Google Punishes More Link Networks

A headline this morning announced that Google has punished two more link networks. What exactly does that mean? What is a “link network” and how does Google punish them?

Unfortunately the Google Webmaster Article on this is a little vague.

What is a link network?

There does not seem to be one common definition of what a link network is, but there do seem to be two common criteria:

  1. A group of sites connect to each other by linking between themselves.
  2. A member of a link network can achieve a large quantity of back links to their site very quickly. In some cases hundreds of back links within a few days.

Let me provide a few examples

Link Farms

There have been companies (in the past) who operated what are called Link Farms. These are basically web servers that host directories of various sorts (a directory of businesses in California for example) where you pay for your business to be listed and each listing represents on back link to your website. Some of these link farms provided you hundreds of links from their various directories in exchange for either a one time fee or a monthly subscription. I believe these businesses no longer exist.

The signature of such a link network is a relatively few web servers (which could be hundreds) has outbound links to an enormous number of web pages (as in hundreds of thousands or millions).

Links via Widgets

In this scenario you install a widget in your WordPress sidebar and it interacts with a central server and provides links to other web servers. In exchange other web servers provide links back to you.

The signature of such a link network is the web like structure created by the automated linking tools.

Links Should be Organic, not Automated

The search engine bots do not “think”, they do not “read”. What they do is large scale statistical analysis. The identify patterns. When we saying something is “organic” or “natural” we are saying it is “random” as compared to “non random”.

This is an important thing the link spammers do not get. Anything that is automated leaves a signature.

When you need your inbound and outbound links to be natural and organic, do NOT use any automated mechanism. Automation is the opposite of natural and organic.

Are all Link Networks Bad?


Image you have 1,000 friends and you all link to each other, ON OCCASION!

Every post you publish needs an outbound link, so if you linked to all of them, it would take you 1,000 posts to cycle through all of them.

Technically this is a link network. It’s a bunch of sites that are connected. However it is built manually, one link at a time.

Let’s do a bit of a Link Network thought experiment.

Suppose you meet someone at a Chamber of Commerce meeting. It seems your businesses complement each other. You sell car repair and they do auto body repair. Linking to each others websites IS natural and organic. You even met offline.

Now suppose 1,000 people all met online and agreed to give each other preference when looking for websites for their outbound links? Is this a link network? Technically yes, but this is a good one because every link is created by hand, by someone who decided that specific link makes sense for their business and individual posts.

Since you need other websites for your outbound links, why not join forces with A LOT of like minded inbound marketing people and agree to give each other preferential treatment?

How would this be different from meeting 1,000 people at Chamber of Commerce events?

Isn’t the entire Internet one big link network?

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