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An update from Google on link spam and qualifying links

July 26th, 2021

Many websites have begun monetizing via outbound links, which are present on many blogs on the internet today. Google has stated that webmasters need to be aware that if the links are overdone and not annotated correctly it could lead to a violation of their quality guidelines.

What are outbound links?

An outbound link, also known as an outgoing link or an external link, is a hyperlink on a web page that points to another web page or website outside of the current domain. These links direct users to external sources of information, resources, or related content on the internet. Outbound links are often used to provide references, citations, or additional information to readers and can contribute to a website’s credibility and authority by connecting it to reputable sources. They play a role in the broader context of search engine optimization (SEO) and can affect a website’s perceived quality and relevance to search engines.

In this context outbound links are often used as a way to monetize a users website encouraging their readers to purchase or click to an external site using sponsorship, affiliate, or otherwise commercial type links. If you do have relevant external links of a commercial nature you must follow Google’s best practices in order to avoid violating the quality guidelines.

What are the best practices for outbound links?

To start you want to avoid methods that violate Google’s set guidelines, this includes link schemes, which are considered link spam. Any links intended to manipulate rankings in Google search results will be considered link spam. This includes behavior that can manipulate links going to your site our outbound links from your site. Google has outlined some examples of link spam below:

  • Buying or selling links for ranking purposes. This includes:
  • Excessive link exchanges (“Link to me and I’ll link to you”) or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
  • Using automated programs or services to create links to your site
  • Requiring a link as part of a Terms of Service, contract, or similar arrangement.
  • Text advertisements or text links that don’t block ranking credit
  • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass ranking credit, or links with optimized anchor text in articles, guest posts, or press releases distributed on other sites.
  • Low-quality directory or bookmark site links
  • Keyword-rich, hidden, or low-quality links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites
  • Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites
  • Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature.

Google does allow for the buying and selling of links to promote your business on other websites, however they must be qualified with the following tags in order to avoid link spam:

rel="nofollow"
rel="sponsored"

These attributes can be added to your <a> tags in order to avoid link spam. This also include affiliate links on pages that include product reviews or shopping guides. Avoiding these types of links can help you to prevent Google from taking manual actions or algorithmic actions which can affect how your site displays in the search results.

Google Continues to Improve Their Systems

Fighting link spam has always been at the forefront of Google’s search index and ranking systems and continues to be an ongoing process. The effectiveness of limiting link spam and its relevance to the search results has been greatly reduced over the past two decade and continued efforts by Google are helping to reduce link spam even more.

Ensuring your website follows Google’s quality guidelines is essential in the process of content creation and link management. If your company needs assistance with outbound links, inbound links, external links, or content creation, contact our expert SEO Consulting team today!

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