When Is A Link An Unnatural Link?

link building

You’ve probably heard a lot about unnatural links. Google is getting pretty hot these days at penalising sites that use them, so what exactly are they?

In basic terms, an unnatural link is one that exists purely to manipulate the page rank or search engine results of your website. Plus, any links that are placed on a website without the site owner’s permission.

Example of an unnatural link

If you’re still unsure, this illustration should help.

You’ve just been to a health spa and had a fantastic time. You decide you want to tell other people about your experience and write a blog about linking to the health spa, that’s OK. But if you wrote about it because they were offering you a free weekend or set of treatments, that would be classed as unnatural (unless you mark the link as a nofollow).

So the best way of looking at it is so long as you’re not being financially motivated to use the link, you should be OK.

It’s not all amount money

Having said that, there are other motivations that can cause people to use links unnaturally.

When your website needs an SEO boost, it’s very tempting to hunt out websites to link to that will give your search results a much needed lift.

This is equally bad as the scenario outlined above.

That means that if you are linking to another website purely to improve your search results you could be on shaky ground.

Before you link ask yourself whether you would still want to recommend the company or blog if the search engines didn’t exist. That will help you decide on what your true motivations are.

A level playing field

The whole point behind Google’s linking policy is to create a world where everyone is equal.

If it didn’t exist, the only websites that would feature highly in the search results would be the ones that could afford to buy the best links and that’s not good for the consumer.

But what about Google Adwords?

Good point.

But as it is Google’s accepted form of selling links it’s likely to remain. The main distinction between this and other forms of buying links is that it is open, above board and involves an invoice. Plus, because the links are segregated from the organic listings in the search results, it is obvious to all that the companies involved have paid for their link.

Link building will always remain a contentious issue if people try to fiddle the system. The guidelines are very clear, so what’s the point in trying to pull a fast one? Sooner or later Google will find you and penalise you.

Don’t be tempted to flout the system. Link build with dignity.

Author: Sally Ormond, Copywriter at Briar Copywriting and cycling enthusiast.

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#1 Deirdre on 03.27.14 at 10:02 am

How about those blogs that have a policy making of making any affiliate links or PR samples transparent? Like moneysavingexpert, or beauty blogs for example? Should they make any links where there is a monetary gain no-follow?

#2 admin on 03.31.14 at 3:15 pm

I would say if there is monetary gain that should be made clear in the same way any link to an affiliate site should be.

#3 Top 25 Inbound Marketing Articles of the Week: March 28, 2014 – UpCity on 03.28.14 at 1:01 pm

[…] which links matter more than others, and which ones are natural as opposed to illegitimate? Sally Ormond writes about when a link is low value in a […]

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