Google Update Link Schemes Definitions

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I’m not sure when the switch was made, but Google have changed their “link schemes” webpage (in the Webmaster Guidelines).

There are a few interesting points that have been added (and some removed), but one in particular no-no that I thought I should bring your attention to is this:

“Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links”

Well we all knew that we had to be careful with article marketing, but the guest posting bit will come as a shock to many.

Guest posting is basically where you create content and offer it to other websites in exchange for a link(s) back to your website. 

Now, let me say one thing up-front.  I do not believe that Google are trying to penalize guest posters.  After all, writing for other leading websites in your niche is a good thing, right?  Getting your well-written content on other websites to boost your reputation and authority in a niche is what we should all be striving for.

No.  What Google are trying to stop is the “unnatural” way that guest posters typically link back to their site, that is, with optimized anchor text.

When it comes to optimized anchor text, it’s not just guest posts that are under the spotlight, it’s every type of link on every type of webpage.  Google hate keyword optimized anchor text, wherever it is.

You can see that further down the “link schemes” page where they point out other violations of their guidelines:


Those keyword rich anchor texts in the screenshot are the problem.  Why on earth would a webpage naturally link to a totally separate domain using anchor text of “wedding rings”, “wedding”, “best ring”, “buy flowers” or “wedding dress”, unless of course the domains they linked to were the number 1 authority on those topics?  If these were internal links to pages on the same site, they might make more sense. 

In this video with Matt Cutts, he says exact match anchor text used in internal linking doesn’t typically cause problems for a site.

So, the big problem then is using exact match anchor text in any link pointing at your site from an external domain.

I know what you are thinking.  If this is true, then how can you rank for specific keywords?

Well, Google don’t want you to be able to rank for terms of your choice! 

Google want to decide whether to rank your page, and what it should rank for, based on their algorithmic factors.

I know there are a lot of grey/black hat SEOs still preaching the virtues of exact match anchor text, and to be honest, it can still work well if not over-done, but I do believe that Google will continue to tighten their tolerance levels to this type of “unnatural” link.  If you think this is unlikely, read “Study Finds Google’s Penguin Update Getting Stricter Over Time”.

If you want to be on the right side of present and future algorithm changes, I think it’s time to abandon exact match anchor text in links pointing to your site, and build up your site/author authority.  If Google know you are an expert in your niche, they’ll rank your content higher.  At least that is where I think Google are trying to head.

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16 thoughts on “Google Update Link Schemes Definitions”

  1. Google has joined the ranks of government spies, in case the NSA scandal was missed.

  2. Hi Andy,

    Thank you as always for your time in which you write these pieces.

    Well if this exact match linking should be abandoned, then how do you go about creating a link back to your site? Still have the keywords you need in the link, but add other supporting words too (like a phrase), then it won’t be ‘exact’ keywords only? I’m sorry, I’m stumped for some reason?

    I know this sounds like a stupid question, but over the last 2 years with all that Google has done, the info overload of what to now do AND don’t, then to remember it all, is getting a little too much.

    Hence the simpleton question above of which I’m embarrassed to ask. My brain is fried out after all these changes.

    Thanks Andy,

    1. Forget linking with keywords. Use domain name, URL or words like “here”, “this article”, etc. Of course you can also use the title of the article you are linking to. In fact, anything that looks NATURAL. The truth is, that any link that is easy to obtain, isn’t worth much.

      1. Thanks for the reply Andy,

        However as you can imagine, very often indeed your URL can have your keywords AND also the title of your article…so now the choices are really dwindling! I agree that ease of link acquisition is low on G’s scale.

  3. Hi Andy,
    Thanks for your insight on this subject.
    This really goes to confirm my belief in just building quality sites and leave it to go up in the ranks slowly over time.
    I do have a question for you though.
    I am an Amazon affiliate and tend to build Amazon products review sites.
    Each site will typically have between 10 and 20 original review articles targeting the same number of Amazon products (same niche mind you).

    On the home page, there will be snippets for each reviewed product with 2 links at the bottom of each snippet, one to the full review page and one to Amazon with my affiliate ID.

    Now, on each review page, there are typically 4 to 6 outgoing links to Amazon (all no follow links except for one).
    So, as you can see, my question revolves around “outgoing links” as opposed to “incoming links”.
    Would appreciate your feedback on my linking strategy.

    1. It’s difficult to say, but I think the most important thing is how good your reviews are. If all of the information in your review is just rehashed information from the Amazon site, or manufacturer site, then it’s not good enough. Your reviews need to be personal and offer something that no other review does. Once you have that, you can worry about outbound links. I personally nofollow ALL affiliate links these days.

    2. I’ve read many times over and over on various marketing sites, that you should never have more than 2 affiliate link outgoing to the vendor/manufacturer’s product.

  4. Google has lost all my respect. For informational researches now, I go to I can personally confirm that the Penguin penalty has gotten worse over time. Judging from my traffic slippage since April 27, 2012, it’s definitely true.

    You mentioned Andy that Google intends to “build up your site/author authority.” In your opinion, how would one do that legally and effectively?

    1. With a Google plus profile and Google authorship. Write great content and post it on authority sites in your niche. No need for a link to your site in most of them, just link to your G+ profile, so that Google know you have written all those articles and attributes them to you. As Google sees you writing on lots of high authority sites, you become an authority. Also, I’d recommend mentioning your domain name, like saying something like, “.. on my website…” BUT, without hyperlinking the domain URL. Why? Well let’s leave that for another newsletter.

  5. Hi Andy.

    I think you have published something before that answers my question but I can’t find it anywhere. My question is: How do I find authority sites in my niche that will allow me to post articles?


      1. Thanks for that info Andy.

        A follow-up question:

        The anchor text for the link to my G+ profile, what should it be? A keyword, my name, click here…?

        1. Google+ or your name. I usually write something like “Follow me on Google +” with the Google + hyperlinked. You need to include the rel=author tag in the link. See Google’s help on establishing authorship.

  6. I’ve seen evidence of some big name brands doing exactly what Matt is warning against – presumably outsourced to some pretty expensive SEO companies… So this must have reached a serious volume for it to be picked out specifically in the guidelines. But as you say it’s the highly optimised anchor text that they have a problem with, rather than guest posting (for now anyway…). Maybe they were starting to see some unexpected casualties from the Penguin changes?

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