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6 PR Experts Weigh in on Google’s New Guest Post Crackdown

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Earlier today we posted on Google‘s latest in a long line of attempts to discourage spammy guest posts designed to boost sites’ rankings with keywords and the dreaded “dofollow links.”

As the marketing/PR blog world freaked out around us, we wondered: should we swear off guest posts altogether?

Of course not; today’s clarification from the kings of search says that you’ll only be punished if your sole reason for posting is the rankings bounce we mentioned. In order to understand what this means for PR, we asked several of our favorite contacts for their takes.

Quotes (emphasis ours) after the jump.

Ed Zitron, founder of EZ-PR and author of This Is How You Pitchwrites:

“Guest posts with advice done well are great; vacuous startup platitudes dressed up as ‘thought leadership’ are not. Terrible garbage written for SEO is not useful and it’s unsurprising that Google is cutting down on it. Cutts said there are great guest bloggers out there; he’s just attacking those gaming Google with low-quality stuff.”

Consultant and Communications Conversations blogger Arik Hanson:

“As a blogger myself, the majority of the ‘pitches’ I receive sadly fall into the bucket Cutts outlined in his post. But, in my view, that spam-level pitching makes it that much easier for those of us who take a more thoughtful approach because it’s easier to cut through the proverbial cover: do your homework, offer up insightful ideas and develop great content. Guest blogging is certainly not dead. Not by a long shot.”

Tom Becktold and Serena Ehrlich of Business Wire:

Tom: “You want to write for humans, not for robots. You’re going to find that quality content with relevant links in context will be fine, but anyone looking for quick fixes to search rankings will find that short-term tactics damage them in the long run.”

Serena: “One of the ways to make sure you or your guest poster is considered a valid writer is to fill out your Google profile; they’re tying this move back to their own products. Another thing publishers should avoid is posting duplicate content and stuffing their blog posts with links to their own site. We’re also seeing a trend toward highly targeted op-eds and blog posts as opposed to broad stories.”

Tom: “We sometimes get solicitations to write guest blog posts at Business Wire that are way out of left field. As a PR, you always ask yourself ‘how do I provide relevant information to this blog or website?’, and the same applies here. The folks who care enough to be concerned about these issues are probably the ones doing it right. Those most affected are hybrid advertising/SEO digital agencies that specialize in ad placement, but they’re trying to expand their portfolio into things that should really be PR’s responsibility.

Serena: “Nonprofits and B2C companies get automated pitches all the time, but you can immediately tell upon looking at the source site whether it’s a spammy blog or not. This move should help good writers cut through the spam clutter.”

Harrison Wise, founder and president of WISE PR:

“As most PRNewser readers know, the best part of guest posting is that it allows you to enter an already-established community and share your message.

Both thought leadership and “owned media” or “content marketing” or whatever you want to call it are very good at building awareness of your brand, but true thought leadership is such a rare thing.

From a pure PR perspective, guest posts are still a good vehicle for building and sustaining thought leadership and associating your personal/corporate brand with a reputable news org or influential blog. This latest kerfuffle shouldn’t deter any of us from continuing to work with clients on creating and placing such content in reputable media channels.”

David Rodnitzky, founder of 3Q Digital:

“SEO algorithms are inherently flawed as they invite manipulation. Google’s attempts to stop bad practices often seem like ‘whack a mole’: kill one bad practice and another one pops up. Telling the world that guest blogs are now persona non grata probably will deter black hat SEOs from spending any time on this practice. Instead, they’ll just focus on the next black hat concept and milk that one until Google stops that one too.”

Sounds like we’re in agreement: this is less a “crackdown” than a refinement of the rules that have always governed Google’s content and rankings policies.

Oh, and you know you should be following all these fine people on Twitter, right? Just click on their names…

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