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Google’s John Mueller responded to a tweet about guest post outreach. He appeared to say that paying a company to outreach for guest posts may result in unnatural links.

Guest Post Outreach

Guest posting for links is when a web publisher agrees to publish an article that’s written by someone else. The article typically contains a link to the site that is contributing the article.

Mueller’s comments were in reaction to a tweet about the new SEMRush service for obtaining guest post links.

What makes this tweet notable is that SEMRush does not claim to buy links from the publishers that are publishing the articles. SEMRush says they are simply asking sites if they want to publish the articles.

Here’s the tweet that started the discussion:

According to SEMRush, SEMRush will do the outreach and identify a site willing to publish a guest post. SEMRush also writes the content.

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This how SEMRush explains it:

“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.”

According to that scenario, SEMRush is not paying the publisher for a link on their website. They are simply identifying a publisher willing to publish the article, including the link.

The SEMRush customer is not paying the publisher for the link.

The client is paying SEMRush for the service of identifying a publisher willing to host the article containing the link.

John Mueller said that was an unnatural link:

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SEMRush tweeted this response:

Twitter responded like this:

And this:

What’s an Unnatural Link?

Julie Joyce, owner of LinkFish Media (@LinkFishMedia) is an expert on link building. So I asked her about Mueller’s statement about unnatural links.

Julie said:

“There has been so much argument about what constitutes an unnatural or paid link over the years… and many people don’t seem to think that they are buying links.

If I pay to have a webmaster put a link into an article on their site, how is that any different than paying someone to place a guest post on their site?

If you’re paying to get a link, it’s a paid link in my opinion.

The problem isn’t just with paid links though. According to the Google Webmaster Guidelines,

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.’

I think that many times some people assume all paid links are bad and all unnatural links are paid, when that isn’t the case.”

That’s a great observation. All unnatural links aren’t necessarily paid.

The phrase Unnatural Links covers a wide range of situations.

Typically, what unnatural links have in common is the goal to influence search engines. This is commonly seen in the choice of anchor text used for the links as well as the placement location of the link within the article.

Another common characteristic of an unnatural link is the quality of not being earned.

Be Aware of Unnatural Links

If Google indeed sees these kinds of links as unnatural, then John Mueller’s tweet just saved a lot of businesses the heartbreak of receiving a manual penalty.

Link related manual penalties can take significant effort to have removed. Many times it’s not just the set of links that triggered the penalty that need to be removed. Once there’s a manual action for links, any legacy links that are suspicious have to go as well.

In general, it’s not often enough to file a link disavow and call it problem solved.

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It’s not uncommon for Google to require more effort be put into actually having those bad links removed.

Unnatural links cover a wide range of link building tactics. It’s best to keep an open mind on whether certain links might not be so good.

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