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Google penalties and guest blogging: what are the risks and how should you protect your website?

1 April, 2016


As regular readers will know, I first got into SEO to understand how to unlock websites from Google penalties.

Broadly speaking, Google penalties are issued by the search engine for what it considers to be dubious or unfair SEO activity. However, a penalty can be an unfortunate by-product of an algorithm update (how Google scores websites for ranking them in search results) or a manual review.

Google penalties can result in a website being completely removed from Google search results. For online retailers, this can obviously have a devastating impact on sales. But penalties can impact all businesses with an online presence, and anyone can be affected – Google even gave itself a penalty once!

Duplicate content and Google penalties

I have written before about the risks of posting duplicate content on different sites. This guest blog I wrote a couple of years ago for Northern Lights PR – on how PR agencies sharing press releases can decrease their own and their client’s Google ranking – explains how and why duplicate content can be a problem.

Guest blogging on LinkedIn and other websites: is it risky?

Then, earlier this year, Victoria at Northern Lights contacted me to discuss whether there may now be a potential Google penalty risk from her guest blogging on LinkedIn and other websites. This provoked an interesting discussion, which I’ll come back to shortly.

As a social platform, LinkedIn is ranked highly on search engines, so content posted through LinkedIn has high visibility – often higher than a company’s own website posts would have.

More and more people are now making use of the LinkedIn facility to publish a post – which is great! I love that people are getting more into blogging!

But while some people post different content on LinkedIn and their blog, tailoring the content and style for the different audiences, some are simply reposting the same content word-for-word in lots of places.

Could this be a risky tactic in terms of leaving themselves open to Google penalties?

Back to my conversation with Victoria at Northern Lights. Victoria is registered as a blogger on another blog. She expected to be writing original posts for this blog. But instead, they began reposting from her own website – straight onto their site, in full without any amends. While they do provide a link back to Victoria’s website, she had concerns about whether her site could be left open to a Google penalty.

Since there is a link back to the original article, there is some SEO benefit for Northern Lights, but the duplicate content has the potential to cause issues if it is picked up by Google and the websites involved could be issued with a Google penalty. So what should she do?

You can read the full story here

Suffice to say there is no right or wrong answer in this case. When the host site has a huge audience (as this one did), is crediting you as the author and providing a link back to your site (which this one was), then ultimately you may decide the benefits outweigh any risks.

google penalty

How to protect your website against Google penalties

As I discussed with Victoria and in the guest blog for her website, there are a number of things you can do on your own website to protect yourself and minimise the risk of a Google penalty.

(1) Optimise your own website content

If you spend time and effort on posting high quality regular content on your own website (preferably weekly), Google will begin to recognise your site and know which topics you are an expert on. Then, whenever you publish a new post, Google will index it quickly – and hopefully before anyone else reposts the content. So Google will know you are the original author.

(2) Build your website on WordPress

WordPress let’s you know if someone links to your site, so you can take action if required. Make sure you have notifications set up for backlinks to monitor this.

Google+ logo(3) Google+

Content shared and rated through Google+ is ranked highly by Google – for obvious reasons. By posting links to your onsite blog through Google+ and including a live Google+ button on all your blog pages, you will give yourself maximum exposure and give your website SEO a boost.

(4) Use schema to mark up your content

I was asked in a recent radio interview what I thought would be a key focus for digital marketing in 2016. My answer was that onsite SEO techniques like structured mark-up and schema will be a key feature.

“With Google’s new live blog ‘Carousel’, you can add structured data and schema to your content in order to appear in the Google carousel scrollbar.  Ultimately, you have to be more reactive in order to appear in newsworthy content – for example you have to be blogging during a live event, so it means you need more resources. But this can return some big wins.”

By ensuring the technical aspects of your website are set up properly, with the appropriate tags for Google in the back end of your site, Google will be able to recognise and rank your site much more easily.


Has your website ever been issued with a Google penalty? How did you overcome it?

I’d love to hear your experiences and comments – please share below!

  • Samantha says:

    I’m pretty sure the site that’s actually posting your guest post is more likely to get smacked by Google than you are. Typically it’s not that easy to identify whether or not a single post is a guest post/sponsored post, but it’s pretty easy to figure out of a site exists purely for the sake of being guest posted on.

    So that being said, I’d be careful where you go looking for guest posts, because who knows if a site that gets penalized for having too many guest posts passes that penalty onto you or not.

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