Google Updates Link Scheme Definitions: What This Means for You

Google updated their guidelines for what constitutes as unacceptable links. Make sure you are familiar with the changes, so you can avoid search penalties.

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Google recently updated their definition of link schemes in webmaster tools to include overly optimized anchor text in press-releases, large-scale guest posting and advertorials. While many white-hat SEO companies have been anticipating this change, many other companies and webmasters may be surprised, or worse yet, may still have no clue.

The most recent Penguin update was an eye-opener for many webmasters who found out the hard way that these link 'strategies' can result in major repercussions for their website and traffic. Avoid search penalties and traffic losses by knowing the most recent guidelines and how they can impact your website.

1. Overly optimized anchor text in press releases

What it is: Hyperlinked text, aka anchor text, is something that webmasters can control on internal pages of their website, as well as in articles and press-releases that they create. Black-hat SEO companies began to take advantage of press releases by creating releases with multiple overly-optimized backlinks in order to manipulate their search rankings.

Example:

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.

How to avoid a penalty: For articles and press releases, avoid unnecessary linking, especially links back to your own website. If your release does contain links back to your website, make sure to use either natural anchor text (ie: your company name, or the title of the landing page) or have the nofollow tag enabled, which means site crawlers cannot follow the link at all.

2. Large-scale guest posting

What it is: Guest posting can be a great way to raise brand awareness, build site authority and possibly pick up some natural links along the way. Where webmasters were getting into trouble was by engaging in mass guest-posting campaigns with articles that contained overly optimized anchor text for the sole purpose of obtaining optimized links.  

How to avoid a penalty: Guest-posting can be great for your personal and brand presence, but choose websites that are legitimate and authoritative and relate to your industry. Make it a long-term commitment and post for the exposure, not for the sake of links. If you do link back to your website in any of your posts, be sure to use natural anchor text.

3. Advertorials

What it is: An advertorial is a paid article that highlights a business' product or service. Black-hat webmasters were abusing advertorials by filling them with optimized links in order to increase rankings. Google now threatens to penalize any link that passes PageRank in a paid advertorial.

How to avoid a penalty: This doesn't mean that you have to avoid advertorials at all costs, as long as they are reputable. However, what it does mean is that any link in an advertorial should have the nofollow tag so it does NOT pass on any PageRank.

While Google's many guidelines may seem intimidating to keep straight at times, the best rule of thumb for practicing ethical SEO is to keep your strategy natural. Avoid participating in any strategy that uses 'short-cuts' or attempts to manipulate the search engines or searchers for the purpose of obtaining better rankings. If you have any questions about link schemes or are concerned that your website may be at risk of a penalty, contact us and we would be happy to conduct a free site audit.



Submitted by Erica Machin, Titan Growth


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