Google is constantly evolving its Search algorithm to deter black hat marketing tactics. In the past, websites could easily rank through keyword stuffing, regardless of the content quality. Today, the same actions could get your website penalized or ultimately deindexed from Search results.
This shows that Google has evolved its search engine to favor user-oriented quality – and hasn’t finished yet.
In December 2022, Google released its link spam update as a way to “neutralize the impact of unnatural links on search results.” Like its fairly recent “Helpful content update,” this launch is expected to improve user content quality.
But how will this affect your current digital content strategy? It could depend on how you’ve handled unnatural links and link building in the past.
What Is the Google Link Spam Update All About?
Google’s link spam update is a Google algorithm update that addresses unnatural links, link spam and other spam tactics that artificially boost websites’ content authority, leading them to rank on search results.
The Google link spam update uses SpamBrain, Google’s AI-based spam prevention system. Launched in 2018, SpamBrain is Google’s most effective solution against spam and all types of abuse. By 2021, it identified six times more spam sites than the previous year. This resulted in 70% less hacked spam and 75% less gibberish spam on hosting platforms.
For the December 2022 link spam update, Google used SpamBrain to improve its Search algorithm to detect link spam and sites buying links. These sites were used to pass outgoing links and nullify any unnatural links that appeared on search engine results pages. According to Google, the update took approximately two weeks to roll out fully.
The Google link spam update comes just a few months after Google released its “Helpful content update,” which sought to improve Google’s people-first approach to content. This update rewarded original, helpful content that was written to answer users’ queries.
Aren’t Links to My Website a Good Thing?
They are, but only when done right.
In the past, content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) were limited to keywords and how relevant websites were to them. However, Google’s algorithm evolved to consider other factors, including organic links.
Google’s algorithm looks at links like seals of approval. If websites think a website’s content is valuable to the user, it will link to that page. And if multiple websites link to the same page, it suggests to Google that it is helpful. This is why many digital content strategy plans include link building outreach to establish a website’s content authority.
Whitehat link building uses non-spammy methods to get your links into other websites. Internal linking and inbound links, when done correctly, vouch for your website’s topical authority. This suggests that your website has quality content that gives users more context. However, these websites that link to yours should be relevant to your industry or topic.
For example, if you’re an online makeup store, you’ll want to get organic links from beauty bloggers and fashion and lifestyle websites. They may naturally talk about your business and put organic links on their page, but you can also do this through whitehat link building practices such as link building outreach, sponsored links and affiliate links.
However, not all link building is whitehat link building. In many instances, it can become outright spammy and unhelpful to users.
Black Hat SEO: When Do Links Become Spam?
Spam links are those that, in Google’s eyes, attempt to game the algorithm and inflate page rankings. Your website doesn’t have the best quality content or the most relevant to your target keywords, so Google could suspect that your tactics aren’t beneficial to what users are looking for.
The problem with spam link detection is that it flags websites that look suspicious, whether or not that website knowingly engages in spam link tactics. Either way, this could negatively affect your content marketing strategy and your entire digital marketing strategy.
Here are some of the types of bad linking practices that Google’s new update could flag:
• Comment Spam: Spammers leave links through comments on pages with high traffic. The goal of these spam links is not foot traffic but to increase the number of inbound links to that page found on high-traffic websites.
• Redirect Links: These links claim to go to one website but get redirected to another. From an SEO standpoint, this is a quick way to boost your website’s bounce rate, which can drop your rankings – assuming the spam link doesn’t cause Google to deindex your website.
• Paid Link Spam: Affiliate and paid links through link building outreach aren’t harmful if your inbound links come from relevant industry websites. But paid links that are awkwardly mentioned in industries where it doesn’t make sense to be in (e.g., a link to an online makeup store in a website that talks about the automotive industry) without a rel=nofollow tag or the rel=sponsored tag can be penalized.
• Spam Link Exchanges: When it becomes clear that your website and another website are trading links. While two websites can link to each other, multiple instances could be flagged as link exchanges.
• Link Farms: These are low-quality websites that solely exist to sell links. Google’s algorithm will flag links from obvious link farm websites, which could damage your website’s reputation and ranking.
How Will This Affect Your SEO Content Strategy?
If Google finds enough red flags that show your website may be using link spam tactics, you could be penalized or deindexed, which can harm your search engine results page (SERP).
You’ll notice a significant decrease in rankings when a website is penalized. Your website may appear on SERPs, but some pages that could be linked to link spam may be filtered out. As a result, users won’t find that page on search engines unless they look for it on your website. This could affect your SEO content strategy, especially when considering your competitors providing instant results to relevant pages. Too many penalties could affect its performance if your digital marketing strategy includes ads.
Google could also deindex your entire website. This means your entire website may not be visible on Google, which can wipe out your search engine visibility. Depending on the severity of your violations, this could be remedied. However, not all websites can fully recover, so it’s best to take a preventative approach toward link spam.
Content Marketing Best Practices for Google’s 2022 Updates
If your SEO content strategy includes inbound links, it’s crucial to know the limits between link building strategies and link spam tactics. An SEO content strategist with experience in link building can guide you through white hat practices that reduce the risk of penalties. With Google’s link spam update, here are some of the content marketing best practices you can implement to avoid spam, unnatural links, or any links that can create a red flag.
• Choose Your Guest Blog Sites Carefully: Quality is more important than quantity. Many websites offer to host your guest blogs and links for low prices, but this can harm rather than help your strategy. Avoid websites with low domain authority, low traffic and no clear theme.
• Delete Spam Comments: Google not only penalizes websites with inbound links but could also affect the website with spammy links. Consider disabling comments altogether if your website doesn’t need an open comments section. Alternatively, you can moderate comments before they’re published on your page, so you can prevent spam comments from being a part of your website.
• Avoid Too Many Inbound Links: If Google finds your website has gained many inbound links within a short timeframe, it could be a red flag that you’re buying links from unreputable link farms. Work with an SEO content strategist to ensure your inbound links look organic.
• Work With Professional Writers: Writers: Google’s algorithm is constantly evolving toward user-oriented content (and with Google Bard launching earlier this year, user-friendly content is now a must). Professional SEO content writing services understand how to make quality guest blogs that adhere to SEO content best practices while providing value to users.
How Thrive Delivers Top-Notch Content Marketing Strategies
At Thrive, we understand that your website is a lighthouse that gets you traffic that could turn into leads or conversions. This is why our team wouldn’t risk your business’s online visibility and reputation through black hat tactics that don’t provide the results you need. We follow the content marketing best practices based on Google’s guidelines and standard procedures for reputable agencies.
To help you avoid getting penalized or deindexed from spam links, some of the services we can offer include:
• Link Audit: Our strategists can comprehensively audit your inbound links and use all possible options to remove or modify links that could be flagged as spam. This includes contacting web admins from other websites or updating content to use that existing link in your favor.
• SEO Content Writing Services: We work with professional writers who know how to distinguish between user-oriented content and SEO-optimized content. Whether you need guest blogs for link building or web pages for quality content on your site, we can accommodate your content needs.
• Website Audit: There could be links within your website that are considered unnatural or manipulative. Our team can thoroughly audit your website to ensure every link works towards your website’s goals. This can include the technical SEO, web design and web development of your website.
Establish Your Website’s Content Authority With Thrive
You can establish your website’s content authority through linking by getting relevant third-party websites to link back to you. In the wrong hands, though, your inbound marketing links could backfire and be seen as spam. This mistake could harm your visibility on SERP rankings.
When you work with a professional digital marketing agency like Thrive, you can reduce the risk of spam links. We use SEO content best practices to ensure your website’s quality and authority are at their best. Not all digital marketing professionals and companies offer effective link building services, so leave it to a full-service team like ours to deliver the best solutions for your business.
Get in touch with Thrive today to learn more about our link building services for your digital content strategy.