Slap on the wrist by Stephen Poff

Google seems to constantly have us worrying no matter how transparent they try to be, and this year the buzz seems to be around guest posting. The practice has been an important one for many companies, so Google's news to get strict with different policies and linking opportunities wasnt taken lightly in the community. It has everyone wondering: If Google is willing to target such a huge approach like guest posting, and quite frankly willing to crack down harder than it probably need to, is something like social media marketing next?

Google and the Guest Posting Debacle Recapped

In case you're unfamiliar, back in January of this year Head of Google Webspam Matt Cutts wrote the famous quote, stick a fork in it, guest blogging is done here on his blog. As you might imagine, the SEO community was up in arms. What did this mean for a guest posting strategy? How were you supposed to actively try to improve your link profile without guest posting, especially if you're a new site? In the post, titled The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO, he said:

In general I wouldn't recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn't recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a link building strategy.

Of course the real concern occurred in the months that followed as Google cracked down on websites that used guest posting as a main method of earning links. Major blog networks such as MyBlogGuest were also the target of Google penalties, which sent everyone in a frenzy to go through and double-check all the links they've earned through this method in the past. It was messy and it was time consuming, and many SEO experts disagreed with Google's decision to be so harsh on this practice. Nonetheless, all of this news has since caused Webmasters to rethink guest blogging and to be incredibly careful. For some this means cutting out guest blogging altogether.

So what was the point? Google essentially wanted to move toward an approach where links are earned naturally as opposed to specifically for SEO purposes. Guest posting was starting to seem spammy in their eyes with websites accepting guest posts at every corner. Cutts did eventually make a revision to his blog post and said high quality, multi-author blogs can still be a great place to guest blog and that guest blogging is OK, just as long as the site is authoritative and it isn't for SEO purposes.

So What about Social Media Marketing?

Guest posting is clearly the hot topic at the moment, but will Google treat social media marketing this same way in the future? Here are a few points to consider:

The Defense: Google Wont Treat It the Same as Guest Posting

  • Google has made moves to increase the importance of their own social network, Google+. For example, authorship is all connected to this social account, which will help improve CTR for most companies. Why would Google want to devalue this in any way?
  • Cutts says that social signals don't play a role in their algorithm, but the general consensus is that when it comes to Google+, this simply isn't true and/or wont be true for long (Depending on how you look at it, this could go in either the defense or prosecution category).
  • In terms of link building regarding social media, its really not up to Google what those links mean. They have never affected the Google algorithm (like links from guest blogging do), so this is basically a non-issue to consider.

The Prosecution: Google Might Treat It the Same as Guest Posting

  • Google just ended its partnership with Wildfire, the social software platform that helped businesses improve their social media marketing efforts, after nearly 20 months.
  • Bing has a partnership with Facebook, not Google. We don't see any kind of partnerships with Google and social media aside from Google+ (and YouTube if you want to count that as a social network).

The Verdict

In my opinion, the answer is no, Google will not treat social media marketing the same way it did guest posting. Social media is just too important, and creative campaigns driving users to social channels will always be important. I spoke with Adam Heitzman, managing partner of HigherVisibility, who agreed with me and says, Ads need good content and a solid strategy, and the defense simply seems to outweigh the one or two red flags that Google has given us to support the contrary.

However, it's always tough to say what surprises Google will throw at us, so only time will tell. It seems to me that Google+ is absolutely here to stay (so marketers, get going on that strategy!), but I suppose the others are still a little bit up in the air.

Do you think Google will treat social media marketing the same way it did guest posting? Do you agree with the decisions Google is making, or would this not be a welcome change for your company? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.