Link-building lies at the heart of SEO. Google has accredited link building to be an indispensable part of a business’s SEO strategy by citing it as amongst the top three ranking factors. Many SEO technicians believe it’s the number one ranking signal.
If we dig deep, we realise that the art of link building is in fact a multi-faceted process. It takes many years of research and experience to even begin to understand the intricacies.
This post will give you an overview of the most recent link-building guidelines set by Google.
Google’s New Link Policy
Google thought it was quite essential to introduce new link attributes as the World Wide Web has evolved a lot since the ‘no follow’ attribute was introduced in 2005.
Until the new update was released, Google considered no follow links to be of little value or authority and simply disregarded them for ranking purpose.
With the new guidelines, Google intends to refine this process by instructing webmasters to add “hints” to these no follow links so that they can be used for ranking purposes if necessary. This will help Google “better understand unnatural linking patterns” and will have huge ramifications.
Google still doesn’t intend to use these links for crawling and indexing at the moment but after March 1, 2020 it will do so.
Below are the specific updates in the link building guidelines by Google.
Image source: Moz
Google requires all links that are bought or part of any advertisement campaign, sponsorship or being compensated for, to be clearly marked as “sponsored.” These are alternatively known as ‘paid links.’
Image source: Seroundtable
As we all know UGC stands for ‘User-Generated-Content,’ sites using such content are required to mark their links with this specific attribute. An example could be comments on posts.
Webmasters would want to remove this attribute from links posted by members who have a consistent history of contributing high-quality content over time.
The nofollow link is to be preferably used when no other values apply. This is also when webmasters don’t want Google to attach any meaningful association with your site or use links from your site for indexing or crawling purposes.
A combination of two, such as Rel= “nofollow sponsored” is also acceptable when you have a paid link.
Previously, Google’s algorithm did not pick up any signals from nofollow links. However, the scenario is different now. The hint model equips Google to not miss out on important information that links give to the content.
Impact Of Link-Building Guidelines On SEO
A 2019 study shows that there is a strong positive association between links and rankings. And the future landscape for links being a central part of the Google algorithm seems even more promising now.
Here’s how Google’s algorithm will pick cues from the link-building strategies deployed by webmasters and SEOs:
- Easily identify the types of links and the context in which they are used
- Rel=“ugc” indicates that these links need not be counted for since they are created by random people and not webmasters
- Help increase accuracy and transparency by tightening controls on potential loopholes in UGC content
- Make relevant decisions on how much weightage to assign to each link whether sponsored or UGC.
The purpose of link building is not to just rank the website higher on SERPs, but also to optimise content to make it user-friendly. Even if they are user-generated links, they will only convert into profitable leads and sales when they are relevant and add value.