A website’s search rankings depend on many factors, including the quality of its backlink profile. However, some people engage in nefarious practices to pursue high rankings.
These black-hat SEO tactics go against Google’s guidelines and can cause significant damage to your site’s visibility in SERPs. Learn more about the impact of link spam and how you can recover from it.
When it comes to backlinks, Google has specific systems in place designed to detect and fight spam. Using black-hat SEO tactics like link spam is always risky and ineffective, which can hurt your website in the long run.
Google’s search algorithm aims to present the best information to users when they search, which means that if your backlink profile looks suspicious to Google, it could hurt your ranking. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your backlink profile and work with your content strategist to ensure your links look natural.
Paid links awkwardly jammed into content that they wouldn’t usually fit can be considered spam, as are blog posts that have nothing to do with your industry and provide a link to your website. These tactics are known as link spam and can result in a penalty from Google if found.
Google’s algorithms are constantly evolving to deter black hat marketing techniques. Suppose you attempt to manipulate search engine rankings by purchasing links, participating in link exchanges, or submitting your website to low-grade directories. In that case, you’ll be penalized and possibly deindexed from Google search results.
In December 2022, Google rolled out the Link Spam Update to “nullify the impact of unnatural links.” This update uses machine learning to detect and neutralize spam. Google’s new AI system, SpamBrain, can distinguish between quality links and those purchased or created to manipulate search results.
The most common spam links are in public forums and website comment sections. These platforms have easy-to-use sign-ups that allow link spammers to create accounts and post their links quickly. Google’s automated systems detect 99% of spam, but Google’s webspam team manually handles the remaining 1%. These manual actions are visible in Google Search Console under the Security and Manual Actions sections.
Many different types of spam links can hurt your search engine optimization (SEO) strategy and result in Google penalties. From comment spam to cloaking links (links that redirect users to content different than what they searched for), many tactics can make your website seem suspicious to Google.
The most common types of link spam include buying links, using exact match anchor text for keywords you’re trying to rank for, scraping content, and keyword stuffing. Google has been known to penalize entire websites for engaging in these black hat practices, which can be a nightmare to recover from.
Penalties can range from a manual penalty that requires a fix and a reconsideration request to algorithmic penalties like Panda, Penguin, Intrusive Interstitials, and Page Experience updates. The most severe penalties involve being downranked or delisted from Google’s index altogether. This can devastate your business and bottom line, especially if you’re a local company.
Recovering from Link Spam
If your website has been hit by the Google December 2022 Link Spam Update, or you have received a manual action warning in your search engine optimization (SEO) dashboard, don’t panic! You can recover from this and improve your SEO.
The first step is to stop engaging in spam link activities immediately. This means removing links from websites unrelated to your own and not buying or selling webpage connections (violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines).
Then, it would help if you started building links more naturally. This includes creating high-quality content that people will want to connect to and guest blogging on sites in your niche. It’s also important to avoid using private blog networks or purchasing links from low-quality websites. This is a black-hat technique that Google will not tolerate, and it can lead to a loss in SERP visibility. Fortunately, the benefits of being a top-ranking website in your niche far outweigh any short-term gains.