Most website owners want two things when it comes to link building – to increase their website rankings and avoid getting penalized by Google. Unfortunately, a lot of webmasters are still receiving the dreaded unnatural link warning in Google Webmaster Tools – even SEOmoz, although they say it is not always a cause for concern. But nevertheless, most do not want to be on Google’s bad side when it comes to getting warnings.
Of course, along with the paranoid website and business owners, there are also those who believe that, out of the millions of websites on the Internet, how is Google going to single theirs out of the crowd. It’s not like someone is checking each website’s backlinks by hand unless New York Times sends their online search expert your way like they did with J. C. Penny. Unnatural link warnings are most likely caught by computers and algorithms. And what do computers and algorithms look for? Patterns and anomalies.
Without further ado, here are some patterns and anomalies in your link profile that might tip off both human search experts digging into your search marketing strategies as well as the computers that are sent to find them. Either avoid them, take proactive measures to fix them, or cross your fingers that Google doesn’t come after you.
A Sudden Surge of Links
Just like a car doesn’t go from 0 to 120 MPH in one second, a website doesn’t go from 10 odd links here and there to hundreds or thousands overnight unless they just hit the BBC or another news network and became famous. But what typically happens if you don’t invest in quality SEO work is that you might end up having a link builder slam your site with tons of links within the span of a few weeks or months.
Remember when it comes to link building, slow and steady will win the race in the end. Therefore, don’t sign up for a bulk link building service and, if you’re a SEO consultant, explain to clients why they need to start slowly with quality instead of jumping out the gate with too much quantity.
A Consistent Quantity of Links
Another thing that might signal unnatural linking is a consistent quantity of links. A natural would be a few here, a few there, maybe several more here, and none there. But if you’re signed up to receive 100 links every 30 days (and you get them), then that can make for an obvious pattern. So consider switching up services every month – some link building here, content marketing there, and social media all around. Don’t just invest in a steady links package.
Overuse of the Same Anchor Text
Speaking of natural, what are the chances that if you gave your link to 100 webmasters and told them to link back to you that they would all do it with one specific keyword anchor text phrase? Probably slim unless those 100 webmasters were also SEO’s and your homepage title only had your keywords in it.
Instead, what you would probably end up with is some links to your keyword anchor text (assuming that you had it in your website’s title), your brand or business name, the full URL of your website, just your domain.com, the word website, and maybe some to your name if people thought of it as your website. Hence, think about natural linking text when building and requesting links to a website and act accordingly. Better yet, don’t request that every webmaster add your link with specific anchor text. Just give them your link, a short description, and let them do what they feel is most natural. Then you will really achieve a natural link profile.
Links From the Same Set of Websites
One trap that link builders can easily fall into is getting links from the same sources. Nothing is more simple than having a list of 50 websites where you know you will get your way, maybe with or without compensation.
But what happens is this. You’ll have several websites with a very similar linking profile. Imagine from an overall online marketing perspective – you have a link builder that gets links from the same websites, an article marketer that submits to the same article directories, a blog commenter that comments on the same blogs, and so forth. This means a whole list of websites and clients could end up with the same portfolio, or very similar.
This also happens in the case of automated link building and link exchanges. The link system compiles a database of email addresses and starts sending the link requests out to the same sites. Link exchanges are particular vulnerable as you not only have websites with the same backlinks, but those websites are linking out to the same websites. Major red lights when it comes to detectable patterns.
Your best bet is to treat each website like it is the first one you’ve ever built links to. Start researching potential link partners and other resources from scratch. Time consuming, yes. But definitely a better way to have a fresh perspective per website and thus, a fresh link profile.
All Dofollow, PageRank 6 and Above…
The best links are sans nofollow when it comes to increasing rankings in search, and of course, they have high authority. But then again, a natural link profile would include a healthy mix of both dofollow and nofollow links of both higher and lower PageRank and Domain Authority.
The Best Link Profile
So what is the best way to create a natural looking link profile? Instead of building links with specific SEO-related criteria, build links based on direct traffic potential instead. Find websites whose audience would be a perfect fit for yours – ones that receive a decent amount of traffic – and try to get links on them. Also get involved in social media, local search, and content marketing, all of which will ultimately lead to traffic generating links to your website.
What other signals does Google uses to identify websites with unnatural link profiles and what are the best ways to avoid them? Please share your thoughts in the comments!
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