There are a lot of practices marketers use to get stronger search signals, but those tactics won't always drive the results they expect.

A lot of marketers are focused on links. They wonder how they can get more, how much they impact rankings and how to get maximize SEO value from them. All the while, Google spokespeople have come forward to assert that links are a ranking tool, but they shouldn’t be the focus of a web marketing strategy. Trying to manipulate links for rankings is a dark path some webmasters travel, which at best delivers short-term results and at worst, brings penalties and traffic loss to their sites.

Now, an ex-Googler has provided even more information about links, revealing that tweaking anchor text to improve SEO value is a dead-end. Pedro Dias, a managing partner at Apis3 and a former Googler from the search quality/webspam team, tweeted that Google is less likely to trust links that are changed after they’re first crawled.

Pedro Dias TweetThat is, marketing teams shouldn’t be behind the scenes, changing editorially driven anchor text in web content to superficially add a little more “link juice.” If you’re reaching out to sites that have linked to you and asking them to change references to your site to include a keyword phrase, you might end up with less SEO value than you had at the outset.

Dias further clarified his statement, as interested search marketing professionals jumped on his claim to determine whether “less trust” actually meant lower rankings and penalties. He explained that neither of those scenarios would necessarily be the case, but that search engines might give those links a little less weight than they would otherwise.

While there aren’t any clear-cut penalties on the table, it’s still wise for SEOs and marketers to reconsider their approach to links. If it could be considered at all manipulative, they need to weigh the potential consequences. Google might not be punishing this practice yet, but that’s no guarantee it won’t be penalized in the future. With hundreds of updates every year, marketers can hardly expect rankings to remain static and continue using outdated practices. They need to innovate and diversify to stay ahead of the curve.

Have some links that you’re not sure about? Here’s a guide to finding bad links and removing them to restore rankings. 

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.