Link Penalty: Too Much of a Good Thing?

One of the most fundamental ideas about search engine optimization (SEO) is that you need to build backlinks to your website. Even at the most basic levels, this seems to make sense. The more links you have pointed to your site, the higher the chance that someone is going to click on one of those links and visit.

Google relies on this idea heavily. For a long while, they believed it was the ONLY factor for ranking a website, never mind the rest of the theory behind SEO! Of course, that has changed. Now there are other factors, like the age of the domain, the text, the quality of the websites linking to it, updates to the website and a ton of other factors. However, link love is still right up there and will remain so for a while, at least until Google+ gains solid traction.

But can you have too much of a good thing? The answer is yes. If you have too many links coming from sources that do not look natural, there is a risk of getting your website into trouble because of your spammy ways. There have been many big brands that have had issues with this sort of thing (Dun & Broadstreet, JC Penny, Overstock, etc.). They all bought links from people in different ways, got caught doing so and had their websites penalized. The sword cuts both ways of course. Forbes was found to be selling links from their website, and they had to face a link penalty as a result. Fortunately, link penalties don’t last forever. You’ll eventually come out of it and get back into Google’s good graces. But it’s enough to say, watch your back lest you get caught!

Now let’s look at the ways you can get into trouble with Google. Here are four areas you should stay away from.

Excessive Link Buying. If your website gains a large number of links in a very short period, there’s a chance of raising red flags. Most natural link building goes slowly. For example, a new domain name called that gets a ton of links for original oregano will automatically ring a few bells. Most natural link building will have varied anchor texts, be built over many domain names and have a long-term evolution in the number of links. Of course, there could be a new domain name for an event that is suddenly popular, but links to it will come from popular news sites, other sites of value and so on, rather than just a few spammy sources.

Site-wide Links. In some cases when you buy links from blogs, they will be in a blogroll on the side of all pages, the header or the footer. Typically, these are unnatural and will have a standard footprint across other websites as well. As soon as you get into something like this, you will head into some choppy water for sure.

Specific Link Sources. Sometimes people will employ tactics like link pyramids. A link pyramid, as the name suggests, is a pyramid-like structure with your website on top which then is getting links from a list of sites below it, which in turn are getting links from sites below it. This is more or less natural. However, websites in the first tier typically have similar page rank. The third tier linking to the second tier are similar page rank as well and follow the same structure. This can generate some smoke and get you into trouble. Your website will naturally get links from all kinds of websites, social networking, forums, news release websites, etc.

Awkward Anchor Association. This is just common sense. If you get links that all say the same thing, like Original Oregano, it really does mean that you’re getting too eager to be noticed for Original Oregano. And unless there is a compelling enough reason for Google to believe your website about this, it’s not going to happen!

So, build your inbound links on a long-term basis and keep them diverse. Don’t make it awkward for your website, and Google will keep pushing your site up in the rank pages.