The contest for ranking on the first page of Google has never been more fierce. Bids for keywords on Adwords have reached astronomical heights, traffic from social media is proving to be difficult to convert and the SEO landscape has changed so much that it is becoming more difficult to rank successfully for a desired keyword. However, the sites that rank on the first page of Google reap the rewards of getting free traffic leads.
Because webmasters know how lucrative it is to appear on the first page of Google, there’s a strong temptation to manipulate the organic search results with web and link spam, which is breaking Google’s Terms of Service. Google will be launching their Penguin 3.0 algorithm to further combat link spam and webmasters should review their site to see if there are any links that might be problematic in the future.
Forum signature links
Although they were targeted in previous algorithm rollouts and manual link penalties, it’s a practice that is still widely used in the SEO space. Check your backlink profile to see if your site is benefiting from signature links across forums.
Below is an example taken from Google’s policy on ‘Link Schemes’.
If you find that your site has links like these, you can log into your forum profile and remove the links. Alternatively, you can submit the URL or domain in a disavow file for Google to ignore the links.
Links from directories solely built for SEO purposes.
There are authoritative directories and then there are directories that exist for the sole purpose of providing links for webmasters. The latter of the two is usually easier to spot because:
- They demand a fee for publishing your business’s listing.
- They tend to use a similar template.
- They tend to have a wide range of categories.
- They tend to have little or no traffic on the site.
If you can see links from these types of directories, get them removed or add them to your site’s disavow file.
Links from authoritative directories that’s relevant to your business should be fine. However, if a fee is payable, the link should have the rel=nofollow attribute to comply with Google’s Terms of Service.
Links from Private Blog Networks
Several webmasters have used the ranking power of private blog networks to rank their sites on Google. Google have cracked down on PBNs by deindexing many of the sites within the network.
If your site is associated with any of the following networks, you should look at getting them removed as quickly as possible.
Check for any unnatural links from guest blogging networks.
Webmasters were getting penalised for participating on a platform where they could exchange content that would be published on external websites for backlinks. The platforms themselves were penalised as well as some of the websites that benefited from having links from participating publishers. Check to see if your site has any profiles on sites such as:
Check for links from PR syndications
Google cracked down on sites that were using press releases to get their links placed across several sites through different press release wires. Check to see if your website has profiles and if it still uses the following distribution services.
- PR Newswire
- Business Wire
- PR Log
- 24/7 Press Release
If they are being used to distribute links as a part of an SEO strategy, stop immediately and try to remove or disavow the links that have been acquired as a result of the syndication.
Blog comment spam
Blog comment spam has been very problematic since SEOs tend to use automated software to blast commentary text that contains backlinks to several web blogs across the web. This tactic was popular 10 years ago and if your site has been doing SEO prior to 2006, it is likely that you will need to review the use of blog comments where keyword rich hyperlinks were used in blog names and also within the comments themselves.
This is a bit of an older tactic, however it is still a method that is still widely used by site owners. When links are reciprocated as a part of a link scheme, it is breaking Google’s Terms of Service. If the sites that are linking to your site aren’t relevant, it will be easy for Google to identify that your site is participating in a link scheme and it is likely that your site will receive a Penguin or manual penalty. Check for any reciprocal links with any web partners and request removal as soon as possible.
Low quality bookmarks
There have been several issues with social bookmarks being abused for SEO gain. Google has clocked onto this since many social bookmarking sites are rarely used apart from linking for SEO purposes. When social bookmarking is used ethically, it will trigger shares among the audience and traffic. However, if it is used purely for SEO purposes, Google will notice the unnatural pattern and it is likely that your site will receive a penalty.
Check your backlinks for any unnatural anchor text patterns.
One of the easiest ways for Google to identify if your site has unnatural links is from the patterns in your site’s anchor text. For example, if you own a car insurance website and there are 50 links from blogs that have the keyword “cheap car insurance”, it will trigger a red flag which could lead to penalties from Google.
Keep your anchor text varied by using less than 30% exact match anchor text for any keyword.
Check for unnatural use of sitewide links.
Google also clamped down on the use of sitewide links that used keyword rich anchor text. Check the backlink profile of your website to see if there are any sites that promote your site using keyword rich anchor text and either change it to a more natural keyword or image link.
Penguin 3 will hit soon and it’s been predicted to cause the biggest impact in the SEO space since it first launched. Don’t let your site fall victim to the update because of SEO practices that your site adopted in the past. Google’s John Mueller said in January 2015 that a Penguin penalty can be removed by simply building good links. So it is ideal that you prepare your site to benefit from the pending update as soon as possible.