Google link spam update

Understanding the Google Link Spam Update

Last Updated: November 9, 2023By

Google last month announced the Link Spam Update. This update was a part of an earlier update rolled out in June 2021. The latest update according to a Google announcement targets unnatural links and is part of Google’s efforts at fighting link spam.

Over the next few weeks, Google intends to implement improvements in its detection of bought and unnaturally built links. and calls this the “link spam update”.

Here is a quick guide to what we cover in this post:

1. What The Link Update Will Target

2. Why Links Are Important

3. Common Blackhat Link Building Practices

4. The Golden Rule in Link Building

Final Words


1. What The Link Update Will Target

Over the years, Google has been fighting unnaturally acquired links which does not count as a recommendation from the linked page but is only meant to get a link and improve the ranking. Though Google itself has acknowledged the effectiveness of its efforts to weed its search results of poor quality websites, Link Spam Update is expected to improve Google’s effectiveness at achieving the target of serving users with better search results.

The Google Link Spam Update is an improvement in the recognition of poor quality links. Outside that, there is no indication that anything will change in the basic rules of link building.

Here are some of the immediate responses Google would expect from SEOs following the July update:

  • Google would like unnaturally placed links to be marked with the corresponding rel attribute. In addition to nofollow, there is also the sponsored attribute for purchased links, and ugc for “user generated content” (for example in forums).
  • In the blog post, Google gives particular attention to affiliate links and sponsored posts. In terms of the graphic for the sponsored posts, it is interesting that not only the links from the content are highlighted, but also those from the author link (“Authored by:”).
  • Google threatens manual and algorithmic penalties for pages that buy or sell links, but at the same time writes that the aim of the update is to no longer evaluate such links (and not to use them as a negative signal).

Further reading:

Google Exact Match Keyword Penalty Explained

A Search Engine Friendly Guide to Link Building

The update confirms that links are still a strong factor for the Google ranking algorithm and Google will want to prune the exploitation of this key signal as much as possible. It is also noteworthy to state that you do not need to do everything possible, especially the use of blackhat techniques to build links. There are other relevant factors that can help you gain ranking to the No..1 position apart from link building. Some of these are user intent and user behavior which is critical to keeping you at the position you have gained.

2. Why Links Are Important

Links are a key signal in the Google ranking algorithm. It suggests trust and helps to build traffic to the linked websites. But a lot of unethical link building methods have given advantage to poor quality sites and this affects the quality of the search engines. Google is trying to build search engine quality by improving its capacity of its algorithm to detect spammy links that give undue advantage to unethical practices. Clearly, links are important. Here are a couple of reasons you should build quality links.

Links are a Sign of Quality

The reason why people will link to your website is because it has information that needs to be referenced, it provides some better explanation or it is a source of some further findings. These are all quality signs Google will look out for. So the more links you get indicates the quality of information contained in your website.

Links Build Trust and Reputation

Your website trust score indicates its potential to rank in the search engines. Though Google says it doesn’t use the Moz trust signals, we have found a correlation between increased Moz Trust and an improvement in rankings.

An increase in inbound links is an indication that a website is trusted and that is why other people are linking to it.

It is noteworthy to state that a high MOZ Trust does not necessarily guarantee high ranking especially when the trust score is earned from unhealthy links. So, Moz trust can increase but ranking may not.

Further reading:

Google Exact Match Keyword Penalty Explained

Links Help Build Website Traffic

The more links your website gets, the more traffic comes to your website. Links are a potential for a click and so more links increase the probability of clicks.

Links Are Used By Google to Rank Websites

This is probably the major reason people adopt all kinds of obnoxious measures to build links. Google uses links to rank websites and the more links your website can get, the better it will rank in the search engines. But it is no longer just about building links. The links have to also be of good quality so looking for links from spammy websites will hurt rather than improve rankings.

The Web is About Links

The web is about links. Contents, websites or whatever, links are what leads us to view web contents so links are important and have been considered the most important ranking factor.

Website Discoverability

Links are what Google uses to discover your website. Without links, your website will certainly not rank.

3. Common Blackhat Link Building Practices

All links are not equal. Google understands that some websites are dedicated to commercial link building services and can help build links for fees whereas those links are not based on its considered relevance in the article or context. Here are a couple of link building methods you must avoid because Google disapproves of them.

Forum Profile Links (Signature Links)

When you register on some forums, you have the option to add your website to your profile. This becomes a profile link and will in some cases appear a signature below your posts. This link building technique is no longer acceptable even though in some cases, it can be legitimate and not just intended for link building.

Link Buying

This is an old practice and is still used today by some SEO to build links and improve domain authority. We recommend that you run away from link building using paid links. As a matter of fact, it seriously hurts and in most cases, Google will penalize the website found to be engaged in buying links to gain rank.

Wiki Links

There are cases where a software is used to generate wiki pages that link to a website. Those pages will not have any relevance to the web page and are considered to be spammy link building techniques.

Blog Comments

One of the very old ways links were built is to post a comment and add a link to your comment in html. Some website users still use it a lot and once the comments are published, they automatically become links to the website. This technique has a lot of downsides. It hurts the website that had been linked and also the website that provided the opportunity because the originating website is seen as encouraging spamming.

Article Directory Links

There are cases where you submit a page with links to directories like EzineArticles and they in turn resubmit the pages to hundreds of directories. When links are built massively in that form, they become unnatural and can lead to a penalty such as manual action. This method was once effective but today, it is classified a bad SEO strategy for link building.

4. The Golden Rule in Link Building

One best way to build links is to produce high quality, useful content that people find worthy to link to. Such links will usually be relevant and related to the post and industry. Link building is not just about sharing links on social media and taking every advantage to post links but being referenced in related posts as a recommended source to further understand what is being discussed. So, strive to win links that bear the following characteristics:

Earn Your Links

The best way you can earn links is to produce quality content. When your content is valuable, relevant, timely and credible, you will earn links from it. So get started with building quality content for best results.

Use Infographics

Images are one way to easily communicate. Graphical representation can help with understanding and tend to be shared much better than text. Good and well conceived infographics can be shared easily by hundreds of people and that can help to build some quality links to your website.

Reciprocal Links

As long as you do not do reciprocal links excessively and these links are related to your niche, you should be fine.

Article Marketing/Guest Posting

When you get natural links from guest posts or people writing about you, that is fine for link building. The key thing here is that it must be done naturally, not massively aimed at building links.

Recover Your Broken Links

There are links to your page from authoritative websites that you could have lost due to a change in the directory. You need to recover such links. Where there had been a change in the directory, you may just need a simple htaccess rule to redirect the directory to the new one.

Write Quality Posts

Write valuable and quality posts with usefulness. People will more likely link to your page because of the value of the information contained therein.

Take Advantage of Your Mentions

When someone writes a post and mentions your website but fails to link to your website, you can contact the source and suggest a relevant post that fits into the discussion requesting that the mention be turned into a link.

Final Words

A Google algorithm change is not a sledge hammer. So, just keep doing the usual right thing and you should be fine. Search Engine Round Table provides a succinct summary of the takeaways from Google’s official release on the link spam update. Here are the key highlights of the update:

  • Link Spam Update is the name (not with a date, like Link Spam Update July 2021). Started Monday, July 26th and Will take two weeks to roll out.
  • This update is a Global and multilingual update
  • This update will Nullify spammy links but not penalize them (just not count them versus not penalize the site)
  • Ignoring links will feel like a penalty. So, do not take quality link building for granted.
  • Nofollow is fine, you do not need to use rel=“sponsored”.
  • Google won’t say how much this will impact the search results. The best recommendation is to stick to Google’s standard and avoid the unacceptable link building methods.

Finally, the Google search engine algorithms are evolving and you never can tell what changes will be rolled out tomorrow. It is advisable to keep up with the best practices and not attempt to cheat in any way. What is allowed today could become unacceptable tomorrow as Google tries to improve its search quality and check abuses.

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