Google: Guest Blogging For Links? You Better Nofollow Those Links

john-mueller-google-guest-linksMarie Haynes spotted two video responses from Google where Google’s John Mueller, said in general, it is best you nofollow links in stories you write, especially when those stories are guest blog posts for the purpose of link building.

In general, that is Google’s advice. If you link to something with the intent that it should help your Google rankings – then nofollow the link. If you write something without that intent and the link is really natural, then there is no reason to nofollow the link.

Here are the video snippets from Google’s John Mueller, start around 49:56 in:

Generally speaking, if you’re submitting articles for your website, or your clients’ websites and you’re including links to those websites there, then that’s probably something I’d nofollow because those aren’t essentially natural links from that website.

If you are journalist, you might be writing about a web site in a natural way… that is of course, okay.

With the second video, start around 31:19 in:

Think about whether or not this is a link that would be on that site if it weren’t for your actions there. Especially when it comes to guest blogging, that’s something where you are essentially placing links on other people’s sites together with this content, so that’s something I kind of shy away from purely from a linkbuilding point of view. I think sometimes it can make sense to guest blog on other peoples’ sites and drive some traffic to your site because people really liked what you are writing and they are interested in the topic and they click through that link to come to your website but those are probably the cases where you’d want to use something like a rel=nofollow on those links.

Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts, did post an official video on this exact question in October 2012.

In short, if you are guest blogging just to get links, then to be safe, nofollow the link.

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    My question would be– if there is a link in your guest post pointing back to another blog you may have written on your own site (and it’s completely relevant to what you are writing about), would that be considered “natural”? Is it links from the author bio you should really be looking out for? Doesn’t it still make sense to get some kind of link in the author bio letting people know who you are?

  • Andy

    Is there anything left that we’re allowed to keep as a followed link oh mighty Google?

  • peter

    You can tell if a physiologist analyzed these google spam team people the conclusion would be that these people have low self confidence, control freaks , have zero morals or empathy, greedy.

    I actually feel sorry for these people they obliviously have some mental health problems.. and wrecking other peoples livelihoods helps there own issues in some twisted way… even seo people are human beings but these spam team people have a narrow perception on the world and view everyone as spam and computers.

  • http://www.seoskeptic.com/ Aaron Bradley

    I have a novel idea that may help webmasters work out some of these link placement head-scratchers.

    Is the link useful for users? Does it help a user explore related resources, validate references made by the piece, or otherwise usefully augment the information in the piece.

    If the answer to this question is “yes,” include the link; if it is “no” do not.

    Of course this formula doesn’t help webmasters determine whether or not a link should be nofollow’d or not – nor should it. A link should be nofollow’d if it is a paid effort to pass PageRank.

    In their deconstruction of Mueller and Cutts’ sacred utterances SEOs seem to have lost sight of the intrinsic value of links, and at the same time ceding to Google the extraordinary power of determining “link intent,” a la Minority Report “precrimes.”

    Paid links aside, If a link is useful for users you don’t need to worry about whether or not you’re gaming Google and need to use nofollow, for if a link isn’t useful for users you’re *already* gaming Google, and the rest of the conversation is desultory anyway.

  • peter

    this can actually al sO give google the power to censor deindex any website without question because obviously no way to determine whether a post is a guest post… paid link or what not…. GOOGLES IN CONTROL!

  • Thomas Ulstrup

    Broken algorithm. Why would it be necessary to nofollow the links you want to gain linkjuice? Broken, I tell you :o)

  • https://plus.google.com/117530250543183103093?rel=author Rick Bucich

    All this pre-occupation over links… if folks would spend their time improving and marketing their site they’d be way ahead of the game at the end of the day. Writing guest posts on random sites with no audience in an effort to build links takes time…time better spend elsewhere.

    The biggest bitching come from the folks who have no ability to do either. Heaven forbid the SBO who actually educates themselves on how to promote their own business.

  • Jon Hogg

    Yep, true. Nofollow is Google admitting they’re not sure what’s a vote and what’s not. They will never be able to do it 100% either.

  • Demissew

    Kudos to that..although your statement is a bit harsh I agree the engineers at Google are becoming ridiculous in their logic. If John Mueller’s logic is Google official word, then we have a big problem.

    Without someone’s action there wont be any link on the internet. Weather the person who gains the link is the one who triggered the action or not is for the engineers to find out and determine if the link is deserved. If I link to my own content and my content is the best reference I know at the time, it doesn’t matter weather I’m writing a guest post or not, the link is legitimate. The engineers are now shifting blames to webmasters for failing to come up with away to translate this into code.

  • Boris Zilberman

    If you’re guest blogging specifically for links, why in the world would you nofollow the links? That’s like saying “Driving to work? Better leave the car in “park” to be safe” i.e. if you do that, you ain’t gettin anywhere.

  • http://www.WildWestSEO.com WildWestSEO

    So I can’t create links with the intent of helping rankings…but I can change my H1 tags all day with the intent….what’s the difference? Why should my intent matter as long as the post I write and the blog it is on are relevant and good (I’m not advocating spammy trash content/blogs) – but if I put forth the effort to write a good blog and get it published on a good site I can’t give myself a little ol’ back link? And…why is that my responsibility? Isn’t “nofollow” the responsibility of the blog owner…if they don’t want me to get credit for the link they can “nofollow” all the links they want.

  • andrekibbe

    I interpret all this as another iteration of “Don’t game the system,” an appeal to intent rather than any unique algorithm update, despite what Google’s trying to imply. Whatever G says, the vast majority of content is going to have dofollow links due to HTML’s default tagging structure. Most bloggers and webmasters don’t know what a nofollow is, and many of those who do are unclear about when to use it.

  • NanditaB

    Guest blog for links, then nofollow it. Really funny :)

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    And the SEO community falls into DENIAL again as yet another obvious spam tactic is denounced by a search engine. Told you so…

  • http://www.pixelmade.com/ Johan Johansson

    One of Penguin’s objectives was to make high quality content a key part of SEO. It effectively encouraged you to share your knowledge with the rest of the world. The best content I have seen online has been been from guest bloggers on sites like Moz, Mashable, etc. If Google removes the incentive for guest blogging, then it will hurt the creation of quality content. I’m confused about how to interpret this – does Google reward quality content, or is it punished when not posted on your website?

  • Durant Imboden

    That isn’t as foolish as it sounds. Links were citations (and sources of referral traffic) long before anyone heard the term “PageRank.”

  • http://www.pixelmade.com/ Johan Johansson

    Yes, but Google is talking about intent. If your intent in guest blogging is to get links, or citations, that’s considered blackhat. So really, Google is saying that guest blogging is no longer acceptable if your intention is to promote your services. Which is going to have a major negative impact on the amount of quality content being created.

  • Durant Imboden

    If it has any impact at all, it will be on the businesses (such as “content marketing” agencies and SEO firms) that crank out guest posts as wrappers for purchased links.

  • Emory Rowland

    I’m staying put until Google Motives is out of beta.

  • http://www.actingunplugged.com/ Anthony P.

    There are so many sites out there that were made just to take guest posts and nothing else. There is the real factor you have to consider. That’s why I love videos. But we can’t start worrying about getting blocked if we are really adding value. The people who are posting for NO other reason than to get a link is wrong, but to thing that none of us want some love in return is naive. I wouldn’t worry as long as you are adding value. P.S. Make videos like in this post.

  • Chris Rempel

    All SEO is “obvious spam”, regardless of how far on the White side you go. Any activity where the ultimate goal is to gain better rankings, in Google’s eyes, shouldn’t be happening. That includes whatever self-righteous activities you’re doing for your clients.

    The only person who appears to be in denial here, is you. You’d have to be insane to think that you can be in the SEO industry and remain “on Google’s side”.

    Their entire goal is to push Adwords. Why else does the visible organic listings in the topfold of every profitable SERP shrink, daily?

    And why do you think Google has placed the burden of keeping external signals (that we can’t control) “clean”? The whole point is to create the illusion that organic traffic is simply not worth the effort.

    It just comes down to eCPC. If they can make organic traffic more expensive than PPC, they win. And for SEO’s (like you, apparently) who firmly believe that Google actually rewards “good behavior” – which is becoming prohibitively expensive & complex to abide by – those organic eCPC’s are on track to outpace PPC much sooner than you might think.

    Consider this my pre-emptive “told you so”…

  • Steve Schultz

    That’s the thing.. You’re not supposed to want to gain linkjuice. And, to demonstrate that, you’re supposed to nofollow anything you can.

    However, this policy has the potential to make SEOs paranoid and neurotic, because you never know whether Google will find your link as natural and helpful as you consider it to be.

  • Thomas Ulstrup

    I know some SEO companies linkbuild like crazy. I, myself, tend to focus on high quality evergreen content instead. It’s a slow process, but it’s climbing. To me unnatural linkbuilding is a bit like doing steroids. You grow fast but at some point you’re going to get punished.

  • Matthew Jackson

    This really annoys me. Surely if you have taken the time to write a great piece of content relevant to your guest post site’s audience you should be given credit for writing that piece? Ok if the article is dross then it shouldn’t get credit, it shouldn’t have even been posted by the guest post site, but now with all this Google has in effect told webmasters don’t link to anyone. If you deserve the credit for helping someone out or making a valid opinion then you should be given it and not have to beg with guest blogs to “violate Google’s guidelines”. Google just needs to get better at understanding when a guest post is genuinely worth it or if it’s just an attempt to manipulate PageRank.

  • alchemyv

    Nothing is editorial if you’re writing the content so course it should be nofollowed, it’s no different to writing advertorial. Editorial is when someone has complete discretion on what they want to say about you. I complete how moronic some sections of the SEO community are.

  • http://www.nathanielbailey.co.uk/ Nathaniel Bailey

    Just your listings on google lol, apart from that be safe and nofollow everything so google doesn’t have to do what they are meant to do, work out which links are relevant and which are spam!

  • http://www.michaelmerritt.org/ Michael Merritt

    Playing Devil’s Advocate here, but a no-follow link in the bio section is still giving you (well, your site) credit for the content. Actually, you could technically do this without a link at all by placing your name in that bio section.

  • Matthew Jackson

    But the whole original point of links before SEO’s got hold of them was to allow people to find the original source of information. If you have created great content that is not advertising for you but genuinely helping a fellow site owner answer a question or respond to something you know more about, then give them genuine real credit for it. Google has ruined links for ever and no one is doing what the internet was originally designed for, to be a great resource and allow people to find other great resources.

  • Durant Imboden

    The millions of people with small Web sites have nothing to worry about unless they’re foolish or greedy enough to accept gifts from SEOs who want to exploit them.

    I get offers of “guest posts” all the time. Often the topics aren’t even remotely related to mine. It shouldn’t be that hard for Google to tell that, if a “guest post” about cheap UK car rentals is showing up on a hundred sites, the guest posts and its embedded links are as worthless as they are shady.

  • Dennis Miedema

    I see some people in the comments getting angry at the people who say guest blogging should be/remain possible. Here’s some food for thought:

    This is not a do or don’t/black and white discussion. There are gray areas. If you’re not aware of the fact that Google gives incomplete or contradicting answers for anything relating to its algorithms, then you haven’t been paying attention. Google says A and then B and sometimes says A and B at the same time. What you guys hear is “Google discourages ALL links to your site in ALL kinds of guest blog posting and in ALL your guest blog posts”? Oh really?

    And I quote from their own nofollow attribute guidelines here found at https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/96569?hl=en:

    “If you want to recognize and reward trustworthy contributors, you could decide to automatically or manually remove thenofollow attribute on links posted by members or users who have consistently made high-quality contributions over time”

    ===> And in comes the argument “yeah but guest blog posting is not natural”. If guest blog posting is not natural, then what do you call a website which invites you to write content for them because they like the things you’ve been saying on Google Plus (or whatever)? Artificial? Artificial because the person who gets awarded a guest blog position on a well known site somehow gamed Google or that site by being liked by the people who own that site? Don’t even get me started on how bent out of shape that sounds.

    ===> Speaking of the “not natural” argument: I would like to see ALL of the social profiles of everyone who keeps bringing up the not natural argument. Why? Because the vast majority of people who are on social networks are there to socialize and, therefore, do not link to their website from their profile because they don’t have a freaking website. So, statistically speaking you Sir and Ma’am are by your own definition trying to game Google by putting a link to your website in your G+, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or whatever profile because that is not considered to be normal (average) behavior. Most users don’t do that, so by your own definition that becomes spamming and gaming Google. Give me a break :) see how subjective your argument is? You can come up with endless arguments for why something is gaming Google and I can come up with endless arguments for why you are guilty of your own “crimes”. Here’s a mind bender for ya: you’re already manipulating Google to do/not do certain things the moment you create a website and submit a sitemap to Google. After all, you want “it” to understand something (i.e. your site) and you therefore have to take certain actions to make that happen. Those actions are manipulations my friend. Manipulations can be negative, but also positive or neutral. Stop being so black and white-ish.

    ===> Again, Google never plays the it is A or B game. It’s always A and B or sometimes A and then B in that order game. I think what Google is trying to say here is that guest blogging, when overused, is bad for your SEO performance. So is link building, creating content for the sake of having more content (low quality content), and on and on and on the list goes. The message is choose wisely. Don’t guest blog on sites that automatically approve guest blog posts. Don’t use it as your only tactic. There are a couple don’ts and a couple do’s. Google is never black or white about anything.

    And before you say I’m in favor of guest blog spamming or black hat SEO now: you’re obviously not getting the point. The point is, those who say posting a guest blog under your own name may already be manipulation when we think of Author Rank, authorship, and concepts like that… may be right in some cases. Those who say guest blog posts are unnatural may be right in some cases. Both sides are right, sometimes.

    Case in point: Mister Martinez of SEO Theory, one of the biggest advocates for not using any kind of search engine spamming whatsoever, has links in his sidebar (which appears on all the pages on his site) to other sites in his blog network. To some, that’s called link building spam because they think putting links to other sites in the sidebar is a spamming technique and manipulating Google and they’re low quality links (which, to them, automatically implies we’re talking about spam here). Meanwhile, I say they’re obviously not paid links because Mister Martinez owns the sites in his own network so whether he spammed or not remains to be seen because spamming does imply using a technique so often/in such large quantities that is has negative consequences for one’s self and/or for others. Seems like Martinez isn’t using this technique on a grand scale. In other words: those blog network links make Martinez a spammer in some people’s opinions and not a spammer in other people’s opinions. The discussion is not black and white. It’s much more nuanced and anyone who tries to deny that the world is gray more often than it is good/evil, black or white, A or B needs to get his or her mind out of kindergarten and into the world where grown ups live.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    My goodness, you’re heavily invested in bullshit.

    ‘Nuff said.

  • Stephen Kenwright

    Wrote a response to you Barry: http://www.branded3.com/blogs/google-kills-links-in-bios-to-drive-authors-to-google/

    If you want Google to give you credit for authoring an article, you can still get it. You just have to use Google+.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    Authorship is not used to determine rankings so the conclusion of your response is not reliable.

  • Stephen Kenwright

    Eric Schmidt said it will be; and Danny Sullivan confirmed that just being on Google+ provides a significant boost to rankings: http://searchengineland.com/author-rank-authorship-rankings-that-eric-schmidt-book-quote-153253

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    In search engine optimization “will be” is overruled by “IS NOT”.

  • http://theseonut.com/ Adam

    Why don’t we just make all links no-follow while we’re at it? Better safe than sorry, right?

  • http://theseonut.com/ Adam

    Exactly – “will be” is the key phrase here. Right now, authorship has no effect on rankings. If someone says it does, they just haven’t tested it enough. Claiming that authorship has boosted your rankings is not conclusive. One site is not conclusive. Test the same with hundreds / thousands of websites, across multiple keyword phrases in different verticals. I think you’ll find the results unimpressive.

  • http://www.consultancymarketing.co.uk/ Ian Smith

    This is simply farcical. Lost for words.

  • http://www.silkstream.net/ Hayley (Silkstream)

    I think the what they are trying to accomplish is to gain a ranking signal, via guest blogs, by authorship stats rather than this page ranks here and this keyword means such and such. “Things not strings” Matt Cutts has said this before.

  • http://www.silkstream.net/ Hayley (Silkstream)

    It does improve CTR though…

  • http://www.linkbuildr.com/ Ryan @ Linkbuildr

    It’s getting weird out here I say! We did a quick numbers roundup on all the guest blogging we’ve done for clients and it’s mostly a paid link scheme nowadays. Here are our results http://www.linkbuildr.com/guest-blogging-the-new-paid-link/

  • http://kercommunications.com/ Nick Ker

    Well said! This tendency of people to only see black & white choices like “guest blogging is the latest thing > > Wait! Someone at Google said they don’t like low quality guest blogs that are done only for links. That must mean any guest blogging will get you banned” is just ridiculous.

    And it really is childish – people go overboard with one particular thing like guest blogging, forget about its original non-pagerank purpose, then complain when Google stops rewarding the silliness.

  • RedEvo

    Psychologist surely?

  • RedEvo

    The main issue for me is, “ordinary” people don’t link (notwithstanding social media), in fact most people wouldn’t know how to create a link. However, Google’s algo is still primarily a link based algo, see the issue?

    Put another way, Google’s method for measuring the authority of content is based on a mechanism not available to most of the people who are the judges of the content’s quality. Perhaps social signals will continue to increase in relevance to the Google boys as it provides a simple mechanism for giving content a thumbs up and arguably it’s easier to filter manipulations.

    d

  • http://adjunctorium.com/ Melete

    Google does have bots exploring sites for nofollow posts, from what I understand.

    I don’t no-follow any of the thousands of links on my sites, because it’s a hassle to do so — you have to get into every link from the “text” view and add code to it — and because I don’t think Google should be allowed to behave like a despotic tyrant. Nor do I care…I’m not earning enough off blogging to matter, and so if they quash one of my sites, I’ll either shut it down or simply continue to write for the readers who have subscribed and forget trying to build any new traffic. But if Google whacks one of my sites, you can be sure I’ll instantly remove Adsense (all of whose links are do-follow).

    If the morons who go around leaving advertising litter on our front doors can’t be stopped from doing that because local laws forbidding this practice infringe on the First Amendment, why does crushing someone’s little blog because you don’t like they way they code their links not also infringe on freedom of speech? Is it only because bloggers are not big corporations who can afford lawyers to take offenders to court?

  • Peter Bowerman

    Okay, so I need some clarification here… I’m hearing a lot of people
    here understandably complaining that the whole nofollow thing is just
    putting the kibosh on legitimate promotion efforts (and as an author
    writing books and occasionally guest blogging with quality content and
    legitimately-earned backlinks to my site, I tend to agree, and the whole
    thing makes me just want find another line of work…).

    And then
    I’m hearing a lot of others say that, “Oh quit looking at it all in
    such black and white terms. Google’s not saying that ALL backlinks from
    ALL guest blogging efforts are bad. If you’re creating this guest
    blogging content solely to generate backlinks and it’s not quality
    content, then you SHOULD be punished with lower rankings. BUT, that if
    you’re creating good content, you have nothing to worry about.”

    BUT…(and please, correct me if I’m wrong…)

    Isn’t the whole point of this discussion that fact that Google can’t
    yet tell the difference between the two? That, rather than come right
    out and say that, they’re suggesting that we all just nofollow ANY links
    we’ve created back to our own site?

    OR, as one pointed out,
    get the webmasters of all those sites where we’ve guest-blogged to
    nofollow them? Yeah, THAT’S going to happen. It’s daunting enough to
    ponder having to do it ourselves; but counting on others to do so, so we
    don’t actually get PENALIZED for helping out their site with good
    content, is a task I’d rather not dwell on.

    But seriously,
    isn’t the whole point of this (and again, if I’m wrong, please tell me)
    that, at this juncture, Google is just a big, dumb animal that can’t
    tell the difference between legit backlinks generated from quality
    content, and “gamed” backlinks generated from crappy content? I see a
    lot of people discussing the shades of gray here as a way of suggesting
    “whitehat” ways to proceed, but again, in Google’s eyes, are THEY able
    to discern the shades of gray?

    And if not, then is the only
    option we have to either, 1) quit guest-blogging, or quit including
    links in our guestblog posts; or 2) get all these webmasters to nofollow
    all our guest-post links?

  • Woody Phillips

    What total BS! Google is out of its mind. If I write an article for someone else’s web site, why shouldn’t I be able to link to my site for attribution (without a nofollow)?

  • gregory smith

    I suppose that SEOMOZ will be the first guest posting platform to be PENALIZED?..

  • RedLeader

    “if the link is pointing to the relevant content then this will not be an issue and even if the pointed link is to your own blog”

    Well, one would hope. That’s the big problem that Nick is addressing here. It’s not exactly clear to human readers here, and it will be much harder for a machine to understand the intent of these types of links. It may be easier to understand some of these posts, which are fairly obvious, like exact match anchor text links for “Joe’s Dental Practice” in Milwaukee, but content of the type Nick mentions above “should” be considered natural in his example, but if the quality is not sufficient to the general populace or Google (though it is in the author’s own self-biased eyes) it would be considered an “unnatural”, self serving link at that point. So now we have two different, equally valid views, and that’s where the waters become muddied.

  • tarunkumarr

    Before earning the link you should be a biggy like SEL or SEJ do you think so in your non advertised blog along with your good content automatically gaining the link. SEL feels insecure i guess from guest posting this is why they are publishing this kind of interviews again and again because they are following same methods from year of year

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