For many years, Google has stipulated that any online advertisements on external sites should not flow page rank. Instances of this would be banner or button image ads, or anchor texts linking from blog posts pointing directly (301 redirect & “follow” attribute) to your own website.

As many of you will know, page rank is a good indicator of the maturity and quality of a website. Therefore, flowing page rank from a good quality (high PR) website back to your own website has potential to increase the authority of your own website, potentially (in-turn) enhancing your keyword rankings, page or domain authority and website visits.

It is well documented that many within the SEO industry have defied Google’s recommendations for a number of years, and have instead worked with various bloggers to gain ads or guest posts which point (link) directly back to their own (or clients) websites. This was always with the aim of attaining a proportion of link juice (authority) in a bid to increase the presence and power of their websites being worked on.

Has the SEO Industry changed?

The SEO industry has changed massively over the course of the past 10 or so years, however so has Google. Before Google search bots became clever enough to spot black hat (spammy, aimed to manipulate search rankings) or grey hat (questionable SEO practice) techniques such as SEO companies building exact match anchor texts (i.e. “Web Design London”) on non-user based link or SEO directories; various SEO’s had far more joy in their attempts to rank their keywords on Google. Let’s face it; this must have been a piece of cake at the time, and must have left Google scratching their head to find solutions to this on-going attempt to manipulate their search index.

Why listen to Google?

Nowadays Google has wisened up to the SEO industry, in a somewhat reactive way and have increased the intelligence of their search bots. The man responsible, Matt Cutts (Head of Webspam at Google) lauded by many wearing white hats (focusing on human audience, Google rules and regulations) in the SEO industry, and feared by those with a fixed mentality. Various Penguin and Panda updates have been released, some with more impact than others.

Over time however, we have also seen many updates and YouTube videos released by Matt Cutts advising the industry on best practices in line with Google’s book of stringent rules and policies. This has been of great value to those clean cut, law abiding citizens within the SEO industry, but another nail in the coffin to those stuck in the dark ages who continue to defy or ignore best practice SEO or Google algorithm updates. It’s time to face reality, if you want your website to appear on Google, you are going to have to listen to them!

How to adhere to Google’s rules?

Now many of you SEO executives/consultants may be thinking, why should we? Are we not all clever enough to trick Google into ranking our own company or our clients’ by just using deliberate or antiquated methods? You may be saying to yourself “surely they won’t detect me”! The answer from any individual listening to clear cut industry signals provided over the last few years (especially in 2013) is a unanimous no! Is it worth having your website sandboxed (or penalised) by Google with a long and painstaking journey ahead recovering from a Google penalty? The SEO industry has to wake up to realise that this is Google’s house and everyone within the SEO industry lives under their roof and plays by their set of rules! The important message is to be continually proactive with analysing your website, not reactive to a drop in rankings and website traffic.

The message is clear from this video posted by Matt Cutts (on Advertorials) Either the SEO industry cleans up its act, meaning those working as SEOs creating more natural or engaging signals back to their own websites using “no-follow” for any links built, or you can risk the wrath of being penalised. Continuing to work on the “dark side” of the industry will not only affect your keyword positions and traffic, but also the brand and reputation of your website. Essentially, if a link is “no-follow” then Google will not take any authority (or page rank) away from the website where your link or ad is being placed.  Google is not placing a ban on paid advertorials, but they do have to be “no-follow” and disclosed as ads or sponsored posts by bloggers, or webmasters hosting your content or ads to ensure clarity and best practice.

The “no-follow” rule may not be such an attractive proposition for many SEOs, but the time has come for changing attitudes. The industry (from Google’s view) has to focus on driving real human interaction and true signals of quality such as engaging content, or infographics whilst supporting this with an on-going social strategy. If managed properly, this should drive social shares and visits back to your website. I would strongly recommend using Moz tools such as OpenSiteExplorer to monitor the trust and authority of your website over time, which should result in an increase in the performance of your business, all by applying best (modern day) SEO practice.

Concerned about links pointing to your website?

It is important to stress that if you aren’t sure, seek consultation from an SEO expert. If you do have experience, I would recommend (as a basic step) pulling a full backlink report of your website to analyse the quality of the sites being linked to. Backlinks are sites connected to your own. If these look poor or spammy, contact these sites directly to get your link removed; otherwise I would use the Google Disavow tool through Webmaster Tools.

I would err on the side of caution before using this, and would strongly recommend using a reputable SEO operative to assist. Otherwise, research fully before utilising! The Google Disavow tool was launched around September 2012, with further information provided by Google on its functionality documented here -

The way forward

Be cautious with the way that SEO is executed. Don’t expect quick results, this is where PPC (Adwords) campaigns can help if you are seeking immediate results. Building your website authority and trust with Google can take many months and (quite often) years. Your competitors may have had their website for years, so patience is the key to gradually (organically) building your online presence. Qualitative over quantitative link building is imperative as a high link velocity (quick link building) to your website can be detrimental and look very deliberate to Google when a spike suddenly appears in link building activity to your website which has appeared out of the blue.

The aforementioned points are all vitally important to driving a successful marketing campaign for your website and your business, and if channelled correctly this can lead to much greater conversion rate optimisation and return on investment.

If you would like to discuss SEO requirements in more detail, please call us on 020 7392 9740 or email