This Season, Mind Your Backlinks to Avoid Coal from Google


Have Your Links Been Naughty or Nice?

Tis the season again and Santa’s not the only one checking his list; his arctic friend — Penguin — is helping you check yours! Since 2012, Google’s Penguin has been policing spammy back linking campaigns and penalizing domains with poor quality backlink profiles. In recent news, a Google representative stated that they will be rolling out an update to Penguin by the end of 2015.

So this holiday season, give your website the gift it deserves by preparing for the update and cleaning up your backlink profile. Here’s what to look for when assessing your backlink profile to meet Google’s stringent requirements:

“Nice” Links

There are numerous factors that help differentiate between a “good” backlink and a “bad” backlink, but what exactly are they, and how can webmasters begin by determining which links are “good?” For starters, the trust of a site is principal. This “score,” developed by Moz, is based on a 100-point scale and is a metric that helps domain owners better understand how likely their site is to rank on Google. Subjective observations aside, domain authority provides a calculable score which helps to visualize the clout of a website based on more than forty signals. Sites like Facebook, YouTube and even Reddit are commonly found in backlink profiles, and are associated with high domain authorities as well as a marked “trust” due to their everyday use and notoriety. Researching the domain authorities of sites found in a backlink profile is generally the first step in determining which links should remain.

It’s important to note one other crucial factor as well: relevance. Are the domains leading to your site related to your market? If you sell a specific type of product, is the linking domain relevant to that? These are important questions to answer as your scour through countless backlinks. Having one or two unrelated links to your domain is relatively harmless. A large number of unrelated links, however, may constitute cause for concern, especially if they’re low-quality links or somehow related to unsavory linking practices. If a pattern of these unrelated links is detected, it’s crucial that they are dealt with, as they may be harming the perceived quality of your site in the eyes of Google.

 “Naughty” Links

Paid Links

Did you participate in link-building schemes where you paid to receive backlinks in the past? If so, and these links are still connected to your profile, make sure you ditch them. Because it’s not just winter that’s coming — Penguin 4.0 is coming, too.

Link Directories

Links to spammy directories just scream “a history of backlinking schemes” to Google. If there is an obvious “Add link,” “Submit Link” or “Request Link Removal” option on the page — this is a clear indicator that the directory is no good. Reach out to the webmaster to request removal but be wary, as many of these link-building directories require payment in order to have the link removed. If this is the case, document your request, and the response, and add this site to the naughty list — otherwise known as the Disavow list.

Links with Overused Anchor Text

Take a look at your backlink profile’s anchor text distribution. If there is a good portion of your links with overused anchor text, not including branded terms, this is a clear indicator that the links are most likely unnatural and should be reevaluated. Overusing anchor text can raise a red flag to Google’s Penguin, which can ultimately elicit a webspam penalty.

With this in mind, do your due diligence and ensure that your website is prepared for the holidays and the next inevitable Google update. Evaluate your backlink profile, pruning those that are “naughty,” while keeping those that are “nice” to ensure that your site doesn’t get a lump of coal from Google!