Guest Post by Matt Cutts on Spammy Link Building

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This is a guest post by Matt Cutts, Google’s “head of spam” by day and well known SEO blogger by night. I added some text decoration here and there to stress the main message.

In my recent article on the decay of guest blogging for SEO I raised some of the most common issues regarding low quality albeit spammy link building with guest articles. This article raised some eyebrows to say the least. To make it unmistakably clear that guest blogging is not bad by definition I decided to speak out to the webmaster community by way of a guest post myself.

Why did I choose SEO 2.0? This blog has by now a reputation for being critical of Google.

I wanted to make a stand and to show that Google is not afraid to face its most avid critics. In the coming weeks I will publish more guest posts over at Aaron Wall’s SEO Book, Jacob King, ABH and other publications known for their critical stance on Google policies. Let’s start with the basics now: guest blogging is not spam per se. Only low quality guest posting solely or mainly for SEO purposes is spammy.

How do we know whether a specific guest article is to be considered low quality? We look at some specific issues. I can’t disclose how the Google algorithm deals with it exactly but I’d like to show you on an example from my own blog what red flags a guest post can raise.

This is a guest article that my former colleague Vanessa Fox has written on the Matt Cutts blog back in 2006.

I know what you think: “Matt Cutts was into guest blogging way before it was cool”.

Showing off is not what I’m after here. It’s to point out that even the best of us can make mistakes. Many people at Google are not knowledgeable about SEO at all. I am, it’s my job after all, but as the Google Webmaster Guidelines change frequently even I have sometimes difficulties to keep the pace. So what did I wrong back then those many years ago?

 

Outgoing links to one domain

Low quality guest posts in most cases have too many links leading to the same domain or company. In my case I have allowed Vanessa to add five outgoing links to this article. They all either lead to Google properties or to Pubcon where she was speaking. She added three links to Google owned sites including our blog at Blogspot and two to the conference. No other relevant links were added. Spammers in most cases just link to themselves. That’s a common tactic.

 

Rich anchor text links

Guest blogging turns really spammy when guest authors add rich anchor text to the outgoing links to their own properties. Vanessa did it with all Google-links in her article on my blog. She linked to our sitemaps page with the “sitemaps” anchor text. She also linked out our blog about sitemaps with the “sitemaps blog” anchor text. Last but not least she used “site review tool” for the last link to our webmaster tools.

 

No “nofollow” attribute added

John Muller has already told the webmaster community a few months ago that ideally all links you build for example using press releases, widgets or infographics should use the “nofollow” attribute to tell Google and other search engines that it’s not a natural link from the editor of the respective publication. Likewise guest posts need to add the nofollow attribute to outgoing links in order not to manipulate PageRank. We introduced nofollow with Yahoo and Bing (MSN then) already in 2005 so I could have added it. How could I have known though what will happen almost a decade later?

 

Shallow thin content

Vanessa is only covering SEO basics in her guest post on my blog. Even in 2006 it was all common sense. So there was no need to regurgitate it again. It wasn’t even a genuine attempt to cover the Pubcon session thoroughly. She just reported the obvious things every webmaster should have known already. She apparently only did say it again to be able to link out to our resources and tools. Let’s face it, the whole post was shallow thin content the Web could have lived without but as a guest post it was OK. After all I covered a lot of cat content on my blog in those years so that finally there was at least a slightly relevant article.

 

What does it all mean?

It’s about cleaning up the Web. We have to remove spam one link at a time. Ideally webmasters would stop linking out completely. Then we could rebuild our algorithm from scratch based on Google+ and authorship markup. Until then we have to clean up this cesspool link by link. Join us in the fight against spam.

  • don’t accept guest posts from strangers
  • don’t link out to strangers
  • don’t talk to strangers

In case you do we at Google have the means to determine you do it and to act manually or algorithmically. Ever since we launched Google Books we know that hypertext is way overrated. Books worked for hundreds of years without hyperlinks. So why can’t the Web? Please follow me on Google+ to get more insights on how to make the Internet safe from spam again. Use only Google approved ways to link other sites. Did you know that you can embed Google+ posts on your blog?

 

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