Natural is a Surprise

At The SEO Braintrust, we both advise students and provide service to clients on link penalty cleanup.  Often, these folks come to us having already done one, two, three or (gasp) more reconsideration requests – denied each time of course or they wouldn’t be talking to us.

In almost every case, one of the causes of recon denial is the difference between what the webmaster thinks is “natural” and what the Google SPAM team considers “natural”.  Here’s a simple rule that is generally a good one to live by:

If the link was a surprise – it’s natural.  If you knew it was coming – it likely isn’t.  Let’s consider some examples, in order from most obvious to less so.

Bookmarking, forum profiles, and blog commenting.  I shouldn’t even have to list these, but I’m still seeing them!  This stuff is just about as far outside the guidelines as you can get.

Article marketing.  Still totally obvious in my opinion, but once widely accepted and still an area where webmasters resist removing the links.  But look … it’s not like you weren’t surprised when the article you wrote and published linked to your site so how can that be “natural” or “editorial”?  Take all that crap down.  I bet money you’re not getting traffic from those sites anyway.

Blog networks.  This is just article marketing on (illegal!) steroids.  Again, how were these “earned”?  They weren’t – they were paid.  Case closed.  Kill it all!

But what about guest blogging?  Sure, the blog accepted your article as good and worthy content so if you cross your eyes just right and pretend that the whole web is hanging on your every word, you could (almost) call that keyword rich text link buried in your “about the author” paragraph an “editorial endorsement” by the blog, right?  Wrong.  First, you created the link, not the blog owner.  Second, this is entirely transactional: you gave the blog owner something of value (content) and s/he gave you a link?  That’s a non-paid link precisely how?

This is not to say that guest posting is bad!  For from it, but you should be doing if for the brand exposure, audience building, and targeted traffic, so by rights you should be using your company name or domain name and nofollowed links will work just as well for that as followed will.

By far the very safest think to do is to never syndicate anything with a link of your own in it and insist that webmasters using your content link to you only using your URL or text that would constitute a “navigational query” for your domain.

Why is this so important?  Because keyword links are!  Far from being “dead”, keyword text links are still very important to ranking – otherwise why would there be a penalty for overuse?  The difference today from pre-2011 is that now the guidelines are actually being enforced – with a vengeance!

Real natural links are not that hard to get when you do real marketing, so don’t risk your rankings on the marginal links.  Even if you don’t have a penalty today, if you’ve ever “built links” you should take a look at your link profile with “new eyes” and do some preemptive cleanup.


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