THE BLOG
07/01/2014 03:56 pm ET Updated Aug 31, 2014

Best SEO Practices: Avoid the Dreaded Google Penalty

It is important to use only the best SEO practices, because the last thing you want to see in your inbox is a message from Google alerting you that they have penalized your website. A Google penalty can result in lowered search rankings and even being completely de-indexed (removed) from their search engine. If your website was removed from the search results what would that do to your business? For many business owners a Google penalty can be the end of their business, and Google continues to go after websites that use spammy link building practices and link schemes to manipulate the search results.

While Google has hinted that they are looking into other ways to determine the popularity and relevancy of websites using signals other than links in the future, they still remain a huge influence in the search rankings. It is important that you are using safe SEO practices, like these 2014 link building tips. Google is constantly releasing new updates and refreshing their algorithm to prevent spammy link building from dominating the search results. While most offending websites are handled by these updates, Google also hands out manual penalties when they uncover a website that slips through that is using unnatural link building and over-optimized anchor text.

If a penalty is handed down it is possible to perform a link clean up effort and remove the bad links and then submit a reconsideration request, but this requires a lot of time and money, and there is no guarantee your website will ever see the light again. The best approach is to improve your organic search rankings by using the best SEO practices, as outlined below. This will help you to avoid penalties in the future and keep your website safe.

Quality Over Quantity

The days of just mass spamming hundreds of thousands of links at a website are over, and you need to focus on building high quality natural links. The best way to attract or "earn" high quality links is through content marketing. Creating useful content and sharing it across social media and industry related websites is a great way to get quality links that are both highly relevant and 100% natural. These are two things that Google loves.

When content marketing is done right you are naturally earning links to your website, and not asking for them or buying them. Creating amazing content will cause people to want to use it and link back to the source. This is exactly how natural link building occurs.

Clean Up Your Link Profile: Perform a Link Audit

There are many types of links that Google sees as spammy and existing solely to game the system. If you are using comment and forum spam links, paid exact match anchor text links, guest posts on "private" networks that feature high page rank sites that do not receive real traffic, or low quality directories then you need to take action to remove these links.

Google is constantly seeking out networks to penalize and once they discover them it is easy for them to penalize all of the websites linked to these networks. The link sellers classify them as private, yet they will let any website purchase links from them, making it far from private. You are putting your website at a huge risk by using paid link networks.

If you know that you have low quality and potentially dangerous links you will want to start reaching out to webmasters and request that your links are removed. This is a very time consuming and tedious process, but it can help prevent your website from getting slapped with a Google penalty if you act fast. If you are unable to reach some webmasters or if your request is ignored you can utilize the Google disavow tool to let them know what links you do not want them to include in your link profile. Remember to only disavow links that are toxic, leaving the good quality links in your link profile.

Clean Up Your Outbound Links

After you clean up your inbound links it is time to go through your website and address your outbound links. If you are linking out to some websites that are not trustworthy and considered an authority, you will want to either remove them entirely or at the very least you will want to add the "no-follow" tag to the links.

We have comments disabled on our blog to eliminate spammy links. While we believe there are plenty of users that would use the comment system correctly, there are plenty of SEO spammers that would comment and link back to low quality websites. Even though we could no-follow all comment links we decided we did not want to have any low quality outbound links. If your website has a blog and it is littered with comment spam you might want to consider deleting all of the comments and disabling the system. Not only does it look spammy, but your website visitors don't want to see spam comments on your blog.

Many link audits focus just on inbound links, but you need to address your outbound links as well.

Don't Put All of Your Eggs in One Basket

While we can be proactive and take steps to keep websites safe from Google's algorithm updates, the truth is that nobody can be sure that they will be 100% safe. If your entire business relies on organic Google traffic you are setting your business up for failure. What if Google released a brand new update and your site was completely removed from the search results? Would business continue on or would it be game over?

You should have several sources of traffic that could easily be scaled up if one traffic source suddenly became dry. Along with organic search traffic you should have social media marketing and paid search marketing campaigns running to push additional traffic to your website. Never put all of your eggs in one basket, as it could result in the complete collapse of your business.

Nobody can completely predict what Google will do next, but you can take steps to keep your website as safe as possible. Making sure that you are only earning high quality links while removing any potentially toxic links can help you avoid penalties, but don't forget to diversify your traffic sources. The last thing you want to do is have a business that depends 100% on organic search traffic.

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