While appearing on the front page of Google is a coveted position, you don’t have to resort to black hat SEO techniques to get there. If you do, you may find yourself slapped with an SEO penalty for trying to manipulate search engine results.
Even if you’re not deliberately trying to outwit Google, we’re all guilty of bad habits from time to time – spammy backlinks, poor content and an abuse of anchor text, being some of the most common. Do any of these sound familiar?
If so, keep reading for some tips on how to avoid these penalty-inducing practices.
Adding backlinks to your website from other relevant and authoritative websites is a good thing. Google interprets this action as helpful because you’re assisting searchers and making your website a more valuable resource. In Google’s eyes your authority, your relevance, and your ranking, are all worthy of a boost for doing this.
But some site owners try to take short cuts. They buy or exchange unnatural links or start mass producing guest articles with links to try and get Google to boost their ranking. Even if you do manage to enjoy being on the front page of Google, these spammy SEO practices will ensure that you lose your enviable position rather quickly.
As mentioned, Google doesn’t have a problem with backlinks but they have to be acquired in an organic way and strictly white hat. Red flags will go up if you get a large amount of backlinks in a very short time.
So how do you get organic backlinks and avoid an SEO penalty?
Create awesome content for a start, then people will want to link to it and share it with their followers. High quality, relevant guest posts are another way you can get backlinks, but the content you provide needs to be genuinely valuable to the site owner’s audience.
Poor or thin content
Offering rich, useful and unique content for searchers, can not only raise your link profile it can boost your Google ranking in general, and protect you from an SEO penalty.
Much like cleaning out a wardrobe of old clothes that are wearing thin, Google tends to weed out sites with low quality or shallow content. If you consistently post content that has little value for users you could find yourself slapped with a manual penalty or hardly ranking at all.
Here are some examples of what Google considers to be poor or thin content:
- Content that has been automatically generated by a programme
- Pages that link to affiliate sites that don’t have much information
- Scraped content or content that has been stitched together
- Low quality guest blog posts
- Doorway pages that are designed to boost SEO.
You may notice that duplicate content hasn’t been listed above. This is because Google doesn’t always penalise for this unless it’s done deliberately to deceive users.
So how do you avoid an SEO penalty for poor or thin content?
Go through your website and identify pages that contain a low word count, that have been pieced together or that don’t really add value to your site. Look at ways you can improve these pages to provide useful information to searchers and answer questions they may have.
The content must be engaging and interesting to read rather than just a bunch of facts. Write your content with a persona in mind, tell a story or ask a question to raise the engagement level.
Abuse of anchor text
We’ve all been guilty of it at some point or another – hyperlinking anchor text that takes a user to a site with no relevance whatsoever to what we’ve been writing about. Outbound links are good right?
Unfortunately, like spammy backlinks, an abuse of anchor text can be seen as over-optimisation by Google and you could be penalised for it.
Here are some types of anchor text that you should avoid:
- Exact match anchor text – using your targeted keyword/s for links
- Naked anchor text – using a URL instead of relevant text for links
- Repetitive anchor text – using ‘this page’ or ‘click here’ for links
Here are some examples of anchor text that Google considers more useful:
- Partial match anchor text – including your keyword along with other words in the link to mix up the text
- Branded anchor text – including a brand name in the link text to build authority
- LSI keyword anchor text – including search terms related to the main keyword in the link to make your content more understandable for Google.
In general, aim to create anchor text that consists of words and phrases that closely match the topic of your hyperlink.
If you suspect that you have been the victim of a Google penalty, don’t panic, contact one of our Auckland SEO or Wellington SEO experts today. Google is continually updating its algorithms and re-evaluating sites. If you follow the tips above and your long-term SEO strategy is free of tricks, you shouldn’t have any problems.