You're sitting there at the boardroom table of the Googleplex.
"So how are we going to combat this link spam?" Asked Larry Page.
Okay, so you been asked for your opinions on how Google can combat the massive amounts of link spam which is manipulating the search results. Have a think about it for a moment. What sort of ideas would you come up with if you were really part of the Google team?
Here are some of the ideas that I've thought about. It may be that Google are actually using some of them already, who knows? One thing that is for sure, the way backlinks are handled to create rankings IS changing and we need to be thinking ahead to what Google will be doing in the future and not just what they are doing right now.
Idea 1 – Backlinks Page Relevancy
What if Google only counted backlinks that were from relevant pages, ie, a back link from a page about motorcycle maintenance to a page on a Bowflex PR1000 home gym would carry no weight.
This is something that I think Google is actually doing, and has been doing for a while. They may not totally discount irrelevant backlinks, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they do, or will do soon.
When I first suggested this in my newsletter a few years back, I got an email from a top SEO guru who told me that I was wrong and that the page the link was on was irrelevant. Whether he was right or wrong is irrelevant to me, because I always try to think what Google will be doing in the future and not just what they are doing now. What is the point of looking at what they're doing now and trying to optimise for it, when all the work you do will just be worthless when they make changes? A startling example of optimising for the here and now was the Build My Rank network. It worked so well that many people used it exclusively for building backlinks. When Google deindexed that blog network (and many like it), lots of people lost ALL of their rankings
Now you might ask how I know what Google will be doing in the future. It's a fair question and the answer is I don't. However I can be pretty sure that by making sure your backlinks are embedded in content that is relevant to the page you are linking to, it will at least look natural.
In all the SEO that I do, that is the most important rule – EVERYTHING MUST LOOK NATURAL!
That includes content on my pages, the way my pages interlink, and links pointing into my website. If you're struggling with SEO, write that phrase in a piece of paper and stick it on your monitor.
Idea 2 – Backlinks Domain Page Rank.
Most people who do SEO are familiar with the idea that the page rank that is important is the page rank of the page that links to your site. However, I prefer to think of the page rank of the domain of the page the links to your page as being important.
For example, if a backlink is on the page with a PR 0, but that page is on PR 5 domain, then that is a good back linking my book. Again a lot of SEOs will disagree with me and that's fine. But if I was at Google, one thing I would test would be to look at backlinks that are on these high authority websites and see what effect on rankings it would have if these backlinks were boosted.
Why would I do this? Well, the reason is simply that if there is a page on page rank five website, then the chances are that website has quite a lot of authority, so any page on that website also carries a certain amount of authority and can be trusted. After all, most webmasters who have a PR5 website won’t allow poor content onto the site, as they know it would ultimately cause them problems.
Taking this one step further, I would test to see what would happen to the rankings if all backlinks that appeared on PR 2 or less websites were discounted completely. This would mean that gazillions of backlinks could be totally ignored by the algorithm, and only those backlinks that were on domains with some authority actually counted.
Of course the system could be manipulated, because anyone can create a PR 4 or PR 5 website (or buy one –which is how most blog networks formed in the first place). That website could be complete trash and only used for backlinks. So that brings me onto idea number three.
Idea 3 – Discount Links on Penalised Websites
If Google penalises a website, that means it does not trust that website, so why should it trust any of the backlinks on that website? If I was a Google, I would look at discounting all backlinks on domains that have been penalised. This would then exclude those false authority sites that we talked about under idea 2, where somebody creates a crappy website but boosts the PR so that it can be used for back linking purposes.
One thing that Google can do (and some people think this is what they are doing right now) is to actually have a negative ranking factor for all links on penalised sites. That means if you have a backlink on a site that has been penalised, that backlink is actually hurting your rankings. If I was at Google, I would advise against this strategy, because people have no control over where links to their site appears, and if this were true, anyone could cause problems for their competitors by simply blasting out loads of links on penalised websites or blog networks. By simply discounting the links on penalised sites, we could to a large extent remove negative SEO as a possibility.
Here is an interesting video that looks at Google’s Penguin. Josh touches on the subject of negative ranking factors:
To sum up, I would only count backlinks for ranking purposes that:
1. Were on pages relevant to the page the backlinks pointed to.
2. Were on PR 3+ domains that were not penalised.
What you think?
Do you agree or disagree with what I have written? Would it work, and if not, why not?
If you were at Google and had to advise them on how to combat the link spam, what suggestions would you have? I'd love to hear your ideas so please leave a comment at the end of this post.