I’ve been asking this question to our SEO team for a while now. Why is it that Google ‘likes’ links? And how can this be fair?

For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of ‘links’, here’s some background information:

  • Links (also known as backlinks) are from another site to your site
  • Links can help your Google rankings because ‘they are a useful way of measuring a site’s value’
  • The quantity and quality of links count towards your site’s rating

Google’s official guidelines state that links should be from trusted sources and should not be bought and sold illegitimately. This is part of Google’s commitment to make search results fair.

But in reality there is very little sanctioning to determine which links are legitimate and which aren’t. This means that successfully ranking sites often have links from what could only be described as ‘dodgy’ sources and are not penalised at all. Therefore many webmasters continue to buy their links from questionable sources simply because they are getting results.

As buying large quantities of links ultimately comes down to money, then companies with a higher budget can achieve better rankings. But isn’t this at the expense of search relevance?

So how can Google root out this practice? The trouble is that links are an SEO factor that is out of the webmaster’s control. In theory, you can’t help who links to your site and this means there is potential for interference from competitors should Google crack-down on ‘bad’ links.

This leaves Google with a conundrum. Either Google accepts that all links are a ‘vote of confidence’ from other users and gives them all a green light (no matter their legitimacy); or Google decides to ban all links (no matter the relevancy). Or perhaps, and in my opinion, the ‘right’ way would be to use a clever algorithm to root out those links that are irrelevant.

Unfortunately, SEO companies have very little control over Google’s decisions. We have to move with the times and do what Google says (and not necessarily as they do). But is the integrity of search being spoiled by this factor? I would certainly welcome your comments on links and how they should affect SEO rankings.

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