MBG Penalty and How to Lift it

So, another blog network has been busted by Google. This time it’s MyBlogGuest – a gray area that has been attracting SEO newbies and gray-hat SEOs for a couple of years. Everybody, including the sister/brother team of the blog network, knew that MBG was pushing the Google Webmaster Guidelines and acting as another link scheme, however many chose to close their eyes to it.

If you’ve managed to stay away from it, pat yourself on the back and keep up with the good work. Otherwise, there might be a chance you’re penalised alongside the MBG. Read on, I might have a solution.

It was confirmed in these two tweets that MyBlogGuest was indeed busted:

https://twitter.com/mattcutts/status/446167600716722176

and

https://twitter.com/seosmarty/status/446291344651075585

The last one is a bit LOL really. You can’t simultaneously discourage and encourage guest posting for links, can you?

Mind you, I’m not taking sides in this case. I understand the position of both camps. What happened to MBG is, I think, a bit of a showmanship, PR stunt if you wish, like saying: “I told you guest blogging was a no-no strategy, you didn’t believe me, here you go! Slap!” I don’t mind. I’m fed up with those “I give you 500-word articles, you give me dofollow links” emails anyway. My main worry is how Google gathered data about sites who have participated in this network. I assume they did gather data because how did otherwise so many MBG members end up with a penalty?

It’s fine if Google have devised some sort of a method of targeting select MBG members. If that’s not the case and they’ve simply gone and blindly collected data, I can easily create a profile on MyBlogGuest and list competitors’ sites as my sites. Will Google come and have a look at this bogus profile and ban my competitors? Hmm…

Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong?

Although you may argue that Google have overstepped the mark by telling the webmasters what they can and what they can’t do with their sites and partners, it’s not the point. The point is the value of the “low-effort” guest blogging.

By low-effort I mean something where you don’t have to invest time in building relationships and crafting the content. Whichever way you look at it, you could go on MBG and get 10, 20, 30 of your articles (links ahem ahem) posted without any interaction, without any effort.

And finally, please check your Analytics and honestly tell me if you are happy with the direct traffic received from articles distributed via MBG? Hands up who think the network has delivered targeted traffic that converts. Anybody? Well, in that case the question is: if it didn’t drive traffic and you knew it was against the Guidelines, why did you continue to distribute articles via MyBlogGuest? Ok, ok, rant finished.

Many bloggers seem to be unhappy with what has happened, and I must admit this was a bit arrogant, but if you want to see how people really feel about it, check this hashtag on Twitter. They were trying to get it to trend. Alas, 70 tweets in 5 days are not going to make it trend. Case closed. Verdict: stay away from any networks. Any! In fact, stay away from anything that has a way to create a footprint to your site.

The issue is also widely reported on SEL. Also check the comments how Michael Martinez is making so much sense of it and how the guy who argues with him makes a fool out of himself. Great fun! Another source for discussion is the MBG thread on Webmasterworld. Worth a read.

To date, there are more than 87,000 user accounts registered within MBG, most of them must be inactive though, but this should tell you how much interest there is in things like taking SEO shortcuts and trying to game the system.

Link Acquisition Trends

Although you may argue that the MBG situation is another case of “exemplary sentencing,” I’ll tell you that the biggest issue is not this or another blog network. The main problem is the thought model the majority of webmasters are using to build their link acquisition process.

Let’s look at Google Trends for two very different topics. They’re both related to link acquisition but one represents an erroneous thought model while the other one represents a healthy approach to link building: Guest Blogging vs. Link Building Strategies.

Google Trends Link Building Strategies
Guest Blogging vs. Link Building Strategies

“Link Building Strategies”, the red line, is a popular search term but see how it’s dwarfed against the blue line – “Guest Blogging.” The red term is used by people who think positively about their SEO strategy, they are willing to learn, they are willing to take a holistic approach. The blue term is lazy. The red one leads to a sustainable long-term strategy. The blue one leads to… erm.. another penalty. So why is the red one declining?

Oh, and if you wonder about the spike around January 2014, it’s when Matt Cutts made his “anti-guest-blogging” announcement.

Can Alexa Help You Avoid Pitfalls?

The number of webmasters using Alexa data in their daily activities seem to be going down. I admit it’s got many flaws and that its data is often inconsistent, however, there are still many less obvious tasks that I use Alexa for. One of them is – determining whether a potential link source is frequented by the so-called “SEO Outsourcing Countries.”

Disclaimer: I’ve got many friends in India and I’ll try to be careful about what I’m saying, however, if a site whose content is not related to India shows a particularly high percentage of Indian traffic, you can be almost sure it’s used as part of automated SEO activities. Look at the geo breakdown for MBG:

CountryTraffic percentageLocal Alexa
India 29.80%1,004
United States28.90%2,749
United Kingdom8.40%1,456
Pakistan3.60%1,345
Singapore 2.50%736
Canada 2.30%3,733
Philippines 1.70%1,501
Thailand 1.70%2,471
Benin 1.70%46
Russia 1.60%11,835

What does it tell you? If you come across similar stats for another site you intend to get links from, don’t go there (unless, of course, the stuff you’re promoting is related to India)!

MyBlogGuest Alexa Stats
The dark green is in the wrong side of the world!

How to Lift the MyBlogGuest Penalty

OK, technically, there’s no such thing as MyBlogGuest Penalty, however, I know people are going to use this term to refer to the situation, so I might as well use it.

Looks like the snowball of the MBG penalty has caused collateral damage – some sites are reporting receipt of the dreaded Unnatural Links message in Webmaster Tools. I just looked at three websites from one particular niche, they all have received the GWT message and lost renkings.

What do they have in common apart from the fact they are on the same topic? They all have links from sites that have participated in MBG.

Disclaimer: this is unconfirmed. Three sites is not enough to come to firm conclusions.

So the funny (or not so funny) thing is – you don’t have to be a user of MBG to be faced with the manual action message. If several of your link partners have participated in this or any other blog networks, you are vulnerable.

So at the moment, if you suspect you’ve been a victim, what do you do? A complete backlink audit will hardly help because you don’t know which site has been using MBG.

If you keep your outreach attempts recorded (in Excel or Buzzstream or whatever else you find convenient), you might send everyone an email, alert them of the situation and ask for your links to be nofollowed or removed in case they have participated in blog networks.

Can’t automate this because there will be people on your list who will consider this approach rude. In other words, use common sense, there are webmasters who would never even dream about participating in blog networks.

Once you’ve done this, you can narrow down your link profile to blogs and do a manual check. What you want to look out for is blogs with inconsistent content quality and blogs where most of the content is guest-sourced. These sites are likely to be part of some shady networks.

It may seem a difficult and boring task but it’s not as bad as it seems. If it does make your hair stand on end, give me a shout. I should be able to help.

Finally, something from a personal experience. Keep a blacklist of websites that you don’t approach for link acquisition. I’m now happy I’ve kept a blacklist.

If you come across a url on forums like Digitalpoint, on blog networks, or if a url is sent to you via an unsolicited email offering you to submit an SEO friendly guest post, make a note of these websites in a spreadsheet. You don’t want to use them in your outreach campaigns because if they get penalised, they might drag you down as well.

buzzkeeper

Arvid Linde is an independent SEO consultant, award-winning journalist, MSc in engineering, published author and a technology addict. More info on the about page.

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