Further to my earlier post, Google recently updated its algorithm to penalise sites that have used manipulative SEO tactics. This update is known as "Penguin" and targeted:
- sites with unnatural inbound link profiles
- in particular anchor text manipulation, where the anchor text is formed of target keywords only
- sites that have bought links, and these links are likely to have target keywords in anchor text
- links from free article sites with no editorial policy
- links from free directory sites with no editorial policy
- links from forum comments and blog comments
- links from "link wheels" or "link farms" - groups of sites interlinking each other, and link exchanges are probably worthless too
This is all good stuff, as all of the above techniques are about trying to manipulate the search results. Sites should rank highly on merit, not because they indulged in these link building techniques (which until Penguin had been reasonably successful - regardless of the quality of the site).
I'm surprised Google didn't do it sooner. Any self-placed or manipulative links have always been against Google's policy.
As we learnt in class: high quality, unique, authoratitive content should be at the heart of your marketing efforts. Great content DOES attract links, but it can take time to get where you want to be.
Rumour has it that rather than simply ignoring the manipulative links, Google has actively penalised sites that had this type of link in their link profile. This seems very harsh. It also opens the door to "negative SEO", where you can damage a competitor's ranking by placing bad links to their site. If this is true, I hope Google will amend their policy so the links are ignored rather than carry negative weight.
For more reading, check out the posts on SEO Watch: