So what exactly is a natural link?


To say website owners are confused now is to say nothing.. Ok we get it: All links that we have no relation to (someone put it to us without us being in any way involved; let's not talk about people being even afraid of linking; that's another story...) are natural... That's the plan for the future...

But what if we are trying to figure out which links may have triggered a penalty or a Penguin filter? How do we tell now, looking back at our back link profiles, which of those links are considered unnatural?

We had some quick argument with @Marie_Haynes and @wiep on Twitter as to why Google may (or may not) view Dmoz links as editorial (well, my point was even though we put it, there's a human editor who will decide if the link is useful enough and adds enough value to be there).... and yes, I do understand that all depends on which pattern of unnatural links you are hitting... But just for the sake of a clear definition: What is a natural link? Are editorial links all good?

Google's John Mueller may be shedding some light in the latest Google Hangout saying that Dmoz links are natural because someone monitors what is published and maintains quality.

That's good to know...



"Dmoz links are natural because someone monitors what is published and maintains quality"

What year am I in?  Did Doc from Back to the Future kidnap me?

LOL, I guess that's actually

LOL, I guess that's actually about the links that were put back then :)

confusion over links

I think the confusion surrounding the topic of "what is a GOOD link" is largely due to the natural human aversion to change and many in the industry are ready to accept the CHANGE in what google thinks is a GOOD link.

Its about HOW TRUSTrank has changed?.

Surely we can all agree that trust is a subjective term and as of now, not even google can program a machine to make subjective decisions. So when we can all see thousands of posts across the web about how all we need to do is create GREAT, (another subjective term), content. Again, what is great content? If a lady searches for discount shoes, do we really believe that writing 1200 unique words about the history of discounts is what the lady is looking for? Is that really what google wants to show the lady?

So how do we think google defines trust ? Keeping in mind that google has hundreds of millions of pages for just about any keyword/phrase to decide which to trust.

When building an algorithm, first the objectives has to be defined. So what do we think googles objective is? I propose the primary objective is not just relevancy, (another subjective term. If you believe something is relevant - you're right. If you believe it isnt, again, you're right).

I propose it MAY be relevancy but only when coupled with what is relevant AND will increase shareholder value. I think when push comes to shove and assuming they could only pick one, it could be argued google would choose relevancy over profit, (hahahahahah, sorry, that notion always makes me laugh), BUT as long as they had available resources to offer options, (such as 100's of billions of pages indexed), they would set the objective to be relevant AND increase profits. If we can accept that, it changes the way we would define trust in the eyes of google.

If my point has some validity, then trust to them would be selling more search related ads for more money. That can only come about by having more data, more inventory, (page views), and knowing more about which ad would have the best chance of  converting for what person. Enter geo-location and personalization influenced results circa 2005.

Now we all know they are tracking EVERYTHING FROM EVERYBODY. Search history, preferences, social networks, emails, data looked at in google tools such as analytics and webmaster tools, purchases, comments, EVERYTHING. Why? Because action indicates intent and interest. And the more data they can collect and analyze gives them more insight into what ad a consumer, (any net user), would be more likely to respond to. Another word for action could be ENGAGEMENT.

I say the links google trusts are links that gives google what google wants. What they trust are links that ENGAGE people. And it doesnt even have to be href links. It could be a comment or an email etc. 

If the page with the 1200 words about the history of discounts had 1000 people go to the link from a serp, stay 3 seconds and hit the back button, compared to a page with 100 words and 10 images of discount shoes that got 100 people that clicked on images and links on that page and stayed for 6 mintues for example, it'sTHAT page with the 100 words that google would trust and the first page would start dropping while the 2nd page would get increasingly more exposure in the organic results.

In other words google TRUSTS pages that give them what they want, more data indicating interest, on more people. That means finding ways to ENGAGE people.

Which also means spending time and money on removing links based on an algorithm, (not written by google), is very likely not worth the investment. 

Im not suggesting that everything SEO's have been doing in traditional link building since 2001 is out the window. Im not saying this new TrustRank has replaced hi PR links, guest posting, blog commenting etc. I am saying there is empirical evidence that this new definition of trust is REPLACING those things with increased frequency with each new Penguin update.    

For now at least, I do believe that one thing left from the "ancient" algo of 2010 or so, is that its not about A link but rather your link profile. If that is the case, then it seems to me it would make more sense to increase trust not by removing links as much as getting new links that offset the bad with the good.

Bad links = links that do not engage people with the target url

good links = links, (or references to urls), that give google what they want. More data on more interests of more people so they can show more ads likely to get more conversions. 

I may be all wrong but what would you do if you were google?




The problem with this theory

The problem with this theory (that they view SERPs behavior to build trust) is that there's no much data for them to evaluate then: It's very limited as there are only top 5 results that get clicks, so other great pages won;t even have chance to be evaluated...

Same about different pages: How about pages that do not require any engagement?

@Annsmarty @incrediblehelp

@Annsmarty @incrediblehelp and @bobmassa

Thanks to give your information ... its very useful. 

From the first day of SEO - The natural links are - relevant and ethical links to make it more strong for a website. 

Its all based on content management / marketing points of view to - represent the link / anchor for that particular website. 

Some specific sites are good like Dmoz. its true  Dmoz is fully controlled. 

Same like - Ezinearticles, craigslist and some top class forums. 

We love to do this - because we know we can do. 


Denish Verma

SEO Manager 



It is kind of sad

It is kind of sad that we have been reduced to arguing whether Dmoz is a natural link or not.

For years I used to try and get my clients into Dmoz. why? because Dmoz links worked but it must be at least 5 years ago now, those links stopped working. Or more to the point there were better ways to spend my time than trying to get that corruption ridden hell hole to accept links. I could get more and better links with a lot less effort so I completely ignored Dmoz.

If we are now back to trying to get our links into Dmoz stop this bus ride because I want to get off!!!!

Google new "transparency" is really making a mess of the SEO community, which is probably what they intended all along.

>The natural links are -

>The natural links are - relevant and ethical links<

the words relevant and ethical are both subjective terms. In other words if you think something is relevant -- you're right. If you think it's not relevant, again, you're right. the same applies to ethical. to use an EXTREME example, when terroists attack a public target killing what could be considered innocent bystanders by most, they believe they are acting at the highest level of ethics. Of course most don't agree and that is what makes it subjective.

An algorithm is just a program. It can not establish a universal defintion of a subjective term. It can't "DECIDE" what is wrong or right or moral. It can only do what it was told to do by the programmer. In google's case, that program "decides" by a series of mathmatical command. If y = ? then x= ! kind of thing. so the ethics and relevancy of any specific set of data is determined by the motivations of the programmer by adding (usually), filters. If y = ? give it x value unless there is P then subtract X quantity of value. Then of course there could also be anti filrers or an equation that would ADD value as opposed to a filter subtracting value. But either way it is going to based on what the programmer thinks is good or bad.

So unless google tells us exactly what GOOGLES idea of ethics or relevance is, we are as much in the dark as always. The best we can hope for is to guess and be right more often than we're wrong.

its due to my perception of the math components of an algorithm that make me tend to believe its not about removing unnatural links , ( I think it is all FUD designed to gather more data from people that ordinarily would not make that data available to them, et al reinclusion requests), because even though some links may trip a filter, good links would add value making the overall profile more infuential than any one link. Of course that still leaves the conundrum of trying to decide what is a  GOOD link according to google.

When thinking in those terms I force myself to remember that any program will do what its told to do based on the ideas, concepts and belief system of the human doing the programming. so in that regard, the machine will "think" like that human.  And a human is going to make a decision that serves his own self interests. Of course that motive could be to provide" better" for the general public. BUT what human would decide to provide better for the public at it's own detriment? Humans are first and foremost going to be motivated to act in their own self interest because self preservation equates to survival and that is the definition of life. to survive.

So I have to believe Google's primary objective when programming an algorithm is not to provide the best at any cost but rather it is closer to providing the best within the context of what achieves their financial goals . And that makes it different and I believe that is our best clue into trying to figure out Google considers good.  Google thinks good is what makes them enough money to continue providing the better, (at it's most alruistic).

>so other great pages won;t

>so other great pages won;t even have chance to be evaluated.<


You may very well be 100% correct Ann, but why would google care? long as those top 5 don't create disappointment in the general population, threatening their market share, why would they care?

#2, There are a lot of ways sites get traffic beyond the top 5 organic links. Newspapers, TV, social conversations, video comments, just to name a few.

>there's no much data for them to evaluate then<

I think links are just a few of the 200 parts of the algorithm we keep hearing about.  If we assume things like

title = 5 pts

keyword density =2

inbound link = 6

time on site = 1

number of pages viewed = 1


(those numbers are totally random and for illustration purposes only)

so the data gathered about the site would only be a small part. BUT what, (if I were them), would NOT be so small is the person doing the viewing was looking at and what they did about it. THAT I think is crucial.

>How about pages that do not require any engagement?<

I have great respect for your insight into the world of seo so I thought about this one for a long time before responding and Im very curious as to what pages dont require engagement. I cant think of any. Contact us pages, order forms, graphics, forum posts, white papers, pdf's etc. Anyone spending time clicking on a link to that page or reading it or especially making a purchase or enquiry from it would be engagement and would indicate interest offering Google data on who they were, what they liked, what they believed in, and which ads they might respond to.



>pages that do not require

>pages that do not require any engagement?<

Now that Google gives many answers in SERPs, the number of such pages really decreased... Previously, I would be likely to  leave (and even click back to search results to search for more indepth information now that I know the basic definition) thesaurus pages, translations (I used them a lot since I was always blogging in a foreign language), weather pages, currency conversion / info pages, ... there are many types of instant specific searches which I used to run and clicked back to search results to search for something else or go more indepth...

what is not natural....

imho, what is not natural is any person, company, or organization trying to influence what is posted on the web, by whom, how, and why. Including, but not limited to, links.

The search-engine-pleasers of this world are doing themselves and fellow webmasters a giant disservice listening too much to what any one search engine (or any other entity) says.

By creating a section of the web more or less tailored to the random wishes of one random company, they are in fact making the whole internet unnatural. The word for this is pollution.

Links are for people to click on. The more, the merrier. End of story.

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