This is the next SEO technique that Google appears to be going after (or has gone after big style in the last couple of months). A blog network is a group of blogs – normally bog standard wordpress installs, with basic wordpress templates and lots of content. Generally this content is generated explicitly for the purposes of creating links back to a website.
The thing about this content is, by and large it is created at dirt cheap rates, with little or no thought, it’s then spun which means the words are changed algorithmically by a piece of software and the content is then syndicated across a networks of sites that are owned by the same person or organisation, each one of these new blogs then has a link pointing back to a page on a client site using specific anchor text which then helps that links destination to rank. The thing is Google is getting smarter about how it deals with this.
There is quite a bit of talk in the SEO community about unnatural link warnings coming through to people’s webmaster tools account, I’ve written on it myself – it’s recently featured on SEOMoz.
How to tell if you’re looking at a blog network site?
When searching in Google it’s likely you’re never going to find a blog network site, these sites aren’t designed to be found by ordinary internet users, they are really just designed to generate links back to websites to help those money sites rank. If you do happen to find yourself on a site you think might be part of a blog network here are a few things you should look out for:
- Basic template – in all likelihood no effort will have gone into making these sites appear good, they are all very basic, usually just a date archive, limited navigation
- Pages and pages of seemingly unrelated content
- The content is probably badly written
- The content doesn’t really add anything to the subject it’s about
- There are normally 1 – 3 links in the content back to the same page on a client’s website
- They won’t link out to any other websites
- They won’t have Google Analytics, Google Webmaster or Google Adsense added to them
What is Google Doing About Blog Networks?
Basically, as from March 2012 it looks as though the game is up – they seem to have figured out the general consistencies between different blog sites and what blog network sites look like.
This means they are Google are getting rid of a load of rubbish from its index and just about every website out there that has ever dabbled in SEO will probably feel this pain in some way or another, some will have directly used blog networks in their strategy, others will have used sites that also use blog networks in their strategy. I think it’s fair to say it’s a big change asnd it’s going to have a massive impact not only on those sites that have been delisted – it’s certainly likely to put some people out of business.
What will happen to my site if I’ve got links from blog networks?
No idea is the honest answer, however I can speculate. I’d guess that there would be a combination of two factors going on. I think Google will implement time based penalties for certain keywords – this would be like a time based penalty that would see a site drop down for a specific keyword for a certain amount of time. I don’t think Google will do too much damage to the strong players in the search market if they have some links from these sites, ultimately if all your links come from these sites your site will probably fall off a cliff – but I’d guess only in the fact that it’s had all its links removed by the deindexing of the blog network.
Google’s advice is to take them off the network and resubmit a reconsideration request. I’m not really sure how feasible this is, by and large I’d guess that most people that have links on these networks will never be able to get in touch with the person or organisation that own them directly in order that they are taken down.
Why blog networks went wrong
Essentially, the blog networks got greedy, they didn’t product good quality websites – there’s talk about them not producing good quality content but I don’t think it’s really about good quality content, rather it’s about a type of blog, that has no topic and no brand to signal to Google that this is good quality, otherwise Google’s algorithms would trip out thinking just about every newspaper out there, for example, is a blog to be deranked.
Can blogs still work for SEO?
At the end of the day Google has been encouraging us to blog for years. Their new semantic search is going to be much more blog orientated in my opinion because it relays on the context of the content. If it didn’t our move towards inbound marketing would be left in tatters too. Therefore, I believe that blogs still have a significant role to play in SEO in fact I believe after the decline of the blog networks, blogs will probably have more influence in SEO, although I’m not advocating it, if there are people out there that are looking to build networks of blogs to benefit clients I would suggest they may be best creating content in specific topic areas and only taking on clients that match those topic areas, or at very least writing the content in such a way that it relates the client content through to the overarching content topic of the website.
Easier said than done no doubt!!