How Search Engines Fight Link Spam

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Links connect the internet. But not all links are natural or helpful. Since Google took the lead in using link signals to drive its algorithm, many have tried to manipulate rankings with unnatural linking practices. In this video, I’ll share how search engines are fighting link spam today.

Video Transcript:

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Today we’re going to be talking about how search engines fight link spam. When Google came on the scene and started to build their search engine, one of the ways they determined the quality of a website was using that site backward. Now, as this was obviously made known and people started to understand how Google was using this, a lot of people out there just started building links for the sake of building links. As a result they would have a lot of bad links pointing to their site, but the whole thing was quantity over quality. Google was realizing that this was an easy way to manipulate the search results and honestly, it can still work today by just quickly building links.

But this is where they fought back with link spam fighting tactics. One of the first major ones was Google Penguin update. Penguin was targeting these link farm sites, these article directories, low-quality directories. There are a lot of directories that are good and you can use to build links. But if it’s a bad or low-quality directory or a spamming directory, Google was starting to target them.

They were also looking at the number of anchor text and how you were using your anchor text in links. You want to have your keyword in the anchor text, but you want it to be natural. You don’t want it to be overused, over and over again to where it can really flag the signal.

Another thing they were doing early at Penguin, looking at the location of a link. So if you’re a site in the US, but a majority of your site’s links are coming from Russia or the Philippians or Denmark, other places where you’re not serving clients, that’s a red flag. So these are some of the tactics that Google was using in order to fight link spam.

Those aren’t the only tactics that are being used. In other search engines like Yahoo and Bing and Yandex, they also have link fighting capabilities as well to look at spammy links. One of the things they’ll do is they’ll look at a link labeled as an ad. You can buy advertisement on certain sites. Not all sites strictly say that a link is an advertisement, or maybe they call it advertisement but it’s not marked as “No follow”as it should be. So Google will look at the text around the links to see whether that is a good link or if it’s a paid link.

They’re also going to look at site wide links. This is something I’ve seen a lot in the web developing marketing world, where somebody builds a website and at the bottom they put, “Made by this web company”. As a result what happens is you get hundreds of links, thousands of links, on the same site because it gets published over and over and over again on the footer. This is a red flag. There are also times where you build a link or build a connection with somebody and they do the same thing, they put it in a part of the page that gets duplicated a lot. Well, now you’ve got hundreds of thousands of links coming from one specific site. That is not something that you want, it can be a trigger.

Another thing they’re looking at are links sold by brokers. A link broker would be somebody who owns a lot of his content and owns a lot of sites, and they’re selling links on that content. Again, Google can do a lot of reverse engineering. A lot of the search engines can look at those and say, “Okay, this is somebody that’s selling their content for the sole purpose of link acquisition.” You can build partnerships and you can work with people to acquire links and earn links, but you shouldn’t be just trying to buy your position.

They’re also going to take a look at the relevance of the link. Let’s say that you’re in the car industry and you own a car dealership. So if you’re having links from things like hair salons and maybe a website that talks about golfing or things that aren’t actually related to your industry, those are going to be red flags as well because they need to be relevant. The links need to make sense, there needs to show a relationship between two entities. There could be some cases where you build partnerships with some types of businesses where it would make sense in the context of that adjustment. But really what you want to do is make sure that those connections are as natural as possible.

Google’s also going to look at the quality of the neighboring links. So again, are your links being together? Do they make sense together? Do they have relationships together? Again, we go to the car dealership and you’ve got a link to an auto parts store, okay that makes sense. But then you have a hairdresser, a fast food joint, a mommy blogger, another random social site, they don’t really make sense they’re just kind of hodgepodged together, they don’t really have a theme, they’re not connected in any way. It starts to look as if you’re trying to manipulate and those are the things that are going to trigger Google right off. And the location of a link matters. We talked about that a little bit before on what Penguin was doing. Are these links coming from the right location, there are certain spots that seem to be a little bit more spammy than others.

So I’m going to leave you guys with this. When you’re building links, when you’re acquiring links, when you’re trying to do it the right way and you don’t want to get hit by a negative search penalty, one of the questions you’ll want to ask is, “Would I want this link pointing to my site if it didn’t impact my sites rank?” What’s the purpose of the link? Is it going to send good, relevant traffic? Is it going to build relationships? Is it going to help my site improve? Is it going to make those connections that make sense, or am I doing it for the sole purpose of ranking?

You shouldn’t do link building just for rank results. Yes, it can help. Yes, it’s a large part of your FCO strategy, but it shouldn’t be the only thing that you’re doing, and you shouldn’t start to take links from a little bit bigger of a priority than seeing them as drag a little bit more than just rank, but also that relevant traffic. And make sure that it’s something that you would want pointing to your site, even if it didn’t have that effect.

Thanks so much for watching. If you have any questions, please comment below. And until next time, Happy Marketing.

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