Throughout this chapter, we have provided many examples of how spammers try to circumvent search engine guidelines to obtain high rankings for sites that may not deserve them. Of course, search engines do many things to fight link spam.
Google’s Penguin Algorithm
On April 24, 2012, Google released a new algorithm called Penguin. This algorithm focused on identifying sites that have undesirable link profiles and punishing them by lowering their rankings. Some areas of concentration for this algorithm are
- Article directories
- Low-quality web directories
- Overuse of rich anchor text in links back to your site
- Links from countries where you don’t market yourself
Other Algorithmic Approaches to Fighting Link Spam
The major approach the search engines use is to design algorithms that can detect and act on link spam. There are a number of things they can look at algorithmically. Here are a representative few: Links labeled as advertisements the search engines can scan for nearby text, such as “Advertisement,” “Sponsors,” “Our Partners,” and so on.
It wide linking is unnatural and should be a rare part of your link mix (purchased or not). The only exception to this is the interlinking of all the sites owned by your company, but this presumes that the search engine will understand that all of your sites are from the same company. In general, site-wide links are a serious flag, especially if you have a lot of different sites that do this for you, or if a large percentage of your links are sidewise.
Links sold by a link broker Of course, link brokers are knowledgeable about the link detection methods listed here, and they do their best to avoid detection with the links they sell. But they can still run into problems. For example, Google took action against a long-time proponent
A selling site providing information on how to buy a text link ad Search engines can detect sites that provide information on how to advertise with them. Combined with other clues about links being sold on the site, this could lead to a review of the site selling the ads and a discounting of the links.
Quality of neighboring links another clue would be the presence of your link among a group of links that are not tightly themed, or if the other sites linked to are poor quality.
Location outside main content The search engine can detect when your link is not part of the main content of the page—for example if it appears in the left or right column of a three-column site, and the main content is in the middle.
Does me one report your site for buying links or for some other reason Who would do this? Your competitor! If your competitor submits an authenticated spam report to Google, Google will look at it and may choose to act on it.
Someone reports the site you bought links from for selling links or for some other reason A competitor of yours can do this, or a competitor of the site selling links can do this. Once a search engine figures out that a site is selling links, it is possible that this could trigger a deeper review of the sites that were buying those links
Or decades, many companies have had a practice of escorting fired (or laid-off) employees out of the building.
The reason for this approach is that people get upset when they lose their job. However, this practice would not prevent such a person from reporting your site in a spam report to a search engine. Even though that may be a violation of the confidentiality agreement you probably have with your employees, you would never know, because there is no transparency in spam reporting.