On the 26th of July 2021, Google announced that it would be rolling out something called the “Link Spam Update” over the next two weeks. Unlike most core updates, however, this time Google is actually asking website owners to change their behavior – namely add rel=”sponsored” to their affiliate and guest post links. Last year, I’d written an update about how rel=”sponsored” was rolling out after one year. I’d noted at the time, that hardly anyone was using the new attribute, and also that we shouldn’t trust Google when it comes to SEO advice – because their goals are not aligned with yours.
SEOs Fawning Over Google’s Advice
The online SEO community is nauseatingly subservient to pronouncements from Google – naively assuming that what Google wants is to tell us how to rank well. They forget that Google’s so-called “best practices” and “rules”, are nothing of the kind. First of all, Google has no interest in telling you how to rank your site well. The last thing they want is for people to figure out what makes their algorithms tick. And second, SEOs should recollect that Google shouldn’t be an authority figure.
They elevate Google’s “rules” to a moral imperative, and feel clean and pure about “doing the right thing”. They would do well to recollect that these “best practices” are good for Google – not necessarily for your site!
So Why Be Suspicious of the Link Spam Update?
Look, either Google knows which links are spam, or it doesn’t. For years, Google has been telling us that its algorithms have gotten better at identifying spammy links. In fact, John Mueller has publicly bragged on several occasions that Google automatically discards guest posts and sponsored links. If the link spam update was only about improving the effectiveness of their algorithms, I would understand that. They needn’t even have told us they’re doing it. It could have been a quiet update in the background.
But Google’s announcement of the update on the 26th of July went further than that. It actively asked website owners to mark their outgoing links as “sponsored”! But why? If it already knows which links are spam, why ask website owners to mark anything?
The Link Spam Update Benefits Google – Not You
In principle, I have a problem with someone else telling me how I should run my site. As a website owner, I have just one goal – the welfare of my visitors. I want to do what’s best for them. Write useful content, make it easy to find, and keep my site updated, fast, and well designed. All these factors I understand. And I don’t need Google to tell me to do it.
However, asking site owners to mark links as “sponsored” or “nofollow” does not help my viewers in any way. Google is asking me to make a backend change that doesn’t impact my site visitors. And why? Because they need more data to improve their algorithms.
Excuse me, but I don’t intend to use my website as a guinea pig in Google’s experiment. And with no benefit to me whatsoever!
Google Should Stay in Its Lane
Remember that Google is a search engine. They’re not authority figure to whom we owe respect or allegiance. Their job is to make it easy for people to find your site. Let them get on with it! Don’t come around demanding that I make changes to my site to help you do your job. If they have suggestions for me that will help improve the experience for my visitors, I’m all ears. But if they demand I make a change in my site for them, they can take a hike.
I’m a NameHero team member, and an expert on WordPress and web hosting. I’ve been in this industry since 2008. I’ve also developed apps on Android and have written extensive tutorials on managing Linux servers. You can contact me on my website WP-Tweaks.com!