Google’s most recent update, a few weeks ago, seems to be coming down VERY hard on exact-match over-optimised linking, and on over-linking to the home-page. It’s the same story we’ve been telling for years, but it seems they’ve just upped the ante yet again…
Unfortunately, Google’s algorithm looks back over many years of back-linking history. We’ve seen sites that are now being penalised for over-optimised links built in 2009-2010. Anyone experiencing penalties from over-optimised links needs to look at de-optimising their pages slightly (adding words to the page-title and H tags etc. and extending the length of the titles) and using a wider range of anchors terms to those pages. In some cases, using completely different side-keyword anchors to help de-optimise the main anchors may be necessary, as well as de-optimisation of the key ‘on-page’ elements.
Everyone also needs to be making sure that their pages have sensible/low keyword densities. If you have pages that have high keyword densities, this can further increase the chances of over-optimisation penalties.
It’s also probably worthwhile reminding everyone of the difference between penalties and de-indexing etc.:
De-indexing usually only happens where a site is doing massive outbound linking (link farms) or where there is a combination of negative factors like: Very low quality content and layout, linking to and from ‘bad/spammy neighbourhoods’, and bad advertising/legal practices etc.
Penalisation normally happens from over-optimisation of keyword terms, and usually only affects those specific search terms. i.e. You’ve built hundreds or thousands of links to a new site, all with the same exact anchor text, which is also in the site URL (An EMD/PMD – or Exact/Phrase Match Domain), and it’s in the Page Title, H1 tags and loaded into the content too. This is the ideal example of a newbie mistake in online marketing; thinking that ‘more’ is better, and is the prime catalyst for Google’s Feb update; over-optimised content & anchors (they work as a pair.)
A ‘Google Slap‘ is the industry lingo for either a broad sweeping change/update in their algorithm which affects a lot of sites, or when a single person/business gets hit by Google for practices they consider outside of their TOS (Terms Of Service), and this is often associated with the AdSense program and AdSense sites.
The general guidelines for ALL link-building efforts are:
- ALWAYS build deep-links: NEVER just build links to your home/money pages.
- ALWAYS use diverse anchor texts; with a wide range of phrase-matching long-tails, URL/Domains & generic terms. Ideally, you don’t want more than 1/3 exact match anchors and 1/3 phrase-matched/long-tail anchors. This leaves 1/3 for other mixed/generic/URL anchors.
- ALWAYS seek to build consistently and across a wide range of platforms. Establish a continual, steady link-velocity.
- Use 2.0’s and other authority sites/page as ‘buffer’ sites to reduce the overall volume of direct-linking. This can make a major difference with newer sites in particular.
- Be EXTRA careful with newer sites and especially EMD/PMD’s; as these are much more susceptible to over-optimisation. Newer sites need to expect initial ranking bounce with any type of sustained back-link building methods.
- Take ‘baby-steps’ at the start – and test, measure and learn as you go; especially with new sites (less than 6m old.) You can always ramp-up your efforts – but it’s MUCH harder to go backwards or reverse mistakes once they’re made.
As always, there are no hard-and-fast rules, and it’s still way too early to be getting a read on the most recent algo’ changes. But the above issues are showing as a common denominator around the industry.
We’ve also seen many aged sites hit quite badly over the last month or so. Many are experiencing a lot of ranking bounce and some have also been penalised. Digging into the causes usually reveals some form of over-optimisation on anchor text and extensive home-page concentration. We’ve seen volumes of links that were built years ago suddenly affect rankings because they were created in a massively over-optimised fashion via ScrapeBox, X-Rumer or other mass submissions tools or systems without any regard for diversity.
We’re also seeing (yet again) newer and ‘thin’ sites getting battered even harder, with huge bouncing effects. This is par-for-the-course most of the time with new sites, but we’re seeing it making more of a difference again where the home-page has been over-targeted (which is common on smaller sites,) and there has been a limited variety of anchor text variation.
There is also a much greater tendency at this end of the spectrum (smaller sites) for Google to question the content quality, as they attempt to weed out MFA, bulk affiliate and auto-produced sites. Make sure that you’re providing a quality site which will pass a manual review; as these manual reviews seem to be getting ever-more prevalent, especially if there are other factors singling you out.
Constantly build and add new pages of content; this doesn’t have to be a time-consuming job with a simple WordPress/CMS based website. As the site gets larger, it gets more resilient to many of the effects of smaller sites. But content quality is absolutely key here; Never make the mistake of thinking that link-building will overcome poor quality content… It may temporarily, but it will soon miss-fire.
It’s an unfortunate fact of business life that no marketing or expansion is without risk. Every time you build a back-link, it has the potential of miss-firing and ‘upsetting’ Google (unless you hand-write all your own content and only submit it to one place each time for one link!)
There is no such thing as ‘100% safe’ link-building if you’re building them in volumes; which is an absolute requirement if you seek to build your rankings. All anyone can do is attempt to absolutely minimise the footprint of submissions, use reasonable quality content and ensure that we’re not creating any artificial linking pattern through over-optimised content or anchors. Singling out key pages for too much linking attention also causes many problems; and this is usually seen with over-linking home-pages.