Whether you’ve received an unnatural link warning in Google Webmaster Tools or you’re worried about the work your $50-a-month SEO company is doing for you, understanding what Google considers an unnatural link is vital for making sure you don’t get booted from the first page of search results.
And as it turns out, determining what is an unnatural link is not as easy as determining an unnatural blonde.
I’m sorry—this graphic gets used more than our office Keurig.
How Google Defines an Unnatural Link
According to the search engine’s content guidelines, “creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines.”
Google goes on to give specific examples of unnatural links, such as:
Text advertisements that pass PageRank
Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites
Forum comments with links
Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites
Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
In addition to unnatural links, the guidelines also spells out warnings about other types of link schemes that attempt to game the search engine. These schemes include buying or selling links and link exchanges.
What About Guest Blogging?
Recently, guest posting with keyword rich anchor text also got the boot. My coworker Nick wrote about this back in January, saying:
“Matt Cutts launched an assault one of the last bastions of spammy link builders, the guest blog. We’ve all seen them—blogs that look like they couldn’t possibly have been written by a human, saying things like “If yourself would love to imbibe a cocktail in the sitting sun,” or something equally ridiculous, complete with a totally unrelated link (with keyword-rich anchor text, of course) dropped into the middle of a paragraph.” (Read more.)
An Easy Way to Tell if a Link Is Helpful or Harmful
When examining your website’s backlink profile with a skeptical eye, Google is trying to determine whether the link to your site is a self-made link or one that you’ve actually earned with your authority and good content. That’s because Google views links as a vote for your website, and Google doesn’t care if you’re voting for yourself by creating your own backlinks.
So if you made the link yourself—whether it was on a forum, article directory, press release, or blog comment—and used keyword-rich anchor text, chances are it’s not helping you out.
Now obviously things like press releases are still helpful, but we recommend you use branded anchor text to avoid looking like my hair—completely unnatural.
Do Backlinks Even Matter Anymore for SEO?
In a video published Feb. 19, 2014, Matt Cutts addressed a question on whether or not there’s a version of the search engine that excludes backlink relevance. According to Cutts, they’ve experimented with removing backlink relevance for its ranking algorithm and found that the results were of much lower quality. Essentially, backlinks (well, the right type of backlinks) are still really important for getting ranked on in search engine results.
So How Can I Get Links?
Content, content, content. According to 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.”
Unfortunately, if you run a small business, you probably don’t have the time or resources to create a lot of link-worthy content. But don’t worry: Blue Corona can help.
Blue Corona doesn’t hire SEO people—we hire professional writers. So when you sign up for our SEO services, you’re getting a professional writer trained in SEO and not the other way around. This way, you know you’re getting the highest quality of content available, and you’re more likely to naturally gain links from it.
About The Author: Lexie serves as Blue Corona's Content Marketing Manager. She's also the author of our soon-to-be famous, and someday to be written white paper, "Horse Hat SEO: Giddy-Up Your Google Rankings."
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