Google’s aim is to provide the best possible search results for any given query. To achieve this, we use many different factors in our ranking algorithms and try to surface the most relevant and authoritative pages for a particular topic. We do not disclose all of the algorithms that we use, but we do want to address a question that comes up frequently: Can simply linking to your site from another page on the web hurt your rankings?
The answer is simple – inbound linking cannot hurt your search ranking. How do we know this for certain? Well, if it did hurt you, sites would link to yours from a bunch of spammy links and that’s beyond your control. So Google can’t penalize you because the damage isn’t done by them; rather it’s caused accidentally (or not) by other people who aren’t under their control at all.
When Googlebot crawls these links and sees that they’re on pages that are relevant to your site, we’ll often add the link juice to your page. We may take into account both the anchor text and the target page when determining how a linking URL is relevant to a page we’re crawling, so you might want to include keywords in both the anchor text and destination URL if helpful for users and beneficial for publishers.
We do sometimes apply our quality algorithms to check for spam or low-quality links pointing at a site before reaching a conclusion about whether that site should rank highly in our results. This algorithmic consideration doesn’t impact sites whose ranking would not have changed otherwise as a result of incoming links; such sites will not drop in rankings as a result of this sort of quality analysis. You can find a lot more information about this in our help center articles about evaluating a site’s quality and creating compelling, useful content.
Google will not penalize sites whose incoming links are relevant and useful, especially if those sites would naturally attract links under normal circumstances (because they’re high quality!). If you find yourself asking whether something is harming or helping your rankings, remember these helpful principles: Be an authority on the topics you write about; make sure to out to other pages within your site that are related to the topic you’re writing about; and encourage others, including other sites that may be relevant to your audience or industry, to link to your site.
If you have a penalty from Google for ” linking schemes,” it’s likely because one of those guidelines has been violated. We do not recommend participating in any links schemes, no matter how well disguised they might appear. Always remember: More incoming links aren’t always better. Links should come from quality sources as described above.
Thanks for taking the time to read our take on this question! It’s certainly something we hear a lot, so I hope this helps clarify what we consider best practices when it comes to webmasters building high-quality websites with great content for users.
Feel free to drop us a line if you have any more questions 😉
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