Guest blogging is one of the most popular, and successful, SEO tools available to the enterprising webmaster.
It presents a relatively easy and inexpensive way to get exposure for a website, build brand credibility, develop an authoritative online presence, and accumulate valuable inbound links.
Understandably, guest blogging has become a go-to strategy for many SEOs looking to get link juice for their websites.
But in the wake of Penguin, what's in store for guest blogging as an SEO strategy?
We've already seen the effects of Google's earlier updates. Directory links have been devalued, forum links carry little weight, and reciprocal links are all but dead.
So, what do you need to know about guest blogging in a post Penguin environment?
Quality Content and AuthorRank
AuthorRank has become increasingly important to Google, as it allows the search engine to see where content is being published, and how it is being received across the web.
Google wants high-quality informative content for its users, and with the AuthorRank or authorship metric, it associates content with the creator.
As a blogger, you must set up authorship. Google will eventually take notice and more weight will be given to your blog posts and to the links they produce.
Update for January 2015: AuthorRank will become increasingly important and can be made more visible with Schema.org structured data. Keep your authorship rel="me" tags on your Google+ links, as we don't yet know how this will be used.
If you are churning out low-quality content, simply as a way to troll for links, Google will recognize it as an attempt to game the system and will ultimately devalue both your content and the links it produces.
Now, more than ever, bloggers need to concentrate on quality and let any links build naturally.
Social Signals - It's Who Not How Many
It's well established that Google, and other search engines, use social signals as a factor in assigning page rank.
The more tweets, shares and likes a post gets the better. Or at least that's what we've been told.
But after Penguin Google is placing less importance on how many likes and shares a post has accumulated, and more value on who has been doing the liking and sharing.
Google understands that webmasters can purchase tweets and shares for cheap, and combat this they will be assigning more value to social signals derived from real and authoritative online entities and devaluing those tweets and shares that appear to come from bots and spam merchants.
Again, the takeaway here is to produce high-quality content that you would be proud to share on your own social profile, and that leaders in your industry niche will want to share or link to on their profiles.
Devalued Sites - Take Care Where You Blog
The Panda and Penguin updates have already begun to single out low-value websites that publish sub-par content filled with spammy links.
Guest blogging on these sites can, and will, adversely affect your online reputation. Think of it as guilt by association.
When choosing sites to submit guest blogs, avoid those with a spammy link profile.
Concentrate on sites with a history of publishing high-quality, relevant, material.
Limit any outgoing links in your post to other high-quality sites that offer information that will be relevant to your targeted readership.
An easy metric to gauge a site's quality is Domain Authority. Run the site through our SEO Auditor and look for a DA of 30 or higher.
Co-Citations vs. Back-links
Quality content gets noticed, but it doesn't always produce links. This is often a worry for guest bloggers, but it shouldn't be.
An abundance of backlinks looks unnatural to Google's algorithms, and it is important to build a healthy ratio of citations to back-links.
Creating authoritative content that gets referenced and cited in other high-quality blogs has more value than a vast number of links from an array of inferior websites.
When submitting a guest blog it is not always necessary to link back to your own site. The key is to produce stellar content that will be referenced by other writers on high-value websites.
The introduction of Penguin has derailed a number of tried and true SEO strategies, but it hasn't undermined the best SEO practices.
Guest blogging can still produce great results, but it is important to concentrate on producing high-quality content as opposed to mere link building.
In a post-Penguin world content is still king, but quality content is the Emperor.