On Wednesday 14 December Google announced that it was starting to roll out a new update called the link spam update. It is estimated that this will take up to two weeks to be completely rolled out.
Using an update to SpamBrain, its AI-based spam-prevention system, Google will be detecting domains which are building spammy links or being used primarily to pass links to other sites.
What does the link spam update mean for your site?
Ultimately, Google are using this update to target sites that are obtaining large numbers of unnatural and spammy links in a bid to manipulate search engines and rankings.
It has said that “ranking may change as spammy links are neutralized and any credit passed by these unnatural links are lost. This launch will affect all languages.”
So how your site is affected by the update comes down to how you acquire links and how you use external links across your website.
If your site is built purely to pass links to other websites, or you are building lots of spammy links to your site, then it is likely that Google will notice this and that you may see a dip in authority and rankings as a result.
However, for those sites producing genuinely helpful and authoritative content there is little cause for worry.
What is an unnatural or spammy link?
Spammy and unnatural links are backlinks that are placed on pages that are irrelevant and out of context to the page they are linking to.
Another example of links that can be perceived as toxic or unnatural are links that are built in large volumes from one single site that has a sole purpose of linking out to other sites to pass on link authority.
How the future of links has changed
It’s long been known that links are a key ranking factor on Google. But as the search landscape has changed so has the way that links are viewed by webmasters and by search engines.
Where the quantity of links built used to trump the quality of those links, this is no longer the case. Google and other search engines have become wise to webmasters building large numbers of links from random sites, and as a result have made changes to how these links are interpreted.
Whilst link building should still be considered as an essential part of your SEO strategy, you should look to build a link profile that is natural and valuable.
How to build a natural link profile
E-E-A-T stands for Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. When writing content or earning link placements, you should always consider whether the content fits this criteria set out by Google in their quality rater guidelines.
Relevancy is key
A key factor in the quality of links is how relevant they are. You should always look to obtain links from content and from sites that are relevant to the landing page on your website.
A pet supplies shop is unlikely to have a natural link with a mortgage broker for example, so you wouldn’t expect to see lots of links to their site from sites operating in that niche.
Vary your sources
When a website, content or asset is providing helpful information it is often shared by and linked from a variety of different sources. There is a whole range of places that a link can come from, including websites, forums, social media, online magazines, digital assets and web ads.
A natural link profile should have links from larger, high authority sites but also from smaller sites with less traffic.
Only link out to relevant sites
As with inbound links, external links should be relevant and genuinely support the specific point that you are making within your content.
Try to use external links in moderation and only include them where your point needs to be backed up with additional information or you are referencing a source.
Earning relevant and authoritative links can be a great way to support your wider SEO strategy. Links are a sign that your site is providing helpful content to users and is a trusted site, which can help Google rank this more highly.
However, when building links, you should ensure you are doing this for the right reasons. You should be building links to show your expertise, to support other webmasters and to provide valuable information or answers to users.
If you would like to learn more about link building and how it can support your business goals, get in touch with our specialist team today.