Link Scheme

What is a Link Scheme?

A link scheme refers to any attempt to manipulate a website’s search engine ranking through artificial, deceptive, or unethical links. These schemes are against search engine guidelines, particularly those of Google, which clearly defines link schemes as actions intended to increase a site’s ranking or PageRank. In essence, a link scheme involves creating links that weren’t earned through genuine, voluntary content endorsement. This can include buying and selling links, excessive link exchanges, or using automated programs to create links to your site.

Purpose and Use

Link schemes are primarily used by some webmasters and SEO practitioners in an attempt to unfairly gain higher search engine rankings. The purpose is to trick search engines into believing a website is more relevant and authoritative than it actually is by artificially inflating the number of inbound links. However, search engines like Google have become increasingly adept at identifying and penalizing such practices, leading to significant ranking penalties for websites involved in link schemes.

Types of Link Schemes

  1. Paid Links: Buying or selling links that pass PageRank.
  2. Excessive Link Exchanges: “Link to me and I’ll link to you” or “partner pages” exclusively for the sake of cross-linking.
  3. Large-scale Article Marketing or Guest Posting Campaigns: With keyword-rich anchor text links.
  4. Automated Programs or Services: Creating links to a site automatically.
  5. Low-quality Directory or Bookmark Site Links: Links from directories or bookmarking sites that do not provide meaningful content or user experience.
  6. Widely Distributed Links in the Footers or Templates of Various Sites.
  7. Text Advertisements that Pass PageRank: Links embedded within ads that are not tagged with a “nofollow” attribute.

Risks and Consequences

Engaging in link schemes can lead to severe penalties from search engines, including:

  • Ranking Penalties: Decreased visibility in search results, which can significantly impact website traffic and business revenue.
  • Site De-indexing: In extreme cases, a website may be completely removed from a search engine’s index, effectively erasing it from search results.
  • Damage to Reputation: Being penalized for participating in link schemes can harm a website’s credibility with both search engines and users.

Strategies to Avoid Link Schemes

  • Focus on High-quality Content: Creating valuable, engaging content naturally attracts genuine backlinks.
  • Earn Links Through Outreach: Promote your content to relevant audiences, influencers, and websites to earn legitimate links.
  • Use NoFollow for Paid Links: If you’re legally required to link to another site (e.g., sponsors or advertisers), use the “nofollow” attribute to prevent passing PageRank.
  • Regular Monitoring and Auditing: Conduct regular link audits to identify and disavow any unnatural or spammy links pointing to your site.


While the temptation to quickly boost a website’s search engine ranking through link schemes can be high, the long-term risks far outweigh the potential short-term gains. Adhering to ethical SEO practices, focusing on quality content creation, and building relationships for legitimate backlinks are the sustainable paths to success in search engine optimization.

Nedim Mehic

Nedim is a senior technical SEO specialist, and the co-founder of Beki AI. On the Beki AI blog, we share new and innovative strategies to SEO and content marketing.

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