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The last two weeks has seen many websites get penalized by Google. The message they received from Google indicates that they were suspected of engaging in artificially boosting the ranking of other sites through the unethical and incorrect use of outbound links.

An outbound link is simply a link from one website to another website with a different domain. Seems harmless enough, except that Google uses outbound links as a contributing factor to determine SEO rank, and as all marketers know, SEO ranking is the online version of breathing. If you want to stay alive, your ranking better be as high as it possibly can.

For affected sites, Google has manually enacted spam action against them. Basically any suspicious outbound links are now discounted from their rankings algorithm. As a result, their SEO ranking will undoubtedly fall. By how much will depend on how many outbound links were affected and how much traffic each link generated. While the rank of the end site (the site which the link connects to) is the one that gets affected, it is actually the origin site (the site which posted the outbound link) that Google takes action against.

Ignoring the Google Webmaster Guidelines is a practice in foolishness and futility. Google will catch you sooner or later, remember that they made the search engine that your content is on. Short of paying a SEO company to deal with it for you, you will need to figure it out how to do it yourself. Here are some ways to avoid being placed on their hit list:

Remove unnatural links

What’s considered unnatural anyways? Links in which you receive some sort of compensation such as money, good or reciprocal links, are all examples of links that Google considers unnatural or suspicious. This may seem annoying at first, especially if you are receiving kick back for placing links on your site. However, in Google’s eyes it’s as if someone is simply buying links and in essence, buying ranking. This is a big no-no to Google whose main source of revenue these days is in the advertisement business.

Simply put, NoFollow links are links that are not tracked by PageRank and SERP’s like Google. It is a simple piece of code that, when added to links, tells search engines to not include the traffic data generated by that link. In 2005, Google implemented a blanket policy that turned all links in comments spaces and the like into NoFollow links, after they saw a sharp increase in spammer activity. In the span of 10 years, it seems that marketers have found a workaround and started to post spammy links directly in the content or in footers. And, just like before Google has stepped in to clean house.

Wear a White Hat and do your due diligence

This section should really be called “Do the right thing”. Listen we get it; the pull of the dark side is great. The temptations of easy traffic and easy dollars is alluring. But think of the long game. Think of the legacy of your website and your content. How do you want to be remembered? Market within the boundaries of the Google Webmaster Guidelines and avoid headaches in the future. Produce high-quality content instead of relying on spammy activities.

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