Link Building: What Should I Know About Qualifying Links?

Gary Green
Gary Green
November 22, 2021

These days, web creators are coming up with a plethora of ways to monetise their blogs and websites, and many of those methods have led to outbound links being created which, when annotated incorrectly and overdone, violate Google’s quality guidelines.

It’s therefore vital for links to be dealt with properly when they are commercial in nature so that link spam won’t be found on your site.

July 2021 saw Google announcing a new algorithm update, called a “link spam update” and it was rolled out across a two-week period to focus primarily on identifying link spam and nullifying it. This update to the algorithm is capable of identifying links in many languages, and this means a broad spectrum of links could be impacted.

Google Is Working To Combat Links Spam

Over the last twenty years, link spam has become less and less effective. This is due to the fact that Google is constantly making improvements in its spam detection and ranking systems which has led to most sites now working hard to follow the guidelines and build websites that offer an excellent user experience with high-quality content.

Nevertheless, there are still some websites that intentionally build spam links to try to manipulate search engine rankings. Therefore, Google has taken the decision to launch the new update to combat link spam to identify and nullify link spam across a range of languages and in a broader spectrum. Sites that are affected by link spam are set to see changes in their rankings since those links will be reassessed by the updated algorithm.

This update to the algorithm has led Google to warn site owners to ensure they’re following linking best practices on both outgoing and incoming links, and Google has taken great pains to remind site owners that producing quality content while improving their user experience will always be a better and more effective solution to boosting their search engine ranking than manipulating links through shady black hat linking practices.

Avoiding Damage To Search Engine Rankings

For any developer with qualifying links on their site, it’s imperative to follow suitable white hat practices to avoid being damaged by this algorithm update. For example, links must be tagged appropriately with re=sponsored for sponsored links and rel=nofollow for guest posting links. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to qualifying links best practices. Here, we take a closer look at some other practices to avoid.

Practices That Should Be Avoided

When it comes to external links, you should avoid all of the following:

  • Paying for any links, particularly when that lack is irrelevant to your page.
  • Participating in a link exchange as a primary approach for link building.
  • Requiring links within a business arrangement or contractual agreement.
  • Using tools like content spinners and link generators.

Should I Be Worried About The Algorithm Update?

If you’re building good and authoritative links which have relevance to your services, content and products, there’s no need for concern about this update. Links are an essential SEO pillar next to relevance and authority, and therefore, building up a strong profile of quality backlinks is a key element of increasing your site’s ranking for keywords. The only thing you need to take on board is that you need to build this backlink profile in such a way that you’re following the quality guidelines set out by Google.

Google’s Quality Guidelines

Google understands which content is helpful for searchers by utilising the information provided by links. This makes links important for a site to receive, but those links must be well deserved. When you link to other websites, it’s important that those links are appropriately qualified, especially when managing links involving sponsorship, payment or other commercial elements.

Here is an overview of Google’s quality guidelines when it comes to qualifying links, and you should take great care to adhere to these when handling links on your website.

Affiliate Links

This type of link is commonly seen on shopping guide sites and product reviews since they help publishers and bloggers to monetise their web traffic. In most cases, affiliate links can be used for monetising websites without any problems but sites that participate in an affiliate program should always ensure to qualify those links with rel=”sponsored” whether or not those links were dynamically or manually created.

If you fail to properly qualify your affiliate links, Google can issue manual actions in order to stop those links from impacting Search and Google’s systems can also undertake algorithmic actions. As a result, your site could drop down the search engine rankings – something that you’re sure to want to avoid. With this in mind, it’s imperative to ensure that you don’t cause these actions to be taken wherever possible.

Guest and Sponsored Posts

many sites are monetised by accepting guest and sponsored posts from other websites. These articles will be written in one website’s name then published on another one. Unfortunately, Google has noticed that there are several campaigns of poor-quality guest and sponsored posts out there which were mainly intended for gaining links.

For this reason, Google now recommends that all website owners apply the correct rel values to such links. If Google detects sites that engage in acquiring or publishing links that have excessive guest and sponsored postings with no appropriate link tags, manual and algorithmic actions could be applied which could have a negative effect on the website’s search engine ranking.

So long as your website conforms to the above best practice guidelines when adding links for commercial purposes, it should remain unaffected by the latest algorithm update rollout. However, it makes sense to check your site’s links anyway to make sure that none fall foul of those guidelines.

This will ensure that there are no negative repercussions from the link spam update for your website ranking and that your site will continue to rank highly and achieve its goals.

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