Tag Archive for: backlinks

For years, backlinks have been considered one of the most important ranking factors for ranking on Google’s search engine. In 2016, the company even confirmed as much when a search quality senior strategist said that the top ranking factors were links, content, and RankBrain.

According to new comments from Google’s Gary Illyes, an analysis for Google Search, things have changed since then. 

What Was Said

During a panel at Pubcon Pro, Illyes was asked directly whether links are still one of the top three ranking factors. In response, here is what he said:

“I think they are important, but I think people overestimate the importance of links. I don’t agree it’s in the top three. It hasn’t been for some time.”

Illyes even went as far as to say there are cases where sites have absolutely 0 links (internal or external), but consistently ranked in the top spot because they provided excellent content. 

The Lead Up

Gary Illyes isn’t the first person from Google to suggest that links have lost the SEO weight they used to carry. Last year, Dan Nguyen from the search quality team stated that links had lost their impact during a Google SEO Office Hours session:

“First, backlinks as a signal has a lot less significant impact compared to when Google Search first started out many years ago. We have robust ranking signals, hundreds of them, to make sure that we are able to rank the most relevant and useful results for all queries.’

Other major figures at Google, including Matt Cutts and John Mueller, have predicted this would happen for years. As far back as 2014, Cutts (a leading figure at Google at the time) said:

“I think backlinks still have many, many years left in them. But inevitably, what we’re trying to do is figure out how an expert user would say, this particular page matched their information needs. And sometimes backlinks matter for that. It’s helpful to find out what the reputation of the site or a page is. But, for the most part, people care about the quality of the content on that particular page. So I think over time, backlinks will become a little less important.”

Ultimately, this shift was bound to happen because search has become so much more complex. With each search, Google considers the intent behind the search, the actual query, and personal information to help tailor the search results for each user. With so much in flux, we have reached a point where the most important ranking signals may even differ based on the specific site that is trying to rank.

Having a robust backlink profile remains one of the most crucial factors for ranking a webpage highly in search, so it is always big news when Google actually tells us what it looks for in quality links. 

Yesterday, the search engine published a new set of guidelines and best practices for building backlinks, detailing how to make your links crawlable, how to craft well-ranking anchor text, and how to best establish internal links on your site. 

Below, we will cover all the new guidelines and best SEO practices for links on your website according to Google:

Crawlable Links

As the page Google updated was originally dedicated to specifically making links crawlable, this section remains largely unchanged. It reads, “Generally, Google can only crawl your link if it’s an <a> HTML element (also known as anchor element) with an href attribute. Most links in other formats won’t be parsed and extracted by Google’s crawlers. Google can’t reliably extract URLs from <a> elements that don’t have an href attribute or other tags that perform as links because of script events.”

Anchor Text Placement 

The best practice for placing anchor text for links reads: “Anchor text (also known as link text) is the visible text of a link. This text tells people and Google something about the page you’re linking to. Place anchor text between <a> elements that Google can crawl.”

Writing Anchor Text

As for the anchor text itself, Google encourages you to balance descriptiveness with brevity: “Good anchor text is descriptive, reasonably concise, and relevant to the page that it’s on and to the page it links to. It provides context for the link, and sets the expectation for your readers. The better your anchor text, the easier it is for people to navigate your site and for Google to understand what the page you’re linking to is about.”

Internal Links 

While Google emphasizes the importance of internal links on your website, it also states that the search engine doesn’t look for a target number of links.

“You may usually think about linking in terms of pointing to external websites, but paying more attention to the anchor text used for internal links can help both people and Google make sense of your site more easily and find other pages on your site. Every page you care about should have a link from at least one other page on your site. Think about what other resources on your site could help your readers understand a given page on your site, and link to those pages in context.”

External Links

When it comes to external links, Google has advice for creating powerful links that don’t come off as spam: “Linking to other sites isn’t something to be scared of; in fact, using external links can help establish trustworthiness (for example, citing your sources). Link out to external sites when it makes sense, and provide context to your readers about what they can expect.”

You may have seen headlines proclaiming “Links are dead!” ever since the roll out of Google’s big algorithm changes, Penguin and Panda. However, it has been over two years since these changes started taking place, and there is still a heated debate surrounding just how useful links are in the hunt for high rankings. Google has remained largely mum on the issue, though their statements have largely suggested that links are only slightly less important than they were a few years ago.

Now, Matt Cutts has used one of his Webmaster Chat videos to address the question, suggesting for the first time that links may be going away (eventually).

The statement isn’t much of a shocker to the SEO community, but it is one of the first signs that links are being steadily devalued. Don’t get too excited however, you can expect links to be a significant part of SEO if Cutts is to be believed.

Matt explained that Google’s focus right now is on finding ways to parse out the content that will meet the expectations of expert users. Unfortunately, Google only has limited means of evaluating the content. This is mostly done by estimating the traffic, content style, keyword density, and engagement on a site, but links have always been used as a mark of quality. Thankfully, Google has also gotten better at judging which links are valuable.

However, as Google improves at understanding the natural language we use, it doesn’t have to rely on links as strongly. It can put more weight on the value of content and other factors expert users consider.

Cutts says it will be years before links go anywhere, but Google is slowly distancing themselves from links. It may be time to put up the headlines claiming links are dead and wait for the day when links finally don’t serve a legitimate person. We won’t reach that point for a while.

Page Rank

Source: Felipe Micaroni Lalli

Ever since the roll-out of Google’s Penguin algorithm there has been a substantial amount of confusion regarding the current state of link building within the search marketing community. Thanks to Google’s vague practices everyone has an opinion on an algorithm which few actually understand in depth. Everything we know on this side comes from what Google has told us and what we’ve seen from data and analysis in the two years since Penguin came out.

The fact of the matter is that link building in the post-Penguin climate is risky business, but it is important for your online presence. If anything, links are more potent for your visibility than ever before. The problem is the rules are stricter now. You can’t buy and sell wholesale links, and bad links can be heavily damaging to your traffic and profits.

If you acquire quality links, your site is likely excelling in numerous areas and seeing success in both web traffic and search engine visibility. However, getting the wrong types of inbound links is almost certain to result in penalties from Google. In fact, Jayson DeMers from Search Engine Land says it is often more expensive to clean up the mess from bad backlinks than it would be to just acquire good links to begin with.

So what exactly constitutes a bad link? A bad link is any which is gained through questionable methods or goes against Google’s best practices. DeMers pinpointed six of these link building tactics which are likely to cause you problems if you attempt them.

Paid Links – Buying or selling links in the post-Penguin market is the same as putting a target on your website’s metaphorical back. Your site will get seen and penalized. Google has openly stated multiple times that buying or selling links is a huge no-no, and even links from long ago can come back to haunt you.

Article Directory Links – Article directory links were once a staple of link building because they were easy to get and they worked. But, low-quality spun content and distribution software relegated to the spammy category. At this point, Google has outright penalized many article directories, and this practice won’t help your SEO anymore.

Link Exchanges – For years link exchanges were a highly popular form of link building. It almost seemed like common courtesy to practice the concept of “you link to me and I’ll link back to you”, but of course many began to abuse the system. Once it was compromised and turned into a large scale pattern of link scheming, Google shut it down.

Low-Quality Press Releases – A press release is still a popular means of announcing important company information to the public, but don’t expect them to help your SEO. Most free press release submission websites are entirely ignored by Google.

Low Quality Directory Links – There are still a small number of industry-specific directories that are great for helping certain industries gain good links and traffic, the majority of old, free directory sites have been de-indexed by Google, and the search engine has publicly denounced the practice. In general, you should be staying away from low-quality directory links.

Link Pyramids, Wheels, Etc., – Over time, many SEOs came to believe they could get around Google’s watchful eye by using methods to artificially pass page rank through multiple layers of links, obscuring the distribution patter. But, in May, Matt Cutts, Google’s head of Webspam mentioned how the new version of Pengion has been refined to further fight link spammers and more accurately measure link quality. While we don’t know for sure what practices Cutts was referencing, it is widely believed he was talking about link pyramids and wheels.

Recently, Google updated the link schemes web page that gives examples of what Google considers to be spammy backlinks. The additions are pretty notable as article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword rich anchor text have been included. Advertorials with paid links and links with optimized anchor text in press releases or articles were also added.

With all the new additions, it can be hard to keep up to date with what Google is labeling spammy backlinks or backlink schemes. But, Free-SEO-News’ recent newsletter simply and efficiently lays out the 11 things that Google doesn’t like to see in backlink campaigns.

  1. Paid Links – Buying or selling links that pass PageRank has been frowned upon for a long time. This includes exchanging money for links or posts that contain links, sending ‘free’ products in exchange for favors or links, or direct exchange of services for links. It is pretty simple, buying links in any way will get you in trouble.
  2. Excessive Link Exchanges – While exchanging links with relevant other websites in your industry is absolutely normal for websites, over-using those links or cross-linking to irrelevant topics is a big sign of unnatural linking. Simple common sense will keep you from getting in trouble, just don’t try to trick the system.
  3. Large-Scale Article Marketing or Guest Posting Campaigns – Similar to the last scheme, posting your articles and guest posts on other websites it perfectly normal. However, doing it in bulk or posting the same articles to numerous websites will appear to be blogspam to Google. Also, if you do guest posts just to get keyword rich backlinks, you will see similar penalties. Only publish on other websites when it makes sense and offers value.
  4. Automated Programs or Services to Create Backlinks – There are tons of ads for tools and services that promise hundreds or thousands of backlinks for a low price and very little work. While they may do what they say, Google also easily spots these tools and won’t hesitate to ban a site using them.
  5. Text Ads That Pass PageRank – If you’re running a text ad on another website, you have to make sure to use the rel=nofollow attribute, otherwise it appears to be a manipulative backlink.
  6. Advertorials That Include Links That Pass PageRank – If you pay for an article or ad, always use the rel=nofollow attribute. Simply put, if you paid for an ad or article, it won’t do you any good and can bring a lot of damage if you don’t use the attribute.
  7. Links with Optimized Anchor Text in Articles or Press Releases – Stuffing articles and press releases with optimized anchor text has been a strategy for a long time, but Google has shut it down recently. If your page has a link every four to five words, you’re probably looking at some penalties.
  8. Links From Low Quality Directories or Bookmark Sites – Submitting your site to hundreds of internet directories is an utter waste of time. Most links won’t ever get you a single visitor and won’t help your rankings. Instead, only focus on directories that realistically could get you visitors.
  9. Widely Distributed Links in the Footers of Various Websites – Another older trick that Google has put the squash on was to put tons of keyword rich links to other websites in the footer. These links are always paid links and are an obvious sign of link schemes.
  10. Links Embedded in Widgets – It isn’t uncommon for widget developers to offer free widgets that contain links to other sites. It also isn’t uncommon for these developers to reach out to site owners and offer to advertise through these widgets. However, Google hates these links and considers them a scheme. I’d suggest against it, but if you do advertise through these widgets, use the nofollow attribute.
  11. Forum Comments With Optimized Links in the Post – It is very easy to get a tool that automatically posts to forums and include links to websites. It is a pretty blatant form of spam which won’t get any actual visibility on the forums and the links are more likely to get you banned than draw a single visitor.

There’s a pretty obvious underlying trend in all of these tactics that Google fights. They all attempt to create artificial links, usually in bulk. Google can tell the quality of a link and all of these schemes are easily identifiable. Instead, focus on building legitimate quality links, and use respected tools such as SEOprofiler. It will take longer, but you’re site will do much better.

All backlinks are not created equal. Everyone knows that. But, with the number of linking opportunities out there and the number of backlinks a site is expected to have, inexperienced SEOs tend to take a quantity over quality approach that can end in penalties from Google.

Vetting your backlink sources isn’t hard, but it takes a bit of extra time for sorting through the massive number of sources at your fingertips. Think of it as choosing sources for a paper you had to write in high school or college. You’re expected to have a certain number, but your grade, or in this case your site’s ranking and reputation, can be hurt if your sources aren’t reliable sources.

But, do not fear young SEOs. If qualifying your potential backlink sources still seems vague or daunting, Sujan Patel from Search Engine Journal created a list of seven questions you can ask of your link opportunities to ensure that you’re only spending your energy on links that will help your site. Having a ton of backlinks is counter-productive if none of them have any value.

Link building is still considered a staple to SEO, despite what any bloggers may say. Yes, Google has clamped down on those using questionable quality links or outright spam to try to boost their rankings, but if you have been building a quality link profile, you likely never had problems with any of the countless Penguin updates.

For new sites, understanding where and how to begin building a link profile can be a bit confusing however. The most important tip for building up links is to start broad. While links tightly connected to keywords have a much bigger effect on rankings, they only improve your rankings in very specific searches.

Instead, you should be trying to create a broader relevance. This makes you rank higher for all keyword combinations rather than the few specific keyword combinations. Once you start seeing broader improvement, you can see what specific keyword combinations are doing the best, and which ones need your focus.

Peter van der Graaf explains how to begin your hunt for a better link profile over at Search Engine Watch, where he explains how to identify quality link partners and how to shift from a broad link profile to specific keyword focused links once the time is right.

Building a backlink profile is considered a staple of SEO techniques, but eventually you may have to do some cleaning up, especially now that Google has introduced multiple algorithms to clamp down on the use of low-quality links.

If you’ve seen a sudden drop in traffic or rankings lately, it is likely you were hit by one of these algorithms. You may have received a notification of being penalized, but unless it was a manual action, it is highly likely you got no warning that you were hit by the changes. Either way, one way towards repairing the drop in traffic is to do some pruning on your backlinks, and removing low-quality links that are pointing to your site.

Cleaning up your links is neither fast nor easy. It takes time and patience, but with effort you can restore your site’s health. You can’t just go in and cut out random links hoping to solve the issue. Attacking the problem broadly could cause more problems, and pruning backlinks is considered a last-ditch effort according to SEO.com. “You should exhaust all of your other efforts like updating your content, building higher quality links and producing good content to promote and engage users before you consider removing bad links.”

After you have tried all these methods and determined whether your website was hit by a penalty or an algorithm update, then you can create a strategy for fixing your backlinks. Neither problem can be fixed automatically. If you received a manual penalty, you will have to do everything you can to fix the issue identified, and submit a reconsideration request. Algorithm updates, on the other hand, require changing your methods and waiting to see positive growth for your site.

If you are ready to put in the work and time to try to properly repair your site, and you’ve already tried everything else, then it is time to really get your hands dirty. SEO.com has a full tutorial for cleaning up backlinks, and it walks you through every step, including suggesting tools for analyzing backlinks.

Andre Weyher worked on Google’s Search Quality/Webspam team for two years, according to his LinkedIn profile. Recently, he spoke with James Norquay, a digital/search marketer from Australia, offering insight that possibly could help search marketers and web marketers understand Google’s SEO strategies.

Since Matt McGee published his initial report on Weyher’s comments on Search Engine Land, Google has released a short statement denying Weyher worked on webspam engineering or algorithms, but Weyher stands by his statements.

According to Weyher, everyone on the search quality team covers a specific “market” and his was content quality and backlink profiles.

Speaking about the Penguin update, Weyher says, “Everyone knew that Penguin would be pointed at links, but I don’t think many people expected the impact to be as large as it turned out to be. At this stage a webmaster is out of his mind to still rely on techniques that were common practice 8 months ago.”

He emphasizes the shift to anchor text ratios, which has been a frequent piece of SEO advice following the Penguin update. His statement could confirm Google’s perspective on anchor text ratios.

If Weyher’s statements are to be believed, they could be a source of great insight into Google’s SEO strategies. However, even if you take Weyher’s words as truth, he would have been just one member of Google’s huge team, which he confirms when he says in his defense of the original interview, “No one within Google knows the entire picture apart from maybe 1 engineer, 1 level under Larry Page.”



Anyone that has built a website from scratch knows how much effort it takes to build an audience, raise your traffic and generally get your site known about. So, what happens if suddenly all that traffic disappears? All of that work can be undone in a single moment. Why does this happen? Usually it is because of mistakes you never knew you were making. Here are 7 common mistakes that could make your website fail.

  1. Pointing All of Your Backlinks Into Your Home Page – Link building is an essential part of any website’s SEO and doing it well means improving your search engine performance. The most common mistake with backlinking is directing all of your links back to your home page. Search engines think it is strange if all of your backlinks point to your homepage and will penalize your search rankings and your traffic. Instead, spread your link distribution and point backlinks to different pages within your website.
  2. Unnecessary Clutter – If you’re getting a lot of traffic, it’s natural to want to maximize your profit by monetizing your website. But be careful if you try to do this. Many add unnecessary clutter to their page while trying to monetize content, which changes your pages appearance and the way the public interacts with it. Too many advertisements and other clutter, will soon send the public elsewhere.
  3. Giving Too Much Content at Once – Content may be what the public is seeking on the Internet, but giving them too much of it in one place can be a bad thing. You want to keep your audience comfortable. Don’t make them feel overwhelmed by putting too much information in a single page. If you are going to be giving lots of content at once, split it across several pages so you will keep visitors’ interests.
  4. Amateurish Design – If you want your website to be respected, don’t put the design in unexperienced hands, even if they are your own. No matter how good your content is, if the design is off putting, you still won’t get visitors. It’s easy to find good website templates for cheap and there are always designers for hire. Don’t risk your reputation on a shoddy design.
  5. Being Disorganized – Visitors will always want their experience with your website to be as easy as possible. This seems simple, yet many still provide confusing and disorienting sites that frustrate their visitors. Those visitors won’t care about what content you are offering if they can’t find it easily.
  6. Trying to Advertise Before Your Content is Finished – Search engines will notice if you try to push for traffic before your website content is finished. Search engines favor content that is geared towards their audience and no audiences favor unfinished content. It seems amateurish, and you are focusing on the popularity and money before you have a proper product to offer. Instead, get some great content before you start trying to attract the public.
  7. Going Plain Text – It’s simple: people get bored quickly. Failing to add graphics, means your audience will get bored almost immediately. Give your visitors something to catch their eye everywhere you can. Keep them interested.

These ideas may seem like common sense, but websites continue to make these mistakes every day. Avoid them or one day you may notice your traffic has gone somewhere else.


For some other more information on how to keep your website running smoothly, go to Sathishkumar Varatharajan’s article at designrhub.