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Google’s Link Spam Update: What Does It Mean?

Google Spam Link Update

Google’s algorithm updates have been rolling out thick and fast over the last few months. And they’re not over yet…

From July 26, Google began rolling out a new link spam update aimed at fighting link spam more broadly. Take a read to find out what impact this new update may have on your organic presence.

Why is Google rolling out this update?

Google recently announced the new “link spam update”, writing:

“In our continued efforts to improve the quality of the search results, we’re launching a new link spam fighting change today — which we call the “link spam update.” This algorithm update, which will roll out across the next two weeks, is even more effective at identifying and nullifying link spam more broadly, across multiple languages. Sites taking part in link spam will see changes in Search as those links are re-assessed by our algorithms.”

This update is designed to spot and nullify links that Google believes to be spam. When we refer to spam, it could be machine-generated links, malware links or links that don’t follow best practice.

What does Google mean by ‘nullify’?

In their announcement, Google chose to use the word ‘nullify’ rather than ‘penalise’. So, what does the search engine mean by this?

The term ‘nullify’ aligns with what Google have previously stated about ignoring poor or spammy links instead of penalising for them. They’ve taken this approach since Penguin 4.0 was released in 2016.

However, although Google isn’t choosing to penalise sites for spammy links, if Google ignores or nullifies a link, it may well feel like a penalty. If you see your organic rankings take a dip over the coming weeks, it could be something to do with this update.

The impact of the Link Spam Update

In terms of what we expect to see from this update, we can’t be certain.

It may be that websites with a poor and non-disavowed backlink profile could see a slow degradation of performance as Google reassesses their backlinks using the new system. Or, if they’ve done this assessment already, it could be more of a substantial drop.

As this update rolls out, we recommend keeping one eye on your rankings, particularly if you have a historically poor backlink profile.

Best practice pointers

Links are a key element that Google uses to understand what content could be helpful to a searcher. They’re great for sites as long as they’re relevant, high quality and deserved.

Here are some best practice pointers to avoid being impacted by the update:

  • Avoid methods that violate guidelines: When acquiring links, avoid methods that violate Google’s guidelines against link schemes. This is particularly important if you’re linking out to other sites as you need to make sure to qualify those links appropriately.
  • Affiliate links: Affiliate links are often used on pages such as shopping guides or product reviews as a way for publishers to monetise traffic. Using affiliate links in this way is – generally speaking – fine. However, it’s important that sites using these links qualify them with rel=”sponsored” regardless of whether they were created manually or not.
  • Sponsored and guest posts: Another common method of monetising traffic is by accepting sponsored or guest posts from other sites. These are blogs written in the name of a website which is then published on another website. Again, Google strongly recommends that publishers and site owners apply the appropriate rel values to these links to mark them as legit.
  • Ensure your links are natural: Make sure your links are natural and acquired in accordance with Google’s webmaster guidelines. We would advise improving your overall website so it can naturally attract new links over time. Focus on improving the user experience and creating high quality content – this approach will always conquer over manipulating links.

We’re here to help!

With a team of SEO and outreach experts in our ranks, we’re here to help you mitigate the impact of Google’s updates. If or when we start to see the impacts of this update, we’ll circulate these findings, so you know what to look for and what to do.
If you have any questions or want to know more, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the team.