In a Google Webmaster Central hangout, Google’s John Mueller casually mentioned Google now discounts all reciprocal links. Google has been discounting backlinks since the Penguin update, but this is the first time Google told us they are discounting them at 100%. Google already discounts some types of backlinks, such as paid links and link schemes, but after August 1st Google will disregard any type of link that you get from another site to put on your site.
Mueller provided a very vague reason for why Google is making this change:
“So basically we want to make sure that when people follow links they have a roughly similar number of links pointing towards their website.”
In other words, Google doesn’t it’s “natural” if you have thousands of links from a few sites, but Google also doesn’t want you to get links from tens of thousands of different websites. Google wants a good mix of both.
Google has been discounting backlinks for a long time now and Google never told us they were going to begin ignoring them completely. Google’s Matt Cutts said in 2011 that Google ignores “unnatural links” even if they’re on PageRank 10/10 sites. In 2012 Google began discounting paid links, so people wouldn’t be able to add their competitor’s site as an ad and add a do-follow link without there being any consequences from Google’s algorithm changes.
In January 2013 Google introduced the manual action penalty for link schemes which is when “a webmaster has attempted to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results by using many different domains to create artificial linkage”. Google began discounting link schemes the following month, which was most likely when Google first started discounting backlinks.
Google does not want you to “build” links with any old method out there. Google wants legitimate ways where people can come across your content organically and decide they like it enough that they want to put a link on their website pointing back at yours. Google is still okay with user-generated content, but it must be natural. For example, if someone posts something on Reddit about how much they enjoy reading your blog you shouldn’t just go upvote every comment they make on every thread so that Google sees there is a lot of backlinks pointing at your site from Reddit. Google doesn’t want you to go out and buy links either, Google wants the links there to be naturally created by third parties.
Google is basically saying that if Google can determine that all or most of your links are unnatural they will not count any of them in their algorithm. Google isn’t going to tell us when they discover this type of link building, Google isn’t going to penalize sites for it, instead, Google will simply ignore the links completely.
There’s a chance Google has been discounting these types of links since Penguin 2.0 but didn’t let webmasters know about it because Google wanted to see how many people try and get away with it and Google didn’t want webmasters using Google’s updates as an excuse to stop creating quality content. Google is now letting us know that Google will be ignoring all backlinks from other sites and we should expect Google to update the way Google indexes websites soon as well.
Google sees a lot of this type of link building as ” webspam ” and as you can see below Google doesn’t like it:
” Paid links or other methods of manipulation that cause unnatural emphasis in SERPs may be included in a site’s evaluation, even if these links appear naturally somewhere else on the page.”
Who knows if Google will still discount exact match anchor text after August 1st? I wouldn’t be surprised if they do because Google has been targeting people with Google penalties for using exact match anchor text.
I believe Google should discount all types of unnatural links, even if they are not always spammy like exact match anchor text or paid links. Google already discounts spammy backlinks that violate Google’s guidelines like “doorway” pages, but Google isn’t discounting the rest of them. Google should discount them all to be fair and to encourage website owners to create better content; however, I don’t think Google will do this anytime soon because people will complain about no longer getting traffic from Google.
However, Google is now sending out a warning by telling us what types of link building they consider to be “unnatural” and no one should expect any backlinks pointing towards their site to earn any credit from Google’s new algorithm.
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