You might think that penguins are cute little creatures that live in the southern hemisphere and play tag at the local zoo, but there is one penguin that has taken over the search engines has more of a resemblance to Godzilla than to a cute creature.
In fact, Google's Penguin has been on a big green lizard rampage that has knocked many sites so far down that they no longer rank within the first several pages of search results in their category.
If your site was ranking pretty well and you were getting steady traffic from Google, but the last update has you running for cover, there is hope to clean up your site and make positive changes going forward that will keep your backlinks clean and hopefully keep your rank higher in the results. Of course, with all the changes Google keeps implementing with their algorithm, you will also have to make adjustments regularly to keep your site up-to-date and excellent enough to catch the search engine's eye.
May 2013 Update
In the last couple of weeks, this update has really caused some panic in some smaller sites who do their own SEO. Much of their ranking may have been from backlinks from guest blog posts. Unfortunately, Google now sees this as a potential black hat SEO tactic and is penalizing some sites, particularly if the backlinks come from a lower quality site. What might be hurting you:
- Anchor text backlinks. Google now frowns on this. I know, I know. This is the opposite of what we were told to do a couple of years ago and most of your links are already in this format.
- Too many backlinks from the same website.
- Backlinks from spammy sites.
- Forum posts where you shared your link or had a friend do so. (Really? This is just a bad practice anyway, because it is underhanded. Always stay above board in your advertising efforts)
- Out of context backlinks. The anchor text says “puppies” and your site is about kitchen chairs.
- Backlinks from sites with porn.
- Paid backlinks.
- Sites that are blacklisted by Google. Google Webmaster Tools will notify you if you run into this issue.
So, what on earth can you do about this problem if your site is suddenly ranking low? You may have thousands of backlinks, after all.
How to Fix Bad Backlinks
While you may not be able to fix every bad backlink pointing to your site, you likely already have an idea of some of the lower ranking or lower quality sites that may be hurting you.
Start with those. Send a polite e-mail to the webmaster and ask if any backlinks to your site can be removed and one or two left only in your author bio. Please word this politely.
Wrong Way to Word This Letter
Your site ranks so low that it is hurting my site. Please remove all links to my site or else.
Rude Guest Blogger
Right Way to Word This Letter
I am in the process of trying to reduce the number of backlinks to my site. I would appreciate it if you could remove all backlinks in my posts (list the actual posts or the links to them). If you could leave the link in my author bio on some of those pages, that would be great. As always, I appreciate you publishing my guest blog posts and hope we can work together again in the future. Thanks so much.
Polite Guest Blogger
Just like mama used to say, you will catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I'm not sure, but penguins might like flies, at least this particular beast of a penguin.
For forum posts, you can go in and alter those on your own under your user profile. Simply go back and edit out any backlinks.
However, it is going to be impossible for you to remove every bad backlink or even to be certain which ones Google is counting against you as it is partly a guessing game what their exact algorithm formulation might be. Even if you do figure out the formula, it will be different tomorrow, so your effort will be wasted. Once you've fixed what you have the ability to easily fix, then it is time to look forward.
How to Combat the Google Police?
Google is definitely the major player when it comes to search engine traffic. A low Google ranking, or worse yet a blacklisting, can truly break your business. Since you can't possibly remove every single backlink that comes into your site, it might be better to move forward and focus on creating the strongest backlinks you can.
1- Natural Backlinks
Google Penguin likes “natural” backlinks. These are backlinks that make sense within the text that is being read. Let's go back to the kitchen chair example. You sell kitchen chairs on your website. Someone writes a high quality article about choosing the best kitchen chair for a small kitchen and links to your site to a specific chair made for small kitchens. This is a natural backlink. Assuming the site linking to you is reputable, this should improve your SERP.
2- Avoid Spammy Sites at All Costs
It bears repeating – never, ever pay for a backlink. Google is onto this practice. It will hurt you and will not help you. By the same token, do not join a group that promises X number of backlinks in exchange for other links out from your site. You will get penalized for this type of behavior. If a site links to you and is spammy, send a polite note and request that the link be removed.
3- Final Straw Move
If a site keeps linking to you and is causing your own site harm, you may have to login to your Google Webmaster Tools and use the disavow tool to block that site from linking to you. You can also do this in your control panel on your domain. Personally, if they refuse to remove the link and are a porn or spam site, I would do both. You can't allow someone to harm your business in this way. If a polite note is ignored or they refuse to remove the link, just handle it on your end. Google will take care of them.
What You Can Count On
If there is one think you can count on from Google, it is that the parameters that measure whether a backlink is of value can and will change in the future. With this in mind, keep your focus on creating valuable content and developing relationships with sites that have a good reputation and are also committed to producing quality content.
- The quick backlink to try to up your SEO unnaturally
- Paying for backlinks
- Sites with low quality content
- Brand new sites
- Sites with too many ads
- Sites with too many backlinks within the article or backlinks that seem unnatural
- Sites with porn or other questionable material, such as hate against a group of people
Use your common sense when choosing the sites you want to build backlinks from. Is it a site you'd want to visit as a reader? Is there anything about the site that turns you off? Check out the quality of the writing on the site. Are those writing articles and blog posts professionals in their field? Even a professional can be a poor writer, so also look at the grammar and if the writing makes sense.
Is the other site using keyword stuffing and is the site being updated regularly. Pay attention to those you develop a business relationship with. Like it or not, those you associate with do impact your own reputation. Google is starting to prove that more and more with each update of Penguin.