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How to Avoid Link Schemes

Links between websites and pages are a key part of any SEO strategy, particularly on Google. However, links that are intended to manipulate Google’s PageRank algorithm, or a site’s ranking in Google search results, may be considered by Google to be part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.

Google publishes a range of guidelines for webmasters and marketers to help highlight – and encourage – the best practice techniques for search engine optimisation (SEO). Because links have always been a key part of Google’s ranking criteria, this is one area in particular that they highlight what practices should be avoided, and this includes any behaviour that manipulates links to a website, or outgoing links from a website.

The following are examples of link schemes which Google says can negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results:

Buying or selling links that pass PageRank.

This includes:

  • Exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links;
  • Exchanging goods or services for links;
  • Sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing it and including a link;
  • Excessive link exchanges;
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links;
  • Using automated programs or services to create links to your site;
  • Requiring a link as part of a Terms of Service, contract, or similar arrangement without allowing a third-party content owner the choice of qualifying the outbound link, should they wish.

Additionally, creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of Google’s guidelines.

Common examples of unnatural links:

  • Text advertisements that pass PageRank;
  • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank;
  • Links with optimised anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites;
  • Low-quality directory or bookmark site links;
  • Keyword-rich, hidden or low-quality links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites;
  • Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites;
  • Forum comments with optimised links in the post or signature.

As long as you don’t pass PageRank to the buyer of the ad, your pay-per-click (PPC) advertising links won’t violate Google’s guidelines.

You can prevent PageRank from passing in several ways, such as:

  • Indicating the link is sponsored adding a qualifying attribute to the tag;
  • Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file

The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to your website is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. This can be easier said than done, and this technique requires time and effort to get right, but it can also produce the best results.

Therefore 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.

We only recommend best practice, ethical SEO, otherwise trying to manipulate a site’s ranking can be counter-productive and result in it being penalised by Google.

If you want to know more about best SEO practices please get in touch.