SEO

Potential Google algorithm updates as imagined by a paranoid link builder in 2014

I’m not going to state that any of these potential Google algorithm updates will actually happen. Ever since Matt Cutts ranted about guest posts, I’ve been asking myself how Google will tweak itself as to render guest posting even riskier than it currently is.

Recent posts by Sugar Rae and Aaron Wall started to get my brain juices flowing. As they both highlight, there has been no scalable link building tactic that has not ended up being branded as spam by Google. This entails that no link builder should assume that any scalable tactic can remain risk free, even if it’s just reclaiming brand mentions.

So instead of ranting, I’ve decided to brainstorm about the various ways a Google algorithm update could systematically affect the links I build every day using tactics like guest posting and link reclamation.

If you think I’m an idiot, feel free to tell me in the comments.

Guest Blogging: Looking at Personas & Other Footprints

I’ve already mentioned before that personas leave footprints that can be used during manual reviews. As far I as I know, Google has not begun mining data about specific guest bloggers but, in theory, it could be fairly easy to begin associating bloggers with specific domains.

For example, Nenad SEO exposed Abigail Clark as an Expedia link builder. Let’s scale his process:

Potential Algorithm Update #1

  1. Google begins associating authors to specific posts and taking note of all external links contained in that post.
  2. Google notices author using optimized anchor text for specific domains at an unnatural rate.
  3. Google devalues all links mentioned by that author and penalizes the websites.

It doesn’t even really matter if the quality of the content or the website that is being posted on by the author, Google can clearly argue that the links were placed for their SEO value. Yet, SEOs aren’t usually that stupid. We’ll vary our personas, in some cases never even use the same name twice, and make our anchor text appear natural. That wouldn’t be an issue for this update:

Potential Algorithm Update #2

  1. Google scrapes pages for mentions of “guest post,” “guest blog,” “guest author” and other important keywords and flags the pages.
  2. Google looks at the external links in the content of flagged pages.
  3. If a domain has a high amount of backlinks on flagged pages with rich anchor text, they get penalized.

The lesson here is to avoid any type of footprint when buying links. It seems like it might actually be less risky to buy links on recent content than actually guest post on high quality blogs.

Link Reclamation: Looking at Frequency of Page Updates

Link reclamation seems untouchable because it always brings value to the website. This is especially true when SEOs help webmasters fix broken links. Yet, reclaiming brand mentions also directs users to content that they may want to see.

We all know it isn’t lack of value is not what Google cares about. As soon as a link building tactic can game their algorithm, they will attack it. It will not be different for any type of link reclamation.

Here’s how I think they could do it:

Potential Algorithm Update #3

  1. Google flags pages with recent link modifications and takes note of the new URL.
  2. Google notices that many links are being modified to point to a new page on a specific domain.
  3. Google devalues the new links and penalizes the page or domain.

Potential Algorithm Update #4

  1. Google flags pages with recent link additions and takes note of the new URL.
  2. Google notices that many links are being created using preexisting anchor text on a massive number of domains.
  3. Google devalues the new links and penalizes linked domain for gaming the system.

The lesson here is even a safe tactic can be detected by Google and systematically penalized if they choose to do it.

It remains to be seen what actual algorithm updates Google will pull out in 2014. All I know is that SEOs better be prepared for the worst as usual.

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