How NOT to Build Links

I’m not going to tell you how to go about building links – this is more about your link profile. Specifically, it’s about some things to watch out for, so you don’t find yourself with a link profile that’s getting you the sort of attention that nobody wants.

Since Penguin was first released in April of last year, you may have seen thousands of posts about the “safe” way to get links, what a “good” link profile should look like and of course, how to clean up your link profile. Many SEOs have analyzed what seems to be causing the most problems for sites that were slapped and some have tried to test to see what sort of thresholds exist.penguin

The bottom line, of course, is that nobody outside of Google really knows for sure. All we can do is see what seems to correlate and make suggestions accordingly. That’s what this post is going to do – point out some factors that can create elevated risk if you push them too far.

While there are several other considerations, I’m going to go into just eight linking issues that if abused, can cause you problems.

Overuse of primary keywords in anchor text

If your site is selling life insurance, and your top three keywords are life insurance, whole life insurance and term life insurance , the natural tendency is to use those terms as anchor text, linking back to the relevant pages. But if you have 10,000 backlinks and 50-60% of them are using those three terms as the anchor text, you may be headed for problems.

Overuse of the same anchor text

If you’re using the same anchor text on a large percentage of your links, that alone may cause you an issue with Penguin, even if it isn’t a keyword for which you’re trying to rank. In the above example, for instance, if you’re using broker as anchor text for a large portion of your links, your site may be flagged.

In both #1 and #2, the key is diversity. Google has made a number of statements in recent years citing diversity and natural so much that one could easily believe that they see the terms as synonyms in terms of SEO actions, particularly links.

Links from pages that aren’t relevant to the destination page

If you have links to your life insurance page from an automotive repair blog, it’s hard to imagine any relevance there. Could there be any? Certainly, in limited cases. I’d even go so far as to say, rarely. The Penguin algorithm seems to feel that way, as well. So if you have a lot of inbound links from pages that aren’t remotely relevant to the target page, you may be headed for a Google slap.

Links from sites that are marginally relevant to yours

Here, I’m talking on a site level, rather than just the specific linking page. If the site linking to you addresses 10 or 12 different niches, and the page linking to you is in one of those niches that comprises only 10% of the niche-spread of the site, then the site may be seen as only marginally relevant to yours, even if the linking page is highly relevant to the target page.

Site-wide links

Site-wide links are generally a bad idea, even though they’re widely believed to offer little benefit. Just one reason they’re not healthy is #3 above. The linking site’s About Us, Blog and Contact Us pages can’t all be relevant to the target page.

Reciprocal links

If a large percentage of your links are reciprocal links, Google considers this to be unnatural. Even if the linking sites are relevant to yours, this shouldn’t comprise a large portion of your link profile.

Links from “low quality” sites

Determining what constitutes “low quality” can be somewhat subjective, but some types of low quality are obvious. I can’t imagine any life insurance site actively seeking links from a porn site, for example. Similarly, it wouldn’t be a good idea to allow links from spammy sites or sites that appear to be selling links. In this case, it helps to put yourself in Google’s shoes… how do you think they would view the site?

Links from too many of the same type of site

If the lion’s share of your links are coming from forums, blog comments or directories, you’re skating on thin ice. Aside from the fact that they have very little value as links, too many links from the same kind of site can make you a target for a Penguin slap.

You should be able to spot a common thread in all of these… diversity. If only 5% of your link profile is in “violation” of any of the above items, you may not have a problem. Some probably have stricter thresholds than others. And if your site is approaching the thresholds of three different items, there’s a possibility that you may get slapped, even though you didn’t quite reach any single threshold.

You should be checking your link profile periodically, in order to clean up any issues before they can cause you a serious problem. I can’t tell you what is a safe limit for any of these – that’s something you need to decide for yourself. The safest thing, of course, is to minimize your exposure to all of them.

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