Ten Commandments For Google Links

Some website owners seem to feel that there are three steps in creating a successful website. These are:

  1. Design the website
  2. Do on-page SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for the Web pages
  3. Get links to the website from others.

That approach could certainly explain the following e-mail message I just received:

We are interested in the link building services you provide. We’ve got on-page optimization done in house.

What kind of link building services do you provide? We are interested in ALL types of link building services, the more the better.

  • Do you provide forum link building services?
  • Do you provide one-way link building services from high PR pages?
  • Do you provide any other link building services?

Since I offer a more holistic approach to making websites perform, I suggested a Google search might bring up names of people who could better meet their needs for this more limited service. I wondered at the time whether I could have offered some further advice to help the writer in his search. There are a lot of somewhat shady characters offering link creation services just as there similar individuals offering SEO services. Perhaps if I had been able to offer a simple 10 Commandments for Links, that might have been more helpful. A simple one page document with a list of things to avoid. Something like the Biblical 10 Commandments that gave unequivocal advice on what was not acceptable.

I looked around and thought perhaps The Ten Commandments of Link Building by Jai Nischal Verma might do the trick. However it’s not a list of things to avoid doing but rather some suggestions on possible ways of creating links.

  1. Link Exchange
  2. Social Bookmarking Websites
  3. Link Baiting
  4. Web Directory Submissions
  5. Article Submissions
  6. Press Releases
  7. Blog Commenting
  8. Forum Posts
  9. Link Programs
  10. Creating Contests

On further reading, I did not feel this was the solution I was looking for.

By chance I noticed a reference in Sphinn to a post on Defining Link Building Best Practices. The author’s nickname in the Sphinn discussion was LinkMoses. Surely he might have run across a suitable 10 Commandments if anyone has. The nickname is that of Eric Ward, who has been involved in Content Publicity & Link Building Strategies since 1994. Regrettably it seemed from his post that he was even reluctant to nominate Best Practices.

That’s hardly surprising. If everyone is made aware of Best Practices then everyone can use them and no one can stand out from the crowd. Perhaps defining 10 Commandments is easier. It’s a list of things to avoid doing, since they may almost guarantee failure. It’s a way of avoiding being grouped with the goats rather than the sheep. Perhaps just as for Moses, such a list is only available from on high.

As it happens, Google (Mountain View, CA) has almost developed this list for us. Just check out their Webmaster Guidelines. Most of the following are directly taken from those Guidelines with one or two additions. Some of these are more ‘evil’ than others.

Ten Commandments For Google Links

  1. Avoid Me-too or irrelevant content that gives users no reason to visit your site.
  2. Avoid broken links and incorrect HTML.
  3. Keep the links on a given page to a reasonable number (fewer than 100)
  4. Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
  5. Avoid “doorway” pages created just for search engines.
  6. Don’t create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
  7. Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank.
  8. Avoid valueless links from unrelated websites
  9. Avoid links from low PageRank pages with many outgoing links
  10. Avoid links to web spammers or “bad neighborhoods” on the web.

Obeying these 10 Commandments should keep you out of trouble, although Google does add the following:

Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here (e.g. tricking users by registering misspellings of well-known websites). Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.

This is only a personal interpretation of the 10 Commandments and could undoubtedly be improved. If you think the list should be amended in any way then your comments would be most appreciated. Please add them below. Based on such feedback a more polished version of the 10 Commandments will be produced.

Footnote: Thomas Schmitz (SOEinSeattle) has pointed out to me that Link Moses has produced his version of the Ten Commandments in a slightly less serious vein. Jim Boykin has also recounted how The Google Gods (in our heads) Speak to Us about Link Building. I did not find these when I searched. Apologies. Perhaps the best of these can be combined.

14 thoughts on “Ten Commandments For Google Links”

  1. Nice post, thanks. It’s obvious if you frequent business forums with SEO sections that website owners are getting horribly bewitched bothered bewildered by the subject of link building.

    It’s also obvious, to me anyway, that Google is going to have to work very very hard on their algo if it’s going to remain useful. Link spamming is reaching epidemic proportions with thousands of companies offering rubbish links that seem to impact the SERPs. We live in interesting times.


  2. I think you’re right, Dave. That’s particularly why I added in Commandments #8 and #9, which are not part of the Google Quality Guidelines. I’m absolutely sure, as are many others, that in addition to the poor PageRank for such links, the Google algorithms will apply a very low weighting to such links. It’s a double whammy on them. I only wish some of the Link gurus would point this out more forcefully.

    If you have automated systems that produce tens of thousands of such links, then perhaps you can win. Anything that involves human effort to get mere hundreds is a complete waste of resources.

  3. Good solid post!! Almost everybody is focussing on ‘how to’. This results in really idiotic linkbaiting articles from al sorts of seo ‘experts’ and no focus on content and best practice.

  4. I think most of Verma commandments go hand in hand.
    Create Content (10) + Social Media (2) + Press Releases (6) = Link Baiting (3)
    And this chain of action is probably the most successful. Even if it does not bring you the rankings you want, it lays a foundation of trust and natural backlinks upon which one can put a bunch of high PR links (via trading or buying).

  5. You’re probably right, Malte. However the original Commandments were ‘Thou Shalt Not’s. Verma was listing suggestions rather than prohibitions.

  6. Linking strategy and SEO go hand in hand. It seems to me that one of the more important (but completely unfair) rating methods is based on the age of the web site. Unfair because it would indicate that new sites have little chance of good ratings.

    The other issue is that you get rated on the quality of links to your site but surely this is susceptible to a newer, more refined version of ‘Google Bombing’ where you trash a serious competitiors site by creating one of those hated 10,000 page junk sites linking back to them.

    Can you improve your rankings by getting a competitor delisted? I believe so. Would it be worth it? I really can’t answer that, I suspect not. Regards.

  7. Some great information thank you. I still find it surprising that so many sites still use poorly poorly written html and many sites don’t seem to understand the significance of using keywords in link anchor text.



  8. Solid list of commandments. I really thing it varies on the goal of the site. Many MMO types are looking for a quick buck and could care less about the long term. But any site that wants to out perform all the various slaps Google performs to various linking building methods, should follow these. At the end of the day, only quality contextual related links can go the distance without concern for getting slapped by Google.

  9. If Google’s serious about: “Don’t participate in link schemes designed to increase your site’s ranking or PageRank.” there’s going to be a lot of annoyed people.

    What about participating in link schemes designed to increase visits from your target market?

    How on earth would Google know the difference?

  10. You’d think that since the web in general and link building in particular have been around for a good while now, that most of the items on that list would be obvious, but that’s definitely not the case. I see violations of these 10 commandments (sins, if you will) all the time and even against some of the easiest rules. Bad HTML isn’t a thing of the past quite yet, but considering how easy it is to automatically check it, I think it should be!

  11. There are always new methods being both learned and applied. You really can never say you know everything or are a SEO guru, the algos, filters and rules are always changing. The secret is to stay on top of this information and advance your methods to comply.

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