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Google’s Guidelines For Link Building: What You Need to Know

google's guidelines for link buildingGoogle recently went out of its way to remind people about its guidelines on link schemes. Specifically, the reminder was targeted at individuals abusing guest posts as a means of acquiring a large number of inbound links. Submitting the same article to websites en masse is just one way to violate Google’s webmaster guidelines. In light of Google’s stern warning to site owners, we felt this was as good a time as any to review the company’s guidelines on link schemes.

Violating Google’s guidelines is a serious issue, and you may even be doing it without realizing. If found to be in violation, your site could end up being demoted in Google search results without warning. Historically it has taken a considerable amount of time and effort for site owners to regain their rankings following a link penalty.

In this article we’ll review Google’s guidelines from top to bottom in order to ensure your link building efforts won’t get you in trouble. Let’s get right to it.

Violations of Google’s Guidelines on Link Schemes

Guest Posting

Generally speaking, a violation of Google’s link scheme guidelines occurs when the main intention of the site owner is to build inbound links on a large scale. Hence Google’s recent warning about abusing guest posts. To clarify, contributing content to other sites is a perfectly fine link building tactic when done properly. Only when taken to extremes does it violate Google’s guidelines.

“Taken to the extremes” could include such tactics as:

  • Submitting the same article to dozens or hundreds of different websites.
  • Stuffing articles with keyword-rich links.
  • Taking an article on your site and submitting it to another site.

When it comes to guest posts Google wants to see fresh, unique content that adds value to another site’s audience. Articles should only be submitted to one site, with one link back to your own site. In addition, the anchor text for the link should not include a keyword. Anchor text should include either your domain name, your company/brand name, or something generic like “click here.”

Not only could those abusing guest posts end up being penalized by Google, but sites publishing the posts could be penalized as well. With that said, you should exercise extreme caution if your site accepts guest contributions. If and when Google detects that a website is publishing articles containing spammy links, it may change how Google rates the quality of the site and thus affect its ranking.

Before accepting guest posts, Google advises:

Sites accepting and publishing such articles should carefully vet them, asking questions like: Do I know this person? Does this person’s message fit with my site’s audience? Does the article contain useful content? If there are links of questionable intent in the article, has the author used rel=”nofollow” on them?”

Now you know the ins and outs of guest posts. Let’s take a look at what else it says in Google’s link scheme guidelines.

Buying or Selling Links

With inbound links being among the top ranking factors for search engines, some site owners end up resorting to buying links in order to outrank their competition. Conversely, site owners with high ranking and authoritative websites may sell links to others as a means of earning extra income. There are those out there willing to pay good money for links from high quality sources. Exchanging money, goods, or services for links is strictly against Google’s guidelines. This also includes receiving free products for review, and then linking back to the company who sent them to you.

Reciprocal Linking

Excessive link exchanges with others, where they link to you and you link back to them, are against Google’s guidelines. In the same vein, some black hat link builders will create intricate blog networks with dozens of sites all cross-linking with each other. You may also hear this referred to in the black hat world as a “link wheel.” Needless to say, these are also against Google’s guidelines.

Using Automated Tools

Black hat tools exist that can automate the process of link outreach, and some can even automate the process of content creation. Article spinners, as the software is called, will take a piece of content and spin it into multiple yet slightly different pieces of content. This is done to help disguise the fact that the same piece of content is more or less being submitted to multiple sites. Using any automated programs or services to build inbound links is very much against Google’s guidelines.

Unnatural Links

There is a whole spectrum of different types of links that fall under this category. An unnatural link is any type of link that was placed without being vouched for by the site’s owner. Here is a brief overview of different types of unnatural links.

  • Advertisements that pass PageRank onto another site.
  • Submitting press releases that contain links with keyword optimized anchor text.
  • Links from low-quality directories.
  • Keyword optimized, hidden, or low-quality links embedded in widgets.
  • Sitewide links included in footers or templates.
  • Submitting comments in web forums that contain links with keyword optimized anchor text.

If you engage in pay-per-click and/or display advertising as a marketing tactic for your business, you can avoid penalties by ensuring the links back to your site do not pass PageRank. This is accomplished by adding a Adding a rel=”nofollow” attribute to the tag


Now that you know what goes against Google’s guidelines on link schemes, what exactly is allowed? According to Google the best way to earn links back to your site is by creating great content that people will naturally want to link to.

“Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”

If you suspect your competitors are engaging in spammy link building practices in order to manipulate their search rankings, you can notify Google using this form.

Pam Aungst Cronin
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