Google Speaks Up About Links and Penalties: Link Building News Update
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In-house and agency SEOs
• Google, in line with efforts to be more communicative with webmasters, announced an algorithm change to negatively impact rankings of sites with aggressive SEO.
• Google has recently started notifying webmasters through Webmaster Tools of penalties resulting from “artificial” or “unnatural” links. These same penalties were previously issued without notification.
• A proposed solution to help Google identify malicious artificial links may or may not be implemented by Google. However, there are still many acceptable inbound linking tactics that site owners can pursue, as shared by resources listed here.
There’s been much discussion recently about safe link building tactics in light of Google’s rising vocalization of over-optimization. This post will get you up to speed on the events unfolding and provide you with resources for link building tactics that are Google approved.
Google has made an effort in the past few months to be more communicative with webmasters. In January and February of 2012, more than 700,000 messages have been sent to webmasters via Google Webmaster Tools. This number surpasses the number of messages sent throughout all of 2010. Messages include both manual and automated communications, such as malware notifications and responses to reconsideration requests.
In March, Google web spam police chief Matt Cutts told assembled SXSW attendees at a panel about achieving better rankings that a soon-to-be-released algorithm update would penalize sites for aggressive SEO. Hear audio recording of Matt’s comments and a transcript of one critical excerpt:
“We don’t normally pre-announce changes but there is something we are working in the last few months and hope to release it in the next months or few weeks. We are trying to level the playing field a bit. All those people doing, for lack of a better word, over optimization or overly SEO – versus those making great content and great site. We are trying to make GoogleBot smarter, make our relevance better, and we are also looking for those who abuse it, whether they throw too many keywords on a page, or whether they exchange way too many links or go well beyond what you normally expect in a particular area. It is an active area where we have several engineers on my team working on this right now.”
Today come more reports that Google is sending out warnings about “unnatural” and “artificial” links. According to a Google spokesperson, the only notable news here is that the search engine is telling site owners about the penalty, where before penalties were silently applied.
From the discussion of Google’s approach to over-optimization comes an interesting sidebar that came up first in January and again at SES New York’s Long Live SEO panel: link bombing. Google’s crackdown on blackhat link building tactics opens a door for malicious behavior in the form of sabotaging competitors by pointing dirty links at their site. To combat such an action, Bruce suggested that Google create a new tag for webmasters and SEOs who find themselves in such a position, something along the lines of nofollow from the receiving end.
Bruce explains this proposed solution in an SEM Synergy video. Read the full transcript and watch the video for a report on the effect of paid links penalties we’ve seen with our own clients.
At SES New York last month, veteran SEOs explored the possible consequences of one potential outcome of an inbound link nofollow. From my liveblog coverage of the Long Live SEO session:
Question: Is it possible to over-optimize links?
Bruce Clay: A year ago I proposed to Matt Cutts to make modifications to Webmaster Tools to nofollow a link at receiving end. Matt said he finally got traction from Webmaster Tools team and looking to implement. I can get out from under an attack and now my competitor is sending me traffic.
Marcus Tandler: Doesn’t make sense. I could then buy all the shitty links I want and then if any work against you, claim they’re not from me and see if any stick. If they gave us the capability, I’d abuse it. It’d be Google saying oh I lost my way, help me. You don’t need anyone to tell me this is a bad link, this is a link I don’t want. They want to be able to say we’ll take care of it.
While the saga around Google’s over-optimization crackdown continues, SEOs following the unfolding events can be sure of one thing. There’s no replacement for quality inbound links. Here we round up some of our most recently published resources on link building recommendations and strategies that last.
- Tough Love: Link Building For The Real World (SMX Advanced 2011): Pay special attention to local-focused tactics. Local link building presents additional opportunities.
- An Update on Link Building with Great Content:Interview with Jon and Zach Ball (March 2012): Experienced link builders offer ideas for content that generates links and warn against methods that don’t deliver.
- Lord of the Links Spill Their Secrets (SES New York 2012): Creative link building tactics shared include Twitter stalking and addressing broken links.