What is a Link Network & Why Does Google Hate Them?
Just recently I came across an article from Search Engine Land which reported the take-down of yet another private link network, Anglo Rank, by Google. Matt Cutts, head of Google’s web spam team Tweeted:
The news was met with brutal glee by others in the SEO industry:
And then on 13th December, Matt quoted a line from another link network, Backlinks.com's marketing manual, with a cheerful put-down:
Matt is openly telling the SEO industry that Google is pursuing and penalising link networks.
If you’re not in the SEO industry but you’ve heard that building links to your website is a good thing, you may be wondering what a link network is, why Google hates them and why this is actually great news if you’re trying to rank your own website in search results.
What is a link network?
Links from other websites to yours is what everyone is working towards. You probably know that Google uses links in its ranking algorithm because it recognises that links are usually a favourable vote for content that’s genuine, useful or interesting.
What isn’t so well known, and deliberately ignored by many unethical SEO companies, is that Google isn’t just concerned about the quantity of links to your website; in recent years the quality of links has become important to Google, too.
A link network ignores quality in favour of generating vast quantities of artificial links on a large number of websites that they control. By this means, they hope to manipulate the ranking of search results. The websites within the network usually offer very little value to visitors; their sole function is to dupe search engines and until recently they were pretty good at it.
An unethical SEO company might sell a service promising 100…200…500 new links to a customer’s website – fast. Business website owners pay over their hard-earned cash, unaware that this is a sure-fire way to get in Google’s bad books, that the quality of those links will be minimal and may even harm their website.
Why Google hates link networks
Google wants to be the best darn search engine in the world… and to be fair, it probably is. But it doesn’t stay the best by giving users poor search results, so it’s constantly evolving its ranking algorithm to return the most relevant and useful results in response to any query.
Avoiding manipulation is an ongoing battle, but one Google is determined to win. It’s growing more and more able to detect artificially placed links such as those created by link networks.
Why do ethical SEOs hate link networks?
Because we’re playing by the rules – Google’s rules that is. We’re building websites for customers which are genuinely useful and informative for visitors, creating content that people want to share and link to. That takes hard work, creativity and commitment. When “black hat” companies try to game the system, it hurts our customers and it hurts the reputation of decent internet marketers and SEOs.
Fortunately, little by little, Google is weeding them out and making the internet a better place.
If link networks are bad, what sort of link-building is good?
Links that evolve naturally over a period of time are the best links to have. Ideally they’ll come from respected websites with good authority, but in the real world you’re likely to attract links from a whole range of places. After a time, you’ll probably have a few great links, lots of “middle-of-the-road” links and a small number of links from lower quality sources. This is natural - Google expects this.
If the majority of your links are from dubious sources, however, this raises a red flag to Google.
Marketing your website properly is important to attract links. This can be achieved in a variety of ways: social media, press releases, article writing, third party reviews, niche web directories or guest posting on other websites are just some of the ways to encourage other website owners to link to you.
Matt sums it up quite neatly: