Is "Guest Blogging" Still A Dirty Phrase?

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Exchanging links for content and guest blogging aren't the most squeaky clean topics anymore. Especially after Matt Cutts condemned the practice last year on his blog

Here's a thread from SEO Chat with some interesting discussion about outreach, syndication, guest blogging, and backlinks.

A user writes some articles and wants to find a place for them to be posted. Their goal is to get "quality backlinks." Two other posters take opposing stances. On the one hand, the first guy says "Don't post articles anywhere but on your domain. While I gather you want backlinks > publishing your own content elsewhere is the wrong way to get them." To which another user says, "Doing guest posts for other people's blogs has many advantages outside of gaining backlinks...The internet is about sharing and connecting, so the idea that you should not give away valuable content is completely backward."

A few more choice quotes in this back and forth:

User 1 wrote:
We both know why you are pushing dofollow links... but you won't say it. You note everything a nofollow provides... what you won't say is why you want those dofollow links... and that being quite disingenuous. Clearly if your writings can't products links you need a fake way to acquire them which harms the reputation of the resident domain that your content will go on and that was clearly shown to be the case at MOZ.com even when the owner advocated for such developments. But their reputation was more important to them.

User 2 wrote:
Anyway you might think that doing purely “White Hat” SEO is the only way forward, but some people don’t want to simply just produce content and then sit there waiting for people to appear and read it (you could be waiting a while); they want to proactively promote their websites.

User 1 wrote:
You really don't get it ... First you declare you are doing outreach but since you are really only trading services e.g. content for links - that can't really be outreach right as outreach is about helping others not self-servicing links to build ranks so you can help different people that didn't use any of your outreach value. Thus instead of helping the readership of the place you got the links from you are helping searchers locate your website without any outreach. Neat trick!

User 2 wrote:
You keep quoting Matt Cutts, as though he runs your entire SEO strategy. Instead of being scared of what might happen, you should do what works. Part of Google’s strategy is to scare you into not doing SEO, and you are proof that that strategy is very effective.

Check out the whole thread, which gets juicy about halfway down the first page. As they soon realize, there are a lot of things that they can't agree on or have different definitions of. Outreach, for example. What is that? Emailing people asking them to publish your blog posts? Meeting people at conferences and making connections the old fashioned way? Sharing a beer? Or how about the merits of guest blogging, which even Matt Cutts acknowledged - branding, getting an audience, traffic, etc. Will those things "naturally" come with time if the content is good enough?

What risks are acceptable, what has to be known, and where is the line a year after guest blogging was branded as a sin? There's a lot of room to take on this issue, I think, and a lot of stances to hold. Which is why I think that discussions about it keep cropping up so regularly.