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What does Google consider "low quality" and unnatural link building?
errorsamac




msg:4181275
 4:48 pm on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

When looking at competitor websites and their backlinks, I see hundreds/thousands of low quality links pointing to their website. While my opinion of "low quality" might be different from Google's, they appear to be ranking with forum signature links (new users, 1-2 posts, off-topic forum), blog comment spam, social profile links, and article submissions. Also, if you really look in to their links, you can tell they are all self made.

Assuming on-page SEO is good, my belief has been that if you get the same backlinks as your competition, that you'll be near them in the SERPs. That is a very general statement/belief and I realize that other factors (such as content) do play in to it.

To test out how "good" these types of links were, I went out and grabbed a handful (10 or less) of these links to a couple of my new domains. Almost immediately, Google removed the domains from the index for the targeted keywords.

Now, this is great because this is what Google should do. However, how does my competition get away with it? Do I just continue getting low quality links and plaster the site everywhere (naturally) until someone of high quality happens to stumble upon a link to the site and write about it? Did I not get enough links and if I received 100 low quality links from various sources that the sites would go back in to the index? Finally, how many links are "too many" for Google to think it's unnatural? If someone spent 40 hours/week getting links, I could see them easily picking up hundreds of links each week. To me, that seems suspicious. However, looking at my competition, it looks like they get at least hundreds of links/week based upon the number of backlinks they have and how long they have been around.

On a final note, assume the domains have fresh/relevant content and they are sites a user would want to visit. The questions are more geared towards external factors that allow a site to rank. My example sites were mini-sites (5-6 pages of useful/relevant content).

 

dvduval




msg:4181306
 5:29 pm on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

So long as google can be exploited, it will be exploited. An area that I have complained about are sites that buy pagerank and then sell it to the highest bidder. There were "link bidding directories" that would get high pagerank site links and then turn around and sell links. After a google update or two, the pagerank was gone, and the people who bought links lost out as well. Worse still, these sites gave directories a bad name when there are honest people trying to build quality directories.

The same scenario is played out in multiple industries. Should you stop doing the right thing?

Absolutely not!

Keep building a site people love. Google is important, but if your users love your site, it will trump the competition eventually. And maybe even one day Google will figure out how to help honest people with their "trust rank".

Robert Charlton




msg:4181423
 8:27 pm on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

My emphasis added...
To test out how "good" these types of links were, I went out and grabbed a handful (10 or less) of these links to a couple of my new domains. Almost immediately, Google removed the domains from the index for the targeted keywords.

I think there's consensus that Google looks at the overall quality profile of a site when assessing a backlink penalty. It's likely that there's a separate score also for backlink quality. On a large established site, with a great many backlinks, a small percentage of questionable links probably wouldn't hurt.

Your "new" domains, though, generally haven't had much of a chance to establish a high quality profile. I'd guess that these low quality backlinks may have constituted a large enough percentage of the backlinks to your new sites that they have significantly altered the profile balance.

Additionally, if you added the backlinks (perhaps with the same anchor text) all at once, this would look like a coordinated action.

If the links came from pages known to sell links, this too would have raised a flag.

These signals combined might have tripped algorithmic filters, or prompted human review. Hard to say how many times you might have crossed the line. Also, it's hard to rule out other factors and perhaps coincidental timing in your first test.

To continue the test (admittedly on a small and slightly simplistic scale), I would try two things...

- to gradually add some good backlinks with varied anchor text to one of the sites to see what happens...

- and to remove the bad backlinks to the other, without adding new links, and also watch what happens.

I wouldn't perform both tests simultaneously, as you want to rule out concurrent algo changes that might be affecting both sites. Eventually... if there's no change, you might also try filing a separate resconsideration request for each of the sites, but only after you've made the changes and several months have passed.

errorsamac




msg:4181478
 10:19 pm on Aug 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

I definitely agree that Google looks at the overall link profile of a site, especially new sites. My general thoughts are that within the first few months, you should get maybe 20 or so links from excellent sources. With a little age and some decent quality links, you can be included in the index. However, if you get multiple low quality links to your site, expect to be removed from the index.

The problem with this is 1) it's super easy to take out new competition in the SERPs but loading up on garbage links for them and 2) how do new sites compete in a niche filled with spammers (is it even worth trying)? I think domain/site age and building links slowly over time is important, but how aggressive can you get six months after a site has launched or a year after a site has launched?

To continue the test (admittedly on a small and slightly simplistic scale), I would try two things...

- to gradually add some good backlinks with varied anchor text to one of the sites to see what happens...

- and to remove the bad backlinks to the other, without adding new links, and also watch what happens.


I'm pretty confident getting good links will let the site rank. I'd be interested to see what happens when removing the "bad" backlinks. However, they are all on websites that I do not control so there is really no way to remove the links. With that in mind, how does Google know I planted these links on the test domains rather than my competition getting them for me?

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