Picture yourself doing a Google search three to four years ago. When the search results page came up, you were probably frustrated by the number of irrelevant results and links to spammy websites that were included there. This was the time when webmasters and online marketers exploited the weaknesses of search algorithms to their heart’s content; hence, the poor search results. Google and other search engines quickly caught on to these schemes and update their algorithms to make manipulation more difficult. After the much talked-about Penguin and Panda updates, Google has recently updated their Link Schemes section to include such things as large-scale guest blog and article campaign, optimized anchor text, and advertorials.
Large-Scale Guest Blog and Article Campaigns
According to Matt Cutts, an Internet marketer or webmaster is guilty of this infraction when he guest blogs or submits articles for the sole purpose of building a lot of backlinks. This means you just post articles on other websites without any thought to the quality of the article or the value it can offer the site or blog it’s posted on. If Google notices too many backlinks from other sites (especially sites that aren’t really held in high esteem) to yours, you’re likely to get flagged.
What You Can Do: Set the right goals for guest blogging and article campaigns. The focus should be on establishing your credibility rather than simply building links. Choose the sites where you guest post very carefully. If possible, guest post only on the most popular niche-related sites, as these are the ones that are often deemed as authority sites. It would also be a good idea to limit the number of guest articles you post so Google wouldn’t get the idea that you’re on a large-scale blog or article campaign.
Optimized Anchor Text
This refers to the practice of using targeted keywords as anchor text that link back to your site. This practice is still quite common among webmasters, but when Google’s crawlers see too many of such links in one article, you are likely to get flagged. The key is in giving Google the idea that the link is actually a recommendation from someone else for people to visit your site.
What You Can Do: Limit the number of links you incorporate in every article to just two or three and do not place them all in one sentence or paragraph.
Example (of a disaster in the making):
Physical fitness is something everyone should be working on. One of the most important components of physical fitness is regular exercise. Exercise helps relieve stress and keep common physical ailments away.
An advertorial is an editorial piece that you pay a site to publish. The piece will typically have links that point back to your own website. This is basically just another way of paying for links, a practice that Google and other search engines have always frowned upon.
What You Can Do: It is, of course, best to avoid advertorials completely. However, if there’s enough evidence for you to be convinced that you can get significant benefits from advertorials, you may want to take some advice from Matt Cutts and clearly disclose that a particular piece is an advertorial. This can easily be done by describing the piece as a “sponsored” article or an “advertisement.”
Other Things You Can Do with Your Time
Rather than putting all your effort on building links—which can do more harm than good if you’re not careful—you could spend your time doing other things that are also beneficial for Internet marketing purposes.
- Be active on social media. Build accounts on popular social networking sites, both general and niche-related. Provide valuable content on your social pages and engage with your audience by answering their questions and responding directly to their comments and/or complaints.
- Join forums. Choose the ones where people who may be interested in what you have to offer are likely to converge. Engage with other forum members by joining conversations or initiating new ones. Answer questions and offer fresh ideas wherever you can. Do what you can to establish yourself as an expert in the industry.
- Comment on blogs. Find niche-related blogs and provide relevant answers to questions posed by readers. You could also post comments whenever you have fresh insights to add to whatever the blogger said in his post. Use blog comments to establish yourself as an authority in your niche.
What To Do When Manual Actions Are Taken Against Your Site
If you notice that your search rankings have suffered or your site is no longer showing on search results, you may want to check Google’s Manual Action page. Just go to the Webmaster Tools dashboard and then click on “Search Traffic” on the left menu. Choose “Manual Actions” from the list to see if Google has flagged you for any actions deemed as spam. If so, you’ll see a list of your supposed infractions and an indication as to whether the infraction impacts your entire site or just certain parts of it. You’ll also be told why your site has been flagged.
The best thing to do in this case is request for a manual review. This gives you the opportunity to explain and possibly get the penalty removed. Before you do so, you may want to take note of these tips:
- Familiarize the Webmaster Guidelines that relate to the specific infraction you’ve been charged with. This helps ensure that you don’t inadvertently say anything that violates the guidelines in your effort to get the penalty removed.
- If you’ve been flagged for “Hacked Site,” review your site and correct any mistakes in layout or formatting that may give Google the wrong impression that your site has been hacked. Be sure to point out in your request for manual review that you’ve corrected the flagged site issues.
- If you’ve been flagged for “Unnatural Links,” review your link-building strategy to make sure you aren’t doing anything that violates the Webmaster Guidelines. Avoid buying or selling links as much as you can and refrain from using automated link-building services. You should also keep link exchanges between your site and others to a minimum.
- Specify in your request the corrective steps you’ve taken and double-check to make sure your request is properly-worded.
Google is doing their best to make sure the Internet is transformed into a venue where content is created and published for users, rather than search engine crawlers. You need to keep this in mind the next time you design a content marketing campaign. With the Manual Action tool, you now have the opportunity to defend yourself against perceived violations so make sure your strategies are always justifiable. Use links only to drive organic traffic and create content of such high quality that your online audience will be sure to click those links and share your content. That’s the best way to win Google over.