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Google Makes Big SEO Changes to Webmaster Guidelines

Writing by Nick Stamoulis in Search Engines

One of the biggest complaints many site owners have with Google is that when they need real direction Google’s go-to response is to refer to the Webmaster Guidelines, which can sometimes be rather vague. Every now and then Google makes updates to the Google Webmaster Guidelines in an attempt to better guide, teach, and explain SEO to site owners and recently the search giant made some major changes to the Link Scheme page (the kind of links that would trigger a Penguin or manual link penalty) that every site owner should be aware of immediately. These changes could dramatically influence the way you go about your link building from here on out.

Here are few of the changes site owners must take note of:

1. Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links

2. Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.

3. Low-quality directory or bookmark site links

4. Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature

So what does this mean with regards to your link building? Search Engine Land reported that “John Mueller, said in general, it is best you nofollow links in stories you write, especially when those stories are guest blog posts for the purpose of link building.” Nofollow links can still be seen by the search engines and can send plenty of highly targeted visitors over to your site, but they don’t pass any link juice from one website to another. You may not be trying to actively manipulate the search results but you don’t want to give Google any reason whatsoever to doubt you. So for any site you guest write for, be sure to add nofollow tags to your author bios! If you are linking out from the post to another source, such as a blog post on your own site, also be vary not to use “anchor text” per se (meaning a keyword) and just use natural anchor text, like what I did when referencing the Search Engine Land post above.

When you send out a press release through any distribution service stick with direct and full http links ( and avoid keywords as anchor text usage. Branded anchor text should be fine but make sure they are nofollow links as well.

If you have a lot of low-quality directories in your link building past it might be worth trying to get your site removed from those directories. Contact the site owners individually and if you can’t get the link removed you can turn to the Link Disavow Tool as a last resort. Also take a good, hard look at any social bookmarking sites you might be submitting your content too. Which ones have actually driven real traffic over the years? For many sites StumbleUpon can be a great source of quality traffic but are the other bookmarking sites worth the risk?

With these changes to the Webmaster Guidelines Google is drawing an even firmer line in the sand when it comes to what is and what is not acceptable link building practices. You want to make sure your website is on the right side of the line. Now, more than ever, content marketing and social media are integral to your long term success. It should be about EARNING links, not just building them.

As Google says, “The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”

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