Google Warns Against Large-Scale Guest Posting, Advertorials & “Optimized Anchor Text” In Press Releases

Google logoGoogle has quietly updated the link schemes document under their Webmaster guidelines to add large-scale guest posting, advertorials and optimized anchor text in articles or press releases to the list of types of links that violate their guidelines.

The new guideline examples that were added to this document include:

  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
  • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank
  • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.

Google also removed these guideline examples:

  • Linking to web spammers or unrelated sites with the intent to manipulate PageRank
  • Links that are inserted into articles with little coherence

Large-Scale Guest Posts

This should come as no surprise, it is a topic we covered earlier this month. If you are guest blogging with the intent to build links, and those blog posts are done large-scale with very little quality built into them, Google may take action against the links in those articles or guest blog posts.

You can do guest blog posts but if you are doing it with the intent to gain keyword-rich anchor text, then be warned.

Advertorials

Again, this should also come as no surprise. We had a detailed video from Google’s Matt Cutts on why advertorials with links need to be nofollwed. We even had major e-commerce sites get penalized for using this technique to build links.

Optimized Anchor Text In Press Releases

This is one of the big changes that may have not been so clear for many webmasters. Google said, “links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites,” is an example of an unnatural link that violate their guidelines. The key are the examples given and the phrase “distributed on other sites.” If you are publishing a press release or an article on your site and distribute it through a wire or through an article site, you must make sure to nofollow the links if those links are “optimized anchor text.”

The example Google gives is:

There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.

NOTE: See our follow-up story, Google: Links In Press Releases Should Use Nofollow Like Paid Links

Google Removed Some Examples Of Link Schemes

Why did Google specifically remove those examples of link schemes? It is unclear and we hope to clarify. I do think that those examples are still covered in the overall theme of the link schemes document. In fact, I think the other examples, for the most part, cover the examples removed.

A hat tip to Menaseh for sending this tip my way.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Features: Analysis | Google: SEO | Link Building: General | Link Building: Paid Links | Top News

Sponsored


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



SearchCap:

Get all the top search stories emailed daily!  

Share

Other ways to share:
 

Read before commenting! We welcome constructive comments and allow any that meet our common sense criteria. This means being respectful and polite to others. It means providing helpful information that contributes to a story or discussion. It means leaving links only that substantially add further to a discussion. Comments using foul language, being disrespectful to others or otherwise violating what we believe are common sense standards of discussion will be deleted. Comments may also be removed if they are posted from anonymous accounts. You can read more about our comments policy here.
  • https://plus.google.com/117530250543183103093?rel=author Rick Bucich

    “Previously Matt Cutts has said that press release links shouldn’t carry much weight.” Correct, they don’t cary much weight but Google is also attempting to stem abuse from sites that do press releases every time someone farts. If you curtail the spam, it’s easier to pick out the legitimate quality signal where and if it exists. Spamming makes data dirty and less reliable, this is part of Google attempt to clean things up.

    If successful, they might be able to build a more reliable algo that takes PR popularity into account. So much that is happening now and the recent past is about creating cleaner data to analyze/interpret. Once a spammy link building technique is abandoned, all the legitimate entities that publish them should benefit.

    Or at least that’s my thought on the matter for now:)

  • Jasonmailley

    Anyone who has built a link with the intend of manipulating results was going against Google policies, you couldn’t miss that, its been stated for years.
    White hat guidelines were made by a group of SEO people who wanted to dissociate themselves from the “black hat”. Google never participated in it, it never wanted SEO to coexist on its index and took years to start communicating to that community.

    Google doesn’t care about SEO, it cares about being the #1 search engine and making profits. There is nothing Google could legally do to stop people from abusing loopholes. And there is nothing we can legally do when they decide we are not wanted on their property.

    Doing SEO is a cat and mouse play, it’s not about Google telling us what has to be done to bypass their algorithm, it’s about us adapting to changes and staying ahead.

  • http://www.seo-theory.com/ Michael Martinez

    It’s a way-overused analogy, in my opinion, one that has taken on the semblance of truth for many people. God help us all should Google’s guidelines ever be given the strength of law.

  • Tad Miller

    Michael, unfortunately they are their own virtual world and multi-billion dollar economy within that world. Those webmaster guidelines are their laws. They are judge, jury and executioner in that world. Everyone needs to diversify tactics to get traffic from multiple sources, but the reality is they have the power to make or break companies (fair or not).

  • Zayeed Mohummed

    Slow poisoning of SEO continues

  • kevinanchi1

    Can we add naked link?

  • Igal Stolpner

    Barry,
    What do you say about distributed articles with a single link on the brand’s name only? no rich keyword anchor. Just name of site.
    Do you think it should be nofollow too?

  • Craig Broadbent

    what’s the definition of “large scale” re: guest posting? because as it stands, it sounds like google is attacking people for building relationships with other, relevant sites. remember they still say this too: “Make sure all the sites that should know about your pages are aware your site is online.”

  • http://www.evemilano.com/ Giovanni Sacheli

    brand/author name anchor text or pure URL link

  • http://www.webmarcom.net/ Jody Raines

    Touche, @christophersimmons:disqus. Too many spam services and false SEO services that use these thinly veiled attempts to create inbound links. You hit the nail on the head!

  • http://www.rankontoponline.com/ Troy Curfman

    They are Still trying to dismiss what we already know. Google is cutting corners to close all ends of manipulation to rankings.. only going to get worse!.

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    I wish these update wouldn’t happen at 3 PM on a Friday! I appreciate that Google is trying to get ahead of the spammers and plenty of people have abused online PR and guest blog posts for links, but plenty more are just doing the best they can with what internal resources they have to work with. This means site owners have to be extra aware of what links they build and where.

  • Bilc Vlad

    The comparison between billboard advertising and organic searches is not accurate and it is not fair. You tend to forget that, in theory, organic searches should be user approved and promoted content and this is just another step in the right direction. Compare it with Adwords if you must but then your whole argument falls apart.

  • Jasonmailley

    It would have been impossible to rel=nofollow before 2007 because the tag did not exist.

  • http://kercommunications.com/ Nick Ker

    More like, “when you get the answers, they may not be what you were hoping to hear”

  • http://www.v2interactive.net/ Josh

    Since when do people take Google literally?

  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    I’m not a big fan of ANY links in comments unless it’s from a legitimate journalist linking to a relevant article or linking back to an original version when a story has been quoted. A lot of marketing folks talk about making “commenting” part of your marketing. But, I never follow a link in a comment, unless it’s something like a book author adding a note about where to buy his book, or an update to an event listing from the event company, or the like. I think anybody investing in “links in comments” are likely just going to get tagged by Akismet and Bad Behavior as comment abusers. Links in comments are more often spam than not. Unless I misunderstood the question (it’s a slow week over here …. :-)

  • http://2thetopdesign.com/ Ross Jones

    In the *Official* Google SEO Starter Guide, we’re told to “Write better anchor text,” “Both users & search engines like anchor text that is easy to understand,” and “The anchor text you use for a link should provide at least a basic idea of what the page links to is about.”

    The guide states this is good for both internal & external links.

    So they’ve been preaching manipulative link scheme tactics all along? C’mon.

    Good anchor text is a solid best practice. My hope is that they’ll do a good job of discerning the best practices use of anchor text from the spam use.

    OTOH, I’ll be keeping in mind that Google’s idea on “Best Practices” can be a little different than what we might think.

  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    I personally think links for brands and products in PR serve a useful purpose. We’ll continue to allow them here (see my loooong winded “rant” er comment about that below). OKAY folks, I think I’ve used up too much space on this topic, admittedly, so I’m going to shut up now and get back to work. Hopefully my thoughts, coming from somebody in the wire service biz, added to the conversation vs annoyed folks. :-)

  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    Exactly. You nailed it Ross. I think one suggestion is going to be using the semantic linking like title=”FULLURL” when doing a link on “company name” instead of making the title the keywords when the link is the keywords. That is likely the kind of abuse they’ve been seeing. I’m sure they will also evaluate the historical content, number of in/outbound links, content weight and the amount of keywords on specific topics (e.g., a website with 60% of their links related to jewelry is liking going to get targeted for abuse, while a general news site with anchors with complete mix of content, might not be considered abusive …). But I’m totally guessing on that. The fake news sites really should be afraid, and man am I happy about that! :-)

  • Ben Thompson

    I don’t get the whole no follow thing. Basically they’re saying if you do a press release, you shouldn’t get any link juice back from people who put it on their website? Or is it only like in that wedding example? I put at most one link in something like that, and always make the text read normally.

    If there’s a no follow, would it still count as a mention or cocitation or something?

  • jonathanwthomas

    How long until we webmasters all agree to just make all our external links no-follow? It’s clearly becoming too risky to even link to someone.

  • Myles Harris

    Seems like the line “Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites” should worry web designers if they don’t use rel=”nofollow”?

  • http://www.elijahclark.com/seo-orlando-company.html Darryl M

    Any form or linking (including anchor texts) that is over done and spun will land a website into Google jail. Content, balance, and relevance are never penalized.

  • xtopher66

    “This is the first time they have specifically said that a Press Release
    from those sources that gets picked up by another website like a TV
    Station Website or Newspaper (with the dofollow link in tact) is against
    webmaster guidelines”.
    Sure, but why should I get punished if it isnt. Thats an ditorial decision I have no control over.
    Cutts was claiming syndication on an editorial decision – pick up is a good thing last week.
    If PR web are thinking of deindexing all my old PR pages in keeping Google happy then we are off to court with them in breach of contract.

  • Dave

    There are many websites that were and are ranking with these type of footer links on sites they designed and developed. And new sites that too pop up in Google top 10 from nowhere are to having either paid links or links from the sites they had designed.

    This is the main cause of dilemma of present day Google Ranking factors. On one hand they say things like above and on the other hands sites that are using these tactics are pushed in top rankings.

    In the first place, Why should a site with these types of links should be ranked in Google serps? They are doing against Google guidelines and Google is unable to find out in starting phase. Why Google is pushing them up and after months or a year or 2 they were dropped in ranking?

    Is Google wanting to give SEO focused small companies a taste of blood or you can call free traffic and then forced them to use PPC to remain in business?

  • http://salvatorecapolupo.it/ Salvatore Capolupo

    They referred to press releases because are the easiest, cheapest and fastest way for link building, simply :)

    But I think this could be extended for any web page with “forced” anchor textes.

  • jason1970

    Dead right Rob. Google+ gives them high visibility of who is writing for (and linking to) who. As Eric Schmidt says “‘Within search results, information tied to verified online profiles
    will be ranked higher than content without such verification, which
    will result in most users naturally clicking on the top (verified)
    results. The true cost of remaining anonymous, then, might be
    irrelevance.’”
    Once they have this data they can adjust the value of your links according to any number of content and reputation factors.

  • justinbrock

    If you use press release distribution sites, such as prweb, you don’t have control over whether the links are nofollowed.

  • Jasonmailley

    I was not referring to a specific case, just saying a penalty over pre-2007 links would be quite surprising. Linking to a company name is obviously good SEO and not what Google is after. That being said, I wonder how longer old content, PR or else, will keep being valuated the way it is today. Big data is a real issue for datacenters and freshness to relevancy. I “state” quite a bit on behalf of signals such as job offers, patents registration, techtalks, hangouts and blogs. Watch something like that techtalk http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v1XftAQZtQw and you might get a much clearer understanding of how and why PR factors might evolve.

  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    Thanks for feedback :-)

  • http://www.linkbuildr.com/ Ryan @ Linkbuildr

    Put in the hard work to earn quality links by doing something that sets your business apart from the rest. It’s not hard, it just takes time and work.

    As Wil Reynolds says, “do real company shit”

  • http://my.gvovideo.com/hbhanot/workfromhomeonlinedaily/ Harry Bhanot

    Would love to see ranking falls before I wake up to this. It’s too much going on with Google. Do they really want any webpage in their search or not?

  • Nick Thorsch

    I’m surprised Google still even indexes torrent sites like PirateBay or BlackHatWorld, though I’m sure many of us appreciate Google directing our attention there. If Google wants to clean up black hat activities, Google’s own SERPs would be a better place to tinker with than a whiter-hat area like optimized anchor text links in press releases.

  • Nick Thorsch

    Colin Powell got ONE piece of made-up info by the former chemical engineer (with good intentions), and ran with it.

    That encrypted (not provided) decision was hooooorrrriiibbbblllleee. Completely ruins the core value of Google Analytics. No wonder they still give it away for free.

    Just like Amazon can take one piece of info from a search and thinks it knows who you are and display “recommendations”.

    Hey Google, we have good intentions, to feed and shelter ourselves, take our exact match anchor text and run with it!

    So now what is Google going to do, since they’re cracking down on “optimized anchor text”, leading us to think to use naked links, brand terms and “click here”, and if other SEO newbs don’t know to how use exact match anchor text (99% don’t), then where does that leave Google to get any useful anchor text signal? It completely destroys the core idea Google was built upon! Why doesn’t Google just scrap anchor text as a signal and only use on-site keywords and PageRank? Cause that’s what I’m being led to do.

  • Nick Thorsch

    Matt’s blog post looks like the example Google says not to do, with 5 anchor text links in the first paragraph alone, some exact match, none naked links or strictly branded keywords. So “optimized anchor text” on blogs is ok, just not press releases, or article directories, or anywhere else you might try to get traffic if you’re not an authority with a large following like Matt Cutts. Thanks Matt, for excluding the little guy with hopes of moving up in your world.

  • Nick Thorsch

    The opposite of optimized anchor text, is unoptimized lol. So Google is telling us to NOT use keywords that are useful to help connect the right search terms with our products and services? Rather, not be found or show up for the wrong people? Just weird.

  • Nick Thorsch

    It’s not about no follow, it’s about “optimized anchor text”. Use unoptimized anchor text, apparently lol

  • Ben Thompson

    So, say your keyword is “widget” and you do a PR. “The new from Widget Co Inc is amazing” is optimized anchor text, and they suggest to nofollow that (so no link juice). Now they suggest just using unoptimized anchor text because its more natural (but will it pass the same amount of link juice?): “The is amazing!” would be better? Or would “The from Widget Co Inc is amazing” be enough? They don’t like making it easy. I’ve been encouraging our blog writer to do the latter (including relevant text surrounding the keyword in the link).

  • Nick Thorsch

    You don’t have any control over marking a link no follow in a press release. I think naked links (without anchor text) are the safest way to go.

  • Ben Thompson

    Ultimately you don’t because the person that posts it would control that, but we’ve made PR posts/PDFs that other websites have copied and pasted onto their websites, including the links.

  • http://www.send2press.com/ Christopher Simmons

    Totally! When I’m looking up a how-to for Adobe Photoshop CS6 (I can’t remember how to do round corners … man, I miss their old web app) … I really hate seeing all the “download CS6″ junk sites. Fewer than before, but still on page one? How did that help my “UX” user experience, Mr. Googlebot? ;-)

  • Daley James Francis

    Maybe I’m an idiot (and I’ve been called a lot worse), but why would anybody want to write a guest post for any other reason than to help people out on a subject they are knowledgeable in, whilst getting a little bit of publicity and authority for their site in the process. I might be naive in saying this, but isn’t it about time these spammy types just did one and left guest posting to people who care about what they write about?

  • rblevin

    No surprises here. All aimed at fighting manipulation and promoting quality. As far as the PR aspect goes, only inexperienced marketers or black/gray hats would use PR to goose PageRank. Legitimate news releases link for citations and references. PageRank never enters the discussion. NoFollow is not a problem. Hopefully the major wire services, such as BusinessWire and PR Newswire, are implementing NoFollow for all of their wire releases.

  • http://rushtips.com/ Jim

    Cross your fingers.

  • http://www.seoworks.com/ Christopher West

    Well not real surprise here. Figure that guest posts would be the next target and would imagine sites that openly ask for “write for us” will be de-valued.

  • kjwrite

    And still Google results are just advertising and spam…

  • kjwrite

    Exactly, they are just saying “hey, stop that!” like most of their announcements, they are just creating a wishlist, not the reality of what their search engine can do. The proof is still in the terrible search results Google returns but then again, what other option is there? Bing? ha ha ha.

  • Ashish Ahuja
  • Vivek Saxena

    These jerks skirt the law at every opportune moment possible, yet dare to impose the most ridiculous, business-crushing rules upon us.

    Understand something: I believe in meaningful, commonsense regulations designed to stop abusive practices that hurt others.

    What Google continues to do amounts to the exact opposite. Its absurd regulations hurt small businesses, entrepreneurs and self-employed men and women trying to carve a living through the Internet. Instead its regulations grant the most power and prestige to the top corporations.

    In essence, Google keeps regulating the Middle Class while allowing corporations to reign free on its engines. Added to that, it keeps breaking every rule imaginable when it comes to taxes, privacy and a slew of other issues.

Get Our News, Everywhere!

Daily Email:

Follow Search Engine Land on Twitter @sengineland Like Search Engine Land on Facebook Follow Search Engine Land on Google+ Get the Search Engine Land Feed Connect with Search Engine Land on LinkedIn Check out our Tumblr! See us on Pinterest

 
 

Click to watch SMX conference video

Join us at one of our SMX or MarTech events:

United States

Europe

Australia & China

Learn more about: SMX | MarTech


Free Daily Search News Recap!

SearchCap is a once-per-day newsletter update - sign up below and get the news delivered to you!

 


 

Search Engine Land Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors

Get Your Copy
Read The Full SEO Guide