The Case Of Good Links and Bad Links

Google Good Vs EvilUp until few months ago, many (if not most) rookie webmasters was familiar with this simple presumption- More links means better search rankings. And better rankings obviously leads to more traffic and more traffic of course means more beautiful money inside the rookie webmaster’s virginal pockets.

Following this simple equation, all the webmaster had to do to increase his juvenile site’s profits is to create as many links to the site as possible across all the web’s lighted and dark corners that the internet gods have blessed us with, right? W-R-O-N-G!!!!

This equation is hugely flawed. The reason it is so freakin’ flawed is because the perception that stands behind it, is rotten. The truth is that the twisted logic of (poorly) mass links creation for more search traffic, which been groomed for years, was never correct to begin with.

Yes, it is true that as many GOOD links as possible to a site will make search engines look at it and say “wow, if all those awesome guys links to it then it must be super-awesome”. But the small stress here with the enormous ramifications is on the word “good”. To be more clear, NOT ALL LINKS ARE GOOD.

The Ignored Wall

Wait… So, we shouldn’t create as much links as we possibly can…? Is this something new…? No, it’s not a new thing! In fact, it’s quite old. Google’s official approach (reflected on its Webmaster Guidelines) against unnatural link building stayed consistent and unchanged over the years.

Google always took a stiff stand when it came to any kind of link schemes. Here’s a nice post by Google’s head of spam team Matt Cutts from 2007 in which he covers Google stance about this practice in different occasions. But if Google approach was so firm over the course of history, why the writing on the wall remained largely ignored?

In one word the answer is enforcement. While Google had its rules and guidelines for webmasters in the past, it didn’t had the technology to enforce them. And as any person from a third-world country knows, when the rules aren’t being enforced, it is ridiculously easy to simply ignore them.

There’s a New Cop In Town

Penguin Evil CopGoogle algorithm essentially sees links as votes, just as in democracy- When lots of links pointing at a site, then it should be “elected” for the top results. The problem was that a whole sub-industry of link creation was built and in many cases made the Google “democracy” look like an election in Iran.

But couple of months ago, something happened that made the ignored rules, suddenly glitteringly relevant. After years of warnings, Google begun enforcing more strictly its link-related guidelines through a new algorithm update which went after those sites participating in excessive unnatural link building called “Penguin”.

The Penguin struck and started enforcing the forgotten rules aggressively, leaving many sites which had a rich history of bad links creation almost invisible on the search results. Google sent its Penguin enforcer to send the old-new Gospel- We have link rules, obey them or stay out.

Democracy has a right to defend itself.

What Are Bad Links?

Bad links are basically ones that are very easy to obtain. Here are some of the most common link practices which considered “bad” when using wrongfully and excessively:

  • Article Networks
  • Link Exchange
  • Forum Signatures
  • Blog Networks
  • Social Profile Links
  • Blog Comments
  • Press Releases
  • Directories
  • Link Farms

Just to be clear, I am not saying that a few links from any of these sources will get the Penguin to act but a relative significant amount can. Also, exaggerated rate of the exact same anchor text would probably anger the Penguin as well.

This is the point where many of you probably ask if others can hurt your site by creating mass amount of exact same anchor text links to your site, a practice known as “negative SEO”. Well, Matt Cutts stated this week on a conference that they are working on some disavow links tool for webmasters which suppose to answer this issue.

For closure, here’s one of the greatest epic rants in the history of SEO about link building by the amazing Danny Sullivan: