Google’s John Mueller answered a question on the topic of what to do about spammy links to a site. The concern was that rankings might be harmed by the links.
John Mueller reassured the publisher that it’s generally nothing to worry about. Then he made an interesting exception about when someone was out there buying links.
Here is the question:
“There are tens of thousands of backlinks to our website… I heard a lot from you… that there are websites which are… spammy websites, maybe penalized by Google… What should we do about those websites? Should we just ignore and act like we don’t know anything?”
Google’s John Mueller answered:
“For the most part, unless you’re aware of kind of regular activity that… a previous SEO or like someone in the past has been doing for your website with regards to links then I wouldn’t worry about it.
That’s something where if a website has been around for a long time then it has links from all kinds of crazy places. …These are things we see on the web all the time.”
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Spammy links are something that has been happening for a long time. Most successful websites have them.
A client asked me about this recently. My explanation was that a scenario could be that a spammer might be putting up hundreds of thousands to millions of web pages, using the brand names of various websites and bits of their content. The goal appears to be ranking for longtail phrases for the purpose of ad clicks or infecting site visitors with malware.
My advice echoes what John Mueller said. These kinds of links are normal to many successful websites. As John Mueller said, it’s a normal part of the web, something that Google will “see all the time.”
John Mueller then alluded to negative SEO in making an exception to the advice to not worry.
Here is what he said:
“So unless you’re really aware of kind of dedicated activity of someone going out and buying a lot of links and kind of really doing a lot of things that are against our webmaster guidelines then I wouldn’t really worry about this…”
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As you can see from the quote above, Google’s John Mueller didn’t say that this activity was something to worry about. He didn’t elaborate. But he did mention it as an exception to the advice to not worry about spammy links.
The context of the discussion was about what to do about spammy inbound links. The only real thing to do in the case of spammy links that you have no control over is to disavow them.
John Mueller didn’t comment any further. So we don’t know for sure if disavowing spammy paid links purchased by a competitor is the recommended course of action. But it could very well be the prudent course of action, even though there is a high likelihood that the paid links might not have a negative effect.
Spammy Links are a Normal Part of the Web
The important takeaway is that spammy links are a normal part of the web. If you are concerned about spammy links, perhaps it may be more useful to focus on on-page factors to understand why a is not ranking where you think it should.
John Mueller went on to reassure the publisher asking the question that spammy links are normal.
“It’s interesting to take a look from time to time and maybe you can spot things that you should have cleaned up in the past but for the most part kind of this mix of weird web pages eveywhere linking to other web pages I think that’s a normal part of the web. “
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