Google Link Spam Update, July 2021

Google has announced that, over the next few weeks, it intends to implement improvements in the detection of bought and unnaturally built links. Google is calling this the “link spam update”.

With the evaluation of links as a positive signal for the linked page and the PageRank algorithm based on it (named after one of the Google founders Larry Page), Google has been successful; the quality of the search results became significantly better.

For almost as long, however, Google has been fighting against unnaturally placed links: bought, exchanged, user-generated links or otherwise that do not count as a recommendation for the linked page, but are only intended to improve the ranking.

Attributes for sponsored links

Google has now announced that it will introduce improvements in the recognition of these links over the next two weeks. It’s worth noting though, that nothing has changed in the basic rules of link building:

  • Google would like unnaturally placed links to be marked with the corresponding rel attribute. In addition to nofollow, there is also the sponsored attribute for purchased links, and ugc for “user generated content” (for example in forums).
  • In the blog post, Google gives particular attention to affiliate links and sponsored posts. In terms of the graphic for the sponsored posts, it is interesting that not only the links from the content are highlighted, but also those from the author link (“Authored by:”).
  • Google threatens manual and algorithmic penalties for pages that buy or sell links, but at the same time writes that the aim of the update is to no longer evaluate such links (and not to use them as a negative signal).

The update confirms that links are still a relevant factor for the algorithm, but today they are not the only factor: Links and on-page SEO can bring you to the first page of results, user intent and user behavior tells Google whether you should stay there.

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