Google's Matt Cutts: We Can Take Action On Sites Benefiting From Guest Post Networks

Mar 20, 2014 • 8:58 am | comments (90) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

traffic conesYesterday, Google's Matt Cutts announced they've penalized a large guest blog network but never said which one. The search community believes it is that got hit and the owner, a respected member of the SEO industry, Ann Smarty confirmed they indeed get a manual action in Webmaster Tools and was penalized.

But Ann did not believe that the publishers that participated in the network would get hit as well. She tweeted:

I said in my original post that I "suspect the publishers will indeed be hit," despite what Ann said. Matt Cutts responded to that Twitter thread, without @replying Ann, saying, "when we take action on a spammy link network, it can include blogs hosting guest posts, sites benefiting from the links."

It was not so committal as you can see and I am personally tracking a couple of sites to see if there will be a drop. One publisher said on Twitter they noticed a drop yesterday, which seems to early to me, but here is her tweet:

That being said, if you were part of this network, keep us posted on if your Google rankings suffer and/or you get a manual action notification in Google Webmaster Tools.

You may ask, why is there so much confusion over this? Well, Google wants to break some spirits with this and even if it is not MyBlogGuest that was targeted here, Google wouldn't mind people thinking it was and then thinking the penalty is more severe than it should be?

Forum discussion at Twitter.

Previous story: Google's Matt Cutts: Multiple Breadcrumbs For The Same Product



03/20/2014 01:37 pm

Sad that Matt is on a witch hunt here. It's quite unethical of him to do. No paid links going on at all. All MBG is is a meeting place that makes it a more efficient way to EARN links. Whether or not there is spam going on is really up to the host blog. If you look under the hood, what Matt is really admitting here is that his team still does not know how to program the algorithm to catch spam links. It pains him to have to do things manually because the algorithm that he's been trying to strengthen just can't get to the level of human intelligence. It's like Danny Sullivan argues - "just don't count the links", but because the algo STILL doesn't know which links are good and which are bad, everyone is punished. LAME. Matt is lashing out as an unfortunate result. Ethically, he should err on the side of caution. Wish he would follow the Google mantra of "Don't be evil." Here's an example from the real world of the equivalent of what Mr. Cutts is doing: "Don't go to your chamber of commerce and meet and network with people. You might meet some really bad characters! It's bad for your business to do business with other people that you met at a chamber meeting." Come on, seriously! Is this the gestapo? I suspect that Matt is having trouble with his conscience, but is under A LOT of pressure from higher-ups.

Marie Haynes

03/20/2014 01:39 pm

I had a few inquiries from site owners that received a manual unnatural links penalty yesterday and had used MBG in the past, so I do believe that some sites that used MBG were manually reviewed. I don't believe that this means that everyone who used the service will get a penalty though. If guest blogging was a tactic that you used primarily in order to build links to your site then, no matter what source you used in order to get the links (not just MBG), your site is at risk for being penalized. At this point, I don't believe that the Penguin algorithm is great at catching unnatural links built via guest posting, but I bet that the Google engineers are working on it. If you used MBG to find valid industry connections and have done some guest blogging on relevant and authoritative sites with the intention of building your brand and traffic, then Google's not looking to penalize that kind of stuff. But, I think that the majority of people who have used a guest blogging service in the past did it with the intention of gaining links to manipulate their search engine results. I don't think that Google automatically took down any site that was a member of MBG, but I do believe that they may have manually reviewed sites that were obvious partakers of the service.


03/20/2014 01:40 pm

I've posted 100's of articles from and this morning I received a message in WMT saying "Unnatural links from your site". Cooincidence? Hmm...


03/20/2014 01:48 pm

Traffic from google has definitely been impacted. I added a rel=nofollow to all guest posts, and submitted a reconsideration request let's see how long it takes to recover.

Stuart David

03/20/2014 01:48 pm

The thing is, all the sites that used MBG basically got a boost right (and this seems more certain with all the chatter on here)? And this boost was deemed unfair as the respected Ann Smarty set up MBG and exploited her knowledge for financial gain by giving sites a boost, and then threw her toys out the pram and basically slammed google saying they can go away and she's not going to step in line with there requirement for nofollow. Just feels very fair that these sites which where gaining an unfair advantage get knocked back into place IMO. Positive to see this type of action.

Stuart David

03/20/2014 01:49 pm

But remember you won't recover to same position as you got an unfair boost in the first place through this spam network


03/20/2014 01:50 pm

One last piece of information. I had around 10,000 external links (50k+ pages indexed) and MBG made up about 350 of those


03/20/2014 01:52 pm

The unfortunate thing is that I used the MBG content to fill 'holes' for my users; they never ranked for anything as they were low quality

Stuart David

03/20/2014 01:54 pm

Something was filtering through in a boost - be interesting to see when you get re-inclusion, keep us posted!

Michael Martinez

03/20/2014 02:00 pm

"...No paid links going on at all...." You don't have to be buying/selling links to violate search engine guidelines. That was just a red herring.

Neil Perulli

03/20/2014 02:03 pm

Exactly! although they where not in the biz of buying and selling links, MBG was promoting extremely low quality content

F1 Steve

03/20/2014 02:07 pm

I envy that knuckle, if you ever lose the use of your left hand to carpel tunnel please consider my left hand as an alternative knuckle rest for your next photo shoot! Your photo is so commanding, I love it!!! :)


03/20/2014 02:13 pm

This guy, Matt, is running Crazy, He definitely need some rest and a cup of copy to think about what is he doing with the SEO Industry for his Corporate owners


03/20/2014 02:39 pm

I would like 2 snoogers in my cup of copy.

Durant Imboden

03/20/2014 02:55 pm

I'd be wary about using low-quality content to "fill holes" even if the source was squeaky-clean. (Manual penalties come and go, but Panda can last forever.)

Durant Imboden

03/20/2014 02:58 pm

Precisely. Google's guidelines warn against "link schemes" in general, not just paid links:


03/20/2014 03:02 pm

One more reason for me to take Google out of the equation and stay with MBG and its quality writers (junk content speaks for its own).

Stuart David

03/20/2014 03:05 pm

What a treat! The quality of the writing at MBG in the light of day for our pleasure


03/20/2014 03:16 pm

MBG brought together two types of webmasters who had bad intentions, in Google's eyes: 1. The "guest bloggers" (guest spammers?) who embedded backlinks in weak articles, to try and gain SEO advantage. 2. Webmasters who want to "bulk up" their site with these questionable blog posts, with no thought to the quality of the content. Both of these tactics are contrary to Google's webmaster guidelines. It was just "article marketing" with a twist.

Mark Boyd

03/20/2014 03:58 pm

Marie, thank you for your voice of sanity. I totally agree with all comes down to how you're USING the forum. If MyBlogGuest is "spammy" because of the way some people choose to "game" it, then does that mean Google is a "spammy" search engine because of how some people choose to game it? Once again, it all comes down to your own personal integrity and how you are CHOOSING to use the forum. Thank you again for a most wonderful and spot-on comment!

Deb Dulal Dey

03/20/2014 04:06 pm

did anybody noticed that that guy has received penalty for - Unnatural links from your site. This is the reason why aliens will not even speak to us ..

Deb Dulal Dey

03/20/2014 04:08 pm

Please please for Aliens' sake read the comment . he received penalty for Outbound Links not for inbound links

Michael Martinez

03/20/2014 04:23 pm

I think the VentureBreak article shows that at least some of the publishers in MBG were trying to find what they considered to be good content. Too many people are dismissing MBG's writers as low quality. Maybe some of them were, maybe most of them were, but I believe Ann is trying to encourage people to create good value despite the linking motivation.

Paul Salmon

03/20/2014 04:46 pm

I received the notice in my Webmaster tools as well. I used MBG last year - publishing posts - but haven't been a member of MBG for many months.

Marie Haynes

03/20/2014 04:49 pm

I think you might be responding to a different comment, not mine. I'm not surprised though that people who publish guest blogs (obtained via MBG or elsewhere) are getting outbound link penalties. I've also had inquiries from people getting penalties for links TO their sites. As Matt said in his tweet, Google is willing to take action on sites whether they are benefitting from the unnatural linking by hosting the posts or because they're receiving links.

Marie Haynes

03/20/2014 04:50 pm

Paul, did you get a warning for outbound or inbound unnatural links? Also, if it was outbound, did you post guest posts other than MBG content on your site?

PM Fiorini

03/20/2014 05:07 pm

Ann's intention was not to create a "spam" link site. It's intention was to help new webmasters market their content. What Google did was ridiculous and clearly shows their contempt for webmasters and SMB in general.


03/20/2014 05:12 pm

Come on, really? Sites selling guest blog placement are no different than any # of text link brokers. I would guess 90% of guest blogs I have seen are for the sake of the link back. PM: I just realized we work in the same city! Nice to meet cha!


03/20/2014 05:18 pm

Matt Warned Everyone. When this guy speaks, listen: This tends to be his M.O, it was nice of him to give folks the warning.

Weaver Fever

03/20/2014 05:35 pm

Yeah, what a lame pic. Who poses like that? Is this an Olan Mills session from 1983?

Alexander Hemedinger

03/20/2014 05:50 pm


03/20/2014 05:52 pm

It needed repeating, folks act surprised when something like this occurs, even with 2 months advance notice.

Paul Salmon

03/20/2014 05:55 pm

Just outbound. I have accepted other guest posts as well, so it really is hard to be 100% certain what caused the penalty, but the message appeared at the exact time MBG was penalized.


03/20/2014 06:07 pm

Thank you, Marie. My site is a testament to your theory. I used MBG quite frequently back when it was new; I haven't used it in the past 2 years or more. I used it, what I believe is, legitimately, to look for new opportunities within my niche. Any links I gained from MBG were incoming, and I have a large number of them. I haven't used MBG in the last few years because the quality was declining. So far I have not seen my traffic declining in any way, and I have not received a manual penalty.

Alexander Hemedinger

03/20/2014 06:19 pm

Not making fun of your suggestion, just the people who don't do it is funny. =)

Durant Imboden

03/20/2014 06:20 pm

Ms. Smarty's intention may not have been to create a "spam link site," but it seems that her intentions and rules weren't enough to keep spammers from exploiting MyBlogGuest. The spammers were the ones showing contempt for MBG, Ann Smarty, and the Web at large (including Web search engines).


03/20/2014 06:20 pm

Any excuse to post a Nick Cage meme is ok with me!

Marie Haynes

03/20/2014 07:06 pm

Thanks Paul. I am thinking that Google gathered as many sites as they could that used MBG and then manually reviewed them.

Paul Salmon

03/20/2014 07:24 pm

I am thinking the same thing.

Courtney Miller

03/20/2014 07:37 pm

Client received an inbound link warning 3/20. Link profile itself isn't very good, which we knew but kind of a coincidence with the MGB incident because we have used Guest Blogging in the past. Will be interesting to see what happens in attempts to get this lifted.

Alexander Hemedinger

03/20/2014 08:06 pm

Your my new #friend :)

PM Fiorini

03/20/2014 09:23 pm

Nice to meet you! Where do you work? What's you phone no - Would love to chat about SEO trends you are seeing. Thanks - PMF

PM Fiorini

03/20/2014 09:27 pm

I see what you are saying, but the problem with your definition of "spam site" or "spammer" is that Google seems to lower the bar monthly. I.e., Google can't seem distinguish from somebody legitimately marketing their website and those maliciously trying to manipulate web results.

David Beart

03/20/2014 09:35 pm

It is interesting to see how many people are surprised by the penalty to MBG. Not long ago Matt Cutts said the “Blogging” was dead… and he meant it; especially when it comes to blog posts/articles that were written and distributed SEO reasons. Google simply followed through with the threat and hit MBG, some of its authors and those that used it for the purposes of link building.


03/20/2014 09:37 pm

You can still market a new site with a guest post. That isn't the issue and never was. It is the easy access to paid links that is the beef. Add nofollow tags and this never happens.

Warner Carter

03/20/2014 09:58 pm

Google is just wrong to penalize My Blog Guest in any way. In fact they should give them a boost. Ann and MBG set very high standards and are sticklers on quality and how and where links are used. Every submitted post is reviewed, only one link per post, add outgoing links, include an image, Blogs and writers that do not maintain high standards can be banned. They have been a positive force in helping and educating people to do quality guest blogging since day one. Matt, you made a mistake and I hope you have the guts to admit it and step back, Why are you making me think of Russia in the Crimea as I finish writing this?

David Beart

03/20/2014 10:04 pm

If Ann would have used the 'no follow" attribute we wouldn't be discussing this penalty today. The reality is Google makes the rules and if we don't follow them, we pay dearly. Unless you run a large newspaper or are a major brand... you better "no follow" every link on your site or you will get a message within GWT... that is just the way it is!

PM Fiorini

03/20/2014 10:13 pm

FYI, there was nothing "paid" for posting on MGB.


03/20/2014 10:28 pm

hmmmm does that include adwords. Your buying a link to get traffic????

Durant Imboden

03/20/2014 10:34 pm

AdWords don't pass PageRank.

John Romaine

03/21/2014 01:36 am

What a train wreck. I feel for clients that have hired SEO consultants using this service unknowingly. Google's new algorithm seems to be "Kill them all and let God sort it out". A lot of innocent people are being caught up in this mess.

Peter Watson

03/21/2014 02:01 am

I just don't get why Google doesn't ignore bad links. They are smart enough to do it, so why not? That's the question.

John Romaine

03/21/2014 02:07 am

Kaloyan Banev

03/21/2014 02:13 am

My social network lost PR on 20th too. It is non-commercial social network that allow member posts. Though SERP remain unchanged. I have to admit that I have published some posts from MBG in the past which i suspect is the main reason for PR loss.

Nishant Prajapati

03/21/2014 02:35 am

Lots of site's PR drop yesterday.. Matt Cutts target all the blog which accept Guest Post

Durant Imboden

03/21/2014 02:38 am

Google penalizes bad links (such as link schemes) to make undesirable behavior less rewarding and less tempting.

Peter Watson

03/21/2014 03:01 am

Yep, that's exactly what they are doing, but simply ignoring the bad links (which is a very controversial area) would eliminate this issue at hand, NEG SEO, etc, etc..........

Yogita Aggarwal

03/21/2014 03:52 am

Yeah.. Facing PR drop.. but no worries will get back soon for sure..though my blog is not for spreading spam :)

Yogita Aggarwal

03/21/2014 03:54 am

Just wondering what would be SEO after 5 years.. might be a history :)

Yogita Aggarwal

03/21/2014 03:58 am

Wondering on same.. though Even i am accepting guest posts for my blog from a long time but got this unnatural Outbound links message now after MBG penalty .. I guess Google dropped that message to every MBG member.


03/21/2014 04:13 am

What's the google message via such action ? - Ans - Stop link building - Move to Adwords

Jitendra Vaswani

03/21/2014 05:11 am

Yeah right time to move to adwords. Stop making links now ... Blah Blah :P

osman musa

03/21/2014 05:30 am

Man, I published guest posts from that MyBlogGuest and nofollowed all links so will I be hit? I am already hit anyways from something that happened on February 14th so i wonder if this guest blogging thing, is related to what happened to the 14th. Heck I think I am jut gonna remove all links from all 5,000 posts on my site and luckily PhpMyadmin can do that easily with an SQL Query.

osman musa

03/21/2014 05:54 am

Your wrong Warner, guest bloggers posted to my site through that site and MyGuestBlog allowed them to directly contact any site owner for posting so essentially it was all up to the site owner in the end, nothing was reviewed nor was any quality control done.


03/21/2014 07:14 am



03/21/2014 09:27 am

It's not that simple though because what if a competitor had attacked your site by arranging the spam links. That is why it is not fair to penalise. I know, in 99% of these cases the spam IS done by the site owner, but some innocent sites could be at risk (in theory anyway).


03/21/2014 09:32 am

Sure, Ann's intentions are good (I think - not convinced), but her system is too tempting for the spammers. Ultimately it's them that's caused the problem, not Ann.

Shawn Clark

03/21/2014 09:51 am

Yeah i am also facing same problem....


03/21/2014 09:55 am

My blog just dropped to DA 0 and PA 0 and I do not have one single guest post hosted on my site. Nor have I guest posted anywhere else. I definite got hit may 20th. Google has gone to far this time. @ramone_johnny:disqus I definitely got penalized innocently.


03/21/2014 09:57 am

That's why their revenue was up between 6% and 12% last year. Their plan is working.


03/21/2014 10:03 am

now it would even higher , they create the fear and take advantage of that , Congrats Google you are successful again .. :)

Smart Software

03/21/2014 10:56 am

It's a bitter truth, but it is true. Not only MBG but also many guest bloggers get notices about this major change. I have surveyed in my tech groups and the majority of writers accepted that there is something big changes occur from Google

Andrew Girdwood

03/21/2014 11:22 am

I hope you know that Google has nothing to do with DA and PA.

Durant Imboden

03/21/2014 11:58 am

You asked why, I explained why. Google obviously feels that, without penalties, spam would be even more out of control than it already is.

PM Fiorini

03/21/2014 01:17 pm

You are right. It is what it is.

Robert Gombos

03/21/2014 03:00 pm

If you mark all your guest postings with rel=nofollow you'll be fine. If you get a manual penalty notification, just fill a reconsideration request and tell Google that you've nofollowed all hosted guest postings.


03/21/2014 03:26 pm

I can confirm at least one site that was hit directly due to using MBG. If you have used the service and haven't NoFollowed the links yet.. might be advisable that you do so.. like now.


03/21/2014 05:47 pm

if google don't know what to do, it ban complete topic. professionals!

Paul Salmon

03/21/2014 06:29 pm

That seems to be the case as I have heard about other MBG members getting the same message.


03/22/2014 08:45 am

2 of my sites that were on MBG were hit with manual actions for outbound links. I only published a couple of articles from there, then stopped using it over 6 months ago because of the crap articles being offered, but still got hit

Yogita Aggarwal

03/22/2014 08:48 am

Yeah.. Exactly :)

Robert Kirk

03/22/2014 01:11 pm

I have been reading a lot about publishers who have been getting hit and receiving manual penalties who have used myblogguest to publish content from mbg onto their blogs. Has anyone who used mbg to post content too, been affected? Or is simply the publishers themselves who are getting hit?


03/22/2014 04:49 pm

I think its interesting seeing people's reactions to MBG. What do people think it means for guest blogging? Do you think it is still acceptable with nofollow and author bio links or do people fear its the end?

Johnathan Stevens

03/23/2014 03:47 am

@Martin same here. I had a site with 5 pages and 2 posts. Only ONE (yup 1) post was from MBG. The site is thin, nothing fancy, no affiliate links or anything, just a plumbing site for a friend and it still got penalized. Fortunately for me it is only one rel=nofollow for me. I feel for the guys who have thousands to manually to insert.


03/24/2014 02:52 am

Google is really leading SEO to a very high altitude.

Gracious Store

03/28/2014 03:09 am

Is this Google's way of sending the hard message that people should stop guest blogging?

Why AnnSmarty

04/02/2014 03:26 am

So Ann Smarty, a respected member and an SEO expert, simply didn't see this coming and continued to offer MBG's services to her clients?


04/04/2014 01:03 am

I talked to a blogger who had a profile on MBG and had never posted a single post who received the message. Thought that was interesting. No one here is talking about the fact that Cutts isn't saying not to do guest posting. It would be ridiculous to do that because in many cases the worlds foremost subject matter experts are doing this on a regular basis and have never even heard of SEO. Cutts is trying to tell you nicely that Google is by far the best tool on earth at mining patterns in information, and if you are doing these things in a systematic way, it's very easy for Google to see. If you're doing it in a high quality talking to humans, spending good money to create content, working with blogs that have clean link profiles, prospecting with your bare hands etc., they have no interest in stopping that. I agree with the point that Google wants you to find valid industry connections and work with them....Unfortunately they can very easily see your relationship to MBG and they don't care how involved you were. Years ago Cutts supported guest posting whole-heartedly because it was so much less nefarious than every other bad link tactic. Now they've done a great job at cleaning the low hanging fruit, and they're scraping the bottom of the barrel. Welcome to the land of PPC. Guest posting is the last safe scalable tactic.... Someone tell me otherwise

Marie Haynes

04/04/2014 02:08 pm

"I talked to a blogger who had a profile on MBG and had never posted a single post who received the message. " I think that Google found every site that had some sort of connection with MBG and then opened up a manual review of that site. So, if that site had not published any MBG posts or received any links from MBG published posts BUT they had unnatural linking of other kinds that would get them penalized. It wasn't the association with MBG that caused the penalty, but rather, it was what got them a manual review.

Marisa Wright

05/08/2014 12:49 am

Ann did put a lot of emphasis on standards and quality - but it was still up to individual members to police it. By coincidence, I just retired a site that used MBG - and I found I had to wade through a lot of poor quality and spun posts to find the good stuff.

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