A discussion on WebmasterWorld about redefining Natural Links questioned what was meant by an Editorial Decision to grant a link. It’s a good question. Part of the context of that discussion revolved around receiving notice that links from article directory content were unnatural.
A word about the editorial decision
On one hand a case can be made that everyone who publishes article directory content is making an editorial decision to publish the article with or without the link, hence article directory links are granted due to an editorial decision. But that is not the whole story. On the other hand, we have to take into account that many article directories require via their terms of service that publishers publish the articles without any changes, including requiring the publishers to publish the links. To argue that those links are the result of an editorial choice is pointless and a symptom of delusion.
Let’s be frank. Article directories exist so that site publishers can increase links back to their website. The surprise should not be that Google flagged article directory links as unnatural. The surprise is that it took Google this long.
Looking unnaturally natural
For the longest time the mantra among SEOs has been to keep it natural and then proceed to prescribe a general range of percentages of anchor text and rates of acquisition. Others used scripts to rotate across a range of keyword phrases for their anchors as well as rotate through different websites to benefit from a link exchange scheme. There has never been anything natural about guessed at percentages. Although in the past sites tended to rank well with anchor text jamming there was never anything natural about those formulas for natural amounts of anchor text.
Does natural mean sitting on your hands?
Some may think that the act of asking for a link automatically makes the link unnatural. I don’t believe so. No site can attract links without some kind of promotion. The “Build it and they will come” platitude is nonsense (unless you’re Biz Stone). Now more than ever it’s time for you to get off your hands because if you’ve relied on conveniences and shortcuts that’s what you have been doing, sitting on your hands and letting Google draw a big algorithmic bullseye on your rankings. If you’re tired of getting slapped around by Google’s latest algo then absolutely get off your hands and become active. Think about the factors that draw negative attention to your links and work to create a strategy that creates links without those factors.
The Editorial Test
Your biggest enemy is self-deception. You may feel that your link is (or at least appears) editorially given but that may not be the case. Links on plug-ins? Links on templates? There is no editorial component to that. While someone made a choice to use a template or plugin, as long as they are required to use that template or plug-in your link can draw negative attention. If you’re not going to get a benefit from those links, why not think outside the box and ask the users of said resources to voluntarily write about your product if they benefited from it? It’s not to much to ask and you might be surprised at the response. This is an example of looking at what Google wants and crafting a response that meets it.