It seems that every move Google makes lately sends jitters down a webmaster’s spine. It started with the search giant’s Panda update, which caused many websites to see their ratings plunge, and then now, there’s the Penguin update, which made it possible for the search giant to detect unnatural links. To drive home the point, Google also sent out a warning to a lot of webmasters regarding unnatural links coming into their sites and advised them to remove these links or else face penalty.
First, what are unnatural links? Links are the building blocks of ranking on Google. These serve as votes of confidence for your site that tells Google just how valuable and relevant your site is it in terms of particular keywords or topic. It used to be that the higher number of links you have pointing to your site, the better. So what webmasters and search engine optimizers did was to do everything necessary to get more links.
The methods they used, however, do not always adhere to Google’s terms of service and do not do any good for real users. So in short, these are tantamount to spamming the search engines to get a higher rank.
With Google’s Panda, Penguin and other updates in between, the search engine has gained the ability to index a lot of pages in such a short time and find out which links are spam and which are not. Hence, the penalty.
So what methods should you avoid?
Having too many links with only one keyword as the anchor text.
SEO specialists have always advocated using keywords as anchor text for your URL. This will tell Google that your website is relevant to those keywords you target. However, think about it, having 1,000 links using the same anchor text is just unnatural and it is easy to detect.
What you should do: Aim for different anchor texts. Not just your keywords, but you should also have links with no anchor text, or use your business name as your anchor text.
Having too many social bookmarking links.
Social bookmarking sites became a very popular way to gain links to your website, especially if they’re do-follow. But remember that if you use too many social bookmarks where anybody can post, you might be putting up a link in what Google considers a bad neighborhood. So when Google punishes links from a certain social bookmarking site, your site will be adversely affected as well.
What you should do: Discriminate and find only the top social bookmarking sites that are relevant to your niche. This will ensure that you get quality links.
Do-follow only policy.
Do-follow links are those that give you link juice while no-follow links do not contribute anything to your link profile. In short, Google does not count no-follow links as votes for your site. For this reason, a lot of sites do link building and go after do-follow sites only. So imagine having 1,000 do-follow links and no no-follow links; that is a big signal that your link profile is unnatural.
What you should do: Stop looking at do-follow or no-follow status and instead invest on building links that are not only relevant, but would also get you more organic visitors even if it is no-follow.
Creating a social profile for links.
Social media profiles allow you to put in a link to your website and this is good for reputation management. If you are not going to be active on a social media site, then why bother creating a profile?
What you should do: Focus on the biggest social networks and those that are relevant to your business. Then be active on these social networks to maximize your social activities.
There are a lot of article submission sites out there and they are a haven for those who are looking to put up links. It used to be that you can submit one article to a dozen article submission sites, but then Google cracked down on duplicate sites. So what did SEO and webmasters do? Create slightly different articles from one article and submit each “spun” article to a different site.
What you should do: Focus on high quality submission sites and create articles for these. You may have a smaller number of links, but you are assured that these are good links in relevant neighborhoods.
Buying links and participating in link exchanges.
Exchanging links and buying links result in the same outcome: your link becomes one of the dozens, even hundreds and thousands, of links in a page that maybe considered as bad by Google.
What you should do: Focus on creating top-notch content so that blogs and other sites would link to your content naturally without your having to ask them or to pay them.
Forum spamming, directory submissions and spammy blog commenting.
A popular way of building links is to get into forums and leaving your links on there. Or you could look for a blog post that gives out link juice and comment there. Usually you leave your keyword and URL. Directories are also a good way to easily get links. But then again, if you are spamming, you should know you’re doing it wrong.
What you should do: Look for blogs and forums that are relevant to your business, especially niche blogs and forums. Participate in the discussion and leave links only if necessary in providing a credible resource or relevant example for the discussion at hand. For forums, you can leave a link in your signature, but you should always contribute to the discussion in a meaningful and useful way. The trick is to become an authority on these blogs and forums to make yourself known to the people who go there and read your posts.
The bottom line for any natural link building effort is to have a well-rounded link profile that is balanced. This means that you should be getting all kinds of links from all kinds of sites. Be patient in building your links and do not go for the most number of links in a very short time.
This post is brought to you by Chris Barnwell of Search Engine Optimization, Inc, a full service search engine marketing agency. Save yourself a visit from Penalty Penguin; avoid unnatural link schemes and practice ethical link building that abides by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.