If you read over the Google Quality Guidelines, you will find that Google is seriously cracking down on unnatural links. Some webmasters and website owners are receiving notifications that there are unnatural links leading to their website and they are given a specific amount of time to fix the problem before it severely affects website ranking.
But what is an unnatural link?
Google defines an unnatural link as being links that are not editorially placed or vouched for by the owner of the website the links were placed on (such as links placed in the comment section of a random news story). Two of the most common reasons for unnatural links are when someone shares your website link on a page outside of your page’s niche or when site owners try to manipulate their site rankings with self-made links.
But here is something to think about:
Practically any link that you create with the intention of improving your website’s ranking can be considered unnatural to the search engine, especially if Google considers it to not be “editorially placed.”
Here are Google’s guidelines more in depth:
- Exchanging money for posts or links – Yes, these are considered unnatural links. Exchanging money for a link is not a true vote for the site.
- Exchanging goods or services – Also not a true vote for the website. If you send someone a product and ask them to write a review about it, it is still going to count as an unnatural link although the reviewer is vouching for the product.
- Excessive link exchanges – “Link to me and I’ll link to you” used to work, but it doesn’t work so much nowadays. Now a realtor cross linking with a real estate lawyer will not necessarily constitute an unnatural link, but having a section on the site that has hundreds of cross links is going to get flagged.
- Too much anchor text – Article marketing or guest blog posts with excessive anchor text links. Guest posting to get a link out there is fine, but recycling the same article over and over to get as many guest posts out there as possible can affect quality thresholds.
- Automated programs – Google picks up on this one rather quick and it does not require much of an explanation.
These are just some of the unnatural link examples that are highlighted in the Google Quality Guidelines. Others include links that are embedded into widgets distributed across a number of sites, low quality bookmark site links, links in footers of various sites, and forum comments with links in the signature lines. The list can go on and on.
The good news is that unnatural links can be eliminated or Google can be told through Google Webmaster Tools to not pay attention to those links, but this does have to be done manually. When you have opted for professional web design, any link notifications can be taken care of or you can ask your web designer about any links that have been produced and how to deal with it.