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MyBlogGuest, Guest Blogging, Hypocrisy, and a Facepalm Moment

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by PotPieGirl on March 22, 2014 · 25 comments

When one guest blogging service got singled out hit with a Google penalty recently (as well as the sites using the service), it has since been a BIG topic of discussion.

Was it fair? Did Google use MyBlogGuest as an example to spread more fear in the community? Was it an over-use of power by Google – or, did it make perfect sense?

Here’s how I explained this situation to myself – and the facepalm moment when I realized I understood nothing at all.

Walking Through My Attempt To Understand All This

First off, I am well aware that Google is a business. In reality they are just a big and popular online directory that everyone wants their web pages to rank highly in.

I also understand that Google is not The Internet, nor are they the law.

Just like most everything else in life, if you want to be included, you have to play by the rules.

Let’s take school as an example, if you wanted to be included in that school you had to play by the rules.

If you cheat and get caught, you’ll most likely get suspended for a while – or expelled forever.

In sports, you play by the rules or you get a penalty, get thrown off the team – or get thrown out of the sport all-together.

Google is no different than any of the above situations.

If you want to rank highly in Google’s search results, you have to play by THEIR rules.

If you don’t care where, or if, you rank in Google’s search results, don’t worry about their rules – do whatever you want.

Matt Cutts said:

matt cutts guest blogging comment

You can do ANYTHING you want to your site – and Google can do anything THEY want to THEIR site.

We can debate the “fairness” of it all until we’re purple in the face, but their business is their business…and our business is our business.

We can debate the misuse of Google’s power online until our heads explode, but at the end of the day, WE gave them that power.

Ok, that said, let me get into my understanding of guest blogging and the supposed issues with it.

This is my blog. I post what I want here and I link out to what I want – however I CHOOSE to link.

What I link to has nothing to do with Google – it has to do with citing my sources, giving follow up info about something I’ve said, etc.

My Choice – ie, editorial control. By linking to other web pages, I am giving editorial links to those urls. No one is forcing me to do it, no one is paying me to do it… no one is offering me something of value in order to do it, either (well, except ONE link I have…and I’ll get to that in a moment).

Do Follow links pass Google ranking and Page Rank value – if those links are given editorially (ie, of my own free will and without intention to influence the Google ranking of the page I link to), there is no issue with that.

In fact, that’s what Google WANTS – editorial links.

What does all that have to do with Guest Blogging and MyBlogGuest?

Remember not too long ago, Matt Cutts released this video explaining how they identify paid links?

Yep, I made fun of it blogged about it here – even wrote a silly “Thank You” note to Danny Sullivan on that post to further entertain myself.

But bottom line is this – if something of value is given in exchange for a REQUIRED DO follow link, that is basically a Paid Link according to Google.

Do Follow Paid Links = Google Penalty

Just like in school, Google considers it cheating in attempt to do better within their directory. Get caught, well, You’re Outta Here.

If one did NOT care how that link affected their presence in Google, one would not care if the link was do follow or not – they would leave it up to the blog hosting their guest content for the site owner to make an editorial decision.

When a transaction happens that exchanges something of value for a required Do Follow link, that is bad (if you care about Google).

And I have to add: if one did NOT care about their Google rankings or authority, why would one REQUIRE a Do Follow link?

Content IS valuable to a site owner, right? Do Follow links are valuable to someone trying to rank well in Google, right?

Content given with a requirement that all links in said content MUST be Do Follow is a paid link that is designed to manipulate Google – at least that how I see it from what Matt Cutts says.

So based on ALL that, do follow links in guest posts are considered paid links?

From my understanding based on all I just walked you through, that is why Matt Cutts made the following tweet that announced that they (Google) singled out one popular guest blogging community to make an example of them and send the fear throughout the community that Guest Blogging is BAD.

matt cutts tweet myblogguest guest blogging penalty
At this exact moment in my learning about this situation, it all made perfect sense to me…. and then it didn’t.

My Bad, Bad, Bad, Good, Good, and FacePalm Understanding Of All This:

To further illustrate my understanding of all this, I am going to share with you 6 scenarios of how guest blogging can get you in trouble with Google – and how it can be FINE with Google.

Not ALL Guest Blogging is BAD. There are some scenarios where Google has no issue, or at least doesn’t care about it. I’ll share those below.

And the last scenario will explain the only REQUIRED Do Follow link I have on this site and maybe you’ll see why everything Google has said about paid links makes perfect sense….until that one facepalm moment.

Guest Blogging Do’s and Don’ts – and My FacePalm Moment

Cast of Characters:

You: You’re a random Blog Owner
Me: Well, I’m me ;)
Matt Cutts: Is Matt Cutts, of course, representing Google manual and algorithmic penalties.

Scenario #1

Me: Hi! I’ll pay you $500 if you post my article on your site and make all my links do-follow

You: Ok! Sounds great!

Matt Cutts: Gotcha! :::pushes penalty button:::

—–

Scenario #2

Me: Hi! I’d love to write an on-topic article for your blog for free, all I ask is that all my links MUST be do-follow.

You: Ok! Sounds Great!

Matt Cutts: Gotcha! :::pushes penalty button:::

—–

Scenario #3

Me: Hi! I’m in XYZ Guest Blogging Community. If you choose me as an author, all my articles will automatically publish to your blog, BUT all links MUST be do-follow.

You: Ok! Sounds great!

Matt Cutts: Gotcha! :::pushes penalty button:::

—–

Scenario #4

Me: Hi! Love your blog!

You: Thanks! I’d love to have you write for us sometime.

Me: That would be awesome, thanks… How about an article on ____?

You: My readers would love that! But just so you know, all your links will be NO follow – is that ok with you?

Me: No problem at all – I’d just love the opportunity to interact with your readers.

Matt Cutts: No issues with this.

—–

Scenario #5

Me: I made this awesome widget, tool, image, infographic, video, etc and you’re welcome to use it. Just please cite me as the source however you feel fit to do so.

You: Thanks!

Matt Cutts: No issues with this.

—–

Scenario #6

Me: Hi Google! I’d love to have my picture show up next to my content in the Google search results.

Google: Sure! Just link to your site from Google Plus (which is a NO follow link) and then you MUST provide a DO follow link back to Google Plus from your site for it to have a chance of working.

Matt Cutts: Do as we say, not as we do.

Me: :::facepalm:::

Imgurian facepalm?
Sorry for taking so long to get to the cute kitty picture, but I wanted to spell it all out exactly as it processed thru my little pea brain. And it all made perfect sense until that last scenario with the G+ authorship link (and yes, I tested it… if you no-follow your rel=author link, authorship does not work anymore).

The only way I can use something of value from Google (authorship markup to show my picture next to my search results) is if I give Google a DO follow link to Google Plus?

Google wants editorial links and they penalize sites when links are perceived to NOT be editorial in nature…. BUT, Google takes away my editorial rights by requiring a DO follow link if I want to be part of their Google Plus Authorship system?

Please, someone tell me I have this ALL wrong…

 

 



{ 24 comments }

Andy Beard March 22, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Hi Jennifer

Love those examples

One technical correction… you can nofollow links for authorship

PotPieGirl March 22, 2014 at 9:39 pm

Hiya Andy! Nice to see you!

I tried it on another site of mine. When Do Follow, the rich snippets tool showed everything working fine and reported that authorship was set up properly.

Then, I went and no-followed the link…tested the link and it still worked fine to link to my G+ profile…and then ran it back thru the rich snippets tool. It didn’t work anymore – according to the tool, authorship was no longer set up properly.

Andy Beard March 23, 2014 at 1:24 am

I am sure I have tested it in the past and it worked – more fool me for not testing it again before commenting as I know you test stuff a lot more than most.

I just went through a few variations using rel, data-rel and ?rel=author (ignoring the version in header)

rel=”author nofollow” is recognised as rdfa linktype of author, but the authorship relationship isn’t working (at least in the rich snippet tool)

It wouldn’t be unheard of for the tool to have a bug… the is certainly inconsistancy.

Rel=”me” from a historical context always worked with nofollow.

Will play around more with it tomorrow

Left it live on my blog for now
https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/richsnippets?q=http://andybeard.eu/contact/

Pedro Dias March 22, 2014 at 11:04 pm

My thoughts are, on the technical side: If you include a rel=”nofollow” on the link, the system/bot responsible for doing the verification won’t follow the link to the destination (Google always said Googlebot will not travel trough nofollowed links), and because of this it won’t be able to verify the connection.

On the conceptual side: I can’t imagine why wouldn’t you endorse yourself.

PotPieGirl March 22, 2014 at 11:53 pm

True, why wouldn’t I CHOOSE to endorse myself, but from what I can tell so far, I didn’t have that choice, ya know?

Michael Martinez March 22, 2014 at 11:36 pm

Okay, I’m tired of every SEO on the planet claiming that Google demands a “follow” link to a Google+ profile in exchange for an authorship picture.

Please show me where they say that. I would LOVE to see it.

PotPieGirl March 22, 2014 at 11:52 pm

I couldn’t find it literally spelled out by Google, so I decided to try it for myself.

So i put the follow’d rel=author link on the site, ran thru rich snippets tool, authorship set up properly.

Changed rel=author link to a no-follow link, ran back thru rich snippets testing tool, authorship NOT set up properly.

Yes, it’s possible I messed something up, but instead of trusting anyone’s words, I decided to try it and see for myself.

On the other hand, show me where Google says it does NOT have to be a ‘follow’ link…. ;)

Michael Martinez March 23, 2014 at 3:37 am

And yet I have blogs where Authorship shows up without any “follow” links. Your mistake was to use the test tool. You should have just let the test run in the wild.

And I don’t have to show where Google says it does NOT have to be a “follow” link. That’s false logic. They are not asking for a “follow” link. And they don’t require it.

PotPieGirl March 23, 2014 at 4:03 am

I was just following the instructions given by Google here (option 2):

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/1408986?expand=option2

If it’s a mistake to follow the instructions given directly from Google and then use the tool offered to make sure I did it right, well… I don’t know how to respond to that.

One would *think* the tool would be accurate – it was accurate when it said authorship was set up properly on my test site (I saw my pic in the SERPs), so why would the testing tool suddenly be inaccurate when the tool says authorship was NOT set up properly when all I did was no-follow the link?

I don’t have the length of experience online that you do, nor do I have the education background that you do… If I did, this post most likely would never have been written. It all seems to make perfect sense to you, but it just doesn’t to me. My perception at this moment in time is that Google requires a do-follow link to ones G+ profile in order for the Authorship system to work in the SERPs.

Apparently, according to option 1 in that link above, one can validate via a verified email address – which I imagine is what you have done?

All in all, I really don’t think I am alone in my perception of all this – perhaps some clarification would be good all around.

Michael Martinez March 23, 2014 at 4:24 pm

“If it’s a mistake to follow the instructions given directly from Google and then use the tool offered to make sure I did it right, well… I don’t know how to respond to that.”

Rather unconventional criticism from me, is it not? :)

However, the last news I had on Authorship (and my information may be out of date) was that the team had been dispersed to other projects, so Authorship is on autopilot and no one is minding the store. Unless Google specifically says somewhere that the tool has been updated to conform with the latest standards supported by Authorship it’s a sketchy thing to use that tool in any experiment.

Your experiment has revealed an interesting point: that the tool can be used to disable Authorship. Imagine how that could be abused by someone who notices that a rival has inadvertently screwed up their markup. It’s a dangerous business, sharing what you discover on the Web because you’re thinking about THIS and THAT occurs to someone else.

But to do your experiment properly you have to keep things simple. Hence, that means NOT using the tool. You should have enough information about how to get Authorship rolling by now that you don’t need to use the tool.

If you just feel better using a verification tool then you should use one that isn’t tied into Google’s processes. While a third-party tool may not be up-to-spec on Google’s internal requirements, either, at least it can’t be used to kill your Authorship.

So, I don’t mean to come down hard on you but you really did make a mistake to use the verification tool. Your intention was not to set up Authorship but to test one aspect of how Authorship works. In any such experiment you have to isolate what you’re testing as much as possible; and that means keeping the experiment as simple as possible.

Meanwhile, let’s hope no one figures out how to use the verification tool to hurt people in a scalable way. I’m afraid the cat is already out of the bag, though.

PotPieGirl March 23, 2014 at 5:31 pm

Thank you for your in-depth feedback there…and yes, mighty unconventional of you ;)

I’m going to rethink some testing ideas….

Michael Martinez March 31, 2014 at 4:51 pm

From Matt Cutts: “The authorship verification tool is completely passive, so it shouldn’t have any sort of effect like that.”

I will INFER that, if the verification tool can really negatively impact your SERP visibility, more people will have to document this behavior to help Google figure out what is going on.

PotPieGirl March 23, 2014 at 5:11 am

Wish I had found this before I published this post, but this article over on HisWebMarketing.com is an EXCELLENT article about guest posting:

http://www.hiswebmarketing.com/yes-high-quality-guest-posts-can-get-you-penalized/

Marie Haynes March 23, 2014 at 5:04 pm

Thanks so much for the kind words Jennifer. I wrote that article eight months ago but it makes more sense now that all of these manual reviews are happening on a large scale.

PotPieGirl March 23, 2014 at 5:35 pm

Hi Marie =)

That post was a very interesting and insightful read – wish I had found it before all this, but super glad I found it AFTER all this.

What was most interesting to me was the comments on your post. It’s interesting to read what people thought Google would never do, etc and then flash forward to now, and see what Google is actually doing.

I read a lot of your posts while there – really great stuff. Thank you for sharing with the community AND for stopping by here!

Lea March 23, 2014 at 5:32 am

Well, while madness has clearly taken the drivers seat this week, I have to play devil’s advocate and point out that, assuming the nofollow is required for the authorship to link, it is a slightly different situation.
Think of pagerank as copyright – Google owns the coyright to Pagerank (not the concept, but the actual flow, they own the flow) so when people try to manipulate the flow of pagerank (by requiring a dofollow link) then they are breaching Google’s copyright and acting as if they own it.
Of course, there isnt a problem with the authorship link, because Google owns where the flow is going. Why should they care if it is a dofollow?
Does that make any sense? :)

PotPieGirl March 23, 2014 at 5:36 pm

That makes perfect sense, Lea – I like your way of thinking about it.

Thing is, Google is not the only search engine that uses backlinks as a ranking signal….

Lea March 24, 2014 at 7:34 am

Yep, this is true :) But I suspect if that were mentioned to a Googler they would look at us funny. They _are_ the Internet, didnt you know? ;)

Charles March 23, 2014 at 7:48 am

Nice post PPG. Interesting! Google contradict themselves all the time. Dunno what to do anymore, lol.

PotPieGirl March 23, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Hiya Charles =)

Best we can do is keep our heads down and do our best to put out what people want to find.

Riki March 23, 2014 at 3:00 pm

What would be the motivation of G+ to ask do-follow link? To rank better in Google? I don’t think it’s the case. The whole point of penalty for Myguestblog was that people were paying to get guest posts and links embedded in the articles. It was a paid link network, where links were given through articles…

PotPieGirl March 23, 2014 at 5:42 pm

Hiya Riki =)

I have two answers to that….

1 – Google Plus is on a subdomain (plus.google.com) so it needs to build up it’s own authority – and

2 – Google is not the only search engine that uses backlinks as a ranking signal.

In fact, as far as I know, there is only ONE other search engine that is testing not using backlinks as a ranking signal for their commercial queries (Yandex).

At this moment in time, Google is the search vehicle we all want to rank well in – but that may not always be the case. As long as backlinks are a ranking factor, Google Plus will rank well on any search engine, don’t you think?

Jordan J. Caron March 25, 2014 at 8:37 pm

Jennifer,

I’ve been doing this for a couple of years now. Lately while doing link audits for my clients competitors, I’ve seen a lot of paid links in the way of web directories. To me, Google can’t keep up with everything and eventhough they like to think they have full control, they don’t.

So they used MGB as a whipping boy so to speak as a lot of people know about the service and because Matt and co. have tried to kill guest blogging as a link building method. I think it’s unfair to Anne and the people that used it. After all, go to Fiverr and see how many gigs offer guest blogging. Why not go after them?

Nice to connect with you today as well.

PotPieGirl March 26, 2014 at 4:36 am

It sure appeared to be a “bully” move on Google’s part, didn’t it? But wow, it sure got the SEO community to pay attention – if that’s what they (Google) were going for, they certainly succeeded!

However, it’s a common situation in this community. A linkbuilding technique gets hot – becomes a buzz word – has WSO’s sold on it….then it gets abused and Google picks a ‘leader of the pack’ to use as the example to stop doing it or else. Then, it’s on to something else and the cycle continues.

Be interesting to watch as this whole specific situation plays out – a lot of sites received penalties over their use of (or perhaps even association with) MBG.

Enjoyed meeting you as well – thanks for stopping by!

Keep it in the short grass =)

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