Google’s Take On Guest Post Links Is to Nofollow Them? Actually, Webmasters Have A Say
This post is about Branding, Content Marketing, Link-based Visibility / 5 minutes
Recently Google’s John Mueller said on Twitter that guest post links are a problem and they should all be nofollowed, although since Google has been dealing with them algorithmically for years, they could be now largely ignored.
I’m sure you already know (or can infer it anyway) what I think about a Web made only of “natural links“: it’s hardly a real thing and if that were the only way to build a link graph on the Web, most websites would go unlinked because they are simply seen as not authoritative enough to bother linking to.
This post is pretty much a commentary of John Mueller’s recent tweets and a way to clarify the IAWSEO stance on the whole matter.
But Are Guest Post Links Really Unnatural?
Mueller thinks so, since the guest writer is providing the links, and he feels that the same applies to links in byline.
Essentially if the link is within the guest post, it should be nofollow, even if it's a "natural" link you're adding there.
FWIW none of this is new, and I'm not aware of any plans to ramp up manual reviews of this. We catch most of these algorithmically anyway.
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) June 13, 2020
However, as a freelance blogger and guest writer since 2009, I can tell you that the link relationship between the post host and the author is editorial and based on some form of trust, where that takes the shape of a link endorsement to credit the author and drive visitors to their page.
The exchange doesn’t take anything away from the naturalness of the content and its links. It’s always up to the site owner to choose what kind of links to allow the author to have in the guest post, as well as their format and any rel attributes.
I’m also thinking of scientific research, where scientists cite each other in papers, often when they have been discussing or collaborating to some extent.
None of this is “unnatural”.
While I understand that Google has a certain idea of “natural link”, it’s preposterous to expect that the whole Web is built upon those links only, and that most webmasters will intentionally exclude legitimate links from the web graph just because Google thinks they’re not that legitimate.
Once again, Google’s idea of “the Web” is not necessarily everyone’s idea.
What Would Happen If Google *Really* Ignored Guest Post Links
First of all, here’s the tweet where John Mueller says that:
The other thing is that because this is so old, we have a lot of training data for our algorithms. I wouldn't be surprised if the largest part of those links are just ignored automatically. If all that work is for ignored links, why not just do something useful instead?
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) June 14, 2020
If Google really ignored those links, then we could actually breathe a sigh of relief: the links simply wouldn’t work to boost rankings in Google, webmasters who don’t care about Google’s stance on links in guest posts wouldn’t have to do anything and just keep guest posting and leaving links “as is”, without rel=nofollow or rel=sponsored attributes.
But if John Mueller’s message to the SEO community is to actually nofollow the links, that tells me guest post links are hardly ignored and they instead still constitute a PageRank problem for Google, whether they apply manual actions for them or not.
IAWSEO Link-based Visibility Largely Ignores Google
As I mentioned in the Manifesto, IAWSEO webmasters don’t give search engines too much importance, because we don’t put all our eggs in that basket.
That’s why we largely ignore what Google says about links in guest posts and we really do it like search engines didn’t exist: we don’t add rel=nofollow or rel=sponsored to links that we see as a part of a natural exchange between webmasters and have the scope to increase visibility for the author’s website, not PageRank.
Search engine manipulation is the last of our thoughts, but getting a backlink (of any nature) as credit for our work is not last at all.
Naturally, the IAWSEO webmaster who still wants to please Google may still add a rel=nofollow (hardly a rel=sponsored because guest posting is not native advertising).
It doesn’t really hurt link-based visibility, it’s just an additional nuisance to deal with.
Although I don’t personally do it for links, in the past I have recommended guest posting as a natural way to get backlinks and I’m not going back on my word: when two webmasters agree to a guest post and the one who hosts the post wants to credit the author with a backlink, the nature of that link is editorial and not manipulative.
Even when the site owner prefers that it’s the author to choose the format of the link.
To be honest, I’m quite done with Google’s opinion of how the Web should look like. If I still follow the things that Google says, it’s only because I want to give clients who depend on Google the right kind of help, and because it’s fun anyway.
But when it’s about my sites, I do things my way. I build links through Digital PR, by responding to journalist queries on HARO and Source Bottle and hoping that they’ll give me an editorial backlink (even a nofollow one). Everything else is On-Page SEO.
For me, guest posting remains a tool for building expertise and authority, and where backlinks are a tool of discovery.
I’m perfectly fine with a webmaster nofollowing all my links, as long as there are links. It’s their site, after all, and they might like Google more than I do, but I still want to be found (and not with a mere textual mention).
(And this is editorial, too.)
What’s your take on backlinks and guest posting?
Originally posted on: Written on June 29, 2020, Monday