I’ve been coming across a ton of bad information or people that contradict themselves when it comes to their websites and who and how to link to, where to get links from or basic SEO strategies. You’ll have one site sells backlinks but everything is no follow and then they give do follow links from their comments section. You have others that don’t want any ads above the fold of their site, but monetize their sites with tools that show ads above the fold. SEO is tricky because what is white hat or grey hat right now could become black hat tomorrow without any notice. Here are ten things that I have come across a lot more recently that could have caused a site to get penalized by Google or could eventually get your site penalized by Google.
10 Ways to Help Prevent Getting Hit by Google.
1. Stop saying people get backlinks with sponsored posts. If you look at media kits or sites that say they are PR friendly, some of them include the words “link back to your site” or “backlink”. Regardless if the link is a do follow or no follow link, clearly saying that sponsorships and paid posts come with them could put you on Google’s radar and you could end up getting hit by Google. The better thing to do if you sell a post is make sure it is no followed, do not advertise that the company or site will get a backlink, use proper do follow or no follow attributes (You never know Google will do a manual review and if the person will pay attention to what you say or actually do) and if you feel the site is worth linking to instead of just mentioning, then give them the link. You do not have to give a link for a sponsorship or sponsored post. Give the link if it adds value to your article or in the bio.
2. Do not give out free links for participation. One thing that is amazing for building community and activation are plug ins that allow comments to have direct do follow backlinks. Before you add a plug in or change your linking policy to allow do follow, you need to think a lot about your both your on site SEO strategy and for link building if you are trying to get links.
Think about the following:
- Are the comments real or just there because of the do follow backlink?
- Where does the do follow link appear? Does your plug in have the do follow link off the person’s name, a link within the comment or is it a do follow backlink from their last blog post. Different plug ins do different things and can be very different if your site gets reviewed or if Google goes after sites that allow do follow backlinks for commenting or participating.
- Does the link add value to the conversation in the forum or on the blog or website or is it there only to get a link. If the links on the page aren’t adding value, you probably don’t want to be there and should either edit it or remove it.
- If you sell Blue widgets and the blog is content relevant, but there are links to other things like Payday, fake designer clothing, gambling, etc… you might not want to be in that SEO neighborhood and not comment on that site with a link to your site. Instead comment with your name or company name so people can find you if they want to.
- How many of your backlinks to your own site are from sites that allow do follow links in their comments or forums? This could be a bad signal if you get a manual audit from Google.
- Make sure that the people commenting are linking to other relevant topics to the post or to your site. If they aren’t, you may want to remove the links manually to help keep the quality of your site and posts higher and relevant.
This is just a prediction right now and something that might not happen. It probably won’t have an effect on the site with the direct backlink pointing to it, unless Google now decides the site linking to it is less relevant or should have less authority. I love these tools for monetizing my sites and recommend them, but you need to be careful of updates in case Google decides that turning direct links or keywords into ads provides a bad user experience. If they do, try to see if the tool you are using allows you to say only links or keywords below the fold or only X amount of times on a page and after X amount of words or paragraphs. This could be a much safer way to continue to use them.
4. Directories submissions. Some directories are not bad for your SEO. They can build business for you, they can help build your brand, authority and drive traffic and sales. The trick is making sure the directories you use are content relevant and can actually drive you sales. I’ve been seeing some very niche ones lately that are very high quality and have a lot of great content in them. Unfortunately some SEOs that use directories for backlinks don’t really evaluate them well enough or they use a submission service that sends to all directories regardless of quality or content. Make sure that if you use directories for backlinks, you can honestly say it is content relevant, has your customer base using it and can drive sales.
5. Article submission sites and services. This was an old tactic that got wiped out a long time ago. Think about what exists on the article sites, what other content and links are there and if the entire site can actually be content relevant and drive traffic and sales. I do not use article directories anymore and haven’t in years because I do not see value in them anymore for SEO. Some do have large communities and followings so if your audience is there it could be a good way to build your brand and a following. To build a brand and a following, instead of linking to your site, use your social profiles within the bio section and provide great content within your article.
6. Allowing guest posting. If you look at giant news sites you’ll see that some of them allow guest posting and allow you to submit content to them. Some of these sites, industry related or giant blogs like the Huffington Post can be a great backlink, however they can also be something that Google decides to not like in the future. If your SEO team is looking for sites that allow guest posting or for readers to submit articles to be reviewed and maybe included, you want to be cautious and make sure you have a lot of other quality links from sites that don’t advertise that people can submit content that can be published.
7. Running contests for shares, likes and links. One popular thing that is more grey hat right now and sort of going black hat is having a contest with shares, asking for links, etc… Anything that doesn’t generate natural ranking signals like social shares and backlinks is something that you should be cautious of. Although it is very hard to track them down since there are a ton of sites using these, you should be cautious on what you actually ask people to do to enter your contest or giveaway. If you are the company or site giving away the prize, you should be cautious of the links and signals and if the people are sharing your brand and disclosing the relationship or that they may be compensated. If they are sharing they love your brand with a link to you, but not that they are entering to win a content, you may want to try and talk to the site hosting the contest and put in advertising disclosure guidelines.
8. Links for donations. Some sites, especially non profits will say that by donating or buying a sponsorship level you’ll get a link from their site or directory. If you do this, I highly recommend you go with a no follow link so that you can at least argue that you asked for no follow because you feel they can drive sales and you didn’t sponsor to buy a backlink. This is very important to have in case you ever need to do a reconsideration request with Google.
9. Buying ad blocks within a post. One thing you might want to think about is buying links within a post. Some sites will have ad blocks built out into them so people can buy an ad with a backlink in them. If the site gets large enough or Google decides they aren’t quality anymore, these links can potentially have a negative impact on you. The safer bet is to do a good PR pitch and try to get included naturally within the content and not on the ad space available.
10. Use common sense. Unless your site can survive without Google and SEO, don’t use things or places that say they give backlinks as a large part of your strategy. By working on sites that do not advertise this, doing good PR work or even using advanced backlink strategies to help attract Journalists, Bloggers, etc… to your site, you can build natural links to your copy and content. Having the copy or content on your site and finding ways to get the people who can give you a link to find it is the best way to build links. It is natural, there is a reason they are linking to you and there is a much better chance that Google will see why people linked to your content and not hit your site.
SEO is always getting harder and one tactic to build links or build a community that was white hat can turn black hat overnight. Trying to recover from these penalties and algorithm updates is much harder than doing proper SEO in the first place. Proper SEO takes a lot longer and is a lot harder to do. The main thing to remember is how does the link look to Googlebot, how does it look to the person at Google that is reviewing your site and if everything is relevant to the topic of your site or page. You have a good mix of backlinks and you have to be able to give a good reason why the link to your site adds value and why the person gave you the link. If none of these are there, then you may want to rethink how you are doing your SEO, what you are putting on your site and also how you are monetizing it. Some of the methods above are still white hat, good ways to build a community or to build a following and some of them are great ways to monetize your sites, however if Google decides to go after any of them, your site could end up getting hit when they update their next algorithm or do a manual review of your site.
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