After two fairly explicit warnings about advertorials this year, Google has added advertorials to their webmaster guidelines, as well as other popular spammy linking techniques in the Link Schemes help document.
Google Continues To Downplay Links
The biggest change is the removal of the entire first paragraph from the help article, which addressed how incoming links influence rankings. Search Engine Journal says the removed paragraph read:
Your site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to you. The quantity, quality, and relevance of links influences your ranking. The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity.
Links have been steadily falling out of favor throughout the past few years, and it appears we are finally reaching a tipping point for Google’s reduction of linking’s role in search algorithms. Or, as Google has been advising, high-quality sites matter much more than links of any quality.
Keyword-Rich/Optimized Anchor Text Links
Google also tackled heavily-optimized anchor text used in press releases that are usually distributed across other sites. The technique has enjoyed a quick rise in highly competitive markets, and Google appears to finally be putting the squash on the practice. They did note that guest posting is still a popular practice, which can be valuable when done correctly. However, sites that accept guest blogging have been using nofollow or an optimized URL link to avoid issues.
And of course, the final change is the addition of advertorials as an example of unnatural links that violate Google guidelines.
Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank.
Google has been making swift changes to linking policy and practice, so it is highly likely changes like this will keep occurring. Links can still be a strong weapon in your SEO strategy, but you have to tread carefully, and they maybe shouldn’t be your highest priority when optimizing.