Google has been on the offensive against guest blogging as a means to manipulate search engine rankings. According to their linking guideline, Google is opposed to “Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.” They are not only going after guest bloggers and publishers, but they have also been going after the networks that cater to guest blogging. In the last several months, they have penalized multiple international link networks, and now they are even targeting guest blogging networks. Last month, they penalized one of the largest guest blogging networks, MyBlogGuest. A couple of days ago, PostJoint confirmed that they were hit as well. Both sites do not show up in the search results even for their own domain names.
This is big news, as thousands of websites have been negatively affected by these actions by Google, either through traffic loss or a drop in PageRank, or both.
As you can imagine, this topic has kicked off many touchy discussions in the SEO community. Some people are confused, some are happy, some are angry, but for the most part, people are becoming paranoid. Everyone has some kind of bias on this subject, depending on where they have skin in the game. I have seen an increase in link removal requests from people who are scared of having their links on other sites despite the fact that their links are natural and even nofollowed.
This is just wrong. Google, in their attempt to create a natural Internet, is actually creating an environment where website owners are scared to link.
It’s easy to catch the networks because they are out in plain sight, but how is Google catching the guest blog publishers and how are they differentiating between the paid and non-paid posts? Well, logically…
There can only be one of three possible ways that Google can detect a paid link:
- The publisher would have to mark the link as being paid, such as labeling it as “sponsored” or “advertiser.”
- The publisher or advertiser would have to tell someone that the link was paid for on some public forum, such as Twitter or a forum thread. WebDesign.org comes to mind.
- Google has moles working for them in various places, such as forums and guest blogging networks. It’s probably what happened with MyBlogGuest and PostJoint.
Other than these 3 ways, everything else is just speculation. There is no way that an algorithm would know for a fact that a blog post was paid for or not. An algorithm is a computer program that thinks in black or white. A computer program cannot think for itself like a human can. It can only do what the programmer programmed it to do despite its complexity.
A search engine algorithm can only scan the contents of a webpage. It does not know what was said between publisher and advertiser behind closed doors. It does not know whether money exchanged hands.
I’m pretty sure that Google isn’t catching paid links solely through their algorithm because there would be massive collateral damage if it was. We’ve known for quite some time that Google has Search Quality Raters working for them, but now it seems, they may have a Search Quality Team that is bigger than we may have initially thought.