2014 has seen a lot of changes with how Google views backlinks. The search giant has taken action on several link networks in Germany, Spain, Italy, Greece and France this year and is showing no signs of slowing down.
An article posted yesterday by +Bill Hartzer mentions how Google is now targeting HARO and press releases as bad links. For those of you who don’t know, HARO, which stands for Help A Reporter Out, is a resource for bloggers, reporters and other content-centric individuals used to promote their brands, services, products, etc. Until today, HARO was very beneficial in this regard as it helped many people connect and share their content.
I first heard about this story on a post by Rand Fishkin on Google+ earlier this morning where the debate over this continues. It may not be HARO itself that’s targeted but low quality sites linking to Bill’s content that triggered his investigation. Long story short some of the syndicated content was scraped by low quality sites that engage in “fishy or spammy” activity as Bill mentions.
No matter which way you look at it, link building is becoming increasingly difficult as SEO evolves. This can be viewed as a good thing in a sense that only high quality content will prevail but the uncertainty of what strategies are allowed is alarming.
My Two Cents
Be careful how and where you market your content. Bills story shows us that even trusted sites like HARO are still subject to scrutiny. Research and continually monitor backlinks to your site to prevent something like this happening to you. Set up Google or Talkwalker alerts to receive notifications any time your brand or content are mentioned. This will help to see where mentions and links are coming from so you can then determine if you need to disavow them or not.
A followup story by +Matt McGee highlights some examples that Google may not be targeting HARO. Matt cites some examples that point out how low quality sites scraped content from the original articles, that did not have any backlinks, and those scraper sites had duplicate content and were modified to include backlinks to Bill’s clients. I will continue to monitor this and update it with any new evidence that surfaces.