Google attempts clarification on links

Over the last couple of weeks, Google has undertaken a few measures in an attempt to clarify to webmasters what constitutes a ‘link scheme’ - and if you have a warning related to having these links, what you can do about it.

Over the last couple of weeks, Google has undertaken a few measures in an attempt to clarify to webmasters what constitutes a 'link scheme' - and if you have a warning related to having these links, what you can do about it.

Google has updated it's 'link schemes' guidance to include a number of types of links. The areas that have been highlighted include:

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

This is something that most scrupulous webmasters have been on the lookout for in their backlink profiles for some time. If any links like this are found within your profile, Google now advise that the links have the 'rel=nofollow' tag added to them.

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

This is an issue which has become quite contentious within the SEO community. Google has since updated its stance on guest posting further to say that any links from these activities should be nofollowed.

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

These issues principally came to light in the aftermath of the 'Interflora' penalty from Google - any advertorials placed should be marked as such and the links nofollowed.

Manual link warning messages streamlined

On top of this updated guidance, Google has also overhauled its manual link warning message notifications in Webmaster Tools to include more data for webmasters. Prior to this update what would typically happen is that Google would send one of a series of warning notifications to the affected Webmaster Tools account indicating that they had detected 'unnatural' links in your profile and what this meant for your website. The main complaint with these messages was that they were a little vague and left many webmasters at a loss as to how to deal with the problem.

The new messages now appear under the 'Search Traffic' dropdown of the Webmaster Tools console under 'Manual Actions'. These are now subdivided into 'Site-wide' and 'Partial-match' sections. There are also now examples provided of the types of links or pages on your website that are causing the issue. These types of links are broken down into seven sub-types of links that may be affecting websites:

  1. User-generated spam
  2. Hidden text and/or keyword stuffing
  3. Pure spam
  4. Thin content with little or no added value
  5. Unnatural Links to site
  6. Unnatural links from your site
  7. Unnatural Links to site - impacts links

Google have released a series of videos to explain what each of these actions means in practice. After these issues have been corrected, there is now what Google calls a more 'streamlined' reconsideration request process in place.

Although there have been some teething problems with this service, some of the data provided is far from perfect and the language used by Google can at times be tough to decipher, th