Google Discusses Its New Official Link Rules

    July 31, 2013
    Chris Crum

Google has some new rules for the kinds of links it allows (or doesn’t allow, rather). The concepts are actually not exactly new, but Google has updated its official documentation to reflect its views of certain kinds of links.

Are you concerned with following Google’s rules for links on the web? Does Google have too much power over how people treat their content? Let us know what you think in the comments.

As you may know, one of the things Google says in its Quality Guidelines to avoid is participation in link schemes. Google has updated the link schemes page, as Search Engine Land (tipped by Menaseh) recently reported.

Now included as things that qualify as link schemes are:

  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
  • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank
  • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.

Guest posts have been discussed numerous times recently. A recent article at suggested that “high quality guest posts can get you penalized.

Google talked about the topic in several videos (which you can watch here if you want to spend the time doing so).

In one video, Matt Cutts said that it can be good to have a reputable, high quality writer do guest posts on your site.

He also said, “Sometimes it get taken to extremes. You’ll see people writing…offering the same blog post multiple times or spinning the blog posts, offering them to multiple outlets. It almost becomes like low-quality article banks.”

“When you’re just doing it as a way to sort of turn the crank and get a massive number of links, that’s something where we’re less likely to want to count those links,” he said.

“Generally speaking, if you’re submitting articles for your website, or your clients’ websites and you’re including links to those websites there, then that’s probably something I’d nofollow because those aren’t essentially natural links from that website,” Google’s John Mueller said in another video.

In another video, Mueller said, “Think about whether or not this is a link that would be on that site if it weren’t for your actions there. Especially when it comes to guest blogging, that’s something where you are essentially placing links on other people’s sites together with this content, so that’s something I kind of shy away from purely from a linkbuilding point of view. I think sometimes it can make sense to guest blog on other peoples’ sites and drive some traffic to your site because people really liked what you are writing and they are interested in the topic and they click through that link to come to your website but those are probably the cases where you’d want to use something like a rel=nofollow on those links.”

Cutts said in a recent interview with Eric Enge, “The problem is that if we look at the overall volume of guest posting we see a large number of people who are offering guest blogs or guest blog articles where they are writing the same article and producing multiple copies of it and emailing out of the blue and they will create the same low quality types of articles that people used to put on article directory or article bank sites.”

“If people just move away from doing article banks or article directories or article marketing to guest blogging and they don’t raise their quality thresholds for the content, then that can cause problems,” he said. “On one hand, it’s an opportunity. On the other hand, we don’t want people to think guest blogging is the panacea that will solve all their problems.”

Advertorials are another thing Google has been cracking down on recently. Cutts put out a video specifically addressing this topic a few months ago.

“Well, it’s advertising, but it’s often the sort of advertising that looks a little closer to editorial, but it basically means that someone gave you some money, rather than you writing about this naturally because you thought it was interesting or because you wanted to,” he said. “So why do I care about this? Why are we making a video about this at all? Well, the reason is, certainly within the webspam team, we’ve seen a little bit of problems where there’s been advertorial or native advertising content or paid content, that hasn’t really been disclosed adequately, so that people realize that what they’re looking at was paid. So that’s a problem. We’ve had longstanding guidance since at least 2005 I think that says, ‘Look, if you pay for links, those links should not pass PageRank,’ and the reason is that Google, for a very long time, in fact, everywhere on the web, people have mostly treated links as editorial votes.”

More on all of that here.

Finally, with regard to the optimized anchor text in articles or press releases thing, Google gives the following example of what not to do:

There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.

I wonder if that’s a real sample.

Barry Scwhartz from Search Engine Roundtable jumped in a hangout to ask Mueller some questions about press releases:

He recaps:

John Mueller from Google makes it clear that Google wants all links in these press releases to be nofollowed. He did say having a URL at the end should be okay but when he was grilled about it again, he said it is best to nofollow the links. John even said press releases should be treated as advertisements and thus links in those releases should be nofollowed.

I asked John why all of a sudden the change in policy for press releases and John said that it is because SEOs were using these more and more in a way to promote their site [artificially in the Google search results] and Google needed to clarify their stance on them.

Google did remove a few to make room for the new ones. Now gone are “linking to web spammers or unrelated sites with the intent to manipulate PageRank” and “links that are inserted into articles with little coherence”.

I guess it’s game on with those. Just kidding.

What do you think of Google’s updated language for links schemes? Do any of the changes concern you? Let us know in the comments.