Google Algorithms Look For Natural Links

Jun 14, 2012 • 8:36 am | comments (51) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Link Building Tips & SEO

natural linksA Google Webmaster Help thread has Google stating the obvious, especially after the Penguin update - your links, to count and not hurt you, need to be 100% natural.

Google's John Mueller said in a Google Webmaster Help thread:

I realize encouraging users to make natural links & recommendations is not always easy, depending the market you're in, but those are really what our algorithms are looking for. On the other hand, links that are just bought, sold, traded, or even placed yourself, are not really the kind of recommendation that our algorithms would use when evaluating your site.

This goes along well with Sullivan's link rant but it also goes to the point that Danny made. Danny wants Googlers to try to build natural links to their sites, to sites they personally create offering to sell shoes or something. He wants them to truly understand how hard it is.

That being said, it is not about link building that "looks" natural but your links really have to be natural. If not, Google might not count it and even worse, it might be used against you.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

Image credit to BigStockPhoto for natural image

Previous story: Daily Search Forum Recap: June 13, 2012



06/14/2012 01:17 pm

Hm, it's interesting but we don't live in an ideal world. Here is a questions. Someone who likes a site, and puts up a banner for them in the sidebar what happens then? How is it considered? Natural or "paid". How could Google determine this?

Oleg Korneitchouk

06/14/2012 01:30 pm

I'm sure they can look at a number of factors that would determine whether its paid or natural (do banners rotate? do the sites change often? is there "Advertisements/Sponsors" nearby? manual review ). I'm sure they make mistakes but the algorithms will continue to evolve and get more accurate over time.


06/14/2012 01:39 pm

There is a real problem with the links lately. From the one side - unnatural links or, as SEO called them, links look natural. This is obviously not good practice. Not good for the industry in general. From the other side - it's became near to impossible to get the link. Web property owners are simply scared. I forbade links dropping far ago. 100k+ pages and just a few outgoing links. That's why Google need Panda. Links are too easy to manipulate, but too complicated to measure. But links are the industry base. The whole internet is about the links. Probably, the other day, when Panda algo will be fully developed, Google will say: "We don't care about the links anymore. Drop links free, they mean nothing for us." Just thought )


06/14/2012 01:39 pm

Interesting points of view. Indeed those could be some things the algorithm could look at. Thanks for your reply.


06/14/2012 01:43 pm

They will penalize your website. A previously unknown website recommended our site on their pages in a side bar along with 5 other sites. WMT shows over 40K links from this one site. We are no longer found at all for that particular anchor text.


06/14/2012 01:51 pm

My example was for a banner so no anchor text involved there. However, your information is a bit disturbing


06/14/2012 02:32 pm

The bottom line is, links can get you higher in search engines. As long as this happens, there are bullet-proof ways to achieve that. Of course its getting more difficult, of course its getting more expensive. Google's just wiping out the broad mass. You dont even have to make it look natural. You can get links that are in fact natural. No footprint. Google can't do anything about that. You just have to work harder to analyze and identify the link sources, their posting and link behaviour, their in and outbound link profile etc.


06/14/2012 02:49 pm

Undersrandably people do not want to link out so they use no follow to protect page rank. Google should put a higher emphasis on these because these people are still linking but they do not want to lose their link juice

Sheared Sheep

06/14/2012 03:19 pm

Confused here. It just seems like this is an effort to get rid of direct advertising. For example, this wonderful site has sponsers on the right sidebar. These sponsors probably exist on several pages here. Other than a manual review, how can Google determine natural from direct ads? Do they send a penalty note to the site owner when unnatural links are suspected? Or do they do the penalty and let the web owner figure things out? Or do they do the penalty before verifying that the links were not natural? Is it all automated? If so, might this be unfair to sponsored advertising? It's very confusing. I have no control over who links to me; I have never and will never pay anyone to link to me. What about 'Content is King?' But I do think that Google will have to return to that type of ad-targeting after the debut of the new Explorer because locally-targeted ads won't work anymore: I'm truly concerned about how this will further impact income. Someone just shoot me and get it over with now. Google - unleash the Kraken.....


06/14/2012 03:27 pm

You will have control over your inbound soon, say hello to googles brilliant disavow link feature lol (took a brigade of highly educated and paid engineers to come up with that). Other that that, use nofollow links on anyone and anything you dont personally know, and you *may* be safe ;)

K Huffman

06/14/2012 03:35 pm

So, if I have some news regarding my industry and I write up a Press Release about it with anchor text/links to parts of my site, then I pay $200 to have my Press Release distributed over all the major news networks, will all these links be considered paid links and penalized for it?

Sheared Sheep

06/14/2012 04:42 pm

Thank you very much, Andy for your response.


06/14/2012 05:32 pm

news + nofollow links = you want to share news = no penalty news + dofollow links = what's the main purpose, news or link juice ? = penalty (or disregard such links at least)

Jesse Friedman

06/14/2012 05:36 pm

So would directories have absolutely no value then? And Im not talking about obviously spammy directories.

Jaan Kanellis

06/14/2012 06:32 pm

Recently we had a site that was hit right on April 24 the date of penguin being released. We don't do any link building, but a majority of the back links to the site have branded terms and come from other site footer links we own. Could Google demote a site for doing this? If so why would they? See the footer on


06/14/2012 08:37 pm

These links are dofollow and this is link building.

Russ Offord

06/14/2012 09:49 pm

all the more reason for 'link bait'. how else can you get someone to provide a 'natural' link to a 'Chicago bankruptcy attorney' or a 'Dallas roofing company'? First of all... who in their right mind would 'naturally' link to a bankruptcy attorney? I can see everyone clamoring to write reviews like "I LOVE their bankruptcy services. I've used it myself several times... signed... Joe Blow" ... hey... let's all +1 and FB 'like' this company... cuz they rock. haha.


06/15/2012 02:47 am

The problem is how does Google truly know that a link is not natural? It really can't. This is definitely opening up the possibility of NEG SEO. Lets say a competitor puts up some awesome linkbait! and you get annoyed and see people are linking to it naturally. So you order 250k worth of blog comments at your competitors awesome linkbait page (should only cost you about $35 at fiverr). Will Google now discredit that whole page? maybe the site? Because thousands of "bad links" have been hammered at it. Sure there are some nice "natural" links going there but there are an overwhelming number of "bad" links. How does Google know who built those links? How does it know what is natural and what isn't? In my NEG SEO example above there could possibly be a situation where something goes viral and gets 250k blog comments "naturally" in a short amount of time (not likely but possible) will this look unnatural to Google? I guess in the end it is up to Google's discretion what it thinks is natural or not. It owns the field we are all playing on. Sad but true. The sooner they bring on the report bad links in webmaster tools the better.

ong nhom

06/15/2012 04:07 am

Google Algorithms Look For Natural Links ? tạo link như thế nào thì có hiệu quả cao trong SEO? See here :


06/15/2012 05:24 am

You really believe that having the word sponsors nearby will affect whether Google thinks something is a paid link or not? Plenty of examples of paid links don't have sponsors anywhere near. Anyone who is buying links for SEO purposes will not want sponsored by or whatever near by. Google is attacking blog wide links aggressively whether they are paid for or not? Infact a good way to attack a competitor is to pay for a cheap blog roll link on a blog with thousands of pages.


06/15/2012 05:34 am

This is sad for the small business. The Zappos and Amazons can dominate even more, while the little guys will always live in fear of the collateral damage that Google is encouraging. Negative SEO is now the black hatters dream tactic. Can't beat em, screw em. Just when I think Google has a pretty slick algo, they make adjustments to show how limiting it is. Manually de-indexing blog networks, manually de-indexing sites based on tattle tales, and punishing sites for trying to earn a buck or two. Can Facebook jump into the search arena and give us something more to do. The very least, we could see an 800 lb Gorilla squirm.


06/15/2012 06:23 am

Thats exactly where the problem is. You are a business. You have a PR with a link to your site. You want to distribute this PR on major networks. You have no control over what they do with your article and your links in it. Even if you do all your homework and nofollow them. They could keep the links, remove them or even dofollow them. Should you get penalized for this? Not if I would be the owner of this search engine lol. Can you get penalized for it? Technically you could (since you pay for it and you could manually review the terms of all sites where your PR gets published and try to find what they will do with your links), thats where the whole thing gets ridicoulus but i dont think you will, as long as you are doing it in a natural and reasonable way.


06/15/2012 06:27 am

Do you mean value in terms of SEO? If we are talking about quality directories that are moderated, relevant to your niche and actually get some users there, then yes, they have value to some small extent though.


06/15/2012 06:36 am

People recommend and like anything (unfortunately). So i guess this would be possible: "In my mind this guy is the best bankruptcy attorney in Chicago." Anchor + semantic text analysis = match ;)


06/15/2012 06:50 am

"Link bait" isn't natural. It's just hipster SEO.


06/15/2012 06:51 am

Andy, have you tested that _recently_?

Inbound Marketing Expert

06/15/2012 12:04 pm

Yes, Now a days link building is too tough, We can't earn or build natural links easily, without any hard work.


06/15/2012 04:19 pm

The trouble is the scenario you described wouldn't matter if it was a level playing field as then all the bankruptcy sites would be in the same boat so the low link counts wouldn't matter. There are a couple of problems with this though: 1. It's NOT a level playing field, Google is not great at targeting links and so some sites get hit, some do not. This means everyone ends up needing to link build to be competitive. 2. If they did get it perfect then it would ultimately cause a ton of pollution in the search results. Sites in sectors which are good link generators, as you described, would get blasted by wikipedia and other sites which are good link generators and cross over into that sector in some way We would end up with a serp where you type in a query and get a load of sites which do not directly sell or perform the service you want. Not cool. Google is pretty much stuck between a rock and a hard place. What are they going to do? Look at other metrics would be my guess. The trouble is I can't see social signals helping with this scenario so where are they going to turn. End result: more user data influencing research results from across google properties, resulting in highly personalised results, even more so than now.

Robert Meinke

06/15/2012 04:27 pm

One apparent trigger for Penguin is a high percentage of transactional anchor text (i.e., money keywords) as opposed to navigational anchor text (like "click here" or "") in links to your site. Try changing the anchor text for those footer links to URLs - instead of "Web Hosting Talk" use "".


06/15/2012 04:29 pm

The Bottom Line: No matter how sophisticated your search results equation is, it can and will be manipulated as long as a human being's review isn't a large part of the ranking system. I remember way back in the day when the web was much smaller, there were search engines 100% powered by human reviewers. These were the best results you could ever hope to get. But as the web grew, this became impossible for all results. Yet, how many reviewers do you think Google employs even now? I'm guessing thousands and thousands of off-shore reviewers. Instead of using them to penalize sites, why not use them to reward sites? So you have the human aspect on both sides of the equation and not just the negative? In my opinion Penguin, at least initially, was intentionally or unintentionally a scare tactic to try to curb the amount of SERP manipulation stemming from artificial backlinking. Before, it was stated that links are either counted or not counted, never were they assigned negative weight. You couldn't do that because you can't control who links to you. You *should* only penalize a site for things that the actual site's domain has control over (on-page black-hat techniques, content over-optimization, cloaking, etc.) When you assign negative weight to a site based on factors stemming from another site, outside the site's control, then you just opened up Google for Negative SEO. Google's only true solution is to eliminate backlinks as a factor in the search equation, or, only assign link juice to links coming from sites that have been manually reviewed and approved as authoritative sites that have strict editorial control over what sites they link to. My guess is Google doesn't want to invest in a lot more human reviewers so they use Penguin to try to scare everyone to "get in line and straighten out your tactics." I will be paying to have as much Negative SEO done as I can afford hopefully forcing Google to fully role-back Penguin, or even better, decrease the weight of machine calculated backlinks in their SERPs. It seems they have already partially rolled it back based on slow recovery of sites I saw that got "hit." There's SO many other factors, I think Google has made a mistake to give backlinks more relative weight in the equation than they should have which has fostered much time an effort to be spent on artificial link building.


06/18/2012 12:56 am

i even can say more - with lot of deindexed sites google is not complete search engine anymore.


06/18/2012 01:02 am

nofollow links is evil creature of google.


06/18/2012 01:14 am

google powered on links, just need to find out what the types of link it likes now. Them cannot do anything better until using 'incoming links' for ranking factors. And their system - is 'penalization first', it not matter site quality. Even wikipedia and amazon popularity mostly created by google recommendations to webmasters (aka created by google himself). Wikipedia - is it content farm? isn't it? Why peoples link it? To link to 'google relevant source and not get penalties'. Latest penguin changes just make it a bit harder, but i will funny later - when peoples will understand what really changed now (really only can smile if you know it) and more funny to see what google will do in future after peoples will adapt. New rounds, nothing more. Their latest black and white updates (aka 'changes or traffic flow') really mostly for adsense now and not bring anything new - how them telling everybody right now. Basic links scheme is evil and only manipulation, even web 20 contains 99% of spam links. Later will 100% i think.


06/18/2012 01:17 am

Wikipedia - is it content farm? isn't it? Why peoples link it? To link to 'google relevant source and not get penalties' for own seo benefits. Amazon why peoples link it? For money to get commission. Is it paid links, isn't it? but why amazon rank so high?


06/18/2012 01:22 am

analyze tops sites backlinks, it show you everything.


06/18/2012 01:23 am

links per page factor, presence of spammy links in this directory. if more than 1% - directory penalized


06/18/2012 01:24 am

see number of unindexed sites in directory, no results under site: query. more than 1% if no value


06/18/2012 01:26 am

direct advertising must be no follow, or google have big list of advertising companies. But if direct link - must be nofollow. if so much without nofollow - penalty


06/18/2012 01:27 am

share places where you can put your links, new brilliant google idea


06/18/2012 01:28 am

even will help to recognize all cms which allow to add links


06/18/2012 01:29 am

it only about huge % of exact anchor text (adsense commercial - have bids), stay away from them and you safe.


06/18/2012 01:30 am

ads must be nofollow. sitewide links/banners take out your google trust (but not so much)


06/18/2012 01:32 am

it not matter. only internal links can be at all pages, otherwise small penalization. ads banner/button/iframe is ok - until link nofollow (iframe ok without it but can lead to mallware troubles, if not safe provider)


06/18/2012 01:35 am

in adult pornhub purchasing links everywhere (90% of top sites), however them have links at G top 10 for huge lot of queries. it mean what it safe until not so many anchors and new links not added in short interval.


06/18/2012 01:35 am

exact anchors


06/18/2012 01:37 am

yeah, it easy to do even on wikipedia. lot of same anchor links, short period of time, auto spam in talks page, redirects to every wiki page and it done.


06/18/2012 01:38 am

for few weeks, daily


06/18/2012 01:41 am

it not possibly, but google is clear academic company about search results (not about adwords!) - them not think about such things. them idea - make good site, peoples start speak about you in web 2.0, likes, twitter, +1, later will get backlinks from articles, later big sites will link you. It not work for many of sites - but google not care, them need to do as them can ;-P

Ed Watkinson

06/18/2012 08:06 am

Has anyone noticed the sites listed under the "Sponsored Links" section of seroundtable (bottom right of page) being penalised? I think one of them has dropped in ranking.

Gregory Lancaster

07/08/2012 03:22 am

The number of bloggers vs the number of people trying to make money online. Hmm, I wonder why natural links are difficult to earn for the average person. How about google stop beating around the bush and murdering every link type and just go full on adwords search.

Jack Jones

03/01/2013 05:06 am

But how do you get natural links ?

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