With modern link building, the stakes are high. If successful, link building presents great opportunities to increase your search visibility and gather highly relevant inbound traffic to your website. However, since the introduction of Penguin, the slightest perception of manipulation could result in manual penalties that set your SEO campaign back years. Who knew penguins could be so fearsome?
Unfortunately, navigating through link building’s shadowy practices and Google’s esoteric algorithm sometimes make it difficult to discern the line between white-hat and black-hat link building practices. So what link practices should we avoid and how do we navigate between what is right and what is wrong to link build in a cutthroat vertical?
Link building can be incredibly difficult, especially for new websites, but don’t let fear lead you to the dark side. While link buying schemes may seem appealing, Google’s Penguin was created just to stop them.
Buying links is a dangerous game. You can easily find skeevy sites offering an absurd amount of links for practically nothing, but those links will be on spammy websites that will not actually help your website. Worse, they can flag your website as spam. Then there are the expensive ones, which can be to better sites, but if you are caught, you just bought yourself a manual penalty, because Google can spot links involved in a link buying scheme. You don’t want to ruin your trust with Google.
Due to so many websites using this practice before it was outlawed, whether by their knowledge or not, this factor isn’t as bad as it was before, but the manual penalties still exist and the spam factor still needs to be taken into consideration.
Link buying or link farming schemes were once incredibly successful at driving search visibility for your website, before machine learning was introduced. This lead to acquiring too many links all at once, particularly on the same few sites, signalling manipulation to Google’s search algorithm. Of course, this can happen naturally, but too often, it did not, so Google adapted.
Google actually monitors your backlink velocity and subjectively interprets how many links you are receiving against an estimate of how many should be coming in naturally. It doesn’t matter if the links are totally relevant and natural, content produced to manipulate search rankings and acquire backlinks ruffles Google’s feathers. Penguins naturally get ruffled feathers during the molting stages, which allows for healthy new feathers to grow in, but ruffling Google’s Penguin’s feathers isn’t going to be nearly so cute.
Over-Optimized Anchor Text
Anchor text used to be important to SEO’s because they presented an incredible opportunity to rank their linked web pages for the keyword contained in the text, but this led to infamous Google bombs and mass manipulation by the search trolls. I would not say that anchor text is irrelevant these days, but possessing too many backlinks with over-optimized or exact match anchor text can result in Penguin penalty for your website.
Google can evaluate the percentage of exact-match anchor text backlinks in an attempt to determine manipulation. You won’t have total control over most of your anchor text, but for an idea of what anchor text your backlinks contain, use Majestic. Here is some of the best practice for correctly optimizing your anchor text:
- Utilize branded anchor text- contains a higher ROI
- Diversify anchor text with semantic keywords to avoid exact-match keywords
- Use general anchors sparingly on external webpages- this signals the opposite of manipulation
- Avoid inserting a URL in your anchor text
Link relevance is a key metric for evaluating link juice passed through a backlink. Even more, you want links to be useful for users and you don’t want to disrupt the reader’s experience by providing an irrelevant landing page.
Google’s machine learning technology can evaluate how natural a backlink appears on a page. Providing unnatural links will neutralize all authority passed through them and potentially result in a penalty.