There's a lot of speculation about the value of guest blogging. Many guest blogs don't have the highest of standards, and could be seen as paid links in the eyes of Google, rather than a legitimate way to gain exposure and direct traffic.
In the latest webmaster help video, Google's Distinguished Engineer Matt Cutts addresses the question of how you can guest blog without it looking like you pay for links.
Cutts clearly specified what makes something look like a paid link campaign via guest blogging as opposed to a genuine guest blog campaign. When you really drill down, the differences are quite obvious.
Here is what generally makes a guest blog post appear to really be part of a larger paid link scheme, according to Cutts.
"Usually there is a pretty clear distinction between an occasional press blog versus someone who's doing a large scale paid link kind of thing," Cutts said. "If you're paying for links, it's more likely that it's an off-topic or an irrelevant blog post that doesn't really match the subject of the blog itself. It's more likely you will see keyword-rich anchor text and that sort of thing."
So what makes a guest blog post seem legitimate?
"It's more likely to be hopefully someone who's expert, there will usually be a paragraph about who the person is and why you invited them to be on your blog," Cutts said. "Hopefully the guest blogger isn't dropping keywords in their anchors nearly as much as these other sorts of methods of generating links."
He said there's clearly overlap between the two, and sometimes Google's web spam team needs to look at those guest blog posts to determine whether it falls under paid links or if it is a great guest blog post that is of value to your blog and you blog's audience. Cutts continued:
It is interesting because in all of these cases you can see the spectrum of quality. You can have paid links with "buy online cheap Viagra" and that sort of stuff or you can have article marketing where someone doesn't even have relationship with the blog and they just write an article 500 words where they embed keyword-rich anchor text in their bio.
And then you've got guest blogging which can be low-quality, and frankly I think there's been a growth of low-quality guest blogging recently. Or it can be higher quality stuff where someone really is an expert and you really do want their opinion on something that's especially interesting or relevant to your blog's audience. So we look at those kinds of criteria when we try to determine if something is organic or not or someone deserves to be considered high-quality or whether it's more likely to be spam.
Cutts offered some words of caution and advice:
Guest blogging seems like it is the fad of the month a little bit because we do hear a lot of people were complaining about tons of people just spraying and praying, sending out invitations, "I'm going to guest blog on all these different things" and sometimes they're spinning their guest blogs, they're not even writing unique content for each blog, and I don't think that's the best way to build links for your site so I wouldn't recommend that as a tactic.
He also recommended guest blogging in moderation. You don't want to have 100 different guest blog posts all appearing for your site within a few days of each other. Cutts said:
Guest blogging is probably the sort of thing that you should be thinking about doing in moderation. It shouldn't be a full-time job going around finding people that "Can I borrow your soapbox and climb up on it and talk for a few little bits and then also embed some links back to my blog?" If that's all you're doing, then that's probably not the best way to build a reputation to your website.
In his final word of caution is that if you are doing guest blogging and it looks like it might be leaning towards paid links, chances are there to discount those links regardless.
"Usually it's pretty clear cut the sorts of things that are paid links versus guest blogs," he said. "Whereas if you're doing a guest blog that gets pretty close to what looks like paid links, then that might be a sort of thing where we decide we don't want to count those links regardless.
Bottom line: if you're doing a guest blogging campaign, you definitely want to do it in moderation so you don't have many guest blog posts appearing within a short time frame. Make sure your posts are on topic – that goes for both the content of the individual post as well as the website the post appears on. And the blog you appear on should have a good reason to have you there as a guest blogger (e.g., you're an expert for a topic), and explains why they invited you to guest blog.