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This is just one of the worst things I've ever read on Cutt's blog. Because they can't really distinguish good guest posting from 'passable' guest posting, it's all done?

Got news for you: guest blogging is relevant for many more reasons than Google. In fact, that's probably one of the least important reasons to guest post or guest blog these days. Referral traffic that is more qualified than organic search, audience building, reaching new channels that organic search cannot quite tap, and many more non-SEO oriented reasons are why guest blogging will never really die out in the way that other types of linkbuilding have died out.

You have to love the world's biggest scraper and source of 'duplicate content' (all the scraped info from weather, wikipedia, etc in their sidebar these days) making up the rules of what is and isn't allowed. Extremely hypocritical, but the good news is that relying on Google never was necessary, and is becoming less and less so as time goes on.




Google have reached the point where they know that every website is fundamentally dependent on them, and now they're taking advantage of it that to make their lives easier by forcing the entire internet to change every time some commonplace practice makes their algorithm's life harder. They've been doing it on a technical level for a while, in terms of stuff like how ads may link to the destination. Now they've simply moved onto dictating the culture and social norms of the Internet. If your way of sharing good writing with your actual readers makes life harder for Google, well you'd better change your practices or they'll punish you, even if you're not doing it for them.

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Content creators have always somewhat had to bend to the will of the major promoters. It is unfortunate that Google has gained a position that allows them to dictate the means of content promotion, but overall the goal of any content creator is to have it seen. As far as I'm aware, they've always had to fit their way of sharing into some other external system. Creators have to get their content to the audience, and if Google is bringing the audience, then they will do what Google says.

Again, it's unfortunate, but not surprising.

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Google have reached the point where they know that every website is fundamentally dependent on them

Isn't that exactly the kind of institutional arrogance that the GP post was highlighting?

OK, some web sites might still be fundamentally dependent on Google. Personally, I'd advise against relying on a business model based primarily on search traffic for a number of reasons, but of course everyone is free to try it if they like.

However, I somehow doubt big name brands like Microsoft or Audi or McDonalds would suffer irrevocable harm if Google disappeared tomorrow. Nor would major sites like Wikipedia or Facebook. Nor would all the popular forum/news aggregator sites, or the popular source sites that repeatedly get linked from them.

Perhaps more telling, I doubt any of the much smaller niche/hobby or family business type sites I know about would suffer greatly if Google vanished tomorrow either. The big G represents only a modest share of the incoming traffic in each case, and moreover the quality of that traffic in terms of engagement and conversions is relatively low compared to most other major sources. They are often beaten on volume by at least one order of magnitude by a single link from an influential blogger in a relevant field who is genuinely suggesting that their readers visit that site, or the equivalent via Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, etc. And that's before you count the viral effect, which can bump the difference to multiple orders of magnitude. Content is king, as Cutts has often said, but in 2014 good content can be found many ways without any help from Google.

I suspect this issue is symptomatic of a serious and long-term difficulty for Google search: their foundation is still basically the idea that you can judge the worth of a page by how many incoming links it sees. I'm reasonably sure that unless they have some shady deals going on with various popular social media sites, they don't even know about probably 90% of the incoming links to most of those little sites I mentioned, nor about 99% of the links my friends and family share to other people's sites. All they've got left is the public blogs and the assorted SEO tricksters, and that's not where a lot of people share genuine recommendations any more.

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"I doubt any of the much smaller niche/hobby or family business type sites I know about would suffer greatly if Google vanished tomorrow either."

Many existing businesses already have awareness built through a variety of channels over a number of years, but if search were to die off some newer sites struggling to build exposure from scratch would struggle harder. That said, as Google keeps lifting the cost barrier to entry & radiates greater risk out to the smaller players perhaps building initially from the perception that Google is perpetually late / behind the curve on new sites, & that one needs exposure elsewhere isn't a bad thing.

"They are often beaten on volume by at least one order of magnitude by a single link from an influential blogger in a relevant field who is genuinely suggesting that their readers visit that site, or the equivalent via Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, etc. And that's before you count the viral effect"

If they don't have an SEO strategy (or are selling a unique product that people don't know exists until they see it) & just let whatever search traffic happen on its own then sure it is easy for other sources to drive vastly more traffic than search. But if they are focused on commercial keywords, build content around the consumer demands their solutions help solve, and have an SEO strategy then search is typically in the top few referrers in terms of revenue driven.

A lot of the top affiliate links on Twitter or such are for iTunes song sales: low cost, low friction & low commitment purchases. I think I have had maybe a couple Twitter conversions in years, while search has driven orders of magnitude more. But both are channels that are part of the awareness process & when you add them together its more like 2+2=5.

"their foundation is still basically the idea that you can judge the worth of a page by how many incoming links it sees"

I think they fold in more usage data than they let on, but feel little need/incentive to mention that aspect of the algorithm.

"I'm reasonably sure that unless they have some shady deals going on with various popular social media sites, they don't even know about probably 90% of the incoming links to most of those little sites I mentioned"

Did you see the bit about using Google Chrome's data saving caching feature on Android? Chrome desktop also has security features baked into it. And there are boatloads of signed in user accounts tied to both of these. And large chunks of many social sites are crawlable.

"All they've got left is the public blogs and the assorted SEO tricksters, and that's not where a lot of people share genuine recommendations any more."

The fact that those votes are harder to give means they (often) have greater discrimination value. It is easy to say that social signals should replace links, but that would effectively be Google subsidizing competing ad networks. And even if we ignored that the "relevancy" signals in social are also the ad units, outside of those official ads there are third party strategies to ensure social is every bit as gamed as the link graph is.

Just today I saw this http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2014/01/stealth-marketing-micr... and that reminded me of this from the past http://www.seobook.com/images/tweet-and-get.png

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If they don't have an SEO strategy (or are selling a unique product that people don't know exists until they see it)

The second part is what I really had in mind there. One of the sites I was thinking of is a textbook example, a start-up for people who have a certain hobby.

The SEO strategy is reasonably effective: the site consistently ranks on the first page of Google for almost all targeted search terms, which is not a bad achievement starting from a page rank of nothing a few months earlier. But it's partly able to do that because no-one in the field has really done anything similar before, so almost no-one actually searches for anything like it either.

In contrast, more specialised and proactive channels, such as advertising in traditional off-line media or targeting ads at people with that particular interest on social networks, attract very favourable comments and numerically they tend to get far better click-through rates, similar levels of engagement, and in some cases a much higher overall conversion rate/lower CAC.

If you only looked at the hits from Google, your first reaction might quite reasonably be that there was no market for this product, but the feedback once people in the target market actually see it paints a different picture.

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Our startup actually receives very few organic inbound traffic from Google.

It is secondary to our strategy. Facebook is the dominant platform in our target demographic.

I would not consider us, even remotely dependent on Google. If Google disappeared tomorrow the effect on our net sales and exposure would probably be less than 1%.

Google is, for many casual users, a lazy way of getting a full URL. Hit Google. Type Hubspot. Click. Hubspot.

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I'm not so sure I'd sleep well knowing my business relies on Facebook as opposed to Google. Talk about a choice between two evils. Diversify!

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Why is Facebook evil?

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You must have missed the first sentence:

> if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop

Guest-blogging as a link gaining technique is dead. If you want it for prestige, referrers, or whatever, keep on keeping on. You may want to nofollow though.

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Guest-blogging as a link gaining technique is dead.

Of course it's not.

Cutts seems to be under the mistaken impression that hyperlinks were invented to provide source data for his employer, and that if his employer now chooses not to pay attention to some of them then the rest of us won't either.

In reality, if there's a link in the guest blog post, people reading that post can follow it. If it's a popular blog and an interesting post on it by the guest author, probably quite a few readers readers will.

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I know this is HN, but we're in some really pedantic territory here. Matt Cutts is simply saying that you should re-think your strategy if you want page rank and think guest blogging is a way to do accomplish that goal.

Matt knows his audience and doesn't have to spell out everything to the nth degree--when he talks link building it's 100% of the time page rank related.

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The trouble is, there's something akin to Poe's law going on with Googlers these days: I find it very hard to tell whether they're speaking or writing specifically and assuming their audience will somehow infer their intended context, or whether they really are starting to believe that the entire Internet revolves around Google and they have some divine authority to tell everyone else how to make their sites.

When they start giving out blanket advice about what people "should" do, particularly when the advice is as self-serving and frankly laughable as it is in this case, I find it increasingly difficult to give them the benefit of the doubt. I suspect they damage their credibility a little more every time any of them speaks or writes this way.

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Exactly. I've been an avid guest blogger, and it has never had anything to do with Google. It's about a wide-reaching, respected brand vouching for my work. There's no PR more valuable than when a relevant influencer grants you their audience.

Having a well-trafficked blog of my own, I also receive hundreds of these awful spam emails. But why would I ever take their offer? My blog is respected by my niche because I would never post junk. Niether would the publications I write for. That's why there's still an audience there.

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stephp, it's great that you sound like a high-quality contributor, but my intent was to highlight the issues around the hundreds of awful spam emails that you mentioned receiving. I've seen a lot of business owners fall for them. :(

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Matt, if that's the case, then perhaps you should clarify the original blog post. Guest posting is something I would do even if Google didn't consider links at all in their ranking.

If a site author accepts high quality guest posts, should they no-follow the outbound links? That appears to be the message in your blog post.

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"perhaps you should clarify the original blog post."

I added some paragraphs of clarification to the blog post.

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Thanks. It's clearer now, though you may consider retooling this in the future. Usually I've found your writing + videos admirably clear, but the message here still seems a bit off.

If it helps give you an idea why it's confusing: I get tons of spam comments on my site offering me spam content generation tools, among other spammy offerings.

They're obviously spam. I'm sure some people do fall for these ploys, and it's unfortunate. An appropriate message would be "don't fall for these". An inappropriate message would be "if you're relying on content generation in 2014, stop".

In other words, just because something has spammy elements, doesn't invalidate the practice entirely. What's still unclear about your blog post is this: If someone does legitimate, high quality guest posting, the kind they would do without Google, is this a positive or a negative in Google's eyes, and should links be no-followed the same way you'd do for a high quality affiliate or high quality sponsor.

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halcyondaze, we see a lot of business owners with small blogs getting tricked by spammers. If you're doing really high-quality guest blogging to get exposure or branding, that's great, but the majority of guest blogging offers these days are sliding into scuzzier and spammier areas.

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This is the part that confuses me, I guess. The business owner gets the email. It sounds spammy. Maybe they fall for it anyway and receive the article to post. But don't they then realize that it's crappy? It's not as if spammers are logging in to their WordPress account and posting on their behalf. Business owners ultimately have full veto and editing power.

So why don't they cut out the spammy stuff like keyword links? Or, if the content is really garbage, say "no thanks"? The only reason I can see is if they're terribly desperate for content, in which case they're knowingly degrading their own platform.

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Have you seen what some less tech-savvy small business owners write themselves as content for their site? Not sure that all of them would recognise exceptionally poor material, especially when they're told by their web developer that it's important to get more content up on their site.

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I have to disagree, because I don't see what being tech-savvy has to do with it.

There are therapists, landscapers, used car dealers, craftsmen, accountants, etc. All kinds of people are small business owners and have company blogs. Maybe they fumble around their website, but they can tell when the written content of an article on their topic (landscaping, accounting, etc.) is junk.

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The tricky thing about content farms, is that it's sometimes hard for humans to tell the crap content from the real content. There is an entire industry of people who will, for $50, give you 500 words on pretty much any topic that you want, and make it sound reasonable - even sometimes without completely plagiarizing Wikipedia.

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Not even necessarily $50. There are fairly competent writers who can do 250-300 words for around $6.

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Can they tell if it's good enough based on what they see on other web sites, that may or may not be using outsourced writers, guest posts, etc?

A tech savvy user is more likely to be familiar with the reasons and risks and ignore poorer quality writing in their evaluation.

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Will the business owners with small blogs get hit by Google or will those doing the guest blogging (those getting the link) get hit?

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Probably neither. Google talks about dodgy practices more than they actually enforce against them. Until they actually state that they are penalizing something, they are probably not penalizing it.

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High quality content marketing isn't about Google rank.

Google has no control over a visitor to a highly credible blog trusting you as a source and clicking on a link. Clicking the link shouldn't even be necessary, if you're establishing expertise for yourself and your company.

If your sole reason for guest blogging is Google juice, it's reasonable to rethink that strategy.

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