Google’s John Mueller responded to a tweet about guest post outreach. He appeared to say that paying a company to outreach for guest posts may result in unnatural links.
Guest Post Outreach
Guest posting for links is when a web publisher agrees to publish an article that’s written by someone else. The article typically contains a link to the site that is contributing the article.
Mueller’s comments were in reaction to a tweet about the new SEMRush service for obtaining guest post links.
What makes this tweet notable is that SEMRush does not claim to buy links from the publishers that are publishing the articles. SEMRush says they are simply asking sites if they want to publish the articles.
SEMRush announced they are ending their guest article service.
We faced controversy surrounding our guest blog post editorial/outreach service, offered in Content Marketplace. We decided to pause the service. More details:https://t.co/fMEmwSjg6V
— SEMrush (@semrush) June 4, 2020
Here’s the tweet that started the discussion:
SEMRush is selling links now? Make it make sense… pic.twitter.com/YLbfkpWEwK
— John Locke (@Lockedown_) June 3, 2020
According to SEMRush, SEMRush will do the outreach and identify a site willing to publish a guest post. SEMRush also writes the content.
This how SEMRush explains it:
“Using manual outreach, we will secure a guest post on a high-quality site and include your link in a relevant position. We will then write and publish your article on the blog with links to your site.”
According to that scenario, SEMRush is not paying the publisher for a link on their website. They are simply identifying a publisher willing to publish the article, including the link.
The SEMRush customer is not paying the publisher for the link.
The client is paying SEMRush for the service of identifying a publisher willing to host the article containing the link.
John Mueller said that was an unnatural link:
That's an unnatural link – the kind the webspam team might take action on. https://t.co/kfQQithCnK & https://t.co/q5GmAxx2YM have more. Making sure the links use rel=nofollow / rel=sponsored would still allow sites to get visibility without having to worry about manual actions.
— 🍌 John 🍌 (@JohnMu) June 3, 2020
SEMRush tweeted this response:
Hi, John! Talking about Marketplace Guest Post service we can assure you that it’s not about links/slots buying, and we do not pay to the blogs for publications.  -Eka
— SEMrush (@semrush) June 3, 2020
Twitter responded like this:
I cannot even fathom the thought process that went into this. Wow.
— Ben Huber (@vtgrad2010) June 3, 2020
Is it April 1st again already?!
— Will (@willdropphoto) June 3, 2020
What’s an Unnatural Link?
Julie Joyce, owner of LinkFish Media (@LinkFishMedia) is an expert on link building. So I asked her about Mueller’s statement about unnatural links.
“There has been so much argument about what constitutes an unnatural or paid link over the years… and many people don’t seem to think that they are buying links.
If I pay to have a webmaster put a link into an article on their site, how is that any different than paying someone to place a guest post on their site?
If you’re paying to get a link, it’s a paid link in my opinion.
The problem isn’t just with paid links though. According to the Google Webmaster Guidelines,
‘Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.’
I think that many times some people assume all paid links are bad and all unnatural links are paid, when that isn’t the case.”
That’s a great observation. All unnatural links aren’t necessarily paid.
The phrase Unnatural Links covers a wide range of situations.
Typically, what unnatural links have in common is the goal to influence search engines. This is commonly seen in the choice of anchor text used for the links as well as the placement location of the link within the article.
Another common characteristic of an unnatural link is the quality of not being earned.
Related: What Is a Natural Link?
Be Aware of Unnatural Links
If Google indeed sees these kinds of links as unnatural, then John Mueller’s tweet just saved a lot of businesses the heartbreak of receiving a manual penalty.
Link related manual penalties can take significant effort to have removed. Many times it’s not just the set of links that triggered the penalty that need to be removed. Once there’s a manual action for links, any legacy links that are suspicious have to go as well.
In general, it’s not often enough to file a link disavow and call it problem solved.
It’s not uncommon for Google to require more effort be put into actually having those bad links removed.
Unnatural links cover a wide range of link building tactics. It’s best to keep an open mind on whether certain links might not be so good.