Google Cracks Down On Link Schemes In Content

Google recently announced several important SEO changes in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines – a resource for site owners that can be technical, but is critical to follow in order to stay compliant with the search engine. The changes are to the Link Schemes section, but they specifically look at the manipulation of content that enables link schemes.

What is a Link Scheme?

A Link Scheme includes any links that purposely manipulate PageRank – Google’s algorithm for determining search engine results pages (SERPS). This applies to links to and from a website. Buying and selling links is obviously out of the question, but link building through content is not as obvious. Google’s updates show they are taking a closer look at the linking practices site’s use in content such as blogging, article distribution and press releases.

Content Link Schemes Now Include

1. Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links. Blogging and guest blogging are both best-practices for SEO, but Google is now recommending that you use the “nofollow” attribute for any links referenced in your post. “Nofollow” links are still visible in search engines, but they do not pass any of the “link juice” that suggests manipulation, or blogging just for the sake of creating links. If you are a frequent guest blogger, you will want to add “nofollow” tags to your author bios.

2. Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sitesGoogle is referring to “unnatural” links placed in copy, specifically press releases. It’s hard to illustrate this without being flagged by Google! – but its basically over-using keywords in a short amount of copy, with all of the links going back to the same business/page. By contrast, “natural” links are used sparingly to locate a resource and provide additional value to text and/or to facilitate website design. Hyperlinked text can either be natural (example: or an anchored keyword (example: best web design). Opt for natural when sending press releases through multiple distribution sites.

3. Low-quality directory or bookmark site links. This is one of the more popular services provided by low-quality SEO firms because they can create new links without having to produce new content, or do much research on the brand and appropriate places to link. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach to SEO. Blogging, quality article/press distribution, and social media engagement are far better options for link building. Social bookmarking sites can be valuable, but you should be able to confirm that they refer traffic. If StumbleUpon delivers traffic, but not Reddit, Digg or the others, take them out of your link building strategy. Also, recognize that many social media sites are in fact social media bookmarking sites – Twitter and Pinterest for example.

4. Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature. This is one of the more annoying link building strategies as a blog/site owner. Commenting on blogs is a great way to engage with other people and it is acceptable to direct people to your content if it is related, but hiding links in posts and using them in your signature is lazy and manipulative to Google. Most blogs and forum comments are moderated anyway, and few owners permit optimized links in comments. Consider if it is really worth the effort. LinkedIn Group discussions may be a better alternative.

To put these updates in another perspective, Google is slowly pushing site owners to embrace content marketing and social media. Increasingly, your customer is responsible for deciding if the links and content you provide have value. Think of it as a voting system – Is your community voting ‘yay’ for your current linking strategy? If it’s all crickets, there’s a good chance you need to review Google’s SEO Guidelines.

One comment on “Google Cracks Down On Link Schemes In Content

  1. George Hanson says:

    Thanks for this info. I’ve learned a lot from your blog- very helpful tips!