Google’s Linking Mess

Laura Ginn

We all know that Google is built on a foundation of links. From day one, Google has used links between sites as a way to judge the quality of sites, and in order to rank them in some sort of semblance of fairness. Now we all know that this sort of process can never be completely fair, and there are always going to be sites that should be higher ranking that aren’t, and there will always be sites that should be ranked more poorly but are not.

Photo by liebeslakritze
Photo by liebeslakritze

Links Are Currency

On top of this, we also know that as long as links are the building blocks of high ranking pages, they will also be the currency of the internet. It is perfectly possible for any webmaster to manipulate the links coming into and out of his or her site, and as you probably already know – the manipulation of links is common place. For a long time now, Google has been battling against people and companies who buy, trade, or in some way increase the number of backlinks going to their site in order to rank more highly in the SERPs. It’s quite understandable, when you consider that Google is a huge business – based upon the credibility of their brand, bad websites appearing high up in the SERPs is not going to reflect well on their search engine. Of course, this is a little harder to swallow when you consider that they created their search engine based on links, and it’s even harder to swallow, when you consider that Google is charging companies huge amounts of money to appear in the paid for listings. Is this really so far removed from selling links?

Google’s Link Schemes Page

Either way, we can see why Google would fight against nefariously gained links, but it’s started to look like the fight has gone too far. A quick trip to Google’s Links Schemes Page is now a frightening experience. A quick glance and we see these two statements:

“Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behaviour that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.”

“Additionally, creating links that weren’t editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page, otherwise known as unnatural links, can be considered a violation of our guidelines.”

An Uncertain Linking Future

Read between the lines and it’s easy to come to the conclusion that in actual fact, we could be in big trouble whether or not we do anything at all with links! It’s hard to see how Google can be sure whether or not a link has been editorially placed, or vouched for by a site owner. In fact, it is pretty much impossible to tell, unless Google’s staff members are doing door to door consultations these days.

What all of this means is that there’s a huge mess coming. You can’t remove every link coming from someone else’s site, and why should you? We all have to be thankful for the fact that we are in the same boat, and keep our fingers crossed that an unfair Google clampdown doesn’t happen to our sites. It’s going to be a rocky road ahead, and all we can recommend is for everyone to produce good content, link only to great sites which you value, avoid taking part in any manipulative link building for your own site, and of course, keep an eye on the different people linking back to you. If you don’t like the look of it, ask for it to be removed!