From 26th July 2021, Google has started rolling its new Link Spam update. This update will affect affiliate links, guest post links backlinks, and the links to sponsored content. As the name suggests this update is targeted to spammy, manipulative, and other types of backlinks. So let’s take a look at, how being an affiliate marketer or an advertiser or blogger we can protect our website from being penalized.

Features of Google Link spam update 2021

  • Google has made it mandatory, for all promotional links (even guest posts) with no-follow attribute to have “sponsored rel attribute(more details ahead)
  • If your old sponsored links do not have any relationship attribute, you have to give them the sponsored rel attribute.
  • Sites not complying with the update is liable for a manual or algorithmic penalty
  • It’s a broad core update that will be applied across the world
  • The update is also applicable across different languages
  • Google will take 2 weeks to roll this out completely around the globe.
  • This update will affect both, inbound and outbound linking websites
  • This update will mostly affect review sites, promotional sites, comparison sites, e-commerce websites with affiliate programs, news blogs allowing guest posts, blogs that monetize their traffic with affiliate links, etc.

What does Google recommend in its Link Spam Update 2021?

As per Google’s guidelines, an affiliate link or a link from the Guestpost or sponsored link or promotional link should always (yes always) have a ‘sponsored relationship attribute’. ( rel=” sponsored” )

However, as Google makes it clear, that these changes are to be made in the new content (links), so the old content (published before Link Spam update) remains unaffected. ‘Google doesn’t mandate to change the link relationship attribute to rel=” sponsored” to the content made before July 2021′. So there is no need to churn up your old content, backlinks, and guest posts to change its relationship status.

Right now, it’s only limited to rel=sponsored” relationship attribute. Any affiliate link or a link from the Guestpost or sponsored link, the promotional link should always have rel=” sponsored” 

Link with sponsored rel attribute look like this

<a href=”https//domain.com“rel=”sponsored”>Link text</a>

The highlighted part is sponsored rel attribute which has to be added compulsorily to the relevant links. Right now, only the “rel=sponsored” attribute is compulsory for affiliate, promotional and guest post links only

This Google Link spam update could feel overwhelming, and there could be so many questions appearing in the minds of webmasters, SEO experts, and bloggers. So let’s get it cleared.

Note: If your old sponsored links do not have any relationship attribute, you have to give them the sponsored rel attribute.

FAQ: Google link Spam Update

Do I need to change the ‘rel attributes’ of the links in my existing pages or old pages?

Google made it clear in its announcement that every sponsored link should have a rel sponsored attribute, however, in its official document for Link Qualification it has maintained the acceptance of no-follow link. Also, when asked by Google

barry-schwartz-John-google-link-spam-update-tweet

scholar Barry Schwartz, Googler Gary Illyes and John Muller mentioned in their tweets that there is no need to change the no-follow attribute of old content (published before Link spam update) links to sponsored attribute, but it is desirable to have new content with rel=” sponsored” attribute.

The above comments by Googlers make sense as it would be practically impossible for everyone or even for most webmasters, bloggers, SEO experts, etc. to change the relationship attributes of the old promotional content links.

Google doesn’t mandate to change the link relationship attribute to rel=” sponsored” to the content made before July 2021′.

So, to answer you don’t need to change old no-follow links to sponsored links but new promotional links should have sponsored rel attribute.

Do I need to change the old no-follow links in Guestpost to sponsored relationship attribute?

If you refer to Google’s guidelines on Paid links, you will notice that Google doesn’t turn its back on paid links. The guest post also falls in the same category (paid links). It mentions, if you are using the rel=” sponsored” or rel=”no-follow” in the paid links (of the guest post) there won’t be any manual or algorithmic penalty imposed.

For Guest posts links, Similar to Sponsered links, you don’t need to change the old no-follow links to sponsored but new guest post links should have sponsored rel attribute.

So, does that means the future of guest-post is bleak?

The purpose of using the sponsored relationship attribute (in sponsored links) is to classify the natural links from the unnatural ones. This means being placed in favor of money(paid) or other mutual understanding or agreements.

Thus, links in the guest posts may not pass the test of being natural and their impact in terms of link equity or link authority will be lesser compared to the natural links.  But there are other benefits of guest posts, they publish your content to the newer audience, if this audience happens to visit and explore your site, it would be so much beneficial.

There is one more thing to consider. Google has made rel=”no-follow” a hint in passing link juice or link equity or the link authority. Google decides if or not to pass the link equity for no-follow links. So it may well happen in the case of guest-posting. So, according to us is not completely dead.

What about other rel attributes such as UGC rel attribute?

This is the latest attribute, introduced by Google in Sept 20019. UGC rel attribute stands for User-Generated Content, this is the content produced by the users or the visitors without being required to log in. This is to link the UGC sites such as classifieds, forums, or even comment sections of any website

Content linked from the UGC sites or section of the website (forums, classifieds) should have the following UGC rel attribute.

<a href=”http://www.example.com/” rel=”ugc”>Link text</a>

The UGC (user-generated content) attribute will also allow webmasters to signify that they do not editorially endorse specific hyperlinks on their site.

What about the No follow attributes, is it dead?

The No Follow rel attribute is not compulsory and it is acceptable. Even though not compulsory for Link Spam update, this relationship attribute can be used in the following cases.

Use of No Follow Relationship attribute

No follow relationship attribute is not dead and very much alive as before. The best practice is to use the No-follow link attribute whenever you are linking to a site you can’t trust or are not sure about. ‘

Thus this way you are informing Google that you are not sure about the website and so it’s no-follow. Then Google may decide if or not to pass on the link juice/link equity to the receiving website. No follow rel is to signal Google not to parse PageRank and therefore, not to influence the ranking of the destination URL. Still, it’s a hint and Google decides if or not to pass the link authority.

No-follow link may look like this <a href=”https//domain.com”rel=”nofollow”>Link text</a>

Before March 2020, the no-follow relationship attribute would only be meant, that the link should not pass the link juice or link equity to the receiving website.

After March 2020, this is decided by Google, now Google decides whether or not to pass the link juice from no-follow links.(it may or may not pass)

What does Google want to achieve by bringing this Link spam update?

Many webmasters and even organizations rely on black hat methods, to enhance their link profile.

They do this to boost their Domain authority or to have a healthy backlink profile (Example: Moz) or to boost their Page rank score* etc. Let’s get it straight, paid links are unnatural links and are generated in return for some benefit. Google wants to classify natural links from unnatural ones.

Google wants to pass different link equity through natural links and different link equity through paid links (guest-post, affiliate links, advertising links etc). You can easily guess which one will receive more link equity and which one will receive less, but since Google has not mentioned it, we will avoid guessing as well.

other reasons are…..

  • Some Websites with Paid links also go against Google’s Paid link policy, as they are bought in exchange for money.
  • Some links are just added with the intention of making the user click to go to the product page.
  • These links are unnatural and have zero value.

These types of links need classification so that they won’t be treated as natural links to pass the same page authority to the receiver.

Page Rank score*: Although Google is secretive about it being in use, it’s still a factor considered by most SEOs.

Link authority/Link equity/Link juice all should be considered similar terms in equal capacity

References

Google’s announcement of the Link update 2021: https://developers.google.com/search/blog/2021/07/link-tagging-and-link-spam-update

Google Paid link policy: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/guidelines/paid-links

Qualifying outbound links by Google: https://developers.google.com/search/docs/advanced/guidelines/qualify-outbound-links#:~:text=Qualify%20your%20outbound%20links%20to,in%20the%20tag.