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How to prevent Google Penguin
1. Make sure you haven’t been hit by Penguin!
Believe it or not – it regularly happens that clients order one of our linkbuilding services without knowing that they are in deep troubles already! As we – like all professional SEOs I hope – always check the competitor situation, the link profile and the SEO visibility of our new clients before starting with linkbuilding, we regularly discover that some of our client’s websites’ got hit by Penguin already! Of course, blindly continuing building links is not helpful in this situation at all! Rather, finding the reason for that punishment and eliminate them is the first step that has to be taken in order to save the business’ future. It is hard work for us to make these clients understand the long-term consequences as well as all the time and money that have to put in getting out of the Penguin trap BEFORE they can expect any good ranking results as a consequence of building quality links.
The best way to find if Penguin already hit you is by checking out your website’s SEO visibility.
If you see massive SEO visibility drops on Penguin update/roll out days, you can be quite sure that you got hit. As can be seen in the sample above, you can get hit by Penguin several times: Each new update or rollout can make your SEO visibility drop even more. In our sample it can be clearly seen, that there has been a first punishment on 30th of April 2012 and a second one on 14th October 2013.
So if you suffer from a Penguin punishment already, you need to start a hard and long recovery process. We jumped in around August 2014 to help the customer to recover. As can be seen on the green mark, the SEO visibility slowly started to increase again. But as this post isn’t about Penguin recovery but about preventing Penguin, I am going to demonstrate you how to do that.
1. Know your link profile as well as your competitors link profiles deeply
When it comes to Penguin, there are many factors that can trigger a punishment. Mostly, an over-optimization of money keywords is the main reason when websites suffer from Penguin. But also other aspects of a website’s link profile heavily influence the risk of getting hit by Google.
Most people are not aware of the fact, that having a balanced link profile not only protects one from Google’s Penguin but also highly influences ones rankings. To beat the competitors one has to know exactly how and where to defeat them. So what I want to point out here is that professional SEO is not just building links for a client and boost his rankings, but also to take care that the client’s business is safe! The focus of a successful and trustful search engine optimizer has tolie on sustainability rather than on risky short-term outcomes!
To discover the reasons for any link-based Google punishment, a detailed backlink profile analysis is necessary.
Basically, we re-engineer Google’s algorithm by looking at the 10 best ranked competitors for each keyword. Otherwise the website’s link profile could be considered as unnatural for the specific niche, whichcould be valued as a signal for manipulative actions that are against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. Hence, the website will get hit by an algorithm update or even will become a victim of a manual penalty. The golden rule when it comes to any link profile is that is has to look natural which means it has to fit well into the competitors’ link profiles! To beat the competitors, your website has to be stronger than the competitors’ ones, so for instance, you should have more high Power*Trust links than the competitors.
1.1. Anchor Text Analysis
Your backlinks’ links’ anchor texts are highly important! Not only because good rankings for specific keywords can only be achieved when having equivalent backlinks, but also when it comes to have a healthy link profile and therefore when it comes to be on the safe side in terms of Google’s punishments.
There are 4 types of anchor texts (=keywords):
1. MONEY keywords are those Keywords people want their websites to rank for. Usually, these are keywords that are popular and often searched for.
Always keep in mind: An unnatural ratio of money keyword links might help you gain high rankings now, but it will definitely lead to an algorithmic or manual penalty in the future!
2. BRAND keywords are those that can be associated with you or your company. That can be a certain product, service or the company name / domain name itself.
A powerful domain usually is branded very well! Brand anchor texts should me your main type of anchor texts!
3. COMPUND keywords are keywords that consist of both – “Brand” and “Money” Keywords. They are a mixture of these two types.
4. OTHER Keywords are all keywords that don’t fit into any of the categories named above. Anchor texts like “see here” or “like that” etc. are very natural ones as natural users do not think of how to link to a website in order to add SEO value to it, they just want to show other users what they are fan of (or not).
The adequate ratios for each keyword type are the ones that are similar to the competitors’ for the certain niche.
Especially backlinks with appropriate money anchor texts are fundamental for the rankings. But it is VERY important to not cross the money keyword ratio of the competitors! Most of the time, websites that got hit by an update or a manual penalty had too many hard anchor texts. It is of course possible to beat the competitors with other, less risky tactics than having more money keyword links e.g. having more strong links, better content and so on…
Especially since the invention of Penguin (24th of April 2012) an over-optimization of money keywords can simply kill a business as this leads for sure to a Google punishment.
We can easily check the distribution of a website’s anchor text by creating a BLP (Backlink Profiler) report:
We just need to type in the domain we’d like to analyze and select if links to the whole domain, a page or a sub-folder should be analyzed. In order to get even more accurate data it’s recommended to set the link boost to 5.
Finally we need to check the tab “Link Check” in order to get information about the website’s anchor texts. Also very important: Sitewide links have to be skipped, otherwise the ratios would be falsified as already 1 sitewidecould mess-up the numbers.
After all anchor texts have been sorted by count, we can see that the website has many money anchor text links. In detail: the website’s topic that has been analyzed here is all about weather. So the anchor texts “snow reports”, “holiday weather” or “compass travel online” are for sure money keywords, which means keywords for which this website wants to be found for in Google. If you add all the ratios, more than 40% of all keywords are money keywords.
But if this ratio is too high already can only be answered by checking the competitors’ ratios.
Hence, the next step in our analysis is to compare the anchor text ratios with the competitors’ anchor text ratios with the help of the Competitive Landscape Analyzer (CLA):
Step 1: Open the Competitive Link Analyzer (CLA) tool, enter your URL into the first box, select the “Quick Analysis” Mode and select the “5x Link Boost”.
Step 2: Use the “Find Competing Pages” function: Type in the keyword you want to find your competitors for, select the particular search engine, country and language.
Step 3: Before starting the report it is very important to skip the sitewide links (usually we skip it after 5).
Step 4: Classify the anchor texts. Select if the particular anchor text is a ”Brand”, “Compound”, “Money” or “Others“ one. Classify at least 80% of the anchor texts in order to get accurate data.
As a result we get a clear comparison chart:
To be sure the money keyword ratio isn’t too high, it is advised to do a CLA for different keywords, which in fact means to compare a website with different competitors:
The first chart shows that our client (orange balk) has a lower money keyword ratio compared to its competitors. In chart two we can see, that this ratio is almost as high as the top 3 average (dark green balk).
So the money keyword ratio is ok, but it shouldn’t become much higher according to chart number 2.
Result: Healthy money keyword ratio
2. Power*Trust Analysis
The LRT Power*Trust™ determines the quality of a website according to its strength and trustworthiness. As a product of Power and Trust the LRT Power*Trust™ allows a quick evaluation of the overall impact of a link.
Step: Klick on the “Power*Trust” tab in the CLA report.
The following charts shows how many percent of a website’s links are from websites with 0-100 Power*Trust.
Here it can be seen that our client has a very small amount of links from websites with low Power*Trust (0/1) and many more from Power*Trust 3-4/5-7 websites. The more Power*Trust a website has, the stronger it is. So Power*Trust 0 websites are the weakest sites, Power*Trust 100 sites are the strongest ones. As these ratios differ a lot from the competitors, this seems unnatural. Although this factor alone will not trigger a penalty, it can be a reason for Google to start further investigation.
Having almost no weak links can be interpreted as a result of link building activities when focusing on building strong links to boost rankings.
– Power*Trust distribution differs from your competitors
– less weak links (Power*Trust 0-1) than the competitors
– higher amount of Power*Trust 3-7 links.
3. Country Analysis
It is getting more and more important that links are from the right countries (= target markets) in order to rank in these target markets. Further, an eye should be kept on a website’s country ratio to recognize at an early stage if the website might has been a victim of a negative SEO attack. Suffering from a negative SEO means that someone has launched an organized effort to make your website’s link profile look bad. This usually means that someone hit the website with a ton of low-quality or clearly black-hat links across a large number of domains. Mostly, these links come from websites that are hosted in non-target market countries.So the reason for having a lot of non-target market links could be a negative SEO attack but it doesn’t have to be! It can also be only a signal that further investigations should be done here.
In order to check the country ratio we just need the report we’ve created by using the CLA.
Step: Press the “CNTRY” tab in the CLA report.
Here it can be seen that our client’s domain (orange balk) has less US and UK links than its competitors but many more DE, CZ links as well as links from other countries.
These abnormalities needs further analysis in order to avoid missing any important issues here.
– Links from “other” countries
As the “Other country” ratio is quite high, (see last small box on the chart above) we decided to do further analysis in that.
We could see that most of them are your links from “Other” countries are coming from redirected domains, so that’s why the tool wasn’t able to identify the links’ country codes and marked them as “Other”). When checking the country codes of these links we found out that most of them are from target market countries, so there is no evidence for a negative SEO attack.
– Links from CZ
Also the high amount of links from CZ looks quite suspicious, as we know that CZ is not one of our client’s target markets. Hence, we took a deeper look at these links. If these links were due to a negative SEO attack, they all would mostlyhave money anchor texts most of the time. Fortunately this was not the case, only a very small number of these links had money anchors texts.
– Links from DE
As DE is the client’s target markets, it is not surprisingly that there are many links from this country. Hence, we didn’t see any need for further investigation here.
Result: no abnormalities have been found
1. Deep Link Analysis
Also the deep link ratios have to fit into the competitor’s ratios. Usually, having more deep links than start page links is unnatural, besides it is common in the particular niche. Also the data for these ratios can be found in the CLA report we’ve just created before.
Step: Click on the “Deeplink Ratio” tab in the CLA report.
In this chart it can be seen that the client’s website possesses far more deep links than start page links. As the competitors’ ratios are very high as well, our client’s deep link ratio fits into the competitor’s link profile. Hence, these ratios are fine.
Result: no abnormalities have been found
1. Link Status Analysis
As we all know, “Nofollow” provides a way for webmasters to tell search engines “Don’t follow this link”. ”Follow” links of course have the contrary effect. In general, Google doesn’t follow these “nofollow” links. This means that Google does not transfer PageRank or anchor text across these links. Therefore, nofollow links don’t transmit power. ButI believe that they transmit trust. If you think of Wikipedia links for instance, experience has shown that – although they are nofollow – have a positive effect on a website’s link profile.
Nofollow links are essential for a natural link profile, further a website’s nofollow ratio should be as high as the competitor’s nofollow ratio, so we did a quick check on that by using the data our CLA report provides.
Step: Press the “Link Status” tab in the CLA report.
This chart shows our client has a bit less follow links/ a bit more nofollow links than it’s
Competitors. Having a lot of nofollow links can be a signal for possessing a lot of blog spam links. Hence, we draw samples and concluded that our client is not affected by spammy blog links. Further, 7% of the client’s link have the status n/a. This means that no data are available for this links, either because this website doesn’t exist anymore, or because the website is temporary unavailable or because the website doesn’t allow bots to enter, and so on.
Result: no abnormalities have been found
5. Link Location Analysis
As we still didn’t find any abnormalities – apart from difference in Power*Trust ratios – we dig deeper with help of a link location analysis to find a hint why our client became a victim of a manual penalty.
Depending on which part of a website links are located, there are different link types:
• InContent Link = A link that is surrounded by text
• Paragraph Link = Paragraph linking is a special writing skill to lead readers to a destination in a certain essay, making writing more smooth and coherent. This means making connections between different paragraphs in an essay in order to make your writing seemed logical.
• Link List = A link located on a page that merely only contains other links to other pages
• Footer Links = The “footer” is the bottom of the page, so “footer links” are the links at the bottom of the page.
• Sidebar Link = A link that is located in a sidebar, usually without surrounded by text
• Header = Link located in the header of a page
• Comment Link = Links in forums and/or blog comments
• Widget Link = Link that is located in a widget
Also the link location ratios can be found in our CLA report.
Step: Press the “Link Location” tab in the CLA report.
Here it can be seen that our client has less “In Content” links than the competitors. The reason for that could be because of having many image links. We are going to examine this issue in detail in the next chapter.
Also the website has 4% footer links. Although this ratio isn’t very high compared to the competitors, footers are in many cases a place for spammy links. 4% out of millions of links could mean 1000s of spammy footer links. Also this issue will be checked in the next chapter.
– less In Content links
– more Footer links
6. Link Type Analysis
The most important link types are:
• Text link = An element of text on a webpage, which can be used to access other web pages.
• Image link = An image, which can be used to access other web pages.
• Redirect link = A link (text or image) that is pointing to website A while the whole website A is redirected to website B and therefore transmit all the link juice to website B. Redirects are a good way to use the link juice from links of old or non-active projects (=websites) to boost a current project (=website). Redirected domains always have to be on-topic regarding to the receiving domain. Links from redirected domains should only be a small percentage of the new website’s total amount of links.
Note: Since Google’s Penguin algorithm update, there also exists negative link juice. So if you’d redirect a website that has lots of spammy links, you would bring negative link juice to your website. If someone else redirects a spammy website to your website, it could also be a negative SEO attack.
The link type ratios can be found in the CLA report we’ve created before.
Step: Press “Link Type” tab in the CLA report.
The link type ratios confirmed our assumption from the previous chapter: Our client has quite a lot of image links. So we took a deeper look at these kind of links and found out that almost all of these image links are from banners or affiliate banners. Most of them either don’t have image alt-texts (=anchor text) or have brand alt-texts. As our client has a lot of affiliates, having lots of image links from affiliate banners is a normal pattern. In order that these affiliate links are according to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, they have to be nofollow of course.
– Many image links
– Many affiliate links
2. Detox your website – Get rid of all your crimes that have been committed in the past
Identifying harmful links is not an easy thing. So for example, the link itself looks natural, the website also seems o.k but maybe it is part of a big link network. Of course, with the help of LRT tools like BLP or Juice you can do further investigation into the particular domain to find out if it is part of a link network. But imagine you have to – like in this case – have to review more than 34,000 links! This task can only be done by using a professional SEO tool. Here comes the LRT Link Detox in play. Based on many different link rules (see http://www.linkdetox.com/faq), the tool proves each backlink algorithmically.It exactly tells you why a link is considered as healthy or unhealthy. As we all realized, the world isn’t just black or white, there is also a big grey zone. Also when it comes to the question of the nature of particular backlinks. Therefor, Link Detox also tells you, if a particular link has a very low, low, moderate, high or very high link risk (see).
So to see if there are any more reason for the manual penalty our client received, we wanted to check if the domain possesses spammy links and what kind of links they are.
Therefore we created a Link Detox report:
3. Monitor all new incoming links
New links can either come natural through real users who give recommendations (=links), through your SEO agency or – worst case scenario – from a negative SEO attack of your competitors. In all ways, incoming links have to have tracked and checked if they are not risking the balance of your link profile and if they do not harm to your website in the sense of triggering a Google Penguin penalty.
Also for monitoring, LinkResearchTools offers a good and easy way to do so. By setting up Link Alerts, you get alerted via e-mail as soon as the tool find new links for your website.
Setting up a new Link Alert is very easy:
Navigate to the “Link Alerts” section in the bar.
Type in your Domain. Then choose which backlink sources should be used in order to find new incoming links. Of course, you have to give LRT access to your Google Analytics/Statecounter or Sistrix account before. This can be easily done in the “Settings” section.
After, type in the e-mail addresses where the Link Alert report should be send to. Also you can select if the report skips the sitewide links.
Here you see the results of a link alert.
Now you can carefully review these links. If links are harmful as they are from spammy websites or you discover that there are many links that will cause a high imbalance of your link profile, then you should definitely remove or disavow these links. In order to find out if links are doing good or harm to your website I recommend to export the list from your link alerts and upload them in the Detox tool.
Finally, with the help of the recommendations of the Detox report, you have to decide, which links are beneficial for you and which are not. From my experience, not many people really know how to identify bad links, which are the signals one has to look for. If you are not familiar with the rating of links or if you don’t have enough experience and knowledge in SEO, I strongly recommend to give this task to a professional SEO.
Very often, clients ask us for help, because their rankings dropped. Some of them disavowed a huge number of links which have been the reason why the ranked good and now wondering why they lost all their rankings. Others suffered from a penalty and disavowed the wrong links and now wonder why the penalty didn’t get lifted so far.
So when it comes to disavowing links, more harm than good can be done easily. So watch out who is doing this task for you!
4. Continuously monitor your backlink profile
Of course, you don’t have to check your link profile every day! But once in a month is a good time frame to be on the safe side. Also, because competitors change! Imagine, two of your strongest competitors lose their rankings due to a Google penalty. Then you will face of course 2 different ones of your hardest competitors. So they have to be taken into consideration when trying to keep a balanced link profile.
5. Stay up to date according to any changes in Google’s algorithm
Further, Google’s algorithm is changing. The most important link based changes are manifested through Google’s Penguin and Panda updates. When these updates get announced, Google members themselves like John Mueller or up to date Pros from the SEO scene actually tell you, what this update is all about and what’s the important factor every website owner should take an eye on. So against the background of this information your link profile has to be checked again in order to avoid future penalties.
Preventing your business from getting hit by Google updates and penalties is fundamental if you want to have a safe income. Knowing your link profile and your competitors’ link profiles is essential when being serious in developing a sustainable SEO strategy that improves your rankings but doesn’t lead you in the Google penalty trap. Regularly cleaning up your link profile is necessary in order to get rid of all bad and unwanted links. If you follow all the guidelines provided in this article, you will be on the safe site! But keep in mind: If you are not familiar with SEO, better hire a professional SEO agency, otherwise you can do more harm than good to your business!
PLEASE ALSO USE THE NEW IMAG AND BIO – THX
Harald Tschuggnall is founder and chief executive officer of
webPROTECT, a leading websecurity company that helps to protect companies fromhuge financial losses caused by online traffic drops!. He’s holding aCertified LRT Xpert accreditation and runs the first ever Certified LRT Agency thanks to his extensive knowledge and case-studies published.