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Natural Links: Google Warns Webmasters

Understanding backlinks is an important part of blogging. Links add valuable content to your site and the best linking building strategy is to get a lot of unpaid relevant non-reciprocal links (or one-way links) to your site from high ranking and popular sites. When your site receives a lot of quality non-reciprocal links, the search engines consider your website and the web pages that receive these inbound quality links as containing highly valuable web content.

In Natural Linking Strategy for Bloggers I made my readers aware that Google is favoring blogs with natural linking patterns and penalizing over-optimized blogs.   The most important factor contributing to your Google ranking, is  reader-friendliness, and naturally acquired organic links are the best kind of links because  they indicate that real people are showing an interest in your content.

Google is warning and penalizing websites for excessive link exchanging, link selling,  cloaking and other link schemes. Examples of link schemes can include:

  • Links intended to manipulate PageRank
  • Links to web spammers or bad neighborhoods on the web
  • Excessive reciprocal links or excessive link exchanging (“Link to me and I’ll link to you.”)
  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank
Barry Schwartz at Search Engine Roundtable detailed Google’s enforcement efforts using Google Webmaster Tools. I learned several webmasters who run large sites have reported that they are receiving automated alerts via Google Webmaster Tools saying the following:

Google Webmaster Tools notice of detected unnatural links on [domain]!

We’ve detected that some or all of your pages are using techniques that are outside our quality guidelines, which are available here.

Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links on your site pointing to other sites that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. For more information about our linking guidelines, visit this page.

We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please visit to submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.

Matt Cutts, a member of the Search Quality Group at Google has confirmed that Google is now penalizing sites who are selling links in a comment he posted on Webmasterworld. Click  through to read Mark Maunder’s advice regarding exchanging links Issue #54 of The Weekly Feed.

17 thoughts on “Natural Links: Google Warns Webmasters

  1. Hi Timethief, I am still trying to wrap my head around the concepts of natural linking and reciprocal links. I understand about blog roll exchanges and why search engines do not credit them anymore. Question: If blog A links to a post by blog B, and then in a separate post blog B links to blog A, is that considered a reciprocal link? I tried researching the subject and found this interesting post.

    I gather from the article that all reciprocal links are not created equal. I find that only about half of my incoming links actually are credited as such by Google. I am wondering if because my blog is a niche blog with a small community of bloggers that often link to each other, that search engines consider us trying to cheat the system and I am being penalized. I may be overlooking other reasons, but right now I am trying really hard to understand linking and if I am cutting off my own nose. Thanks for your input.

    • That’s correct. That’s why I keep playing it again Sam and saying the same thing over and over again. Avoid reciprocal linking to sites that are not related. Avoid reciprocal linking to pelthora of sites that have less authority and pagerank in your niche than your own site does. The most valuable links of all are related non-reciprocal links from blogs with high authority and high PageRank in the same niche as your own blog.

    • Backlinks to blog posts and Blogroll links are separate issues. Backlinks in posts are not what this post is focused on. It’s focused on blogroll links. So the answer to your question in first paragraph above is “no”. See here > See also >

      Re: your second paragraph.
      Provided the sites you link to in your Blogroll are related sites in the same niche there is no problem. Google is warning webmasters of very large websites like directories and other very large sites about the antics they use. Don’t worry about yours but do avoid entering reciprocal link exchanges. Make your choices independently.

  2. I’m with Justus.
    I will say that I’m sick of all the websites that I run across when I google something and all the websites that hold the first page rank being no help at all and I don’t even think the websites are there to help anyone, just bs sites.

    • @Bats,
      I have had the same experience when following up on search results and it’s extremely frustrating. Worst of all is the number of duplicate content sites and the fact that none of the information in any of them proves to be helpful at all. :(

  3. I haven’t done any link exchanges for a purpose to just get better rankings. Probably not because I’m so valiant, but more because no one who could help me has offered to do so, and I really got nothing to offer :) So I’m all for the natural links.

    • Hi Justus,
      I don’t do link blogroll link exchanges either. I use a Links page and provide links to sites I consider to be valuable related resources for my readers. :)

  4. I guess the tricky thing might be for an organization’s blog which is sponsored legitimately by corporate sponsors and there are obviously sponsors’ logos on the blog…which each logo is a clickable link. However blog would have original full-text content.

    Then Google’s scouring/searching algorithm would be able to distinguish this…..?

    I think the best way for people to understand “natural”, organic linking is similar to an old-fashioned essay with relevant references to resources that cover the same subject by the blog article or are expansion of an article’s footnote.

    Value in still teaching today’s youth how to do proper, rigorous research and write original essays and articles that cite resources used in paper.

    Seems to take the fun out of blog-writing. But it respects still, the craft of excellent writing and developing a persuasive argument. If Google seems to coming out with a big, soft hammer, that’s ok. As long as the robot search engine doesn’t mistaken a bibliography embedded in a research paper blog..

    • Hi Jean,
      Re: your first paragraph my answer is “yes”. What does sponsorship mean? Is money involved? Why would one require sponsors on a free hosted blog?

      Re: your second and thrid paragraph – well said! Anyone who knows how to write and essay and properly cite their sources ought to have no problem with backlinking to sources in blog posts.

      P.S. Thanks for being so patient waiting for an answer. I have a lot going on in my personal life right now and it’s priority number 1 stuff.

    • I’m super conscious and have grown tired of replying to such requests for link exchanges. I don’t do link exchanges but I still get 3 or 4 requests every week. I’m also tired of replying “no thanks” to those who have commercial sites and want to have me publish their guest posts on my blog. My policy clearly states I will not publish such submissions but I still get 2 or 3 every week.

  5. I’m glad to hear they are doing that, though I wonder how much time it will take them to find all of the links out there. Are they easy to spot? I’m guessing if anyone knows, it’s you. ;)

    • Do you recall the days when there were mile long blogroll lists of links in sidebars? Most of those were the result of link exchanges. I don’t do link exchanges. I link to the blogs I consider to have value for my readers and post those links here > If those bloggers choose to link to my blog that’s cool. It’s they don’t that’s cool too.

  6. You have to wonder what the web would look like if people put as much effort into creating quality content as they put into gaming search engines.

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