Google is becoming increasingly transparent on what constitutes bad link building practices, and the list keeps getting longer. Some of the latest casualties, announced in a recent update to Googles Link Schemes page, include:
- 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 optimised anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.
To guest blog or not to guest blog?
The first point is essentially clamping down on one of the most popular link building techniques of the past year – guest blogging. This has become the go to strategy for a lot of companies due to its effectiveness and perceived naturalness in terms of link generation. However, in the majority of cases it is utilised as a technique that still contravenes Googles guidelines, so far as paying a webmaster to host a piece of content containing a link.
This approach quite quickly became abused and went the same way as content distribution – lots of useless, generic content being spun out purely for the purpose of a link. Many people have forgotten the golden rule of guest blogging, and that is to offer unique and interesting content that is actually useful to the host sites audience.
It must be said, however, that this recent update from Google is not discouraging guest blogging altogether, but simply nudging people into doing it the right way. If done correctly, with effective outreach and the sharing of quality, unique content, it can become a very effective link generation process that sits within Googles guidelines.
The point regarding advertorial advertising has been a long time coming really. Google has been very vocal about advertorials for a while now, with Interflora-gate seemingly the catalyst for this.
Again this was an approach that, despite being effective, was being abused more and more frequently by companies mass-producing useless content purely for link purposes.
Press release links
The third point is one of real interest here, specifically the mention of press release distribution. Google has stated recently that links in press releases should be nofollowed (even non-optimised links), yet if they are picked up by a publication then it is at the publishers discretion as to whether this link should be followed or nofollowed.
Basically Google does not want press release distribution to go the same way as article distribution, with people abusing the system with widely distributed and optimised anchor text links. There are a few technical considerations here, such as whether including the nofollow tag is the responsibility of the company writing the press release or that of the distribution site; and also whether a publication picking up the news story has to physically remove the tag, which I highly doubt theyd do.
As always, the upshot of all this is the fact that if you are paying for links (no matter what the format), then this is against Googles guidelines and should not be passing PageRank. This is not new information to the industry and its surprising that Google constantly has to come out and reinforce this message to a lot of people.