Google is known to bring fluffy yet invisible updates on regular basis in its search algorithm to cut off spam and to ensure the quality in its SERPs. Inbound links, which are the strongest factors in boosting any website’s visibility in search results, are sometimes being built through the ways Google doesn’t like and it punishes such approaches by bringing specific changes to its algorithm. Penguin 2 recently hit several websites on January 9th which resulted in great fluctuations in SERP rankings. If your website got punished by recent update, then you must look over your link profile. You might need to change your link building strategies to ensure that your website’s performance in SERPs is always safe and sound.
To help you out in defining your link building scheme, I have come up with this post, where I’m sharing the most recent guidelines defined by Google for webmasters regarding inbound and outbound links. You need to be cautious in building links as Google has become more crucial by the beginning of 2014 and it surprised several webmasters by either rewarding them or punishing them through its “Penguin” on January 9, 2014. Here is what Google requires you to follow through 2014 to stay ranked on its SERPs.
Google’s Link Scheme Guidelines
Link Exchange: Google has warned not to exchange links. If cross-pattern links on excessive level are detected among certain websites, the sites’ SERP rankings may be punished and dropped. Google is smart enough to understand that it is natural to find cross links across certain websites, but if it is found excessively, the approach may be punished. It means that private blog networks for SEO purpose and link exchanges between webmasters aren’t going to work in near future.
Buying / Selling Links: Buying and selling links, which pass link juice, aren’t appreciated. If detected, both linked and linking sites may get penalized. So if you are writing any sponsored article about a product, it is good to nofollow the external links, otherwise Google may penalize you both for such business approaches.
Guest Posting / Article Marketing: Article submission, Press Release submission and guest posting solely for the purpose of link building isn’t appreciated. A few months ago, Google’s John Mueller warned in a video to nofollow links in guest articles you write for others or the articles you publish on your blog from other guest writers. In recent guidelines update, Google has once again warned not to spread keyword-rich links on excessive level through guest blogging, article submission, PR submission and through other similar ways.
Text Link Advertising: If you are charging money for putting do-follow text links on your blog, it is now the time to stop it. Google has long been saying about this that approaches, which pass rank boost for the money instead quality, are unethical and Google will try its best to overthrow such attempts. It means that excessive footer and sidebar text links aren’t going to hurt your site’s ranking only, your sponsors are also most likely going to receive the same reward.
Links in Widgets and Templates: Plugins, widgets and theme developers mostly find it the easiest to build massive links by distributing their links in footer of templates and themes as well as with widgets, but Google hates to see it in action. Some SEO experts say that using keywords in such distribution is forbidden only and links behind brand name are okay. But Google hasn’t disclosed any condition for it. It has just said to stop massive distribution of links through templates and widgets and such distribution may bring severe penalties over your content from Google.
Forum Links / Comment Links: Forum signature links and blog comments containing same anchor text aren’t going to boost your ranking in SERPs, instead such links will invite Google to penalize you. So if you are distributing links in forum signatures and through blog comments, you must quit or slow down it.
Links from Spam Sources: Google has warned not to submit your site to low quality directories which have got spammed. Directory submission including RSS submission works, but as long as the source is moderated well. To keep Google loving your content, never submit your webpages to directories blindly, instead look and confirm first either the directory is moderated or not. Google respects moderated directories as it is most obvious that only quality sites will be approved and listed in the directory as long as moderation is there.
So these were some important guidelines at Google regarding the inbound and outbound links. You may ask then what is left in 2014 to do in SEO? Here is the simple answer from Google.
“The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.“
The conclusion is, to stay safe and successful in long run, you need to follow what Google says. It will take some time and efforts from your side to build a recognition among Internet community to earn natural backlinks, but your efforts will pay off at the end and the shortcuts will surely bring worries sooner or later.