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Keith MoehringFebruary 13, 20145 min read

After the Cutts Crackdown, Is Guest Blogging Still Worth It?

Don't Be a Spammy Guest BloggerWe all hate THAT guy. You know, the one that takes a good thing way too far and ruins it for everybody. You might remember him from such overplayed fads as: 

Well search engine spammers, your antics have again made SEO all the more difficult for everyone, just as you did with your link schemes and keywords stuffing. You’ve taken guest blogging, a viable and effective marketing activity, and limited its overall potential impact. 

Why Guest Blogging Is No Longer a Link-Building Strategy

In his January 20 post, “The decay and fall of guest blogging for SEO,” Matt Cutts (@mattcutts), head of Google’s web spam team, wrote: 

Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.

What makes it worse is this definitive action against guest blogging could have been prevented if spammers heeded any one of Google’s five warnings, which date back to October 2012. Cutts lists them out in his blog post.

Spammers, and those who enable spammers, allow me to help you understand where you went wrong. You wrote one crappy article, pitched it to every blog on the planet, and packed as many keywords as you could into the copy and anchor links. Or maybe you wrote one article, tweaked it slightly a bunch of times (a.k.a. article spinning), and then paid someone to run it all over the internet.

Either way, you’re the reason marketers everywhere are re-evaluating whether guest blogging should be part of their ongoing inbound marketing strategy.

Attention marketers pure of hearts and intentions!I urge you to not write off guest blogging so quickly.

While the quality link-building opportunities may be gone, there are still a number of other benefits.Submitting original, quality content to credible, relevant blogs is still a great way to:

  • Generate awareness.
  • Establish thought leadership.
  • Build and nurture relationships.
  • Grow a following.
  • Initiate conversation around new approaches or concepts.
  • Drive high-quality website traffic.

The stern-but-fair Cutts agrees:

I’m not trying to throw the baby out with the bath water. There are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging (exposure, branding, increased reach, community, etc.). Those reasons existed way before Google and they’ll continue into the future. And there are absolutely some fantastic, high-quality guest bloggers out there. I changed the title of this post to make it more clear that I’m talking about guest blogging for search engine optimization (SEO) purposes.”

To take advantage of guest blogging’s benefits without suffering the SEO consequences (possible penalties), your approach must become more targeted and authentic. Following are some best practices to keep in mind to help maximize guest blogging’s potential impact.

The (not so) New Guest Blogging Best Practices

  • Be selective with your targets—Are you considering a site that accepts anyone as a guest blogger? Is the site’s content low quality, spammy or unoriginal? Are there spammy, keyword-stuffed links within the content? If so, seriously consider whether you want your content, name and website (via links) associated with it.
  • Establish relationships before pitching—A side effect of Google’s stance on guest blogging is many legitimate blogs may be more selective when accepting articles. Use your own blog, social media, blog comments, email, trade shows and other events as a way to introduce yourself to a blog owner/editor and build a relationship. The more familiar they are with you and confident you have something insightful and unique to say, the more inclined they may be to accept your post.  
  • Nofollow your links—Per the advice offered by John Mueller (@JohnMu), a web trends analyst at Google, nofollow any links back to your site. You aren’t going to get any credit for these links anyway; use nofollows to tell Google you have nothing but the truest of intentions.
  • Submit only unique, valuable content—Write insightful, high-quality, relevant content that the blog’s readers will want to read, comment on and share. There are other signals Google looks for when ranking content, such as links from quality websites, online discussions and social shares by respected and connected individuals. Being the author of this content can’t be a bad thing for you or the site with which you are associated.
  • Include a bio—According to Cutts, most quality guest posts include a brief bio that explains who the guest author is, and why he or she is writing for that particular blog. When submitting your guest post, include this short bio and tailor it to the blog topic and its audience. Outline your experience and establish your credibility. 
  • Guest blog in moderation—Avoid an all-out assault; submitting several blog posts a week may actually do more harm than good. If search engines see a huge influx in placements, they may assume you're paying for placement—a violation of their guidelines—and assess you a penalty. Be selective. As with inbound links, one guest blog on a quality, relevant site can do more for you than 100 guest posts on less established or credible ones. 

For more on what to do and not do when it comes to guest blogging, checking out any of the following videos from Matt Cutts. 

What is Google's view on guest blogging for links?

Does Google take action on spammy guest blogging activities?

How can I guest blog without it appearing as if I paid for links?

What should I be aware of if I'm considering guest blogging?

Have you revised your guest blogging strategy since Cutts' annoucement? What do you plan to do differently?

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Keith Moehring

Keith Moehring is the vice president of strategic growth at PR 20/20. He joined the agency in July 2006, and is a 2004 graduate of the University of Toledo.