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Matt Cutts Encourages Guest Bloggers To Take The High Road

April 9, 2014

Recently I had a chance to team up with Angie Pascale on a post about guest blogging. Angie did the hard part (the writing), I provided the visual support (illustration). You can see the post here.

Angie’s the social media director at Location3 Media. She writes about social media, SEO, paid media, and digital marketing for her company blog and a number of other sites, including ClickZ. And she’s as nice as she is knowledgeable.


Guest blogging is more complex than you might think. It has a dark side. Matt Cutts, Google’s top spam fighter, recently concluded that many guest posts are, in fact, spam, written only to boost the page rank of the contributor’s site. Google has taken steps to penalize such posts.

Done in the proper spirit, however, guest posts are a force for good: a chance to share knowledge, demonstrate competence, attract attention (“brand awareness”), and, ideally, pick up new followers.


My illustration showed Matt Cutts manning a roadblock, and a guest blogger choosing
the “true path.”

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ClickZ illustration guest blogger choosing path toward brand awareness Matt Cutts Google blocking road to spam to boost SEO and page rank

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My original rough sketch just showed a fork in the road. Angie suggested making the left side dark and dreary, and the right side bright and sunny– which gave the illo a lot more punch and visual appeal.

Here’s a detail image:

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detail image for ClickZ illustration guest blogger choosing path toward brand awareness Matt Cutts Google blocking road to spam to boost SEO and page rank

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How good is the caricature? Here are a couple of pictures of Mr. Cutts. He seems to like white tee-shirts.

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Two photos and caricature of Google spam watchdog SEO page rank expert Matt Cutts

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I got a kick out of mimicking the Google logo and colors. I used the Calluna font, which provides a fair approximation.

Colored letters can be hard to read, however. Can you see a difference in the two signs below? The sign on the right has darker letters. You can see it most clearly in the blue letters.

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Two signs saying Closed by order of Google one sign showing darker letters by adding Photoshop Color Burn layer

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I used a very simple Photoshop trick to darken the letters: I simply duplicated the text layers, set the layer mode to Color Burn, and adjusted the opacity slider until I liked the result.

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Two signs saying Closed by order of Google one sign showing darker letters Photoshop Layers Window showing darkening effect achieved by adding Color Burn layer

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I had great fun working with Angie, and I certainly learned a lot.

If you’re interested in the relationship between social media and marketing, and the intricacies of Search Engine Optimization (SEO), you might want to follow Angie
on Twitter

Here’s the final again:

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ClickZ illustration guest blogger choosing path toward brand awareness Matt Cutts Google blocking road to spam to boost SEO and page rank

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Have you ever done a guest post to build awareness for your brand and services?

Have you ever decided to follow someone after reading their guest post on a blog?

When’s the last time you strolled down a path lined with skulls and bones? Did you whistle??

Hope you’ll leave a comment.

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Other Posts You Might Enjoy:


Creation + Evolution = Illustration

Hey, Bertie Bott– Time To Brighten Up Your Beans!!

Bible Scholars Stunned: Forbidden Fruit May Have Been… A Shoe!

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footer for all future blog posts showing picture of blog author Mark Armstrong, along with short bio and contact information

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  1. spartacus2030 permalink
    April 9, 2014 2:42 PM

    I’ve always given what I have for free. I somehow feel it a privilege to display my talents to the world to begin with, I’d like that to remain a feature of Internet surfing, and I just have a generous nature.

    I loved the Illustration! I’m with you on guest blogging! I can’t believe Google would bar it because it doesn’t represent a product. How does blogging and salesmanship equate to be synonymous in the first place?


    • April 10, 2014 1:34 PM

      Thanks for your comment and kind words about the illustration. I should clarify, however, that Matt Cutts and Google haven’t barred guest blogging, they’ve just moved to penalize those who write low- or zero-quality guest posts simply to drive traffic to their sites and inflate their page rank (= their site’s popularity, from a search engine standpoint).

      In a January 2014 post on guest blogging, Matt Cutts tried to make the distinction as follows:

      “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 just want to highlight that a bunch of low-quality or spam sites have latched on to “guest blogging” as their link-building strategy, and we see a lot more spammy attempts to do guest blogging. Because of that, I’d recommend skepticism (or at least caution) when someone reaches out and offers you a guest blog article.”

      Hope that helps, and thanks a lot for stopping by. : )


  2. Mia Moravis permalink
    April 9, 2014 2:44 PM

    Very informative – and a great fun read! :>) ~ Mia


    • April 10, 2014 1:37 PM

      I can’t believe my humble blog is starting to attract famous, award-winning theatrical personalities and superstars!! An honor, my dear Mia– and thank you for your kind words. : )


  3. April 9, 2014 2:48 PM

    Thanks for the nice write up and kind words, Mark! I would argue you did the hard part, but I guess that’s a personal perception (I won’t show you any of my sketches to confirm my side of it!). Had a blast working with you, too!


    • April 10, 2014 1:51 PM

      Thank you, Angie– one of my most enjoyable collaborations ever. I’ve read thru that post a half-dozen times, and I still marvel at how clearly you explained the technical aspects of the situation. You made it look easy– a sure sign of hard work and craftsmanship.

      You must post some of your sketches sometime– I strongly suspect there’s an artist in there, ready to bust out!! Thanks again! : )


  4. Steven L Campbell permalink
    April 9, 2014 4:04 PM

    An interesting insight on the world of one of our popular search engines. Though I have never done a guest post, I have considered doing it to build awareness for my art as well as my books.

    Oh, by the way: I do whistle when I stroll down any path lined with skulls and bones. 🙂


    • April 10, 2014 2:03 PM

      Ha!! Well, we’re definitely in sync re strolling down paths lined with skulls and bones– whistling is a must!! : )

      I find myself thinking that doing guest posts would be a good match for you. I’ve read many of your posts on painting and writing– what sparked your initial interest, how you prepare, your research methods, different techniques, approaches, materials, etc– and I think they’d be a hit on sites frequented by writers and artists. You’d be using helpful content to build your brand– exactly what guest blogging should be all about. Hope you’ll give it a try, and thanks, as always, for your support! : )


  5. Margie permalink
    April 9, 2014 4:38 PM

    Always interesting to learn the tricks of your trade!
    As for Google and SEO, sometimes the strangest things happen. I’ve had a lot of hits on one of my older posts recently because Google thinks I am referring to one of Clairol’s hot new hair colors. In reality, I am just talking about my natural shade of grey/white!


    • April 10, 2014 2:09 PM

      Tricks of the trade– I’ve got a million of ’em, as Houdini used to say (tho you couldn’t hear him very well, since he was locked in a trunk in 20 feet of water).

      Great story about poor Google getting confused and going wild over your hair! If I see you in a Clairol ad on the back of a magazine, I’ll know that justice has, at last, blossomed in this world!! Thanks, Margie! : )


  6. April 9, 2014 5:17 PM

    Your cartoon says everything there is to say [no offense to Angie, who’s article is very enlightening !]. I just love the light towards which the guest blogger walks as opposed to the dark sky with lightning and skulls & bones!! Ingenious! 🙂


    • April 10, 2014 2:18 PM

      I didn’t realize my cartoon was so well-spoken. I guess some of my natural eloquence must rub off on my work… : )

      Thank you, Greek goddess of music, pigment, and kind words!! I must give Angie credit for suggesting the dark sky on one side, and sweetness and light on the other. I’ll take full credit for the skulls and bones, however– that was my, um, “interesting” contribution!! : )

      Thank you, my dear Marina!! : )


      • April 10, 2014 7:20 PM

        …you didn’t realize?!!!! 🙂
        As for the ‘interesting’ contribution …yep, got it! 😉
        Diving back in my pigments! 🙂
        Have a beautiful Thursday evening [?] and even better Friday, my friend!


        • April 14, 2014 9:19 AM

          Diving into your pigments… for me, that conjures up a vision of a sprite diving off the top of a paintbrush into a jar of magic colors, splashing beauty onto several canvases at once. Yes, a very exciting vision!!

          Wishing you a joyful day, my dear daring Olympian! : )


  7. April 10, 2014 4:59 PM

    Nicely done. Great cartoon. I do like the dark & the light paths.


    • April 14, 2014 9:03 AM

      Thanks so much for that very kind comment– sincerely appreciated! Yes, wouldn’t it be nice if we could always tell the light path from the dark path every time we were at a crossroads?? : )

      Thanks again for your kind support!


  8. April 10, 2014 8:43 PM

    I’ve seen a couple of blogs where it seems all they do is introduce someone else’s work. No original content from the person who runs that blog. Is this what you mean? I haven’t guest blogged and from your illustration – dark clouds, lightning, skull and crossbones and the foreboding Mr. Cutts – that is not a path I plan to go down. 😉

    Has Matt Cutts weighed in on this? That is a terrific likeness of him.


    • April 14, 2014 9:42 AM

      Hi, Judy! I’ve seen blogs like that, too. Some of them just seem to consist of reblogs, as if the blog owner has nothing to say himself, and just reblogs other people’s posts. Which seems pointless.

      I suppose it’s possible that someone might establish a blog and then accept payoffs from unscrupulous guest bloggers who are looking for a blog, any blog, where they can post worthless material in an attempt to manipulate their page rank, and drive traffic to their own site. That’s just speculation on my part. Maybe it’s time to coin a new term: cyber-bunco!!

      As I mentioned in another comment reply, Matt Cutts has nothing against legitimate guest blogging, where someone is sharing useful info and “building their brand” by demonstrating their expertise. He’s opposed to worthless guest blog spam which seeks only to manipulate search engine results.

      Thanks, as ever, for your good-humored engagement and ongoing support! : )


  9. April 12, 2014 4:32 PM

    I don’t really look at guest blogging as a SEO tool (speaking on Angie’s thoughts)– I look at it as a way of building community and spreading the word, user to user, about a blog.

    I guess it’s because I’m old school, having started 10 years ago, when blogging was more of sharing a journal to the world. These notions of optimization and such are still quite lost on me.

    Love the illustration. It really sums up the gist of things quite nicely.


    • April 14, 2014 10:11 AM

      “Building community and spreading the word”– sounds like a great definition of guest blogging to me!

      Re Search Engine Optimization (SEO): for me, that simply means you want your page (your website) to rank high in search results. If you sell old Cool Whip containers for people who can’t afford Tupperware, you want your site to come up near the top when someone does a Google search for “old Cool Whip containers.” Why? Because if you’re near the top on the first page of the search results, a lot of potential customers are gonna click on the link to your site.

      Now please don’t ask me to explain “Google analytics”– I’m only an expert on Cool Whip containers… : P

      Thanks for your nice comment, Jak.


      • April 14, 2014 11:43 AM

        Oh, no worry, Mark, I think I understand how it (SEO) all works– I just don’t care about it very much, because my aims for blogging aren’t really professional or business aimed at this time.

        When I collaborated (not merely guest blogging, as I was a regular writer) for We Heart Music, I know Vu cared more about that, since we were trying to draw attention to independent music. And I’m sure he cared about Google analytics– at least until we got blacklisted by Google (which I think was my fault– long story).


  10. April 13, 2014 7:46 PM

    I have done under 5 different guest blog posts for others –3 different blogs. First priority, is that I have to enjoy writing it and yes, for bloggers that I like/trust, who are already regular readers of my blog and who also get decent traffic.

    Building awareness of my blog was a 2nd priority. It was more on the topic that I liked and yes, always link back to my blog.

    I’ve only received minor traffic on my blog. Shrug. Really…doing a guest blog post for a blogger who is a regular reader and helps others…is like a gift from me.

    Great topic for a comic though!


    • April 15, 2014 8:55 AM

      Thanks, Jean. I know there are a number of excellent cycling blogs (including your own), and I have to believe you would be an outstanding guest blogger for any of them. All the right ingredients are there: shared passion, knowledge, experience, and a wish to connect and share with others. Done in that spirit, guest blogging can’t help but generate goodwill and build blog/brand awareness.

      Attracting clients and/or followers is a slow business. Somebody told me once that salesmen recognize a “1% rule”: for every 100 calls, you can expect, on average, a single expression of interest. A pretty daunting statistic. I suspect it’s much the same with social media: takes patience and sustained effort to get noticed.

      I know you have a strong altruistic spirit, and really put your heart into your posts. Jean, your fans appreciate that– and I am one of those fans.

      Always good to see you, thanks so much for your comment and loyal support! : )


  11. April 17, 2014 3:27 AM

    I love it! It’s a great caricature. I like how you captured that sense of fluster from his photographs.

    I have guest posted, and hosted guest posters, and have followed based on guest posts that I’ve read elsewhere… but I only enjoy them when it’s all friendly, like-minded sorts. 🙂 When it’s a “Here’s a random post about vitamins!” … eh, I skip those. 🙂


    • April 23, 2014 9:53 AM

      Thank you, my dear Rara! “That sense of fluster” really made me Rawr! Sounds like something I probably walk around with half the time myself… : )

      It’s hard to imagine guest posts going wrong as long as the person hosting the blog is paying attention. And with your 20-20 Dino-vision, no steenking random vitamin posts are gonna sneak past you– nosuh!! Many thanks for your cheery comment! : )


  12. April 18, 2014 6:30 PM

    Interesting topic. I’ve never done a guest post though I received an offer to do one once from Broken Light: A Photography Collective.

    I think the daily post here sometimes does the guest blogger through their challenge program. Is that the same? And I’ve followed some of them after reading their guest post. 🙂

    Great cartoon as always! It makes me laugh imagining Matt’s face hahahahahhahaahahahahahahaa


    • April 23, 2014 3:21 PM

      Hi, Inge! Thanks, as always, for your very supportive comment. I think you should take Broken Light up on their offer sometime. You’ve got a lot to share, and it would be good exposure for you and your excellent photography skills. : )

      Yes, I believe the Daily Post uses guest bloggers on a regular basis. So why haven’t they asked me?? Hmm… don’t answer that!! : P

      Matt Cutts certainly has a good face to work with. I wonder if he’s seen my little caricature of him? I sure hope he likes it– I’d hate to get on Google’s Top Spam Fighter’s bad side!! : )


      • April 23, 2014 4:00 PM

        LOL, I think you’ve been once of Daily Post’s guest blogger, haven’t you? I remember it! :p LOL


        • April 25, 2014 9:42 AM

          Ha! No, they’ve never asked me to do a guest post– they’ve never been quite that desperate!!

          I did get featured once, in a Daily Post that profiled illustrators. I’m flattered that you remember that, my dear Inge!! : )


        • April 25, 2014 12:51 PM

          Oh yes, you’re right, you got featured once! 😉

          Well how come I forget the person who always support me?!


        • April 29, 2014 1:30 PM

          Forget?? Nonsense!! You remembered it– only it was kind of a panoramic memory, rather than a macro with precise details… : )


  13. SingingTuna permalink
    April 20, 2014 5:58 PM

    Wish I could “Like” this (and the surgery one, too) because I really do like them! I’ll go log into Safari to see if it’s just Chrome that’s stopping my Like for going through. ANYWAY…woooohoooooo!!!! Splendid illustration! Love the caricature! And the drawing tells the story beautifully.
    To be honest, I didn’t know people did guest-blogging, that it was a “thing.” Fascinating!!!
    Thank you for sharing this with us!!!


    • April 25, 2014 8:50 AM

      Thank you, my dear Tuna!! It’s always wonderful to hear thunderous applause coming out of my computer! I refuse to use ear protectors, I prefer my applause undiluted!! : )

      Just guessing a bit here, but I think guest blogging is the digital equivalent of two businesses deciding to cross-promote each other. If you ran an arts center, for example, you might ask a nearby restaurant to write a guest post about their “theater night specials.” It would give readers another reason to go to a show, and theater-goers a reason to try the restaurant.

      Which leads me to believe you should ask the Reeses Company to do a guest post about how you’re their favorite Reeses-chompin’ artist– it would be great publicity for both of you!! : )


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