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Google Search Completes Rollout of Link Spam Update

Google announced today that it has completed its rollout of the link spam update, which was started a month ago. In an effort to combat sites using spammy links to manipulate rankings, the search engine has developed more effective ways to identify and nullify link spam across multiple languages. The update took a couple weeks longer than anticipated but the algorithmic changes that re-assess the ranking of improperly qualified links has now been fully rolled out.

Commercial linking can be differentiated from link spam by specifying the appropriate rel attribute. For example, affiliate links must be identified to the search engine by  rel=”sponsored” in order to not trigger any negative effects from the most recent update. Website owners and content creators should be aware of the search engine’s requirements when publishing affiliate links or sponsored/guest posts. While it is appropriate and ethical to disclose commercial links in the content of the post, this is no longer sufficient for Google.

A post on the Google Search Central blog warns that this update carries a more strict response for sites that do not properly qualify commercial links:

When we detect sites engaging in either publishing or acquiring links with excessive sponsored and guest posting without proper link tags, algorithmic and manual actions may be applied, similar to affiliate links.

WordPress users who rely on plugins to manage sponsored and affiliate links will want to check to ensure they support the proper tagging for commercial links. Pretty Links, a link management and tracking plugin used by more than 300,000 WordPress sites, added support for the sponsored rel tag in version 3.1.0, along with sponsored toggle support in the block and TinyMCE editors. ThirstyAffiliates, another popular plugin active on more than 40,00 installs, has a global setting for adding rel attribute tags to links, which can also be adjusted on a per-link basis.

The are many other affiliate link management, tracking, and cloaking plugins out there that may not have been updated with settings for easily designating relattributes in links. Those who do not want to have negative effects from the link spam update may need the ability to bulk update their links to comply. If you rely on a link management plugin, it’s a good idea to check the plugin’s settings, and alternatively the plugin’s changelog, to see what features are supported.