10 facts

  1. We have always welcomed the right kind of guest bloggers. And we have always turned away the wrong kind.
  2. We have very, very strict guidelines.
  3. We do not accept ad hoc, one-off articles.
  4. We have never published advertorial on our site.
  5. We refuse to publish posts that are submitted by guest bloggers but don’t hit the spot.
  6. We really hate self-promotional posts.
  7. We really love practical posts.
  8. We edit all posts on Econsultancy multiple times prior to – and after – publication.
  9. We are fiercely protective about our brand.
  10. We give all authors a signature – essentially a small bio with links to the author’s website and social profiles (and no sketchy anchor text: all signatures follow the same format, and we editorially control them).

The problem

It’s that last sentence. Google is worried about links in signatures. I guess that can be gamed, on less scrupulous blogs. It’s just that our editorial bar is very high, and all outbound links have to be there on merit, and justified.

From a user experience perspective, links in signatures are entirely justifiable. I frequently check out writers in more detail, and wind up following people on the various social networks.

But should these links pass on any linkjuice? It seems not, if you want to play it safe (and we do).

Can’t Google discount these links at an algorithmic level? Apparently not, though perhaps that’s because there is no standard way of displaying bios and signatures. There may be a microformat, but certainly we’re not using one.

All signs suggest that we’re talking manual penalties here.

I’d like to think that if Google’s webspam team was to look at Econsultancy’s content, our guest bloggers, and the way we standardise the signatures, that we’d have no problem. But I can’t bank on that.

So we’ve made the change.

Michael Jackson was right

We are not alone. There are plenty of other publishers out there who have a strong guest blogging contingent. They are struggling with this issue too.

Rand over at Moz asked Matt Cutts about all this yesterday, and I hope a very black and white answer will be forthcoming.

Let’s see what Matt says.

I do wonder about how big the problem is for Google, as surely guest blogging is such a small piece of the overall jigsaw. And what about branded content, and native advertising? Where will all of this end?

One final thought: anybody who says links aren’t such a big deal for SEO anymore needs to have a major rethink.