Last week Google released their new Penguin 2.0 update (as we discussed in May SEO Update: Google Makes Big Changes!). Like it’s predecessor, Penguin 1.0, Penguin 2.0 is targeting link spam. So, you may be wondering, what kind of links does Google consider link spam and how can I avoid them.
To begin, it doesn’t look like Penguin 2.0 is targeting any different links than 1.0 did. Rather, it appears that the latest release is just supposed to be better at detecting link spam than it’s predecessor. That said, it’s still early and we will learn more as time goes on as we see the full effect of Penguin 2.0. But for now, this is what it looks like Google is targeting.
What kind of links is Google looking for with Penguin 2.0?
- Site-wide links. These are links that are on every page of another site that link to you, usually using the same keyword. Google is at least devaluing site-wide links in general, if not penalizing for it if it appears the links are specifically intended to manipulate the search rankings.
- Low quality, keyword-rich links from blog posts, forums, and other sites with user-generated content.
- Paid links or links from a private blog network. Note that paid links themselves are not a problem as long as the no-follow tag is used. It’s when the link does not have the no-follow tag and is passing link juice that Google doesn’t like it.
Unnatural Link Profiles:
At least as much as looking for certain types of links, Google is looking for unnatural link profiles. So, what’s unnatural?
- Lots of links coming from just a few domains or c-classes. This usually indicates site-wide links
- A disproportionate number of keyword-rich links. If you’re over 10%, you’re probably starting to raise some flags. For most sites, the majority of their links are useless keywords, like “home”, “click here”, “info’, etc.” or their domain name/brand name.
- A disproportionate number of links from high-authority pages. For most sites most of their links come from low authority sites, small sites that are referencing some content or a product. A high percentage of high-authority links usually indicates paid links or at least that the website is actively trying to build links.
This is what Google is looking for and they are looking for a clear pattern. A handful of spammy links are most likely not going to get you in trouble, it’s when you have a lot of them and you’ve created for your website an unnatural looking link profile that you’ll get in trouble with Google…well, that and buying any followed links, especially links in private blog networks.
Also, be aware that there are a lot of “professionals” out there who will tell you that they have a method of using these spammy or paid link building strategies which Google can’t detect. They’ll talk about things like buffer sites and not creating a footprint, but the reality is that these schemes always leave a footprint. There’s always a way to figure them out. Maybe Google won’t catch you right away, but you have to ask yourself whether you’re willing to risk being kicked out of Google for the temporary benefits of these link schemes.
So, now you know what to avoid. The key, really, is to have a great product/service and create quality content that people will naturally want to link to and share. If you do that, then you don’t have to worry every time Google releases a new update.