Considering their corporate mantra is “Do No Evil”, Google plays a very strong fear game.
Regular updates via spokespeople like Gary Illyes, Danny Sullivan and, formerly, Matt Cutts, keep everyone guessing and the fear building about what works in SEO.
Step over the line with your SEO and you’ll get a penalty.
The problem is those lines are blurred and we get contradicting advice from different Google employees and ‘gurus’.
Here’s an example of a self-serving Google SEO instruction
We are recently being told to add a variety of tags to outbound links – as if no follow wasn’t already a controversial subject.
We’ve now got the tag rel=“sponsored” – this is used to tell Google whether you received compensation for a link or not. That’s interesting, as it clearly shows that they can’t identify a paid link from a freely given one.
Then there’s rel=“ugc” – this is to differentiate user-generated content like blog comments. Again, it’s surprising that Google can’t sort this type of content from native content on a website.
In the statement below, Google have openly admitted these shortcomings and it hints at there being little added value to a website for making the effort to add these tags. The gain is purely there for Google in my opinion.
“Links contain valuable information that can help us improve search, such as how the words within links describe content they point at. Looking at all the links we encounter can also help us better understand unnatural linking patterns. By shifting to a hint model, we no longer lose this important information, while still allowing site owners to indicate that some links shouldn’t be given the weight of a first-party endorsement.”
So, for any SEO professional that keeps an eye on updates, it’s clear that one should look at what works.
And not rely too much on the rumours that Google can spot any manipulative tactic from half a mile, because it isn’t true.
However, there are some SEO activities that we know Google has clarity on.
And they will hammer your rankings if you cross the line.
Obvious spam tactics like keyword-rich anchor texts, keyword stuffing, keyword-rich comments, cheap directories and low-end private backlink network-based services are going to cause you problems.
But quality backlink building and content creation can often be rewarded with good rankings.
Even better, Google tolerates bad links to some degree.
So even if you get links from some dodgy sites Google, for the most part, has the decency to ignore them and rewards only links that make a difference to your rank.
My best advice is to talk to those that have been there and done it.
Ignore the fear and hype, choose your SEO partners carefully and stay safe.
Happy backlink building!