Google Penalties: How to Avoid Them


If you want your website to become glued to the first page of a Google search, you have to be proactive about protecting it from penalties like Panda or Penguin. So, what can you do to avoid them?

#1 Make sure that your focus is on your LDR

Focus on LDR

Perhaps you’ve seen the interview with a former member of Google search quality team talking about how relevant is the new PR. It seems that Google has begun to put less weight on authority signals like page rank, paying more attention to Linking Domain Relevancy (LDR).

For example, let’s say that your website is about cat food. It would make sense that a large part of your linking profile should consist of links from sites about cats, cat food, and pets. Sure, there’s going to be a small percentage of links from unrelated and ‘general’ sites, like news hubs or directories. But at the end of the day, any cat food website that has a natural link profile is going to have links from other cat food sites. This is what Linking Domain Relevancy is about.

We believe the next round of Google updates will focus on LDR. That means those websites with tons of unrelated links will be hit hard by Google. In fact, it is quite possible that they are already a part of the Penguin algorithm filter − websites without relevant links have a 50% higher probability to get hit by Penguin.

Action: ensure that at least 30% of your links are going to a relevant niche.

#2 Smart anchor text

Write smart anchor text

You already know that you have to diversify your anchor text. It’s really too bad that the majority of people don’t do it the right way. Rather than replicating a link profile that’s legit, they crowd in keywords while using generic anchors like “this site” or ”here.”

It doesn’t look natural to anyone, Google included.

This example ratio should give you an idea of what your anchor text distribution should look like:

  • 1%: Money keyword anchor text (link building)
  • 5%: Generic anchors
  • 10%: Domain name
  • 10%: Bare URL
  • 10%: Webmaster name anchor text
  • 30%: Brand anchor Text
  • 45%: Unique anchor text

Action: use brand, webmaster, and domain name anchor text more often.

#3 Put an end to guest posting (well… kind of…)

Too much guest posting

Let us rephrase that: if you want a killer link building strategy, guest posts are your thing. However, this can’t be the only strategy. You need to keep in mind that the key to steering clear of Google penalties (specifically Penguin) is to have a natural looking link profile.

The truth is that the volume of people guest-posting in general just cannot be ignored. A website that has too many links from only one particular source (even if they are guest posts) is going to get in trouble with Google. This can get pretty ugly because there is a high risk of your links getting devalued.

Don’t misunderstand, guest posts are highly effective and are actually a scalable way to build links that are authoritative. So telling you to put an end to guest posting may be slightly over-the-board. A better way to phrase that would be “make guest posting only one of your many link building strategies.”

Action: make sure your guest post links are no more than 20% of your link profile.

#4 Build your brand signals

Develop your brands

There’s no doubt that Google is having a love affair with big brands. Come on, it’s obvious: not only do big brands rank better, but they also have higher chances of getting penalties removed.

Therefore, you need to start looking like you are a brand.

Action: thankfully, there’s no need to have a six-figure marketing budget in order to build an online brand for your website. Here are a few cost-effective methods you can use:

Build a social media presence

Google can use social media statistics to decide whether you are a brand or not − and some of them have massive followings. This says to Google that you must be someone they can trust. Thus, if you want to appear as a brand, it’s worth your time to start building a strong social media presence.

However, Google might even go after sites linked to social media accounts with fake followers (and there are many). These are really easy to spot. For example, a Twitter account with 12 tweets isn’t going to have 8,000 followers.

At the very least, social signals will be used to confirm whether links are legit or not. Consider this: what is the likelihood that a page with thousands of real links doesn’t have a single Facebook share or retweet?

So, don’t build an abnormal number of Facebook likes, tweets, etc. Just as backlinks are about quality, so are social links.

Have a legit-looking site

Your website needs to be well-designed and look professional. Take those extra steps to build trust in your brand, like having a physical address or phone number available.

#5 Build up trust

Build up trust

Here is a quick look at Google algorithm:

Relevancy + Authority + Trust = Rank

Most site owners tend to put 100% of their time and energy into relevancy and authority, completely ignoring trust.

Trust is a big part of the algorithm.

When Google rolls out updates, this is your trump card for penalty-dodging. That’s why many websites with tons of keyword-rich anchor text were able to survive the latest Penguin update – they had built up so much trust that Google simply looked the other way.

Action: check out your trust flow at Majestic SEO. The goal is to make the trust flow at least as high as half of your citation flow. Get as many links as you can from websites that include many of .gov and .edu links. But don’t mistake that with .govs and .edus – they are not the same.

#6 Be proactive in trimming bad links

Trimming bad links

If you want to stay one step ahead of future Google updates, you must be proactive. Sitting back and waiting only to go crazy in an attempt to clean up the mess later is not a good SEO approach. You probably have some links that you’re not proud of (you are not alone – most of us do). Why not remove them before it becomes too late and you get penalized?

Action: Google examines your link profile as a whole and you should too. Make sure you are paying special attention to:

  • Anchor text distribution
  • Deep links vs. homepage link ratio (at least 40% should be deep links)
  • Trust metrics
  • Excessive amounts of links from a single link type (press releases, guest posts, article directories, etc.)

Final words

There’s some bad news. Just reading this article is not enough to protect your website from receiving a penalty from Google. Now you have to take this information and get to action.

For more information, get acquainted with our posts about 4 ways to monetize your website  and Why popunder is a way to make money.