Google Considers Branded Anchor Text Unnatural in Widget Links

Google has repeatedly warned site owners over the danger of using widgets for link building.  But simply using branded anchor text as the link within the widget was a gray area where some site owners were saying that if it was branded – and not “keyword keyword keyword” links – then it shouldn’t be considered unnatural.

Google warned us about widget links once again in September last year, specifically about using followed links, but their warning didn’t specifically mention branded anchor text, but instead mentioned “some widgets add links to a site that a webmaster did not editorially place and contain anchor text that the webmaster does not control.”  Everyone can agree that using an anchor text like “buy Viagra online now” is a pretty clear violation.   But what if a simple “Brand” was used, would that be against Google’s guidelines or okay since it wasn’t using a keyword rich anchor text instead?  Many SEOs argued both sides.

Marie Haynes reported that a couple of her clients that used widget link building received manual actions, and in the unnatural links manual action sent by Google, the examples from Google included links that were simple branded anchor text links.

This seems to put the issue to rest… even branded anchor text used with widgets are considered unnatural and can trigger a manual action if caught by Google.  If you do have a widget with links, make sure that those links are nofollowed, or if you have followed links, either nofollow or disavow them, or you will run the risk of a manual action.

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