Google Calls Out SEMRush and warns that links from their Guest Post Service might damage your website
SEMRush launched a new service offering to find you high quality links to your website... and Google doesn't like it.
In case this is the first time you've come across the concept the link building or guest posting, here is it is in a nutshell - Most SEO experts agree that the more quality links you have to your site, the better it will position in the search engine rankings. The of the most popular ways to build links is to write content for more popular websites in your niche/vertical market and then get a link to your site in your by-line/author profile. If you're super lucky, or super smart, you might even sneak a link into the article itself.
Because links are so important, Google has a kind of strange mania for punishing people who cheat and pay for links rather than earning them "organically". And if you're one of those people who have "drunk the Kool-Aid" and believe that backlinks aren't still at the core of Google's algorithm, I'd love to hear why you think they spend so much talking about them and reminding us all of the rules.
And, speaking of rules, this is what SEMRush said they were going to start doing...
“Using manual outreach, we will secure a guest post on a high-quality site and include your link in a relevant position. We will then write and publish your article on the blog with links to your site.”
What SEMRush says it does...
Google took a pretty dim view of this and the SEO social media sphere briefly caught fire with speculation, condemnation, and other assorted "ations".
To be frank, the service does seem a little... shady. SEMRush creates the content, performs the "outreach" to sites that might publish the content, and the pricing is based on the amount of traffic that you can expect.
SEMRush says that it doesn't purchase the links but I think it is reasonable to assume that its going to be working with a network sites it knows and it's going to be building up relationships with those sites. Or, in the words of SEO expert Hannibal Lector... "Quid Pro Quo, Clarice..."
Here's what John Mueller, the current person at Google charged with lifting Mjölnir and bringing the hammer down on the SEMRush, had to say...
If you're not sure an "unnatural" link is, it's basically any link that you didn't come by (in Google's opinion) in an unfair, unnatural, or otherwise inorganic way. Here's Google's official definition.
When you take all this into account it may seem like any sort of link building is practically impossible and that the only way to be safe is to wait for links to appear as a consequence of one of Alan Moore's thermodynamic miracles (as likely as air spontaneously turning into gold).
The bottom line is... Google doesn't like people selling links, unless it's them.
the important thing is not to panic
The important thing amongst all this noise is not to panic (unless you are SEMRush or one of their customers). It's still perfectly possible to build links, but it's a process best done on a gradual and organic scale and never, ever, through a third party who is doing it in bulk. "Link Factories" are not your friend.
There are some tips and tactics on Link Building in "The Truth About SEO", which you can read right here on this site or buy in paperback or Kindle (just saying).
In the meantime, SEMRush has decided to pull their Link Building service, issuing a blog post that contained the following worrying statement for any customer of the service...
Early this week we audited the first batch of guest posts and came to the conclusion that the service would require more time to implement, given the volume of orders received and our commitment to excellence.
Maybe I should send them a free copy of the book...