In a statement today (3/11/2016) on the Webmaster Central Blog, Google made it blatantly clear that buying a hyperlink using any type of bartering or exchange (bribes) with the intent to influence search engine rankings goes against Google guidelines on link schemes, and urged webmasters to add a rel=”nofollow” attribute to any links earned through the exchange of goods and services.

We believe this announcement is similar to the mobile-friendly warning two months prior to the update, alerting the search engine optimization and marketing community that an update is coming, in this case another Google Penguin update targeting link spam. We don’t know exactly when it will happen, but we’re predicting within the next month or two. Webmasters should take as much time as needed this month to review and attempt to cleanup their inbound link profiles.

No mention of keywords in the post, which suggestions all types of links with and without keywords in the anchor text will be at risk.

Google PageRank Mentioned

There is a lot of buzz in the industry after the recent removal of the Google PageRank toolbar, that perhaps their new artificial intelligence engine RankBrain may take over as the dominating tool for helping determine where a page should rank within search results.

We found it fascinating that they used PageRank in the post and infer that it’s likely not going anywhere for the time-being, but the metrics behind it will no longer be visible to those outside of Google’s engineering team.

How to Take Action Before the Next Penguin Hits

As a webmaster or website owner, consider the following steps with a completion deadline of 30-45 days (before May 1st, 2016):

  1. Download your page-level backlinks (Google Search Console, AHREFS, Majestic all work)
  2. Filter out links with a rel=”nofollow” attribute
  3. Manually review each link and determine if it was naturally created or paid for
  4. Finalize your list of questionable or obvious paid for links
  5. Upload your list to a project in your Buzzstream account called Link Cleanup Initiative
  6. Assign the project to your most talented employee with outreach
  7. Work with a sense of urgency to get linking webmasters to add the nofollow attribute
  8. Rerun your page-level backlinks when done and ask for a second set of eyes from a peer

Watch Me Execute the Above Tasks in This Video:

Did We Miss Anything?

Your thoughts and opinions matter. Let us know what you think of the announcement and if our prediction is on par with yours.