Update (24th March 2014): There has been a number of webmasters who have been in touch with me to say that they have had manual penalties placed on their accounts as a result of being a publisher on MyBlogGuest. I have been in touch with Ann Smarty and she said that "Google is actually bullying our publishers by sending manual penalties to them, so poor community members are really scared." Ann went on to say:
"We are helping our community members to recover but we won't be trying to recover myblogguest.com. We have blocked it with Robots.txt from Google and we'll just continue rolling without Google."
It looks like the MBG team are going it alone, so I wish them all the best! If you're a publisher on MBG that has received a manual penalty, don't panic - I've already heard of a few sites that have had their penalties removed after simply adding nofollow tags to the outbound links.
For those that don't know, Google has announced that they have taken action against a major "guest blog network". This was made apparent via Matt Cutts' tweet that he posted out yesterday:
MyBlogGuest is a guest blogging community that has been running for a couple of years now and allows blog owners to advertise guest post opportunities on their site, as well as allowing bloggers to post requests to write guest posts for others.
Personally, I used to use MyBlogGuest around a year ago to obtain some niche relevant guest posting opportunities (the sole purpose being focused around building relevant links, if I'm honest) and I used to be able to get some really good opportunities, especially within the travel sector.
Over the past year in particular, I've noticed that a lot of the blogs that were appearing on MyBlogGuest were fairly spammy-looking, or at least low quality. The site had become a hub for link builders to get quick links from relevant websites through content. This isn't to say that there weren't any good quality sites on there that were strict with their editorial guidelines, but I'd say a large majority were fairly low-level.
On the flip-side, they do actively endorse MyBlogGuest as a platform to build links to your website (personally, I don't see anything wrong with this):
Ann Smarty, the owner of MyBlogGuest has confirmed that they have received a manual penalty through Webmaster Tools. The penalty is focused on the links pointing to the MyBlogGuest domain, saying, "Google has detected a pattern of unnatural artificial, deceptive, or manipulative links pointing to pages on this site". Here's the tweet:
I have to say, after looking through the link profile of the site, that there are some questionable links, but they are way overbalanced by the number of high quality editorial links pointing to MyBlogGuest.com. This is clearly a very targeted and strategic action taken from Google. The interesting thing is that they haven't mentioned anything about the content on the site or their outbound linking methods.
Ann Smarty made it very clear at the start of the year that they would not nofollow the links on the site (a comment that got a lot of publicity).
So What Does This Mean?
I've been listening in to a lot of the conversations on Twitter, Google+ and various communities to see what people have been saying about Google's latest announcement. The general consensus seems to be going back to the whole "guest blogging is dead" topic. In my opinion, this isn't the case.
I haven't really said where I stand on the whole situation yet, but my view is that this is more of a PR stunt from Google. Guest blogging is a big issue for the web spam team at Google, because it can be used fairly effectively to manipulate their search algorithms. By making an example of a community that is heavily focused on promoting guest blogging, Google are able to strike fear into the industry.
The main question that I've heard from members of MyBlogGuest asking is "will my site be punished if I'm a member of MyBlogGuest". This is enough for someone to unsubscribe and is a serious issue for the MyBlogGuest team. Personally, I can't see this happening; however, it can't be denied that it would leave a significant footprint to Google.
I have to empathise with Ann and co. because they've actually built a really big community and the site does actually facilitate a lot of above-board guest posting opportunities. There has been a lot of support online for MyBlogGuest, with hashtags like #ISupportMyBlogGuest and #MyBlogGuest being full of supporting tweets. My feeling would be that once the initial hype surrounding this has dropped, the community at MyBlogGuest is in serious trouble of completely sinking.
The search engine penalty alone wouldn't be enough to crush the community because they have a LOT of direct and referral traffic pointing to the site. The thing that could crush MyBlogGuest is the fear that Google has placed on the publishers on the site. Ann herself has said that she has no idea whether MyBlogGuest publishers would be penalised.
This move from Google could be the first of a number of high profile guest-blogging related penalties. Similar communities like Blogger Link Up must be a little worried about it. From an SEO point of view, this changes nothing for me. I will continue to use guest posting as one of the link building methods within my campaigns - the issue isn't with guest posting itself, it's with the the fact that people guest post on terrible websites. If you're whole strategy lies in getting a link from any and every site, you're asking for trouble.
Would be interested to hear the thoughts of the community here.