A Look at Google’s 2021 Link Spam Update

At the end of July 2021, Google began rolling out a hefty link spam update attempting to make its algorithms more effective at identifying and nullifying link spam. The update took about four weeks to roll out, fully completing at the end of August.

If you’ve noticed a recent shakeup in your site traffic or search rankings, it’s possible that this update may be the cause.

What does the latest update entail and how can you ensure your site is up to par with Google’s new link guidelines? Keep reading to find out.

What is Link Spam?

Link spamming is the practice of embedding links into your site to increase the number of backlinks to a specific page regardless of link or page quality or context. The goal, of course, is to give the page an extra SEO boost so it ranks better in the SERPs.

Some common forms of link spam include:

  • Spam Posting: When a black-hat link builder posts single links in public forums, comment sections, or guest books regardless of context.
  • Hidden Links: Placing hidden links in posts that only bots can see.
  • Link Farms: When a group of site owners agrees to continuously link to each other for the sole purpose of increasing their SEO rankings.
  • Single Post Blog: Adding multiple random links to one blog post in hopes of improving backlink profile.
  • Directory Spam: Registering your site across thousands of RDF Site Summary (RSS) pages or blog feed directories with link manipulation in mind.

An Overview of Google’s Link Spam Update

Though each of these practices has had little to no ROI all along, Google’s latest link spam update confirms all related tactics will be nullified moving forward.

Google made a formal update announcement on July 26, 2021, on its Search Central Blog. In it, Google states,

“In our continued efforts to improve the quality of the search results, we’re launching a new link spam-fighting change today ‚Äî which we call the ‚Äòlink spam update.’ This algorithm update, which will roll out across the next two weeks, is even more effective at identifying and nullifying link spam more broadly, across multiple languages. Sites taking part in link spam will see changes in search as those links are re-assessed by our algorithms.”

In other words, Google is going to turn a blind eye to spammy links. All incoming and outgoing links will be reviewed for spam, across multiple languages. Any link Google deems spam will simply be ignored.

Google’s Updated Link Best Practices

So, what can you do to ensure your links meet Google’s new guidelines?

First, review your backlink profile. There are a variety of free and paid SEO tools that will help analyze each of your backlinks and determine which are toxic. It’s best practice to disavow toxic links to ensure you maintain a clean, healthy backlink profile.

“What is the point of taking time to review my backlink profile if Google is just going to ignore spammy links?”

Though Google has suggested that it will be nullifying or ignoring spammy links, there’s still a possibility of receiving a manual Google Penalty. You can avoid potential link penalties by reviewing your backlink profile often and following Google’s best practices on links.

Next, if you’re linking out to other sites, Google recommends qualifying those links appropriately. Sites are now required to add tags to links where there’s a value exchange between the two domains.

Here’s what Google recommends for each type of link:

  • Affiliate links: Google asks sites participating in affiliate programs to qualify these links with rel=”sponsored”, regardless of whether these links were created manually or dynamically.
  • Links from sponsored posts: Links that are advertisements or paid placements (commonly called paid links) are to be marked up with the rel=”sponsored” value.
  • Links from guest posts: Links from guest posts are to be marked up with the rel=”nofollow” value.

The Time is Now to Avoid Link Spam

The time is now for site owners to ensure they are following best practices on links, both incoming and outgoing. Focusing on producing high-quality content and improving user experience is always a safe bet, especially when compared to manipulating links.

If you need any assistance supplementing your SEO strategy, contact us today!

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Amanda brings a passion for results to her SEO Manager role, leading our forward-thinking strategies to improve organic search visibility.

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