Google’s “Link Spam Update:” What You Should Know

Google Update

The final week of July saw another update from Google that relates closely to SEO ranking factors. What they are referring to as the “link spam update”, is a close cousin to the Penguin series of algorithm updates from years ago (2016 and prior). Like its predecessors, this change helps to “nullify” the effects of poor quality links throughout the web, which can have an impact on organic rankings. Gone are the days of link spam penalties popping up as a “manual” action in Google Search Console (though that does still exist). This means website managers and owners need to be especially vigilant when assessing the impacts of such a Google update. What are you and your team doing to monitor the KPIs for organic traffic and rankings closely? Here are some helpful ideas to consider in August.

How Should Retailers Respond to this Google Update?

First, stay calm and try not to overreact to any Google algorithm update. Keep in mind that the search engine is constantly tweaking and improving the hundreds of small signals included in their ranking factors to provide the best – most relevant – results to users. When it comes to web spam and backlinks, the best advice is to take a steady, measured approach to reviewing your website’s backlink profile. This can be done with the help of experts like the NetElixir SEO team who can dive deep with a backlink toxicity audit. If, and only if, a significant amount of potentially harmful links are found in such an audit, the website can submit a disavow file through Google’s own search console. This should always be done with expert help and advice as it is irreversible and can be fraught with unintended consequences. Remember, if you disavow a linking domain – good or bad – you will eventually lose the authority that is passed to your site. Be careful not to disavow a good link by accident. It is also important to note that the technical functionality of such a link disavow doesn’t disappear. Just the transmitted site authority.

Another important exercise for you to conduct is to think about your previous marketing efforts. Could you have engaged in campaigns in previous years that led to old, out-of-date backlinks that are no longer relevant? If so, it may be time for a review. You and your team may have some standard SEO hygiene to perform, which can help to uncover other good clean-up items like broken backlinks. Consider content that may have been unsolicited, that you published, or paid for in the past.

Keep Backlinks Organic

This algorithm update adds to the ideas behind the Penguin update, which first rolled out in 2012 and has continued to roll out several versions as part of core updates since then. The goal of Penguin is to keep backlinks less spammy and more natural.

Moving forward, it is also helpful to note that most benefits from link building arise through the simple act of creating valuable content and establishing real-world partnerships (e.g. working with an established expert on a topic to submit a quote or other valuable information) and asking that expert to backlink to your site. Then your team returns the backlink. This type of backlink is more contextual and seen as more organic in the eyes of Google.

Consider also the value of sharing good content to existing and core audience members through social media channels. Loyal audience members, seeing this content (and possibly with trusted and relevant websites of their own) may backlink on their own without solicitation.

Taking this approach of encouraging naturally occurring links and building partnerships will keep your backlink profile in SEO-ready order. 

NetElixir Is Here To Help

If your team needs help with your link building or auditing efforts, our SEO team here at NetElixir is always ready to provide assistance and recommendations for how to get the most authority out of your backlink profile. 

Written by Silas Gossman, SEO Manager and Andy Newhall, Sr. Client Services Manager

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