Link schemes and bad neighborhoods

> Avoid Linkschemes

Updateded: October 16th 2015


What is a link scheme?

  • A link scheme is when you make a link or are linked to for perceived ranking or monetary benefits rather than usefulness to people.

For us to consider what a link scheme is it would be a good idea to consider what is not a link scheme....

The original purpose of a link was to recommend a website that you feel would be useful to your websites visitors. To determine if you are participating in a link scheme is very simple.

If you are making a link for any reason other than to recommend a website that is useful to your visitors, you are in some sort of link scheme.




How to determine if you are in a link scheme.

Google has provided 1 a large amount of examples of what they consider link schemes...

Some general examples are:

  • Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a “free” product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link
  • Excessive link exchanges ("Link to me and I'll link to you") or partner pages exclusively for the sake of cross-linking
  • Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links
  • Using automated programs or services to create links to your site

Examples of paid links are also specified:

  • Text advertisements that pass PageRank

  • Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank

  • Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. For example:
    There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.

  • Low-quality directory or bookmark site links

  • Keyword-rich, hidden or low-quality links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites, for example:
    Visitors to this page: 1,472
    car insurance

  • Widely distributed links in the footers or templates of various sites

  • Forum comments with optimized links in the post or signature, for example:
    Thanks, that’s great info!
    - Paul
    paul’s pizza san diego pizza best pizza san diego

Here is what I have always said about link schemes...

  • If you are buying or selling links that pass PageRank you are in a link scheme.
  • If you are using automated program or services to create links to your site you are in a link scheme.
  • If you are making a link to someone else solely because they will link to your site, you are in a link scheme.
  • If you make several websites or pages just to link to another page you are in a link scheme.
  • If you are using large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links you are in a link scheme.
  • If you are buying advertorials or using native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank you are in a link scheme.
  • If you are creating links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites then you are in a link scheme.

In the above situations you are not creating a link because you are recommending a site, you are creating a link for other reasons (like increasing page rank or monetary gains). This is bad and very simple for Google to detect.

Good - Create a link to a website you recommend for you visitors

Bad - Create a link designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank.

If you are linking to a site that is deemed to be spammy or you are in a link scheme with such sites your own ranking will go down, not up.

How can my site be adversely affected by who I link to and who links to me?

Whenever you link to someone you are telling Google what is important to your website.

To explain this fully we will explore some ways that Google judges your webpage.

Your website is actually judged by who you link to and who links to you.

Linking back to sites that link to you makes stronger the relationship between your sites. Use caution when linking, only link to things that are beneficial to your users.

Link Relationships

The websites that link to you affect you and your ranking. In fact to quote the Google help documentation on this...

"The sites that link to you can provide context about the subject matter of your site, and can indicate its quality and popularity."

How does that happen? Here is an example of link association...

You can see from the image above that who links to you is very important because the people who link to you also link to other websites. This is normal. Every site links to other sites and you do not have control of this, you only have control of who you link to.

One signal of quality is if the websites that link to you also link to other sites like yours...

Link Association

Let's continue with link relationships and how your website is "judged" by who links to you.

Here is an example. Let's say your website is about "monks". Your monk webpage has pages linking to it. In a natural situation, many sites that link to your monk site will also be linking to other monk sites.

In the image above you can see that who links to you helps define what your page is about. Hopefully you have great, high quality links coming to your webpage. If you do, and those links are also similar to your subject, you will enjoy a well visited site by people from those links and search engines will associate you with that subject.

This type of link situation will happen naturally as people who like to talk about a subject are often communicating with and linking to others in the same subject. This is called a natural link neighborhood, and they exist all across the web.

In fact, Google uses these neighborhoods to judge websites. If you are a great website in your subject then you are in a good place to rank better because you don't just need links to rank in Google, you need links from good neighborhoods of your subject matter.

But now let's look at what happens if websites start linking in an unnatural manner....

Bad Neighborhoods

To the right is an example of what happens when other sites linking to you start to link to other subjects that might seem "bad" or not natural.

Now your "monk" site seems to be a little about "bad things", because many sites who link to you also link to bad stuff.

If you link to these sites, the relationship becomes cemented and all the hints Google were taking from other sites are now confirmed

What you link to will affect your rankings particularly if you are linking to sites that do not seem very natural. Most link exchange programs are an example of this.

Never link to anyone if they say you have to link to them to get a link back! This is how bad neighborhoods start.

rel=nofollow

Consider using rel=nofollow for paid links or advertisements and press releases.

Key concepts

  • A link scheme can be identified by why you are linking to a website; If you are making a link for any reason other than to recommend a website that is useful to your visitors then you are associating yourself with a link scheme.
  • It is particularly important to not link to websites that use spam, or are in a "bad neighborhood" as this will adversely affect your website's ranking in Google.
  • Every link you create on your site identifies who you are and what your site is about.
  • Understand the role of rel=nofollow





Patrick Sexton by