Google: “The link spam update is now complete.”
So, what does this mean for affiliate and sponsored links? Some are a bit uncertain.
Yesterday (August 24th, 2021), on it’s Search Central Twitter channel, Google posted an update to a July tweet:
What Are Google Updates?
Often, as many as multiple times a day, Google makes changes, or updates, to some aspect of it’s search engine ranking algorithms. These updates are done for several reasons, but Google’s overall aim is to continue to be the #1 search engine.
The Importance of Links
Google often uses links (links from one site to another, and within a site) to help determine the ranking position of a web page for a given query.
People have known this for years.
Links Should Be Earned
One problem that’s been going on for years is that people sometimes use links to try to artificially manipulate the search engine ranking position of their pages and websites.
Ideally, links should be earned–one webmaster should link to another webmaster’s site because that site has good content. But, sometimes, that’s not always the case.
Affiliate and Sponsored Links
Affiliate and sponsored links are links where there’s some sort of commercial interest. In and of themselves, affiliate and sponsored links aren’t frowned upon, as it’s a legitimate way for some sites to monetize their traffic.
But, they can still artificially boost the ranking of a site, which Google wants to minimize.
Hence, the Link Spam Update.
What Is The Link Spam Update?
For the reasons I listed above, the Link Spam Update (which I wrote about here) is Google basically saying, “Hey, if you use affiliate or sponsored links on your site, you should use the rel sponsored attribute.”
(By ‘attribute,’ I mean the HTML attribute that’s actually part of the coding of the link. Your webmaster might be able to give you more info.)
The use of this attribute (or the rel nofollow one, though I think rel sponsored is preferred) is supposed to convey transparency: you’re letting the search engines know that the attributed link is one with commercial interest, and hopefully, it’s use won’t artificially influence the ranking of another site.
Sponsored or Nofollow?
What if you already have nofollow links? I think they’re fine. I have those on one of my sites, and for me, it’s not a priority to change them to sponsored. That said, if you do start a new site with commercial links, sponsored may be preferred.
But Some Are Uncertain
Reading some of the feedback on Twitter, I think Google may have some refining to do.
My advice: just try to keep on the right side of the webmaster guidelines.
Source: Google Search Blog