Have you seen Google’s recent blog post about link-building?
Well, SEOs and web masters alike have been tearing their hair over it. Well, maybe not that extreme, but close.
According to the Portuguese piece, ANY asking for a link is actually unnatural link building and you could be facing manual fines.
We had our translator translate the words of the article to get to the bottom of things. Here’s what she came up with:
“Artificial link schemes, PageRank manipulation, and unnatural positioning techniques in search results directly jeopardizes our capacity to measure a websites’ reputation. Employing artificial link schemes leads to a negative impact on a website’s search results positioning. We take manual action on individual websites that destructively and intentionally violate our Webmaster Quality Guidelines…Our stance regarding links that point to your site has not changed. Link schemes and purchasing links that pass PageRank with the purpose of distorting organic search results are still considered in violation of our Webmaster Quality Guidelines.”
So, here’s what it really says, in English.
What we take away from this is that if you ask for links, you could be hit with penalties. There’s also reference to buying and selling links which Google have spoken about previously. Not the same thing as no-linking.
Google has since clarified that link building isn’t all-together an archaic no-no. Just have a look at their Link Schemes section. There’s no talk about not being able to ask for links at all. There is, however, reference to buying, selling and exchanging of links.
Google & Their Link Building Statement: Let’s Talk About That
Buying, selling and exchanging links refers to valid, authoritative links that pass PageRank. This even includes exchanging cash, goods or services for links or sending a blogger a free product to mention and link to.
So it might be safe to say that not asking for links is actually aimed at people who try to use other ways of acquiring links. Case in point: Thumbtack. In this instance, points were given for links that were thought to be neither bought nor sold and were therefore acceptable.
Is It a Good Idea Not To Ask For Links?
It probably is if you’re a newbie to SEO and web antics. Especially if you’re not quite familiar with the difference between a dodgy and legitimate link. Google’s post, if you look a little closer, is aimed more at those who have already been slapped with penalties.
For the experienced SEOs out there, well, you know the nuances of link building and you know you should only be asking for quality links for the very best sources without any worry of harming the site.
Where to From Here? 2015 and Further
The rules to link building are dynamic. So what exactly is considered safe and what isn’t? And is it worth just “having a go and hoping for the best?” You might as well be no-linking.
You’d be forgiven for thinking Google webmaster trend analyst, John Mueller, was as confused as many an SEO. But check out his recent Google+ live hangout. It’s here that he tackles the question of whether or not link building serves any good.
He mentions that he tries to avoid link building. That’s a bombshell. And we’re left thinking, again, that Google is rather anti-link building. But Mueller goes on to elaborate. He says the web giant do still take links into account as part of their ranking algorithm.
He expands on that by mentioning that building links directly isn’t the best way to go about it. Instead, the goal should be to ensure content can stand on its own and is easy for readers to share on their own platforms. It all comes down to that old adage of “content is king”.
During the chat, Mr. Mueller downplays the importance of links. He insists that the ranking algorithm in fact takes several factors into account.
That Means Link Building Can Do More Harm Than Good
For ages Google has thought of link building as soft link manipulation. Instead, they find the most pertinent pages for a query and then rank them on quality and authority. Any inorganically acquired signals of quality or authority, including links, may inhibit the accuracy of the rankings.
And it’s in this context that Mueller dismisses link building.
Look at Google Penguin. This updated ranking algorithm sorts out what it thinks is spammy or low-quality links. Results with too many links or links from irrelevant source can result in a penalty.
So we start to understand why link building could do more harm than good.
However, just because this old practice could be dangerous, doesn’t mean it is. If it’s approached properly and with care along with an understanding of what will be a success and what will get a penalty slapped on you, then you can carry on happily.
Actually, There’s a Right Way to Do This Link Building
You can do link building “right”. It just requires a bit of extra time and resources. If Google considers you trustworthy, credible and authoritative, then your links will be considered valuable. When another site links to yours, it shows you have something valuable to offer and in turn you become more valuable.
But if you’re building links on your own, your chances of credibility are low. Google doesn’t want to see you voting for yourself. Rather work on coming up with top notch content that is more likely to be shared on the web.
The main types of content that are shared most frequently include detailed blogs, infographics and videos. The higher the quality of your content, the more links it will attract with very little effort. Once you’ve got that down, syndicate the content via social media and watch the rest take care of itself.
Another way to build links is through guest blogging. Go ahead and establish relationships with other bloggers who will invite you to contribute to their sites and get you link building without having to be too passive about reaching out.
The Pros and Cons
It used to be “best practice” to source keyword-rick links on article directories, bookmarking sites and website directories. But today those values will only devalue your site and very possibly see you dealt a manual penalty.
The Answer: Link… Properly
The bottom line: it’s all about quality content. You can enjoy tons of value and no risks. But it does take time and resources. Don’t write-off link building altogether. Google certainly values external links. It’s likely time to redirect your online strategy.
Focus on stellar content and throw in a small bout of traditional link building and you won’t have to worry about those penalties. No matter if Google really does start saying no-linking.
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