Google Updates Link Schemes Document under Webmaster Guidelines

Here’s something you may have missed over the weekend: Google quietly updated their Link Schemes document under the Webmaster Guidelines. They added three new types of links to their list of links that violate their guidelines, and removed two examples. These changes reflect Google’s continued effort to target unnatural linking.

The following items have been added to Google’s link scheme document:

  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links

  • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass page rank

  • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.

Large-Scale Guest Posts

Google has been warning against guest blogging for the sole purpose of building links since last year. Posts with unnaturally-placed optimized links that offer no little to no value to the site and its readers will be flagged by Google as link spamming, and the website linked to it will be penalized.

In order to avoid being penalized for this, you need to do two things:

1. Produce high quality, unique, and relevant content to share when guest posting. Make sure it is relevant to the site / blog’s general theme.

2. If you want to link to a third-party website, make sure your links are placed for a reason; otherwise, nofollow the links.


Advertorials and Native Advertising

Matt Cutts explained earlier this year their policy on advertorials and native advertising. They haven’t changed their policy since 2005 regarding this type of content, but according to Cutts, they still notice many people doing advertorials and native ads incorrectly. In fact, a few major companies and UK newspapers have recently been penalized for incorrectly using advertorials for search optimization.

In order to avoid being penalized for this, you need adequate disclosure, both to search engines and to your readers:

1. Disclosure to search engines – make sure to include the rel=”nofollow” attribute to your advertorials

2. Disclosure to readers – add a clear and conspicuous sign that says “Advertisement” or “Sponsored” on all advertorials and native advertisement posts


Press Releases and Articles with Optimized Anchor Text

Publishing optimized features and press releases with optimized anchor text on your own site is okay (as long as they follow Google Webmaster Guidelines). Distributing these pieces through third-party websites, such as through an article or through a press release distribution site, is not. The example Google gave for this was:

There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.

Journalistic articles and releases that cite links as sources will not be penalized, but other types of linking in articles and press releases will be under scrutiny. Applying the rel=”nofollow” attribute to all optimized anchor texts or removing the links altogether for distribution will help you avoid being penalized for this violation.

Removal of Link Scheme Examples

Google has also removed two link scheme guideline examples previously included on their list. There was no explanation for why they removed the two, but the examples removed are obvious violations to their general link scheme guideline.

The removed examples are:

  • Linking to web spammers or unrelated sites with the intent to manipulate PageRank

  • Links that are inserted into articles with little coherence

We’d be happy to help you rework your current content scheme and audit your links to find ones that could get you penalized by these new guidelines. Talk to us today to get started.

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