Breaking the link rules according to Google

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last few years you will have no doubt heard , been asked for, considered buying or given out a link from your site or blog and you have some idea that this is important or has some value, its just hard to say what.


Well its not hard to say really, Google has a nice bunch of pages telling you all about links and what they mean and explaining the do’s and dont’s of it all in nice webmaster speak so everyone can understand it… or not.

The only people who will have read those pages are web developers and SEO’s who need to understand the linking policy of Google in order to make educated decisions on where, how and when to link out and get links in without breaking the Google Terms of Service or getting what is affectionately known as a “Google Slap” (rankings on search results suffer) or even an outright ban.

Lets try and break it down here and remember, this is from the horses mouth so not point crying about it.

Link Schemes according to Google

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 count towards your rating. The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity.

So back links and links are what helps determine your position in Google based on the site that the link is coming from. Basically if BBC or CNN link to you its happy days and if the link comes from a related issue or matter its even better.  In other words if you write about cars you want the BBC to link to you from their car section not the cuisine section. Right that makes sense, sounds good, like it.

However, some webmasters engage in link exchange schemes and build partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. This is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact your site’s ranking in search results. Examples of link schemes can include:

* Links intended to manipulate PageRank
* Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web
* Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)
* Buying or selling links that pass PageRank

This is the bad bit. Basically it says “Don’t create links artificially”, in other words, don’t try and game the system we have or we will do you in (its not like a horses head in the bed but relatively speaking, to some who suffer, its  the same thing). Lets have a look at each bullet point.

*Links intended to manipulate PageRank

All links affect your site but if you go out and create 50 sites and then link them all back to your main site that’s artificial.  Not really a problem for legitimate business or people as they don’t have the time, budget, resources or expertise to instigate this type of “link farm” but there are people who can and do.  Are they caught?  Not always.  Do they care?  Nope they dont. Does it work for them? Probably (until it stops working).

* Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web

Ok, dont put links on your site that point at, recommend or lead people to sites that are bad.  What are bad sites?  Sites that promote things like hacking, spamming or such and basically break the rules or laws. The issue is here, that Google has one view of what a “bad” site is and we have another. Many of these types of sites can be disguised very well and arguments still exist in regards the meaning and use of spamming, but it still exists, can be very hard to spot and people are still making money from it.

* Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)

This type of linking used to work but means nothing now. A few years ago there existed a massive amount of FREE directories that listed businesses or services and you simply added in the listing details and then they gave you some code that you inserted on your site creating a free link back to them. This is a load of crap now and honestly was really ugly even then.

The thing is, you can swap links with close associates and friends but not in excess.  Whats excessive?  No idea, I don’t have that many friends I guess so I cant say but google do have “secret” filters in place to catch websites that have 5 links one day and 5000 the next.  What the specifics of that filter are are always being tested by someone somewhere but its a given that its a very complicated process to work out considering all the types of linking that can be done.

* Buying or selling links that pass PageRank

This one point is the real smacker. There are various types of links and according to this statement Google do not mind you advertising someone else’s website on your own and vice versa provided that the intent is not to pass PageRank and benefit the receiving site in terms of organic listings as a consequence, in other words they don’t want you to receive money for adding link benefit to another site and helping it obtain better organic or natural search results.

Which conveniently leads me onto the next point where Google explain when Paid Links are OK.

When Paid links are OK

Google and most other search engines use links to determine reputation. A site’s ranking in Google search results is partly based on analysis of those sites that link to it. Link-based analysis is an extremely useful way of measuring a site’s value, and has greatly improved the quality of web search. Both the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of links count towards this rating.

However, some SEOs and webmasters engage in the practice of buying and selling links that pass PageRank, disregarding the quality of the links, the sources, and the long-term impact it will have on their sites. Buying or selling links that pass PageRank is in violation of Google’s webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results.

Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such.

Yada yada yada. Kinda regurgitating the same message here as we saw before.  It does expand a little on why Google don’t want paid links and how they recognise that advertising is a legitimate form of economy, most specifically the last paragraph and heres where we see how they want these types of advertising handled.

  • Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the <a> tag
  • Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file

Right.  So if I mention someone on my site, who have paid me to be there, then I should follow these instructions in order to deny them the benefit of my sites PageRank and helping them to move higher for their own target keywords.

That’s all well and good, but just how many people actually know how to do this properly?  Its coding after all and the aforementioned SEOs and Webmasters are the guys who handle the websites. Internet surfers, amateur (and sometimes pro) bloggers and business people will have no idea what any of this means never mind how to do it (that being said there are a few webmasters and SEOs who don’t either but that’s another story :S)

Why this puts us in a difficult position

frustratedThe glaring fact is though, people often advertise and perceive the LINK itself as half, if not more, of the overall value because people want to rank their sites for their specific target keywords and because links are now considered to have such importance in helping sites to climb the organic listings they are seen as a normal and included added value in any website advertising.

If you run a website which includes advertising, how much business are you loosing or would you loose if you announced that all the adverts on the site do NOT include a beneficial link to the advertisers site?  A Little?  Or Lots? Or would you be laughed out of the park?

Funnily enough, most people just assume that this link exists and don’t realise that the advertising they purchase will not include a backlink and this in itself has caused some unscrupulous people to hint that the links are included by in the fine print make it quite clear that they most certainly are not out of self interest for self guarding their own PageRank and allowing it to sep through to another site. Again, that’s a separate issue itself.

So the difficulty for a lot of us is how do we get these links.  We cant buy them, we cant reciprocate as its useless and we can’t sell them. The answer apparently is to get them for free by writing and producing good quality content and advice. But anyone who wants to kid themselves that something like good quality content is free needs their head examined and even then, there is no guarantee that it will be of enough interest to people who do see it to give you that all important link.

Copywriting (see my last post if you want a good copywriter, but get the pasta ready in advance) is an art on its own and whether your doing it yourself, which is a time and learning investment or you hire a professional, its gonna cost you in some form or fashion.

The consequence of following Googles rules

warningThe consequences of following these rules are pretty obvious to most.  While legitimate (or white hat) sites struggle to be seen and heard and cherish every visit and link there is always someone else whos gaming the system, working it to the limit, or basically being a complete bastard (black hat).  But who can blame them?

Google have basically forced this position upon us all and while some are willing to take the risks and reap the rewards they rarely worry about the results if the site dies or gets banned, they start again with a new project and repeat the process where as other businesses who value their brand, customer base and service or product fight the hard fight for legitimate recognition.

So what happens when you buy links?

Google have of course got ways and means of reporting directly to them sites which are suspicious or which infringe the Terms of Service, and while it has improved greatly over recent years they still have a hard job managing it all such as separating legitimate reports from the malicious reports of over zealous competitors.

The methods for reporting to google are all listed here but be warned, dont be expecting the reprot to be addressed anytime soon!

Your opinions

I have ranted on long enough now, and if your not bored by this stage I would love to hear your opinions and views on this and the experience you may have had regarding this back links, black and white hat or in any of its forms. Do you agree with me or am I a misguided fool? Up to you now to have your say.