Travel brands and bloggers beware - understanding the legitimate guest postNews / OnlineBy Viewpoints | March 21, 2014Share This article was originally published on Guest blogging is dead, declared Matt Cutts, Google’s head of webspam team in January.Citing the fact that what once was an authentic and legitimate way of sharing content and views has become overrun by spammers and negative ways of scaling this tactic, purely for SEO gain.NB: This is an analysis by Bart Platts, head of search at MeltContent.In the latest development, Google this week penalised yet another guest blogging "network", MyBlogGuest, for being deemed as a spammy resource. Guest blogging should be about promoting a content piece that has genuine message for an identified and targeted audience.Websites that host guest posts should do so on the premise that they actually believe in and want to share the message carried in the guest post.They should not be sharing the content as a means of generating money - that should be reserved for clearly defined "sponsored content" posts (which have a value both for the blogger and the brand that wishes to promote content this way – from a branding, community building and time saving point of view).Many travel companies use of guest blogging in order to promote their brand or content is often tenuously related to an identified blogger’s target audience.Such an example could be, a mainstream holiday provider targeting a backpacking blog, which has a following of active and enthusiastic backpackers, with content to promote the most family friendly resorts in Majorca. The blog post is usually not compelling and most likely would not receive the placement it does without some form of payment.The Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) in the UK, for example, weighed in with its stance on the sharing of content by bloggers and web editors, more specifically content that is shared because it has been incentivised to do so over and above a genuine interest in the content being shared.It's guidance is purely from an advertising point of view and they have provided bloggers and web editors a resource to clarify scenarios where paid content offers arise.Cutts, later clarified his view on specifically what part of guest posting is dead with the "good part" ("exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.") of genuine guest posting being okay.With Google declaring the bad side of guest posting as good as dead (how to they make that distinction on all but the most blatant of cases?!) and the CAP seeking to inform or remind web editors of their duties of declaring paid for guest posts, it’s certainly valid to question how they will regulate these guidelines.Blurred linesDo these updates clarify or blur lines between guest blogging in order to promote a message and guest blogging to build links. Where does one stop and the other start and more importantly how do the respective authorities know?Should we not ask for links if we are guest posting to share content? Would this not be bad for user experience, the blogger has told the reader about some great content but the blogger won’t link to it because they are worried about contravening Google’s guidelines and stance on guest blogging with backlinks?What happens if web editors’ charge an "admin fee" to publish the content on their site? They are not charging for the placement, simply the processing and uploading of the content.Stand out contentThese updates reinforce the need to create and share content that is well produced and strikes a chord with sites that potentially want to share the content.To achieve the brand exposure and referral traffic that guest posting provides, brands now have a heavier incentive to create content that web editors demand to host because it resonates with their readers or followers.Resource should shift away from being dedicated to securing guest blog placement via paid or incentivised methods to being redirected to create truly desirable and therefore sharable content. Guest content that achieves these goals will make the CAP’s guidelines irrelevant, the content will be featured or shared on sites because it deserves to be there.Monetised bloggingWill this kill off the model of bloggers providing brands a space to have their content hosted at a price? To a degree yes, but on the whole no.Brands that are happy to pay for sponsored content and have it declared as such will continue to pay bloggers and web editors to host the content in the correct way.Brands that don’t want to declare paid for content as sponsored will still happily have content featured on guest sites, at a price, as long as it’s not marked up as sponsored. The issue is, in the majority of cases, how will Google and CAP really know what has been paid for and what has not?Constant changeThese directives and changes continue Google’s aim of providing an "authentic" search experience where only great content ranks because it deserves to. SEO and content strategy is, and must continue to evolve to reflect these changes and travel industry provides a great platform to demonstrate this.Overall, the fundamentals of good websites and content haven’t changed with any changes to guest blogging, creating good content that provides excellent user experience should always be the aim. The SEO benefits will naturally follow this.NB: This is an analysis by Bart Platts, head of search at MeltContent.NB2: Type laptop image via Shutterstock.