Three Ways You Will Get Your Website Penalized Through Bad Quality Link Building Tactics

PenguinSpammy, low quality, irrelevant links can cut off your supply of leads if you have been pursuing SEO tactics that Google is known to penalize.

Unfortunately, in their quest to find the cheapest or most affordable SEO company out there, many business owners unknowingly hire an SEO company who can damage and in many cases directly hurt your website’s performance.

You may have heard of the Penguin update ( from Google by now. If you haven’t, Google updated its algorithm, starting in April 2012, to go after sites that are manipulating search engine rankings via way of bad and low quality links. Google was displeased with the tens of thousands of link networks, spammy websites and obvious manipulations of the search algorithm. The reason: to continue to provide searches with good quality search results. Sounds good right?

Today, we are just going to focus on three link building tactics that you should avoid at all costs. We are not going to talk about what you should do, but rather what to avoid doing. If your website marketing has included any of the below schemes you may need to consider performing a thorough SEO audit of your site and take aggressive action to clean up your link profile:

1. You have paid a company to do link building and that company has placed links to your website on unrelated, poor quality or low quality sites with keywords in the text pointing to your website. For example, a website is about Real Estate in New York and there is a link to your website about ABA Therapy.

Takeaway: If you are buying a “link building package” from an SEO Company, understand exactly how they go about link building. Is it manual or so they use software? How many hours per month do they spend? What is their approach to link building and their process? Who is doing your link building exactly? Is it done in-house or is it farmed out overseas? All of these can present red flags.

It’s important to understand if your SEO company is using ‘white hat’ strategies based on Google’s Guidelines and SEO fundamentals that are generally safe from algorithm changes, or if they are putting your website into risky territory. Transparency with your SEO company is essential to keeping your website safe and out of harm’s way. And remember: whether the link itself is FREE or paid for, you can still get penalized.

2. You have used the same keyword over and over again in the text pointing to your website in a link (known as “anchor text”), resulting in an unnatural looking anchor text profile. If you are suspected of having built unnatural links, you could be hit with a penalization due to over optimization.

Takeaway: Having keywords in your links is important, especially if the page they are being directed toward is really about a related subject and the content on that page is truly helpful and well presented. However, if you use the same keyword anchor text too often, you may trigger Google’s spam filter. It’s very important to build a balanced portfolio of links that combine ‘follow’ and ‘no follow links’, as well as links with your keyword, brand name, generic words, permutations and even actual URLs for anchor text. Speak to an SEO expert and be very careful.

Cleaning up a bad link history can be a very time-consuming and a costly process. If you suspect that you have bad links, get a detailed link analysis done on your website. A knowledgeable SEO firm will be able to do this for you using software and manual research. Ask that company for references from clients for which they have previously conducted an SEO Audit and ask about the quality and thoroughness of their work.

3. You have manually put up links proactively on many web directories, however they are low quality with low Page Rank, and they are unrelated to your industry.

Takeaway: Getting links on web directories is a good thing, if you know that the directories themselves are good quality and credible in the eyes of Google. Fewer directory listings on higher ranked websites related to your company’s products/services is almost always better than getting lots of links on low quality websites. If any of those directories themselves are hit by a Penguin or Panda update, your site could also subsequently lose some rankings if the links are devalued.

Google has gotten much more sophisticated at not only determining whether or not to do a sitewide penalization of your website, but whether it will go after specific links themselves. If you do not see yourself getting good quality referral traffic from a directory or you are not sure, do not build a link there. If you think the site looks suspicious in any way, avoid it. Your SEO firm can create a list of quality directories for you. Stick to industry specific directories and some high quality general directories.

A few tell tale signs that you may have been hit by Penguin:

• A sudden drop off of site traffic
• A severe drop in keyword rankings
• Traffic decreases aligned to Penguin known update timeframes
• You have links to your sites from spammy looking websites
• You have a lot of links coming from blogrolls, forums, and blog spam
• You have used SEO companies that outsource link building abroad and they promised you a certain number of links to be built that is extremely high e.g. 1,000
• Your phone stops ringing and your marketing plan is based on search marketing leads
• Your SEO company has promised an unrealistically short timeline and guaranteed results that are likely impossible to reach

Types of links to avoid (source:searchegninejournal):

• Paid links
• Link directories
• Irrelevant links
• Bad link neighborhoods
• Site-wide links on low quality sites
• Spammy blog comments
• Article directories
• Link exchanges

In summary, link building is an essential part of SEO, but it is also a risky area in which to invest without knowing exactly how your SEO company is going about that process. It’s best to sit down with your SEO consultant in person and talk through link building in detail. If you suspect that there is risky behavior being applied to your account, get a second opinion or look into switching companies. You have too much on the line to not be in control of your link portfolio.

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