The Penguin: ‘Please, don’t hurt me! I didn’t mean it!’

It wasn’t all that long ago when getting as many links as possible pointing back to your site was top priority and it didn’t really matter too much where those backlinks were coming from. The goal of course was to position your website on the first page of Google and other top search engines such as Bing and Yahoo.

The quantity of backlinks was extremely important and many websites were rewarded with good search engine rankings and as such were placed at the top of the list when anyone carried out a search query.

Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on which side of the fence you were on at the time), the bubble burst as the major search engines started to evaluate the quality of the links pointing back to your site.

This switch from quantity to quality caused all sorts of problems for those websites that were originally set up with “quantity over quality” link building methods.

The Penguin: ‘You don’t really think you’ll win, do you?’

Google first released their algorithm, code name Penguin, back in April 2012. Rankings quickly fell and many sites were penalised for having backlinks from sources now regarded as black-hat link building tactics. The latest update, Penguin 3.0, was released on 17 October 2014.

As a result, many of today’s SEO specialists need to deeply audit client websites and remove the offending backlinks. This is probably one of the most painstaking and time consuming tasks in SEO and yes, I’m speaking from experience as we have been called in many times to clean up toxic link profiles that have been built by other companies. I almost called this task unrewarding as well but that’s not quite true. The reward is the recovery from a Penguin penalty, or watching a client website start to improve in page rank, traffic and authority in their niche because you’re actually doing your job. So it has become a critical SEO task to clean up your backlinks regularly.

The Penguin: ‘I believe the word you’re looking for is “Aaahh”!’

If you want to use Google as your search engine of choice (and why wouldn’t you – Google is still the most popular search engine in the world with almost 70% market share?), you really have little alternative but to do your best to stick to Google’s rules of engagement. You only need to look at Google’s webmaster guidelines to see for yourself the types of penalties you could incur should you choose not to adhere to them.

When link building is authentic and natural (organic) your website or blog will grow in authority, traffic, visibility and branding which will, in the long run, ensure its sustainability as a viable business – which is really what we all want, isn’t it?

The Penguin: ‘It’s not about power; it’s about reaching out to people’

That’s not to say that tactics such as software driven blasts, comment spam, directories and widgets are no longer effective at securing a large number of links, it’s just that these links will now hurt your marketing efforts and have the potential to have your website removed from Google altogether. The ranking changes were put in place by Google to help us find the sites that fulfil our information needs and provide us with a better user experience. So, anything that attempts to manipulate the system is a no-go area.

I don’t know about you, but there is nothing more frustrating than clicking on a search result to find a page that has no bearing on the subject matter, or worse still is an advertisement for something I have absolutely no interest in.  Today, the online market place is all about providing a meaningful customer experience so try to keep that in mind when you are building links to your website.

Link building tactics come in black, white, or 50 shades of grey, so you should do yourself a favour and make sure that your SEO consultant is only using white hat link building.