Once upon a time, spam was the most widely used shortcut to obtain quick attention, rankings, and traffic on the web. Nowadays, spam is every legit marketer’s worst nightmare because it not only serves to reduce your creditability as a brand, it can also cause your website to lose its rankings in the search engine result pages (SERPs) or be completely de-indexed.
Of course, that’s a risk that many wise marketers have rightfully deemed too burdensome to tolerate, and as a result, we’ve seen a strong trend towards the complete avoidance of using any spam-like activity in the course of a legitimate marketing campaign. If you still have spammy links on your site or pointing to it in some way, and you’re concerned that they might cause trouble for your SEO progress, recent observations suggest that spammy links might not necessarily be deal-breakers after all.
The History of Spammy Links and How They Became “Not So Bad”
As search engines like Google continued to advance their algorithms for spotting and curbing the presence of spam, many marketers moved away from any practices that could be even construed as spam or spam-like in nature. At this junction, a clear distinction emerged between several schools of thought and approaches to search engine optimization (SEO) – white hat, grey hat, and black hat.
The white hat group opted for the most sensible long-term strategy by only following the exact guidelines and suggestions laid forth by Google, while the black hat group continued their attempts to “game the system” by using various shortcuts in an ever-changing landscape of exploits and loopholes. The grey hat group, as the name indicates, utilized a mixture of white hat and black hat techniques.
As black hat techniques became increasingly risky and started to come with heavier consequences due to a series of algorithm updates, the vast majority of marketing agencies completely abandoned any tactics that could potentially be shunned by Google, which ushered in the level of quality control and professionalism that we see today in modern marketing.
Factors That Can Make Up For Having Bad Links
There have been several cases where individuals have reported websites for having bad links but no action was taken against the site. This proves that Google does look at other factors before they decide to completely defame, de-index, or punish the rankings of an entire site. Here are the four main factors that could save your website from being negatively affected by the presence of spammy links:
- Overall Business Quality
If a company has a long-standing or major reputation for doing good business and is just a trusted brand in general, a few spammy links are unlikely to have any effect on its rankings or SEO authority. For instance, imagine a site like Walmart being looked at for having spammy links – that’s an extreme example, but it clearly illustrates that certain brands are authoritative enough to withstand a spammy link investigation. If you’ve been doing everything else right but have recently discovered that some of the links that point to your site could be considered spammy, you probably have nothing to worry about in the long run.
- Social and Content-related Signals
If a brand has plenty of great signals coming from major social media platforms, spammy links may not carry much weight. Furthermore, if the site is loaded with content that is causing visitors to stay on the pages for long periods of time, Google’s algorithm can take this to mean that the site is genuinely useful and didn’t simply rise to the top ranking by means of shady tactics. Likewise, if a brand has a lot of real followers and engagement on social media, that’s another sign that they’re deserving of their rankings.
- Search Engine Users Click on the Results Fast and Stay There
If users appear to be reacting enthusiastically to encountering your high-ranked pages – as indicated by the time it takes for them to click on your page and how long they stay there before returning to the search results. This is another signal that proves your site has content that is worthy of its rankings and isn’t using external factors like spammy links to inflate its ranking.
- Users Visit Multiple Pages on the Site Frequently
If you have Google Analytics installed on your site as most webmasters do, Google will be able to track metrics like bounce rate and see how many pages are being visited on your site by each user. If your site has a consistent track record of having plenty of repeat visitors or traffic that tends to stay on the site and visit many different pages within single browsing sessions, that’s a clear indicator that there’s plenty of content that’s worthy of exploration on the site.
Google Has to Consider the Possibility of Sabotage as Well
One reason why Google takes more than just the link profile into consideration is that it is possible a nefarious party could publish spammy links that point to the websites of their competitors or enemies. This could create a situation in which all you would have to do to sabotage one’s site would be to post a bunch of spammy links pointing to their pages and then report them to Google. Since there is no way to verify who actually put those links online, it’s necessary to take a good look at the business itself and its overall reputation.
How to Remedy Spammy Links
If you’ve noticed that some of the links which point to your website are spammy, you should try to reach out to the administrators of those sites to have the links removed or made non-spammy as soon as possible. If the links are outbound – hosted on your site – you should take the time to remove or optimize them on your own platform, as that kind of spammy link will usually have a profoundly negative impact in comparison to an inbound link coming from another site. Finally, be sure to optimize the four ranking factors that can offset the weight of spammy links in the event that your site is subjected to an overall review.