Link penalties the consequence of silly SEO

Link based penalties are really separating the good the bad and the ugly in SEO.

Let’s explore the issues behind this ongoing update.

I recently attended a webinar about some of the recent updates made by Google. The majority of the news updates and chatter within the sector over the last 18 months has been focused on these updates. Many websites have received warnings and some have even been blacklisted due to questionable search engine optimisation practice. It’s a reminder about how immature the industry can be.

Most work in SEO is to simply reverse engineer the Google algorhythm. (Sounds complicated well it’s not, that’s why the barriers of the industry are so low) There is so much information out there, but how do you know who to trust?

SEO and Digital Marketing are a growth areas, clients expect results and consultants and agencies want to deliver upon these needs. After all that’s what you’re paying us for! But some consultants go too far. Where do we draw the line? Google do provide guidelines for best practice and any SEO should know where the limits are. The initial algorhythm hasn’t fundamentally changed over the years, although there are now over 200 ranking factors and considerations that need to be made when deciding on a strategy.

Many systems and link-farms, directories, link wheels have been commercially created to build links and pull Page-Rank (part of the original algorhythm) which is one of the initial signals Google uses to the web. There’s a lot of money in SEO, I take cash, card cheques, pounds and pence. I’d even take dollars rupees and if you like – just kidding. Did you hear what Marketing said to SEO…

So given that you only need to do a few things to drive your rankings, Search Marketing has become about ethics, which is easy to say and even write about. But staying on the right-side of Google doesn’t necessarily pay the bills. I’ve long been an advocate of white-hat SEO, some say too much. But my background is in Marketing, I had to go digital to learn about spam – I think in the offline world we refer to it as Direct Marketing, Snail-Mail and Junk-Mail. So the problem isn’t in digital it’s just taken a different form online.

To a certain extent, the SEO industry in general was a cause of theses updates.There was a long manipulation phase and even now it’s still possible to rank with a bad link profile. When we think of search and the rewards it can bring we need to stay focused on the end-user. For example, Have you ever taken out an advert in a newspaper and been told, “Taking out this advert is guaranteed to make the phone ring off the hook!” – Well actually yes I have, and lots of variations of but you know when you’re being sold to.

The point being is SEO success can’t guarantee results to your bottom-line any more than print based advertising does. Paying £99 per month for your SEO is a dangerous thing to do. Keep your money and spend it on Pay-per-click.

Let’s think long-term Let’s build a brand.

These updates now mean that your website can get de-indexed and see a significant keywords rankings drop. Google have made the road to recovery very long and tough once you’ve been given a penalty. It’s a manual review done by a person! The persona they’ve adopted reminds me of a head teacher telling off a pupil. The rules in the past have been ambiguous and when you run competitive analysis to see what a competing website is doing. The tolerance levels are much higher than we think for when the penalty kicks in or what you can get away with.

Do you want to build a business on a layer of spam that can put your domain at risk? But how do you know that your site is vulnerable to a penalty? – we’ll show you, just ask!

Well there are two types, one being a mannal review and the other being part of a seperate algorithm.

Penguin is an algorithm which can cause your website to be given a penalty automatically or which can trigger a manual penalty given to you by Google’s Web Spam Team.

You will normally get a notice from Google stating that you might of been using tactics outside of the Webmasters Guidelines. At that point it’s too late, you’ve been tagged and it’s only a matter of time until your traffic drops.When you get this notice it’s like being caught as a lair (sorry if that seems a little harsh,) but if you’re doing SEO, you know when your pushing the limits even if you won’t publicly admit it. Perhaps you’ve pushed your Link Building too hard or over the years it’s grown into a mess? If the SEO tactics weren’t intentional, it will still take time to gain the trust back from Google.

So they’re seeking a sign from you that you’ve acknowledged that there are issues with your website and you’ve taken strong action to fix the problem.

Within the analysis process, there may even be a time to walk away and start again some sites are just beyond repair. That’s a tough decision to make especially when your business is built around a domain. I.e. if it were to take 6 – 12 months to recover your site and several thousands to complete, wouldn’t it be better to start again? It depends on the value of the website to the business.

But we were exploring the Google penalty not looking at rebuilding my entire site!

Things just got serious didn’t they?

One minute you’ve paid someone to increase your traffic and later you might looking at building a new website maybe on another domain due to questionable SEO. (This would affect email too)

I recently did some analysis for a website that got hit by a Penguin update, I managed to isolate the issue towards 1,800 links. Some of the issue here is that these links grow via automation and we would need to manually remove the majority of these links I suspect that the person that built these links used an automated system like Directory Maximizer which costs $20 – $200 to buy. But mud sticks and to get rid of them almost looks unviable to remove. (i’ll admit it, back in the day i did a couple of cheeky things but nothing black-hat)

One of the main signals is anchor text. Anchor text is often used to create links that target your short-tail keywords. Some research suggest that over 65% is a signal of over-optimisation. Above all it’s the authority of the links that are built. Are they editorial based that give credit to the author? or have they been built to pull page-rank? Keyword rankings are changing daily sometimes we see them as a sign of success, but given the volatility of the search results pages it’s difficult to define them as a sure sign of how well you are performing. It’s great to be number one, but for what and why? What will you do with the traffic if no one reads your content?

Whilst I understand that scalability can be tough to deliver across multiple clients, it needs to be a bespoke service. Most agencies will say that the SEO service is always bespoke but what is meant by that?

It the time, methodology and creativity used which does come at a cost if SEO is to be sustainable.

Those who follow me know that I’m a fan of Eric Ward who was the first link builder known by many as Link Moses. I heard an expression he used, “Content Linking” isn’t that a better way to think about ‘Link-building’? So when we think about linking content we should think about the most natural way to link the content, as if we were writing an academic paper. The keyword isn’t the focus, the content is.

“There are no Matt short-Cutts to anywhere worth going” #pickupapenguin

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