What the Google Link Spam Update Means for Search

Emma Grant

Head of SEO

Results-driven Emma heads up our SEO team. A champion of best-practice SEO strategies for search engine success that lasts and delivers best value, Emma’s work focuses on boosting clients’ online visibility with the ultimate goal of increasing sales. Emma applies her extensive skill and experience to create strategies that pay off quickly for faster results. She knows precisely what to do to reduce clients’ paid ad spends for greater profits, and how to boost organic leads for better long term return on investment. After close of business, when she’s not organising exciting travel adventures, you may hear Emma strumming classical guitar tunes or working on her jazz riffs.

Google’s summer of updates continues with the introduction of a new algorithm known as the link spam update, ramping up the search engine’s fight against link spam and backing its policy of rewarding high quality content.

Link spam update

The link spam update targets spammy links more broadly across multiple languages. In Google’s own words, the announcement went like this…

“In our continued efforts to improve the quality of the search results, we’re launching a new link spam fighting change today which we call the ‘link spam update.’ This algorithm update is even more effective at identifying and nullifying link spam more broadly, across multiple languages. Sites taking part in link spam will see changes in Search as those links are re-assessed by our algorithms.”

Let’s take a closer look at what the update means and how it might affect rankings.

What are ‘spammy links’?

Google uses links to understand what content may be helpful to searchers. But if those links are not well deserved and earned through legitimate means, Google frowns upon it. This is because it can mislead web users as to the relevancy and quality of a web page.

Google says that best practice is to avoid methods of acquiring links that violate its guidelines against link schemes.

This basically includes any links that are intended to manipulate a site’s ranking, such as:


  • Exchanging money for links or posts that contain links
  • Exchanging goods or services for links, providing free products in exchange for a write-up and link
  • Excessive link exchanges or dedicated cross-linking pages
  • Automated linking programs
  • Links demanded as a term of service
  • Low quality directory links
  • Links included in forum comments

Also, when linking out to other sites from your content, you should be qualifying those links appropriately so as not to breach Google guidelines.

Whilst Google is not saying that sites with link spam will be penalised, in using the word ‘nullifying’, it is saying that spammy links simply won’t count. This has been the case since the Penguin update of 2016, however this latest update will broaden the reach of the algorithm and extend into a greater range languages.

Of course, whilst a site with spammy links might not necessarily be directly penalised with dropped rankings, the fact remains that if Google starts to ignore any links that have been helping a site rank well, then it could well feel like a penalty.

How to avoid dropped rankings following this latest update

If your site has acquired links through means that are in breach of Google’s best practice guidelines, or you have failed to properly qualify outbound links from your website, it’s likely that you are going to drop rankings.

The best strategy for acquiring links that will align with Google’s best practice policy is to invest in creating exceptional content and building a trustworthy, authoritative and user-friendly website that other sites will naturally want to link back to over time, or that users will feel confident in sharing.

As Google says, “Site owners should make sure that they are following the best practices on links, both incoming and outgoing. Focusing on producing high quality content and improving user experience always wins out compared to manipulating links. Promote awareness of your site using appropriately tagged links, and monetise it with properly tagged affiliate links.”

Best practice link building campaigns, from a trusted, results-driven SEO agency

Here at Figment, we have been achieving exceptional SEO results for businesses for many years. All our strategies follow Google’s best practice guidelines, including our link acquisition tactics. We also focus on creating quality, shareable content and user-friendly SEO websites.

To learn how we could help YOUR business achieve the online visibility it needs to grow, you are welcome to a London based SEO agency.

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