With the New Year and the next Penguin update nearly here, it’s time to take stock and look at your backlinks and determine if you need link-building rehab or are on the right track.
In the early days, many so-called SEO experts violated Google guidelines by buying backlinks and producing spammy articles. It didn’t matter, because although Google complained about these practices, they didn’t enforce their guidelines. But in 2012, the day of reckoning arrived in the form of an update called Penguin.
Penguin targeted sites with a large number of non-relevant, quickly acquired backlinks from sites of low quality. In other words, websites that paid for a lot of backlinks instead of earning them found themselves plummeting in the search rankings. Since Penguin’s initial release in 2012, SEO agencies have spent many hours tracing spammy backlinks, removing them, and replacing them with high-quality backlinks. But keeping up with Penguin isn’t a one-and-done proposition for link-building services. The updates keep coming.
Where Penguin 1.0 looked largely at domain pages, Penguin 2.0 dug into internal pages. Backlinks to a site’s internal pages could no longer hide from Penguin’s watchful eye.
The second Penguin refresh targeted backlinks from low-quality sites hosted on Weebly, Blogger, and WordPress — sites that are great for quickly building websites meant to only serve as a storehouse for a variety of backlinks. It also penalized sites that used forums for link building along with certain mass link-building tools.
Coming sometime before year’s end (according to Google sources), the new Penguin refresh will enable Google to refresh a site’s rankings in real time. This change means that when a site gets linked to by a low-quality site, they may notice an immediate rankings drop. Alternatively, when sites are hit by Penguin penalties (fairly or unfairly), they can recover more quickly after fixing low-quality backlinks.
The Question You’re Probably Asking
So why can’t some SEO consultants just work on earning quality links for their clients? Why do they keep giving into these get-rich-quick schemes and trying to beat Google at its own game?
The answer: It feels incredible to generate fast results and make clients happy.
Even though they know it could all come crashing down someday, in the moment, indulging in a fast backlink building scheme provides quick, easy results. These not-so-good link-building strategies — they just get addictive after a while.
- They work in the short term. Like a good fix, fast link building gets faster results, at least temporarily.
- They make you popular. When clients and competitors hear how a fast link builder get results, the SEO consultant gets a reputation for producing quick results.
- They make clients happy in the short term. Clients want everything fast, and getting a quick rankings boost means quick money. An SEO consultant can deposit a lot of checks before the Google penalty comes — and then charge more for helping the client recover later.
The short-term high of quick links could distract businesses from best practices. But smart businesses should take a closer look at the long-term results. At first, switching to an SEO agency offering high-quality link-building services feels a lot like going to rehab. It’s hard work. The results take longer. A quick fix would feel so good compared to all that effort.
Yet businesses with the courage to go to link-building rehab and change the way they do SEO will be the ultimate winners. They won’t just outwit Penguin 4.0; they’ll stay strong through virtually any Google algorithm update.
Step 1: Acknowledge the Problem
Link-building rehab is about two things: recovery and leading a life free from quick-link addiction. Like any good rehab program, it starts with a thorough assessment, this time assessing how spammy backlinks are affecting your website. Using tools like Ahrefs, your agency will find every backlink pointing back at your site. Then, they’ll analyze every link according to the following criteria:
How Much Traffic Does This Backlink Send to Your Pages?
Most spammy backlinks exist out in the wild, but they don’t bring traffic back to your website. They’re often hosted on sites that aren’t interested in search rankings for themselves. They’re just holding areas for a whole bunch of mixed-up links.
Is This Backlink From a Site Highly Relevant to Yours?
Natural backlinks are earned because your content is good, and they come from the sorts of people who would read your content — and those people have sites like yours. In many cases, fast link building involves creating mishmash Web pages full of links with no relationship to one another, or it involves buying links from whichever domain is offering.
Does the Link Come From a Page of High Domain Quality?
When medium- to high-quality domains link back to yours, Google assumes your website is more respectable and trustworthy. When you have many backlinks from sites with low domain quality — and backlinks built fast usually come from those sites — your low-quality link profile can hurt your search ranking.
Step 2: Start Recovering
After identifying problematic backlinks, your link-building rehab provider will work to remove or disavow spammy links.
- Your agency contacts webmasters of the sites hosting the problematic links, asking them to remove links that don’t meet the criteria.
- For the links they can’t remove, your agency will create a disavow links strategy. This process can have negative effects if done incorrectly, so it’s best to rely on a professional for link disavowal.
- After improving your inbound link profile, your agency will ask search engines to have its spiders re-crawl your sites. Some sites see an immediate improvement in rankings, but, for others, restoration takes a while.
Step 3: Maintain Sobriety
Once you’ve recovered from the bulk of your Google problems, it’s up to you to stay cheap-link sober. Sobriety means not giving in when a cheap SEO agency comes along offering instant backlinks and fast improvements to your rankings.
Instead, work with an agency that helps you build natural, relevant, high-quality backlinks that, in addition to helping your search rankings, drive actual sales-ready traffic back to your website. It takes time to earn a high-quality backlink profile, but once you do, you’ll worry a lot less about Google’s algorithm changes.
Avoid the Quick Fix
Google always wants to deliver better search results to users, so it will continue to update its algorithm. The quick fix might feel great and look good today, but it usually doesn’t last.
Before your website hits rock bottom, make a New Year’s resolution to get into link-building rehab. Schedule your free SEO audit with Digital Current today and get the proper link-building services you need.