In their never-ending quest to fine-tune their search algorithms, Google made the following announcement in July, 2021:

“In our continued efforts to improve the quality of the search results, we’re launching a new link spam fighting change today — which we call the “link spam update.” This algorithm update, which will roll out across the next two weeks, is even more effective at identifying and nullifying link spam more broadly, across multiple languages. Sites taking part in link spam will see changes in Search as those links are re-assessed by our algorithms.”

As referred to, the purpose of the Google Link Spam Update is to identify and nullify links that Google believes to be spam, such as machine-generated links, malware links, or black hat link building. Now that the update is complete and being rolled out, here’s how it may affect you.

In their original announcement, Google used the word ‘nullify’ rather than ‘penalise’ when it encounters link spam. This is nothing new – Google has used the ‘nullify’ tactic before and it can be broadly defined as ignoring spammy or poor links instead of penalising them. Of course, for many marketers, being ignored by Google and seeing their organic rankings fall as a result, will feel like a punishment. So, in the case of this particular update, “nullify” and “punish” could be considered very interchangeable terms.

Google uses links to understand what content might be most helpful to someone carrying out a searcher. As long as they’re relevant, high quality and genuinely helpful, links are indispensable as search tools. The key to remaining highly findable is to stay on the right side of the update by following best practices, including:

  • Keep your links natural: Ensure your links are natural and have been acquired in accordance with Google’s webmaster guidelines. It might be a good time to upgrade your website and the site’s overall user experience so it begins to naturally attract more new links.
  • Avoid methods that violate Google guidelines: As you acquire links, avoid using methods that violate any guidelines against link schemes. This is especially important if you’re linking out to other sites as you must ensure you qualify those links appropriately.
  • Affiliate links: Affiliate links on pages such as shopping guides or product reviews are used by publishers to monetise traffic. Using affiliate links in this way is usually acceptable, however, it’s important sites using these links qualify them with “rel=”sponsored” regardless of whether or not they were created manually.
  • Sponsored and guest posts: Another way to monetise traffic is by accepting sponsored or guest posts from other sites. These posts are written in the name of a website which, in turn, is published on another site. Google urges publishers and site owners to apply the appropriate rel values to these links to mark them as legitimate.

The easiest way to avoid being ignored in the most punishing way is to leave your digital marketing in the hands of the experts. When it comes to links and all other aspects of SEO, they’re best placed to put everything together and make it work while staying onside with Google’s more stringent algorithms.

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