts such as, “You better no-follow those guest posts,” and, “Don’t take posts from anyone who sells a service or product on their site.” Seriously? I think that one of the most amusing examples of ‘crazy spin’ is this article by Jeff Foster, damning Guest Posts linkbuilding in a guest post for Problogger.com which includes–wait for it–a total of six (6) separate do follow links to his own website!

The Reality

This Google ‘link schemes’ update, in itself, has had little impact on our Outreach Department’s operations because we already work in an above-board manner. Our linkbuilders are real people with credible authorship on the web, who reach out to the blogs with honest interest in a mutually beneficial collaboration. Keyword choices are distributed amongst brand names and domains, as well as short and long tail exact match anchor text–again, to allow more natural flow–and our guest posts are never over-optimized.

Blogs are offered guest posts containing fresh and informative content which is relevant to their readership–as well as to the backlinked site–which continues to provide value for both sides. The SEO client benefits from the association of credible contextual links, and the blog wins with frequent posting of new content for its targeted readership while boosting larger audiences for its wisdom or wares; and its higher ranking invites monetization with national advertizers.

The only negative impact we’ve had to deal with, in this instance, is that which was caused by the spin of misinformation. By its very nature, the web is a real time venue for topical stories, but unfortunately it’s also a knee-jerk tool for the impulsive. False statements and tempestuous stances are not only published freely, but social media can take them viral in mere minutes. I think it’s always important to take a few minutes and try to leave a comment to set the record straight, especially when you see an issue irresponsibly sensationalized. That said, whenever we can get ahead of the onslaught–via educational posts, webinars, and even videos–such as this Google Updates video by our very own Chris Watson and Alex Damon–it will go a long way toward diffusing the ‘crazy.’