As of late, Google has been telling webmasters to nofollow different types of links pointing to their sites. The search giant recently updated their Webmaster Guidelines, providing additional examples of link building practices Google considers manipulative.

However, as it is usually the case with Google, the spammy methods specified are rather extreme situations and don't give clear guidance as to what to do in many cases in between. So, did Google just kill off a whole bunch of widely-practiced link building techniques, or not entirely?

1. Press release marketing

Many companies distribute online press releases in the hopes of getting noticed by major news outlets and garnering extra attention for themselves. However, on the other side of the spectrum, we have SEOs who view press release distribution primarily as a way to get links to the sites they're trying to rank on Google.

Well, this is officially against Google's Webmaster Guidelines now:

"Here are a few common examples of unnatural links that violate our guidelines...

Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites."

Now, what if one has a legitimate online business and does not spam their press releases with keyword-rich anchor texts, will they get any SEO-value from those? The short answer is - highly unlikely.

Logically enough, if it's YOU who distributes the press release, then the links in it are anything but natural, and hence would be discounted by Google. Google's John Mueller also recently confirmed that it is best to nofollow links in press releases to be on the safe side.

new google webmaster guidelines

What you can do instead

In my recent post titled Are You Building Links For SEO Or For Traffic? How To Kill 2 Birds With 1 Stone, I spoke about how building links for the sake of publicity and traffic (rather than SEO value) was the way to go these days. And, the more Google changes today, the more this seems to be true.

So, should one forget about press release marketing altogether? Absolutely not!

You still can:

  • Write kick-ass press releases that get picked up by Google news and/or major news sites.
  • Establish yourself as a dynamic company that frequently has news to announce.
  • Create a news release archive on your site (for example, check out ours at Link-Assistant.Com).

2. Guest blogging

Good old guest blogging. Once article marketing has become harder to do, many article spammers of yesterday turned to guest blogging as a means of still getting SEO value from their posts - and cast a shadow over the entire guest blogging phenomenon:

new google webmaster guidelines3

As Matt Cutts said in his recent interview with Eric Enge

"The problem is that, if we look at the overall volume of guest posting, we see a large number of people who are offering guest blogs or guest blog articles where they are writing the same article and producing multiple copies of it and emailing out of the blue, and they will create the same low quality types of articles that people used to put on article directory or article bank sites."

(This is also confirmed by our own editorial experience at Link-Assistant.Com: if some 3 years ago, we were receiving many submissions from legit authors with social media presence and all, then now we get an overwhelmingly bigger number of requests from no-name characters who have no idea what our blog is about whatsoever).

At the same time, in the same exact interview, Cutts says that:

"For a lot of people, a guest post is something that a fantastic author has thought deeply about, labored over, polished, put a lot of work into and then publishes on a highly reputable domain name. Posts like that can be a great way to get your name out there, to build your reputation, to make yourself more well-known, potentially build links or traffic or help with your SEO."

Well, I believe that what he means is NOT that one will get PageRank value from a guest post written by the person himself/herself, but that quality guest blogging can attract the attention of a large audience to your site - and backlinks will ensue as the result.

In fact, links in guest posts are another type of links that are better made nofollow, according to Google's John Mueller.

What you can do instead

  • Syndicate quality content to reputable and highly-trafficked websites
  • Create informative, well thought-out guest articles and publish them on great resources
  • Build relationships with industry influencers and inspire them to write about you

3. Infographics

Infographics with embedded links pointing to one's site is another SEO tactic people have been using quietly for quite a while now. Thing is, visual content is more engaging then text content, and hence it's easier to get people to link to it or pitch it to an editor.

However, it hadn't been too long before Google had something to say about infographics as well. In July 2012, Matt Cutts said links in infographics could be "soon discounted", because this strategy was getting abused a lot.

And, in a recent video (that talks more about widgets than infographics), he mentioned that one was better off nofollowing infographic links, since those are placed by content creators themselves and are not to be trusted as legit "votes".

What you can do instead

But then again, a smash-hit piece of infographic does not merely give SEO value (if at all). It may be precious in so many other ways:

  • If an industry influencer loves your infographic, they are likely to link to it in a natural way
  • Infographics are a good way to get direct traffic
  • Viral visual content is likely to get you social media followers, build brand awareness, etc.

For example, the Ten Commandments of SEO infographic by TechWise got noticed by Search Engine Roundtable. The result? A high-PR backlink, a ton of traffic, publicity and what not. 🙂

new google webmaster guidelines4

4. Advertorials

Advertorials are the opposite of editorial content. To put it simple, editorial write-ups are something valuable that the site's editor decides to include based on its merit, while advertorial content appears on the site because it has been paid for.

Advertorials are synonymous with paid ads, but are sometimes not disclosed as such, not disclosed explicitly enough and/or pass PageRank. So, as a recent warning from Google goes - all advertorial links must be nofollow.

Earlier this year, it seem that Interflora and a number of UK news sites have gotten a slap from Google for buying/selling links in advertorials that passed PageRank:

new google webmaster guidelines1

Right now, the links seem to be gone, and Interflora shows up in search again.

What you can do instead

  • Aim for editorials rather than advertorials
  • Run creative marketing campaigns worth writing about
  • Nofollow advertorial links and win in direct traffic and publicity

5. Comment links

It may seem that comment spam is nothing new. Even the nofollow link attribute was invented to fight comment spam in particular.

However, only recently Google started actively penalizing sites for what they call "user generated spam". So, if you're a lax moderator - perhaps it's time to re-consider your site/blog/forum policy.

In addition, Google has specifically warned sites against "forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature" and even provided an example of that.

What you can do instead

  • Get a solid forum/blog commenting policy
  • Moderate comments consistently

(Set them to auto-close after a certain time span and pay attention to trackbacks: you may have "do not show trackbacks on this post" checked, but these could be still allowed on a post)

  • Take part in blog/forum discussions to drive direct traffic or establish yourself as authority

By the way, Google recently released a series of videos on how to deal with link penalties, and one of those videos has to do with user-generated spam:

new google webmaster guidelines2


One can still build links employing the same good old link building methods that Google officially labeled as manipulative - but do so INDIRECTLY. That is, even though you're not likely to get immediate PageRank value from your press release or your guest post, these could be great ways to (A) get direct Web traffic and (B) attract attention that can, in turn, attract backlinks.

Think of this as permission marketing: you don't really manipulate PageRank (sales) directly, but you boost it by first bring value to the table - and cashing in on it later. This is something Google has wanted SEOs to do for a long time anyway. 🙂

Meme credit: Jackson Rawlings at Silicon Beach Training