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What is Unnatural About Certain Links?

Google Penalizing Unnatural Links



5:59 pm on Mar 20, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Tony Verre (@TonyVerre) posted a blog post about Unnatural Links [searchnewscentral.com] triggering a WMT warning and penalization by Google over the past months. According to Search Engine Round Table [seroundtable.com] this is a stepping up of warnings about unnatural links promised by Matt Cutts.

Tony asks what does Google define as unnatural the suggests a few scenarios that might resemble unnatural linking, including

  • Acquisition rate of links

  • Root domains - clusters of links from related sites

  • Anchor text concentration

What are your thoughts about those signals Tony highlighted? Any additional signals you think are triggering the WMT love letters?


1:33 am on Mar 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Pretty much most links you have to build by hand are trying to influence your rank in the SERPs. This is defined as a scheme and against their TOS.

While any ol junk site can target anchor text like there's no tomorrow and rank well for a while, it's just not a sound strategy. If you're truly kicking ass with content, user interaction/features and have a solid PR strategy you'll get the links. It's slower but it's safe and doing things the right way will eventually put you in a great place.


5:40 am on Mar 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator buckworks is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

solid PR strategy


Here's a non-technical but useful way to differentiate "natural" from "unnatural" linking.

A solid PR strategy aims to cultivate links that are capable of sending well-targeted referral traffic directly to your website. The goal of the link is to get real clicks from real prospects.

Link development becomes unnatural if the links you're cultivating have little chance of being seen by targeted prospects.

Switch your link-think from "link development" to "traffic development" and the search engines will probably like your link profile just fine.


6:07 am on Mar 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

I would suggest some of these make an impact positively or negatively.

-Rate of build
-Prevalence of Brands in target marketplace
-Concentration / Percentage of authority links
-Overall strength variance of inbound link profile
-Type of link built and age of content build to
-Number of, and anchor text of other outbound links to similar websites on the same website


5:55 pm on Mar 21, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Signals of Link Selling
Barry Schwarz comments here [seroundtable.com] about a post in supporters from last year where a member reported having received the WMT Love Letter [webmasterworld.com] warning of unnatural links. Matt Cutts posted to that thread to make it clear that that particular case was about signals on the member's site that indicated to Google there was link selling going on.

While that Love Letter was from last year, it is clear that link selling signals were something Google was looking for. The OP of that thread asserted there was no link selling. Taking his word for it, what appeared to have triggered the false positive may have been a set of cross-links between that site and five or six other sister sites. There are other methods that fall into the Spam Bucket, but I personally believe that those are different than the paid links and reciprocal buckets. With paid links and reciprocals there is some crossover with natural linking patterns that could resemble unnatural linking- so there needs to be a statistical threshold to determine the difference between natural and unnatural. The methods in the Spam Bucket, by contrast, may not have a presence in natural linking patterns.

Clearly paid links is one of the buckets. Reciprocals would probably be another bucket.


5:18 am on Mar 23, 2012 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Seems like me like crosslinking and paid links are hot buckets.

Interesting to know in the coming months how many people receive this letter as it seems Google are stepping up their efforts.

Hopefully they apply it to big brands as incestuous links amongst big brands, especially in travel, is legendary.

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