Some interesting stuff posted on the updated Webmaster tools guidelines on Link Schemes See below red highlight done by myself
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.
So some key words in there, ANY LINKS not some or maybe, but any links, INTENDED now this is the issue, how does an algorithm work out intent? For me this is where the whole system falls down, because lets be honest when your site gets scraped, or you are hit with a negative SEO campaign, you are not even aware it has happened, let alone aware of the intent. CONSIDERED, again how does an algorithm consider anything? it simply isn’t that clever! ANY BEHAVIOUR so now we are back to the door being opened to negative SEO big Time. Finally we have TO your site or OUTGOING LINKS from your site, which clearly is telling people if you have crap spammy ‘guest posts’ on your site, then your site is guilty of spoamming, and EQUALLY as guilty of it, so we slap you also.
In short here are the referenced breaches, and My personal take on them:-
Buying or selling links – this has always been the case, if you buy or sell links that pass Pr you are heading for a fall if caught
Excessive link exchanging – again this has been the case for a long time, but ‘excessive’ in my mind refers to link farming type activities, and NOT to trading links with sites that are relevant to your own, when the links are editorially justifiable. You shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to other sites and work to drive traffic to each other.
Large Scale Article Marketing OR GUEST POSTING CAMPAIGNS with keyword rich anchor text links – this is the change, in that ‘large scale’ article marketing and Guest Blogging are now classed as in breach of the acceptable practice guidelines, and as such I expect to see penalties applied retrospectively on this practice. I wrote many times that formulaic guest blogging where there is practically no benefit to the reader will eventually be pulled in, and that it needs to be considered gray at best. What would the reader want to see, write for the reader, that is the difference, editorial integrity.
Using automated programs to create links to your site – anyone who thinks that the spam team don’t have copies of SENukeX etc is on cloud cukoo land, because they do, and they gobble up copies of pretty much any software that raises its head above the parapet. So think on when using bog standard automated software to build links to your site.
The aricle goes on to cover other items, which I guess are somehow seen as crossovers or pre-existing in the guidelines. :-
Text ads that pass pagerank – we all know about that right?
Optimised anchor text links in press releases distributed on other sites. – this is fairly new and they are now saying that you can get penalised for using a press release service. for ME this is completely unnacceptable because even if you nofollow your press releases, when they get picked up by spammers ascarapers etc, they often get posted without the nofollow. Google have dropped the ball here,. adn IMo need to balance this out with a far FAR better system of link reporting and disavowing, because the current system isn’t accpetable, and potentially under EU law this could be seen as an illegal practice.
Low quality directory or Bookmark links – Now oddly enough no mention of PageRank passing here, so are they saying that ANY link is bad?
Links embedded in widgets that are distributed across various sites – we all knew about that again
Widely distributed links in the footers of various sites -what about those poor web designers, the answer now is NOFOLLOW your footer links, but ALSO consider the statement above that the HOST site can get penalised, so if you are using a wordpress theme with an anchor text footer link, then you need to check out the volume of links the target site has from that theme, as if it has been used wholesale, and the target site gets hit then YOU may get hit also.
Forum comments with optimised links – again we all knew about comment spamming.
Finally the jewel in the crown of statements
The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.
Keep reading the above, and remember, if it waddles and quacks, it is probably a duck