Google and Spam Links
Spam backlinks can kill an otherwise good website. This is absolutely the case if you run afoul of Google’s SpamBrain algorithm which is designed to find link spam website pages. Per a Google article on July 26, 2021, "Web creators nowadays have many ways to monetize their websites and blogs. Some of these methods lead to the creation of outbound links that, if overdone and not annotated correctly, could violate our quality guidelines. In this post, we want to share a reminder on how to deal with links that might have a commercial nature and how we continue to work to lessen the impact of link spam on our results."1
Unfortunately, many websites unknowingly suffer poor ranking due to having a number of spam backlinks. When the continued loss of organic rankings and resulting drop in website traffic is finally disovered it’s probably quite a mess. This article is intended to show people how to identify types of spam link problems and provide tips on how to correct spam link problems.
The first two things you should do are:
- 1. learn about best practices for links and teach anyone who works on your website. In learning about best practices, try to rely on only on well-established websites with credibility.
- 2. stop doing whatever got you into your current situation. Often, people just did not understand what they were doing, they trusted and hired the wrong SEO people, or knew better and thought spam backlinks wouldn’t be a problem.
Google Algorithm Updates
You must be in compliance with Google standards to be ranked well on Google. Google continually launches algorithm updates to address a wide range of quality problems. Fighting black-hat SEO tactics, such as low-quality and spam links, is a major area of focus. An article published December 2022 on Search Engine Roundtable discusses the SpamBrain link algorithm. Noteworthy article comments about the SpamBrain algorithm update are: Targets: It targets both sites buying links, and sites used for the purpose of passing outgoing links.Penalty: This will “neutralize” links that it detects as being spam and thus links that are detected won’t be counted and may show a decline in rankings. Not a manual action: This is not a manual action, so you won’t be notified in Search Console if you are hit.3
How to Mitigate Link Problems
- Identify Bad Links. Invest in a service with a robust dashboard to investigate your webiste quality. You can use the (recommended) paid service or try a free version such as Ahrefs free backlink checker to do a deep dive into your site. Ahrefs can show you links to your site, along with markers that indicate if the linking site is quality or spam. Finding sites with low Domain Authority, low traffic, and a high number of outbound links is critical. Make a list of the root urls (i.e., blogspot.com).
- Create a Disavow File. Your disavow file should be a .txt file. Create it in a text editor such as Notepad. There is a specific format for creating a Disavow.txt file. Contact us if you would like to request our free links Disavow template.
- Upload the Disavow File to Google. Visit the Google Search Console page and upload your Disavow.txt file.
Avoid Common Worst Practices
Great advice can be found in an article published on the SpamBrain.com website, "For example, your website’s content should adhere to a certain level of quality, SEO practices, and it should not contain any spammy techniques. Google also highly discourages using techniques commonly associated with spam or low-quality content. These include manipulative keywords, cloaking, hidden text, and too many ads. Spam is any content that could send users to a website other than what you intended. This can take many forms, from "fake" or "manipulative" keywords to cloaking and the use of misleading or deceptive text. "4
Sketchy Paid Link Building Services
This is an issue that confuses many people. You can buy "advertising" that includes a link to your site but you shouldn’t buy a "link package" to acquire multiple backlinks. Yeah, I know you think you’re just being time efficient but Google disagrees. The typical entity selling paid links re-uses a list of target sites which may or may not be related to your site. Irrelevant backlinks are a big red flag for spam watchers. When Google identifies a quick gain of a massive amount of backlinks it gives a strong appearance of buying links. It is a big red-flag if you’re a U.S. company with a lot of links from low quality sites in India, Phillipines, Romania, etc. SOLUTION: Do not use most paid link building services (particularly the cheapo services).
Article Spinning & Link Wheels
Could you be more obvious in your bad SEO? Probably not. Just like Bernie Madoff you can get away with a scam only so long. Google hires technology wizards and they are aware of the black-hat tips, tricks and articles published online. While you may think that had discovered a hidden secret Google laughed and went to work on creating ways to kill article spinning and link wheels. This is certainly a big problem for you if you used any of the “big name” link wheel services because Google has identified their sites and relationships, and then killed them off. SOLUTION: First, stop doing this. Next try to manually delete any articles you control and disassociate yourself from any sites where you have a profile with a link to your site.
Social Bookmarking Abuse
Similar to article spinning is flooding “Web 2.0 Blogs” with mindless, off topic comments just to get a backlink. These are extremely time consuming, if not impossible, to remove however do what you can to eliminate these. There are many versions of “bad blogging” which includes the aforementioned guest comments that are off-topic with links to sites that are unrelated, links placed on spam blogs with one article and a ton of unrelated backlinks. SUGGESTION: You may choose to report the site to Google just to get the site deindexed and take the link with it.
The first cousin to bad blogging is abusing social bookmarking sites. There are ways to auto-submit content to hundreds of social bookmarking sites. The problems are that it’s difficult to properly present information in an automated manner, and have it not seem odd when the same content shows up on hundreds of sites at the exact time.
Internet Press Releases
Yep, free internet press releases worked for a number of years. If you feel the need to publish a press release, do so with only a reputable service such as PR Web.
Using low quality (free) internet press releases services is a bad idea. Using sales or marketing content presented as news is an even worse idea. I’m not saying that you can’t get a press release ranked but it’s lifespan is short. Any SEO value will be low and it’s simply not a good use of your time.
Why does it matter if it free or paid? Google knows that link spammers are probably not going to pay $300+ just to get a single backlink.
SOLUTION: Use press releases only when you have some legitimate news. Use a paid version published using a reputable PR outlet.
Spammy Footer Links
If you need help removing low-quality links, simply call 770-429-5300 for a friendly chat to discuss your situation.
CREDITS and FOOTNOTES
- 1 Google, "A reminder on qualifying links and our link spam update", July 26, 2021, Available from Google
- 2 Barry Schwartz, "Google December 2022 link spam update done rolling out", January 12, 2023, Available from Search Engine Land
- 3 Barry Schwartz, "Google December 2022 Link Spam Update’s Impact", December 19, 2022, Available from Search Engine Roundtable
- 4 SpamBrain.com, "Google SpamBrain: How to Stay On Top of Your Organic Search Traffic", July 26, 2021, Available from SpamBrain.com
- Photo by Google, available at Google