All link building strategies aren’t bad. Links actually help Google. Right from helping it find new content to ranking a website in search results, it is mostly links that have made Google results so authoritative and relevant.
Google knows that the net result of making a great site is often greater awareness of that site on the web, which can translate into more people linking to a site.
But when the main intent behind link building changes from creating quality links to link building in a manner that eventually leads to spamming Google results, Google’s spam detecting algorithms come into action and penalizes websites that are part of such link scheme/s.
PageRank was the first core Google Search algorithm which is named after Larry Page (co-founder of Google). PageRank aims at estimating the importance of a webpage on the basis of number and quality of links it receives. In short it is a link analysis algorithm.
PageRank was developed as part of a research project in 1996 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin while they were studying in Stanford University. Rajeev Motwani and Terry Winograd were co-authors of the first paper about the PageRank project.
It might come as a surprise to many people that the PageRank US patent was actually assigned to Stanford University, who gave its exclusive license rights to Google in exchange for 1.8 million Google shares, which it later sold for US$336 million in the year 2005.
PageRank as defined in the original paper "The Anatomy of a Large-Scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine" by Sergey Brin and Lawrence Page (also co-founders of Google) is as follows:
We assume page A has pages T1...Tn which point to it (i.e., are citations). The parameter d is a damping factor which can be set between 0 and 1. We usually set d to 0.85. There are more details about d in the next section. Also C(A) is defined as the number of links going out of page A. The PageRank of a page A is given as follows:
PR(A) = (1-d) + d (PR(T1)/C(T1) + ... + PR(Tn)/C(Tn))
Note that the PageRanks form a probability distribution over web pages, so the sum of all web pages' PageRanks will be one.
PageRank or PR(A) can be calculated using a simple iterative algorithm, and corresponds to the principal eigenvector of the normalized link matrix of the web.
Google doesn’t provide any clear definition of link schemes. It only says that any links (which includes links from other sites as well as external links) intended to manipulate PageRank or a site's ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme by Google. However Google Webmaster Guidelines specifically informs webmasters to avoid participating in link schemes.
Examples of link schemes include:
Penguin is a core algorithm update by Google that negatively affects websites practicing aggressive webspam or SEO tactics, including websites that use low quality link building techniques as well as keyword stuffing in order to rank higher in search results.
The main thing to remember is that Penguin primarily looks at the source website or webpage and not the target website. Source website is the website from which the backlink is sourced whereas the target website is the website which is linked from such link.
Another main point to keep in mind is that Google tends to devalue such links and not necessarily penalize the target website.
Penguin looks at various aspects of the source webpage, including the quality and relevance of the content on the page from which the link is sourced.
From wayback in 2012 when Penguin was first rolled out till 2016 when Penguin became part of Google’s core algorithm, it is essential to understand that it went through various stages and take note of the publically announced dates when major updates happened:
Google does not discourage creating links for a website but people often ignore the true essence of link building and rather start spamming, which in turn creates spam in Google results.
There are various kind of websites which are used to create quality links for any SEO campaign, these include:
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