Google kills links in bios to drive authors to Google+

Back in 2011, Google CEO Larry Page sent a memo to all his employees that their bonuses depend on the success of Google’s social efforts. That memo quickly became public and suddenly people realised that Google was serious when it came to social media – despite the well-documented failure of each of its networks up until that point.

Internet Marketers have conceded that you can’t chase the algorithm for some time and when Google+ launched it became equally fruitless to write off their social networking endeavours. With so many smart people’s pay packets reliant on it, “create a Google+ page” was strapped onto the end of SEO site audits the world over and navel-gazing pitches to clients were conducted using the line: “It’s not important for rankings right now…but someday it will be…”

Google+

Google+ is now the only way to get credit for authorship.

It began with the highly public execution of Google Reader – an apparently popular tool, especially among the internet’s authors, who were reliant on it to deliver a depth of information that Facebook and Twitter don’t deliver. It was all part of the plan to drive the internet savvy to Google+ and though there’s no word from Mountain View how that’s going to be achieved right now – especially with the swiftly developed alternatives from the likes of Digg (check out Dr. Pete’s in-depth analysis of each replacement RSS reader on Moz.com); but the sheer quantity of PhDs on the Google payroll would suggest that there’s a strategy in place.

Google (much more quietly) took another step towards its monopoly on publishing at a similar time, spotted earlier this week by Marie Haynes in a Webmaster Central video released in February. In the video, Googler John Mueller states that if you’re guest blogging, you should probably add the rel=”nofollow” attribute to any self-serving links.

Google’s official position on guest blogging for links, as explained by Matt Cutts.

Search Engine Land summarised Mueller’s advice yesterday:

“It is best you nofollow links in stories you write, especially when those stories are guest blog posts for the purpose of link building.

“In general, that is Google’s advice. If you link to something with the intent that it should help your Google rankings – then nofollow the link. If you write something without that intent and the link is really natural, then there is no reason to nofollow the link.”

As Haynes put in her blog post, resources that are included in guest blog posts shouldn’t really be an issue and this means that guest blogging as a method of link building won’t cause you any problems – as long as that link deserves to be there. Likewise, author bio links (or any links) with the rel=”nofollow” attribute applied to them won’t get you penalised, so you’re going to have to rely on the fact that you’re well enough known in your field (or your article is extremely relevant to what you do) in order to get click-throughs to your site.

According to Google, now, you don’t deserve a link just for writing a post…at least not a link that Google will use to determine rankings. As Google inevitably begins discounting author bio links it will start to become clear that the only way to increase the position of your site in the SERPs using your status as an expert author is to ensure that you have Google+ authorship implemented, and if you want to increase your authority in any subject area Google+ is the only thing that will count in the algorithm.

By Stephen Kenwright. at 3:14PM on Wednesday, 10 Jul 2013

Stephen is our Senior Search Strategist in Leeds. Coming to Branded3 from an advertising in background at FTSE 250 strategic outsourcing business Mitie, Stephen leads SEO and content marketing strategies for some of the world's biggest brands. Follow Stephen Kenwright on Twitter.

comments

  • http://www.top5seo.co.uk/ David McSweeney

    Yes, by far the most important thing any webmaster/seo/marketer can do at the moment is make sure they have authorship set up correctly and start building up their network on google+ I have a feeling we are going to see big changes in the way pages are ranked over the next year and, as with all big updates, there will be a plethora of angry website owners (probably some high profile) who lose their traffic overnight.

    The warning signs have been in place for quite some time now though and it’s another reason it is so important to try and get away from a overly heavy reliance on google for traffic, or certainly to have a multi faceted approach to your traffic strategy.

    Interesting post.

    • Stephen Kenwright

      Thanks for your comment David. I agree, Google+ is going to be a success whether we like it or not, and thankfully it’s actually developed into a pretty good network. It makes perfect sense to get in as early as possible.

      • http://www.top5seo.co.uk/ David McSweeney

        yeah, definitely. I must say I have neglected it and am currently in a pathetic grand total of about 15 circles (this shall be sorted though!). The crazy thing is I registered an account the day it was launched in the UK too, I just haven’t been working to build connections on it. I remember on the day telling people how it was going to huge and how everyone should get on there, and then I went away and looked at pictures of funny cats on facebook and forgot all about it. They were really funny cats mind you…

  • http://www.elite-strategies.com/blog Patrick Coombe

    solid post – we all have our eyes on this part of the industry and are patiently waiting for the other shoe to drop.

  • http://www.koozai.com/ Mike Essex

    The interesting thing in all this is the line ““It is best you nofollow links in stories you write, especially when those stories are guest blog posts for the purpose of link building.”

    This assumes that your average website owner is going to be:

    A) aware of the type of penalty they could get otherwise and that what they are doing is for link building.

    B) aware that what they are writing is a “guest post” and not just them helping out another site.

    That’s an important factor because most web owners are not SEO’s and are not aware of every single thing Google change. What if someone asks a writer to write for their site as a favour? If the person writing it and the site they write for don’t understand SEO they could get penalised.

    Isn’t that crazy? It’s Google establishing their will on the rest of the web. Keeping up with all of the loopholes they suggest to make sure everything is ethical is hard enough for an SEO. Do normal webmasters really stand any chance?

    Let’s not forget Google encouraged the “Nofollow” tag once before and then scrapped it when people used it for PageRank sculpting. Now they love it again. It’s not like their rules are consistent. I fail to see how anyone could keep up. It’s crazy and totally unfair to punish people for not doing so.

    • Stephen Kenwright

      Thanks for the comment Mike. Makes sense that they discourage people who know about SEO from doing it from their perspective…I suppose that what you call normal webmasters have to rely on doing it on a small scale to avoid being penalised.

    • Stephen Kenwright

      Thanks for the comment Mike. Just seems to me like Google see + as the answer to all the questions whether it’s suitable or not.

  • http://financegourmet.com/ Finance Gourmet

    The catch to this is that they would have to be able to detect the difference between a “guest post” for link building, and a someone just writing for another publication, which happens all the time in legitimate publishing. In other words, at normal, human scale, this is likely a non-issue. Someone pumping out thousands of guest posts on hundreds of sites would be a different story. This seems like an attempt to head off the building of guest post networks before they become a problem like the old link networks did.

    • Stephen Kenwright

      Thanks for the response – I think some guest post networks already are getting to that scale…and I’m aware of some companies that were burned by hanging onto article marketing networks for too long “upgrading” to guest post networks…Google’s getting better at detecting this kind of thing.