The Dangers of Over Optimizing Backlinks Post Penguin

Over optimization, if it crosses a certain line, can also easily be called black hat SEO by many experts in the field and by Google itself.  If you’re a webmaster and either starting out with your optimization campaign or managing a long standing SEO effort for your sites, you need to be very careful about over doing your optimization and crossing that black hat line too far. Straying a little is probably not going to be a big deal, but straying far can get you in trouble if you depend on the search giant for the majority of your traffic.

In the wake of Google’s major “bad backlink” attacking Penguin algorithm change in April of 2012, and all of its updates since then, you need to know both what to avoid and what backlink tactics constitute best practices for link based SEO. Let’s go over both of these now.

What is Backlink Over Optimization and Why does Google Dislike it?

Google’s main aim is to create the best possible search results for its users. This means giving preferential rank to websites that are actually popular amongst human readers and linked to from other sites because of their quality and expertise. These are both good indicators of high content quality that’s worth a high search rank. They key to quality link building is that it has formed naturally and organically as a result of quality delivered to content readers.

What over optimization or black hat tactics hope to do is simulate popularity by creating an artificial link profile quickly through link placement in a large variety of low quality sites that aren’t picky about who they link to. Or by placing spammed links in the comment threads of numerous high quality sites. This is where Google starts to lay down its automated punishments.

Before we learn how to play by the new rules, we need to know what it is that’s frowned upon. Here are the main aspects of backlink over optimization as the Penguin Algorithm sees them.

Excessive Use of Exact Match Anchor Text in Links

One of the key aspects of an over optimized link profile involves excessive use of exact match anchor text for your links, that is to say links whose hypertext contains the exact same keyword every time, usually a top keyword for which you want to rank on your site. These links can be externally placed on other sites or even exist internally, connecting the various pages of your site.

Excessive Anchor Text Sameness Solution

The Google ideal is to make sure that your link anchor text is natural and context based, meaning that the text itself varies between other words that are associated with your site’s niche and flows as a natural part of the text around it.

Excessive Amount of Links from just a few Sites

Another common sign of link spam/over optimization is to have too many links coming back to your pages from a poorly diversified list of other sites. This often means that a site owner has been building artificial link profiles by concentrating heavily on pages where he or she can get away with it more easily. However, this indicator can also be somewhat iffy and it’s partly context based; it’s also possible that other quality sites within your niche link back to your content frequently due to high relevancy. If this is the case, Penguin may not punish your links.

Site Concentration Solution

In cases of punishable backlink site concentration, it’s ideal to either have a number of the backlinks removed wither manually or by contacting the site administrator, or to expand your link profile to other, higher quality sites so that the harmful links impact is diluted.

Excessive links to Link Farms, Link Sellers, low quality content farms and “bad neighborhood” sites

Since these sites are some of the easiest in which to create backlinks, many SEO practitioners would use them to create a large plethora of links back to their own web content quickly and easily without consideration for the reputation, quality or content relevancy of the other websites. Penguin definitely punished this on a frequent basis. Particularly punishable was having lots of these kinds of links to your own website while also building them with exact match anchor text; this double whammy could cause a lot of problems.

Low Quality Backlinks Solution

As a solution, work quickly to get rid of all such links and switch your entire link building campaign to focus on more quality websites that aren’t known for being filled with thin content, link farms and that have relevancy to your own content. Also, avoid sites that sell backlinks completely and don’t buy links from anyone as a general rule.

Furthermore, vary your anchor text as you do this. Also, it goes without saying that any backlinks from “bad neighborhood” sites should be eliminated. These types of URLs include pages known for spam, viruses, pornographic or illegal material and warez.

Spammed Backlinks

Almost as old as link optimization itself, link spamming has a long tradition in black hat SEO. It basically consists of creating links by placing comment spam with your URLs in other peoples blogs, forums and other websites that let you comment. Link spam is not only largely ineffective since it’s not anchored, it is also considered flagrant spam and can eventually get your site punished by the Penguin or some other Google algorithm protocol.

Link Spam Solution

It’s pretty obvious, don’t spam out your links for any reason and at the same time, in order to avoid being nailed by secondary effects of someone else’s spam, block the ability to do the same on your own blog if you have one.

How to Build Quality Backlinks

We’ve already covered all the main problems of over optimization and how to solve them but to summarize; we need to go over a few key points:

  • Create the kind of quality content that is more likely to generate real fans, be shared and followed. Forget about focusing on search algorithms and direct your efforts at creating value in your content for people.
  • Build links organically through guest posts or by causing people to voluntarily share links to your quality content in their quality content.
  • Aim for getting fewer backlinks from a smaller network of high quality sites whose pages are relevant to your own niche. The higher their quality, the better.
  • Stay away from any and all black hat or link optimization tactics that look like spam

Abigail Turner loves writing about outdoor fireplace design. When she’s not spending her time writing she likes to garden and spend time with her boyfriend.

Featured image on home page courtesy of secretiondon123.

Filed in: Google, SEO
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