Monday, 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.
Links are one of the ways Google understands what content may be helpful to searchers, and they can be good for sites to receive, as long as they're well deserved. A best practice is to avoid methods of acquiring links that violate our guidelines against link schemes. In particular, if you're linking out to other sites, make sure to qualify those links appropriately. Here are some more specific guidelines to help site owners manage links that involve payment, sponsorship, or are otherwise commercial in nature.
Affiliate links on pages such as product reviews or shopping guides are a common way for blogs and publishers to monetize their traffic. In general, using affiliate links to monetize a website is fine. We ask sites participating in affiliate programs to qualify these links with rel="sponsored", regardless of whether these links were created manually or dynamically.
As a part of our ongoing effort to improve ranking for product-related searches and better reward high-quality content, when we find sites failing to qualify affiliate links appropriately, we may issue manual actions to prevent these links from affecting Search, and our systems might also take algorithmic actions. Both manual and algorithmic actions may affect how we see a site in Search, so it's good to avoid things that may cause actions, where possible.
Sponsored and guest posts
Another common way sites can monetize is by accepting sponsored and guest posts from other sites. These are articles written by or in the name of one website and published on a different website. In the past, we observed campaigns of low quality sponsored and guest posts primarily intended to gain links.
While we have gotten significantly better at detecting and nullifying such link schemes, we still strongly recommend that site owners apply the appropriate rel values to these links. When we detect sites engaging in either publishing or acquiring links with excessive sponsored and guest posting without proper link tags, algorithmic and manual actions may be applied, similar to affiliate links.
Improving our systems to fight link spam
Overall, the effectiveness of link spam has been greatly reduced over the past two decades, thanks to our constant improvements in our ranking systems and spam detection systems. Thanks are also due to the large majority of sites that follow our guidelines, focusing on building websites with great user experience and providing high quality content. Still, there's always room for improvement, especially as we observe sites intentionally building spammy links with the intent of manipulating ranking, often in deceptive ways.
In our continued efforts to improve the quality of the search results, we're launching a new link spam fighting change today — which we call the "link spam update." This algorithm update, which will rollout across the next two weeks, is even more effective at identifying and nullifying link spam more broadly, across multiple languages. Sites taking part in link spam will see changes in Search as those links are re-assessed by our algorithms.
As always, site owners should make sure that they are following the best practices on links, both incoming and outgoing. Focusing on producing high quality content and improving user experience always wins out compared to manipulating links. Promote awareness of your site using appropriately tagged links, and monetize it with properly tagged affiliate links.