Google released an official blog post reminding marketers about link building best practices. This is what all site owners should know about this latest warning.
Whenever Google releases a blog post that warns marketers about particular SEO behavior, it is always in our best interest to sit up and pay attention. This is precisely what happened when Google put out a new blog post last week about a practice that they have tackled several times already: link building.
They appear to be once again preparing to target websites that participate in poor link building strategies. Often, when we receive these reminders, Google then goes on to penalize the websites that do not follow these recommendations within a few months.
What can be challenging about building links is that even quality websites and marketers can find themselves accidentally running afoul of Google’s suggestions and regulations, even if they believed they were following the ‘rules’. We want to make sure that everyone in our community remains aware of what Google wants to see and potential practices that could get them into trouble if the search engine decides to take action in the next few months.
What link building guidelines does Google want us to pay attention to?
Google wrote their post to target spammy link building practices, particularly through content distribution strategies such as contributor posts, guest posts, and content syndication. Although these processes can be excellent ways to build brand reach, recognition, and hopefully cultivate SEO backlinking, Google has noticed lately that there has been an increase in the number of sites who engage in these practices poorly, thus hurting the experience for the end user.
The search engine has listed the following four criteria that set off red flags for them when determining spammy link building processes:
- Stuffing keyword-rich links to your site in your articles
- Having the articles published across many different sites; alternatively, having a large number of articles on a few large, different sites
- Using or hiring article writers that aren’t knowledgeable about the topics they’re writing on
- Using the same or similar content across these articles; alternatively, duplicating the full content of articles found on your own site (in which case use of rel=”canonical”, in addition to rel=”nofollow”, is advised)
It is important to note that Google has said that these practices will not only harm the site engaging in building backlinks, but it can also damage the reputation and rankings of the sites publishing the content. The search engine believes that when the link becomes the primary focus for the content, then the quality and value of the content will go down, which then harms the experience for the end user.
As we have said in the past, the best SEO practices are the ones that align your website and your strategy with Google’s end-goal of serving the customer. Anything that hinders your ability to do so will not be looked upon fondly by Google, regardless of whether or not it technically falls within the rules.
Consider how Google sums up the practice of building links through content distribution:
"...if a link is a form of endorsement, and you’re the one creating most of the endorsements for your own site, is this putting forth the best impression of your site? Our best advice in relation to link building is to focus on improving your site’s content and everything--including links--will follow (no pun intended)."
Since publishers also risk their own reputations by publishing poor quality material, they are encouraged to report as spam aggressive ‘post my article” requests. Sites that might make these requests should then consider the harm they might do to their own reputation.
Does this mean link building is dead?
No, we do not think link building is dead. Nor do we think that brands cannot publish content elsewhere or create guest posts. The key, however, is to make sure that these practices are completed correctly and with the end user in mind.
As you prepare to develop content, the primary priority should always be providing value for the user. Align the content well with user needs, including putting keyword research to work to watch for trends and reader interests. Develop content that offers insight for the user.
f you do want to syndicate content, you should be particularly careful to use the rel=”canonical” and the rel=”nofollow” tags. We know that many people have gotten lax over these tags at times. Given Google’s warning in their blog post, however, it is reasonable to expect action from the search engine regarding spammy link building practices and content distribution soon. During this time, all marketers should be particularly careful to ensure full compliance with all best practices promoted by the search engine giant.
We also want to remind our community members who might publish content from outside writers that they want to be very careful about the authors and content they accept. Make sure that the author does not engage in questionable practices and that the content offers something for the audience. Review the content for links to make sure they do not monopolize ‘ranking’ keywords. Lean towards only publishing unique content on your site. If you do publish content that lives elsewhere on the web, again, follow Google’s tagging recommendations.
Google works towards an online experience that offers the best possible situation for the end user. These warnings that they publish intend to push website owners towards creating the optimal content that serves the reader before it serves the brand itself. This includes watching link building practices to keep people from trying to trick the system. We believe that our community of white hat SEO professionals already follows best practices that serve the user, but it never hurts to be mindful of Google’s latest reminders and recommendations.
For more on our recommendations on White Hat Link Building Best Practices, download our paper here.