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How to avoid Google's misunderstanding of unpaid links?
artefaqs




msg:4601644
 10:30 pm on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

One of my web sites is a moderately successful local news site. Enough to support a small team of part-time writers and myself.

In addition to the articles written by the staff I occasionally (maybe every six months) publish an article by a good friend. His company has a web site that is in an industry related to the topic of the site in question, so the content is relevant, and I'm happy to help out a friend with a little free publicity for his business.

Necessarily, there will be a keyword-rich link or two in the content of his article that links to his site, amid the other links. I'm happy to have some of the Google juice flow his way if it helps him.

Here's the thing -- How is it possible to signal to Google that these outbound links aren't paid? I could nofollow them, but I don't want to. I'm happy to help his site. No money is changing hands, because I'm just helping out a friend, so I'm within Google's TOS.

Any thoughts? I'd hate to get some kind of Google penalty for not disclosing paid links when they're not paid.

 

Robert Charlton




msg:4601657
 11:01 pm on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

I'm happy to have some of the Google juice flow his way if it helps him.

From what I've been hearing and reading Google say, Google is not happy to have the link juice flow his way under such circumstances. In this regard, Google is not "misunderstanding". Google is understanding perfectly.

"Paid", though, is perhaps now the misleading word. "Arranged" might be more appropriate to describe what Google isn't liking. Google wants links given only because of independent editorial judgement. This is particularly true of keyword-rich links.

Depending on the authority of your site, I would even hesitate to link back to his domain as a dofollow.

artefaqs




msg:4601660
 11:21 pm on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

"Misunderstanding' wasn't my word. That was a forum moderator's choice when s/he altered the title.

Regardless, I wouldn't agree that it's "arranged." It's a very informal thing, which is why it's only a couple of times a year.

If he's not paying for the placement, what TOS has been violated? Is Google in the business of metering goodwill now? Why can't I be nice to people I like? It's the epitome of "do no evil."

Shepherd




msg:4601662
 11:40 pm on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

moderately successful local news site


Is that success a result of traffic received from google?

artefaqs




msg:4601667
 11:57 pm on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

Is that success a result of traffic received from google?


No, it's the result of ten years of local reporting, the hard work of my writers, and traditional offline advertising. Google accounts for less than 15% of the traffic to the site.

I don't see how it matters, though.

aakk9999




msg:4601668
 11:57 pm on Aug 13, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think this is too close to "Article submission" or "Guest blog posts" which are now also in Google's focus. So there is a risk. John Mueler said:
Generally speaking, if you are submitting articles for your websites or your client's websites, and you are including links to those web sites, that's probably something that I would nofollow because these aren't essentially natural links from that website.

Now, reading your post it seems this is not exactly your situation as, if I understood your opening well, it was you who decided to give him links rather than him asking for them when he was handing you the article. It appears though that, as it is his article (he wrote it), it would be good to nofollow links pointing to his website.

If you wrote the article about his website and had links pointing to his site, then this would be considered editorial freely given.

On the other hand, whether Google can actually figure this out from 2 articles per year you are given by him is another matter. But if you do link without nofollow attribute to his website, it could be safer to use his site/brand name rather than keywords. So it is up to you to asses the risk.

It was me who edited your title and added the word "misunderstanding" to it, the wording on Google misunderstanding was in the subtitle of the thread, which I had to remove. I appologise if this altered your thread title meaning.

salvatorecapolupo




msg:4601669
 12:09 am on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

My ideas about using nofollow attribute and paid links are: Google does not want webmasters manipulate PageRank. Simple & realistic way for expressing something that many people actually does not like and/or misunderstand.

So you just think this: you can send some useful traffic to another friend site, while you will not inflate PR.

It is very simple, i.e. if in dubt about an outbound link, use nofollow. Just my thoughts about this, of course. After all, nobody ever said that nofollow links are unuseful for ranking, just does not activate PR contribute, i.e. not entire link juice, if you have this problem.

artefaqs




msg:4601670
 12:11 am on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

If you wrote the article about his website and had links pointing to his site, then this would be considered editorial freely given.


What I don't understand is how is Google supposed to know the difference between an unpaid article like the ones that he gives me, and ones that I pay my writers and reporters for, and ones that another type of person might post on his web site to game the system.

I guess at the heart of it, I'm not so much worried about Google dinging me for the links to my friend's web site, as I am it dinging me for articles from my own staff which also occasionally have outbound links. How does G know who's an employee and who isn't? Why shouldn't the articles they write link to the people they're writing about?

Further, I don't feel like I should have to go through the thousands of articles written over the last decade and nofollow them, then go through them again in six months when Google moves on to another metadata scheme. A back-end solution to automate this isn't feasible. Again, we've been online for ten years -- longer than WordPress and most other CRMs have been in existence. Older than Facebook. Older than Twitter. There's a LOT of cobbled-together code.

The burden should be on Google, not me. I haven't done anything wrong. For a decade I've provided quality local news to a hundred thousand unique visitors each month. Now I hear warnings that doing the right thing could get me in trouble with Google. That's why I'm looking for a solution.

jimsthoughts




msg:4601674
 12:25 am on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think the problem happens when there are several pages that are like that, then google may feel you're a "content/link" farm. I would hope that 1 page that has some direct anchor text wouldn't devalue your entire site, or their site in the eyes of google. Maybe have them write the article, then under the article you can have an "editor note" that says you're his friend and you believe in his site...the page had "editor approval" from you...but so long as the site isn't a "content/link" farm of page, I'd think you'd be OK.

Shepherd




msg:4601678
 12:49 am on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

Google accounts for less than 15% of the traffic to the site


Great, then it matters not what google thinks about your friend's guest post.

JS_Harris




msg:4601684
 1:13 am on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

Page A links to page B

- Is page A about the same subject as page B?
- Is site A about the same subject as site B?
- Are other sites about A also linking to B?
- Is B linking to pages also about A?
- Is link acquisition normal over time or sudden and questionable?
- What percentage of site A's outgoing links appear trustworthy and on topic?
- What percentage of site B's incoming links appear reliable?
- Is site A's or site B's link profile closely related to any known bad neighborhoods?
- etc...

I don't think you can focus on any one factor, there are a lot of them at play and the majority of sites fall mostly within the normal range. Spotting questionable sites is what Google does, it amazes me how many people think they can sneak links in and not eventually pay for it.

CaptainSalad2




msg:4601782
 8:44 am on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

@Robert

>>>Google wants links given only because of independent editorial judgement<<<

Robert not sure if you missed my post to you before on the subject but. If this is googles stance on links, why does Google *promote* the buying and selling of backlinks through *allowing* companies to buy/sell links using addwords? Seems to me this should be the first thing to have been nipped in the bud?

As a authority on this forum I just wanted your personal opinion m8!

Also when you guys talk about "dofollow" links, are you talking about links that explicitly use the rel=”dofollow” attribute or links that just don’t use “nofollow”? What is classed as a "dofollow" link? Cheers

Robert Charlton




msg:4601798
 10:03 am on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

CaptainSalad2 - You've phrased your two questions differently enough that perhaps you're asking different questions, but I'm not sure....

From this prior thread... [webmasterworld.com...]
>>>I believe that Google does have a consistent policy<<<

In you opinion, if Google is against link buying/selling as a service...why do they let companies use their addwords product to *sell* link building services?

Link building is a very legitimate aspect of web marketing and promotion. Done properly, it should not involve paid links at all. We've got a whole forum on WebmasterWorld dedicated to Link Development [webmasterworld.com...]

You ask your question a second time on this thread with phrasing that's slightly difficult for me to follow, but I'll give it a stab...

If this is googles stance on links, why does Google *promote* the buying and selling of backlinks through *allowing* companies to buy/sell links using addwords?

We don't allow specific search terms here, but I did some Google searches for queries that one might have done in the past looking for link sellers, and Google does not return AdWords ads for these terms.

For queries related to link building, though, Google does return ads for link building services, which, again, are a legitimate part of web marketing if they follow Google's link quality guidelines. So if you have a site and you want to make people aware of it in order to attract inbound links, that process of promotion is link building.

If you (or a service you hire), say, guest blogs or places content that links back to your site with nofollowed links, and that visibility attracts dofollow links to you because people like your site, that's also link building.

But if you create the dofollow links that link back to your site, that's actual linking... and Google has now clarified that they classify such self-placed backlinks as spam.

I'm not sure whether that's what you're asking though. There are also some who have maintained that AdWords themselves are paid links... a question which IMO is complete sophistry. We're talking about links which transmit PageRank for the purpose of influencing organic rankings... not advertisements on Google search results pages. I'm not sure whether you're suggesting this latter interpretation.

What is classed as a "dofollow" link?

"dofollow" just means a link that transmits PageRank. There's no "dofollow" attribute.

CaptainSalad2




msg:4601806
 11:08 am on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

thanks for the response Robert

>>>For queries related to link building, though, Google does return ads for link building services, which, again, are a legitimate part of web marketing if they follow Google's link quality guidelines. So if you have a site and you want to make people aware of it in order to attract inbound links, that process of promotion is link building.<<<

If you pay a company to build links for you, aren't these links “artificial” since your paying for the “link building” service to improve Google rankings? I thought Google was against anything other than freely earned/given links? Appreciate your insight!

atlrus




msg:4601864
 3:49 pm on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

The burden should be on Google, not me. I haven't done anything wrong. For a decade I've provided quality local news to a hundred thousand unique visitors each month. Now I hear warnings that doing the right thing could get me in trouble with Google. That's why I'm looking for a solution.


Then do the "wrong" thing?

I really don't understand what kind of solution you are looking for. "Here is my friend's website" is perfectly legit link, I don't see what the fuss is all about.

If you are that scared of Google - nofollow the link or don't link out at all.

There, plenty of solutions, just pick one.

netmeg




msg:4601929
 6:01 pm on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

If you pay a company to build links for you, aren't these links “artificial” since your paying for the “link building” service to improve Google rankings? I thought Google was against anything other than freely earned/given links? Appreciate your insight!


Not necessarily. For example, a long time ago, a client asked me to spend several hours a month just looking for relevant linking opportunities in his industry, because he didn't have time himself (nor know exactly how to search for them) Things like industry directories, newsletters, etc. That could qualify as linkbuilding, but it wasn't really link buying; pretty much all I did was find the people and sites, and make them aware that the client's website existed and might be a good resource for related products and services.

I don't really do any of that any more, but if you engage a link building service, they should be willing to tell you exactly what their process is for building the links, and ideally it's something you'd do yourself if you have the time and/or expertise - i.e. promote your site or business. In my opinion.

To answer the question posed in the title of this post, my answer would be - link away, but don't use keyword anchor text. Easy peasy.

Robert Charlton




msg:4601933
 6:31 pm on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

I guess at the heart of it, I'm not so much worried about Google dinging me for the links to my friend's web site, as I am it dinging me for articles from my own staff which also occasionally have outbound links.

I wouldn't worry about this, unless your staff is also trying to help friends. ;)

Its interesting that friends often try to be too helpful. Those who've heard that keywords in anchor text can help might be dangerous. I've often found it necessary to tell developers, eg, not to do things like hide keywords in the code of clients' websites, because they're trying to "help" along SEO. Going forward, you may have to caution your staff.

What I don't understand is how is Google supposed to know the difference between an unpaid article like the ones that he gives me, and ones that I pay my writers and reporters for, and ones that another type of person might post on his web site to game the system.

Google probably can't tell on individual articles. What they look at is patterns over time, and they've got the natural link pattern nailed down pretty well statistically. Chances are they're not going to hit you for a couple of links unless they're really egregious. They may well not even notice them. Right-on anchor text that's way outside of the statistical norm, and continues to be so over time, is something that might get you flagged. JS_Harris laid out some of the kinds of correlations that Google might make.

In the current situation, what I was reacting to in your post is to what were the essentially self-placed links. Google's giving this a lot of scrutiny right now, and I think that trying to play sleight-of-hand with the concept of "paid" is playing with fire.

Here's a thread from a year ago about the kind of misuse that has forced Google to crack down. The OP, in his own words, "worked the PR angle really aggressively"... so aggressively that Google couldn't miss it, and he then took Google's reaction as traffic throttling, which it might have been...

Traffic Shaping / Throttling Prior to Deindexing
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/4476076.htm [webmasterworld.com]

The thread discusses patterns of link growth and what's likely to be seen as unnatural. What was considered aggressive public relations by the OP, which included keyword anchor text, is now officially considered self-linking by Google. It was at the time of the thread as well. Google's now simply describing it better.

mrguy




msg:4601934
 6:46 pm on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

If Google only accounts for 15% of traffic, who cares what Google thinks about your links.

Link to who ever and how you want.

If you have a really strong authority site, it's not going to matter anyway.

artefaqs




msg:4601935
 6:49 pm on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

If Google only accounts for 15% of traffic, who cares what Google thinks about your links.

Because in this economy, every percent counts. Can you afford to take a 15% cut in your revenue simply because you chose not to ask questions about a potential threat?

Planet13




msg:4601945
 7:27 pm on Aug 14, 2013 (gmt 0)

I think we might have lost site of the ball here...

google looks for PATTERNS - not just one or two links.

If you have ever filed a spam report against a competitor's site only to see goolge do nothing, then you have probably witnessed google's disinterest in chasing down individual links.

So I would agree with JS_Harris and Robert Charlton that it is the linking profile (among other profiles of the sites), that would cause google to penalize / negatively affect links.

There is a particularly good introduction on a blog by one of the webmasterworld moderators to the types and scope of data that google looks at. I don't know if I am allowed to link to it or even mention the name of the moderator here though, so I guess you are going to have put on your detective hats.

diberry




msg:4602151
 4:27 pm on Aug 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

In theory, Google can't really tell the difference between a single instance of:

-- My linking to a valuable resource on a topic that I found via Google
-- My linking to a valuable resource on a topic that I found via an industry confidence where I met people
-- My linking to a valuable resource on a topic that I found via Facebook
--My linking to a valuable resource on a topic that someone paid me to link to (as opposed to a barely relevant obviously B.S. link that no one would have chosen editorially, which is also obvious to users)

There's no reason for Google to assume any of these are paid links UNTIL a pattern emerges (as Robert was saying). I have done what the OP is talking about just once - a friend of mine contributed a great idea I knew my visitors would love, so I wrote the post and mentioned that he had a website called Whatever.com, and used the domain name for the anchor text. Now, Google actually advises using keyword-rich anchor text generally, but in this case I was afraid it would look too much like a "guest post", and I've never been confident Google can always tell a quality guest post from a crap one. By using his domain name, I think I signaled to Google that it was a true editorial link and not an attempt to give my friend a boost for any particular keyphrase.

That page ranks #1 for me and neither my site nor my friends' seem to have suffered with Google in any way. So I believe this is safe to do - ONCE. How often? I'm not sure. If you do this with a variety of sites, always anchoring with just the name of the website, that might not look like a "link arrangement" pattern. After all, this is what I see news sites doing - linking to the domain name, not a relevant keyphrase. But even then, it might be that how they do it is not okay, but they have so many positive signals that it overcomes any potential penalty. So you can't even look at what other people are "getting away with" and be sure you'll get away with it too.

It's ridiculous that it's like this, but it is and that's what we have to deal with.

martinibuster




msg:4602160
 5:23 pm on Aug 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

Necessarily, there will be a keyword-rich link or two in the content of his article that links to his site, amid the other links. I'm happy to have some of the Google juice flow his way if it helps him.


I think this is too close to "Article submission" or "Guest blog posts" which are now also in Google's focus. So there is a risk. John Mueler said:


It's not "article submission" or "Guest blog posts" that are in Google's focus. It's as Robert Charlton pointed out, the intention that is on focus. There is nothing wrong with guest articles. High quality mainstream sites publish guest articles (without any SEO intent) every day. Guest articles are not the focus. What IS in focus is the intent to influence search rankings. As such, all articles, regardless of whether they are guest posts or self-authored are under scrutiny for abnormal outbound linking patterns.

Yes Google explicitly mentioned guest articles. But that was said in the context of spelling out a specific answer for the benefit of those who need to be told explicitly. One of the things Google is focusing on is Abnormal Outbound Linking patterns. That is the focus, a broad focus on content that goes way beyond just guest articles.

Placing "keyword-rich" anchors within the body of an article for the purpose of "Google juice" is explicitly trying to influence the search engines. Bang, bang. Smoking gun. Smoke signals.

I wrote the blog post about patterns that Planet13 referred to, which explains why it's not JUST specific kinds of articles that are under scrutiny. Get out of that mindset. It's ALL content that is under scrutiny.

What I don't understand is how is Google supposed to know the difference between an unpaid article like the ones that he gives me, and ones that I pay my writers and reporters for, and ones that another type of person might post on his web site to game the system.


It is very important for you to understand how the search engines analyze vast amounts of content. I posted a short summary above.

Planet13




msg:4602163
 5:39 pm on Aug 15, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thank you, martinibuster, for contributing here and adding clarity to this.

I think this part bears repeating:

"...it's not JUST specific kinds of articles that are under scrutiny. Get out of that mindset. It's ALL content that is under scrutiny."

So many times you here SEOs or webmasters say "Of course my links are NATURAL; they only appear in quality articles and they fit in with the context of that article."

That is definitely part of the old mindset, IMHO.

jakebohall




msg:4602573
 8:19 pm on Aug 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

Everyone forgets the way Google's Webmaster Guidelines actually read:

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.

bsterz




msg:4602652
 1:48 am on Aug 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

For some perspective lets revisit Matt Cutts last Summer,

“There’s more data being generated on the web, compared to any other source of data around the web, and I think, the fact is, a lot of people think, ‘Links are dying,’ or ‘Links are not a democracy,’ or ‘It’s impossible to get links that aren’t nofollow,’ or whatever,” says Cutts. “And the fact is, that’s a little bit of a bubble in my opinion, in the SEO industry, because if you look at the actual percentage of Nofollow links on the web, it’s a single digit percentage. In fact, it’s a pretty small single digit percentage. So there’s this perception that, ‘Yes, everything will go social,’ or ‘Links are completely obsolete,’ and I think it’s premature to reach that conclusion.”

I am earnestly asking, how easily do you think that they could identify the OP's pattern? It seems to me that it would have a really small footprint. In my opinion, if he never said, "I'm happy to have some of the Google juice flow his way if it helps him." Google would be okay with a dofollow link.

martinibuster




msg:4602661
 3:08 am on Aug 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

I am earnestly asking, how easily do you think that they could identify the OP's pattern?


And I earnestly answered that question in my previous post. ;)

Here's a link to the Microsoft PDF paper [webdb2004.cs.columbia.edu] that I summarized. It describes a method for identifying linking patterns, which easily spots attempts to manipulate the search algorithm, something the OP is doing. The OP believes it's ok with Google as long as he/she isn't being paid for the link. The reality is that it is not ok with Google, regardless that money did not change hands.

linkbuildr




msg:4602664
 3:36 am on Aug 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Pretty simple really, avoid keyword rich anchor text and lousy content. The link shouldn't be a problem.

bsterz




msg:4602793
 2:30 pm on Aug 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks Martinibuster. I could way off base, but as long as his friend isn't doing too much other link building with keyword rich anchor text after glancing over (will read closely later) that article he should be okay. It doesn't sound like he is making much of a pattern that could be detected (IPs, URLs, Auto Content, Poor Content). Also, neither site is Spam (I am assuming). Thoughts?

He also doesn't mention that his friend asked for this anchor text so I am wondering if the keywords are actual money terms which could make a difference.

Convergence




msg:4602828
 5:36 pm on Aug 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

Ask yourself this:

1) Are you trying to help boost your friend's SEO/Page Ranking? If so, then you risk penalties.
2) Are you simply trying to send visitors from your site to your friend's? If so, then nofollow the link.

Convergence




msg:4602836
 6:04 pm on Aug 17, 2013 (gmt 0)

...and maybe, just maybe, if you used nofollow on your article posts your traffic from the Google would be higher than 15%. Just maybe...

This 40 message thread spans 2 pages: 40 ( [1] 2 > >
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