5 Ways to Protect your Website from Google SEO Penalties

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Everyone in SEO is talking about it…a new Penguin update is on the way and it is rumored that it will make last April’s ruthless Penguin update look like child’s play.  People are running scared, wondering if their site, and business, will be slammed like so many others were last year.

In this article I will review 6 ways to protect your site so you can sleep safe and sound, knowing traffic to your site won’t dry up overnight.  And if you’ve already been hit, Chuck Price gives some great suggestions for recovery.

1. Audit your Links Monthly

Start by running your backlinks and getting a baseline.  How many of your links are from high quality vs low quality sites? And who is actually linking to you?

If you find links from spammy or low quality sites, why not email the site and request for the link to be removed?  If you do, document this!  Keep track of everyone you’ve emailed and when.  You may need this information if you DO get penalized and have to file a reconsideration request.

There are a number of SEO tools you can use to monitor your backlinks.  Pick your favorite and don’t forget to do this every month!

2. What’s your Anchor Density?


High anchor density for money terms is one of the main indicators of SERP manipulation that leads to Penguin penalties.

Keeping an eye on the anchor density of your keywords is important.  Anchor density will change constantly as new links are being built.  Every month, make sure you run an anchor density report and make sure you are under 15% for a money term.

I’ve seen anchor density for brand terms go upwards of 50% without penalties, but if the anchor text with high density is focused on money terms, then this could elicit penalties.  If you notice your density getting too high, quickly build noise or brand term links to dilute the percentages.

Be sure to use Semantically Related Keywords as well to avoid “fabricated” anchor text profiles.


3. Link Ratios: What to Monitor, and Why they Matter

Proper Company Promotion – courtesy © alphaspirit – Fotolia.com


When google talks about Earned vs Unearned links, one of the ways they can algorithmically monitor these numbers is by looking at ratios.

Here are some of the ratios that I always look for when monitoring a site’s heatlh:


  • Link Type: Image vs Text vs Mentions

  • Link Location: Paragraph vs Link List vs In Content vs Sidebar vs Header

  • Domain Theme: Business vs Computers vs Reference vs Portals vs News

  • Site Type: General vs Blog vs CMS vs Link Directory vs Social Network

  • Sitewide Ratio

  • Deep Links Ratio

If, for example, too many of the links come from Link Directories, this shows an imbalance and I will try to build alternate links to create a healthy backlink profile.

4. Watch your Webmaster Tools account


This one is obvious but I can’t even tell you how many site owners I speak with who don’t have their Webmaster Tools account set up, or who don’t monitor it.  This is important!

Watching the links that Google displays in your account can help you find problematic links that Google is acknowledging are crawled in part of how your site is ranked.  Keeping tabs on these links will help you to quickly identify low quality or negative links.

Perhaps Googlebot is having trouble accessing your site, or something went wrong with your server and there are numerous crawl or page errors.  Monitoring your webmaster account for your site’s health will make sure you address and minimize potential problems BEFORE they become penalties or result in a loss of rankings or traffic.

5. Create Google Analytics Alerts


By creating Intelligence Events Alerts, you can have Google Analytics notify you if your traffic has decreased or if something has changed.

Here are some alerts that I set up for all of my clients:

  • 10% Traffic Drop

  • Bounce Rate increases by more than 5%

  • Google Organic Traffic decreased by more than 5%

Sometimes a small drop is an indication of problems, so I will review the site, backlinks, etc and address any problems before they result in penalties or major traffic loss.

Most Importantly, Don’t Engage in Spammy Link Building!!!


I’ve had clients come to me asking why their site is doing so poorly in the search engines.  They confess they’ve done some work on their own or paid a nominal fee to a company that spam mailed them to increase their rankings.

Almost invariably I find massive amounts of spammy links from directories or article marketing sites.  Some people have confessed to have used Fiverr gigs for link building, or foreign companies that build 10,000 wiki links or a 50 spoke link wheel.

(And if you’re wondering how I know of all this, it’s because yes, I’ve tried and tested many of these services.   I’m always running tests with groups of sites so I can track what is or isn’t working; running controlled tests is one of my passions).

Just DON’T Do It!  

It’s not worth it! Perhaps these links work for a little bit, but they WILL get you penalized.  If not now, it will happen in a future algorithmic update.

Fiverr is GREAT for some gigs, like voice overs and fun images, but when it comes to link building, it just won’t work.  Link building is hard, and expensive, and nobody can genuinely build you hundreds of links for $5.


Build High Quality Links

One high value link is worth hundreds of low quality links.  I’ve seen it time and again by analysing backlink profiles of sites with strong rankings.  A handful of links from reputable sources can help a site’s rankings considerably.

Forget forum and blog commenting links, forget Fiverr and thousands of wiki links, and forget article directories and everything else that smells of dirty socks.  Focus instead on creating high value content assets, and the rewards will be tenfold, not just as your rankings increase but in getting your site grandfathered SAFELY into the rankings.

Marcela De Vivo
Marcela De Vivo has been an SEO since 1999, promoting thousands of sites including large corporate sites and small mom and pop businesses. She loves... Read Full Bio
Marcela De Vivo
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  • Ashish Chaubey

    Thanks Marcela De Vivo : I agree with you. Because when we post blog comment or Forum, most of Blog comments gives Nofollow links. Really it is true. We should not be waste our time to make the spammy links. We can do it in unique way as you suggested.

  • deepanker

    Link building is the most important thing after quality content. We must try to get good back links with keyword variation. If website has exact match domain, it becomes more important

    • Alvin Brown

      I would agree that link building is important; however, these days I believe that uniquely written, value-add content will naturally open the door to exponential growth for external links. Readers will reward our diligent work with social signals as well as linking to our websites and specific website pages.

  • Chenzo

    It is crazy how many still do spammy link building tactics – the worst is the contractors selling SEO and use black hat tactics still.

    My hat is white and all I eat is organic ;o)

    Your pal,

  • Iko

    But, changes in traffic on business sites, especially of B2B companies can be caused by many other reasons…

  • Maciej Fita

    Google is changing the game slowly with every update. They want people to be marketers & branders not link builders. I don’t disagree with the changes they are making because for so long people built up their visibility incorrectly. Paying someone 5 bucks to build 10,000 spammy links is not Internet marketing.

  • Jose

    Thanks for this post Marcela. I find that keeping an eye in your link building it’s vital these days. High quality and relevant links pointing to your website are the ones which will increase your link popularity.
    I like the tips you gave to keep track of your activity with Google Analytics alerts.

  • Jane

    Great information (and alert) – links matter a lot for search engine rankings and this is what makes webmasters go crazy in getting as much as they want. They don’t care about quality but only quantity without realizing that the search engine wants just the opposite.

    I have one question though – when you talk about earned links, won’t blog commenting links count? Although they don’t carry as much quality as a link from inside a blog post mention – but still those are links gained by doing some work, right?

  • Abin

    Should I stop commenting on blogs to escape from penguin?

  • Casalotu

    Hi! Interesting suggestions about link building. On Fiverr are many buyers who really appreciate the activity of persons who are working there.
    I read about a good method for link building: try to buy, to receive a good number of links from blogs who are related to your site ‘s theme and main subject, with PR 2-4. What do you think about this method?

  • Vikash

    Nice guide Marcela, I also think that if density for brand word keywords is high, it should not be an issue. Also setting up webmaster tools and checking health status of the site should be the 1st priority of the webmasters.

  • Mosabbir

    Just WOW! Google is fighting with the SEO Webmasters. But Google always Wins! 🙁

  • bhupinder

    No doubt. High quality links matters most. I have recently subscribed the paid service of seomoz, the one you have shown in image above. It really works. I have tracked more than 1000 backlinks of my competitors and found why they are getting shown above me except the fact that i have more no. of backlinks then them.

    We can track authority given to each domain by this tool . I have also found large number of negative impacts to few other websites. Building poor quality backlinks to a new domain will result in de-caching of your website.

    You can say a website penalized if your cache is gone, 2. if there is no other page cached than your main page and 3. if you cant find your website for your domain name.

    So, change your older seo techniques. Else it is going to be worse after next penguin update as per the post by blogger.

  • Mark

    If building high quality links are important, then WHY did you hide links to a payday loan site, and a law firm in your article?

    • Mark

      You deleted the links. Good show. They shouldn’t have been there to begin with.

  • Pankaj Giri

    Nice information “Marcela” to stay away from Google Penalties… But there is not any thing mentioned about Social media Promotion side effects or how that will be bad for any niche websites….

  • Alexander Miklin

    Keep you anchor text under 70 characters and check out Hot Vs Not…

  • Alexander Miklin

    Keep your anchor text under 70 characters and check out Hot Vs Not…

  • Karl Thew

    Some great tips that anyone can implement. By now I hope people have learnt that link building on fiver will get you nowhere. Try to focus on earning links not building them and you’ll be less likely to get into trouble.

  • Tory Reiss

    What is Hot Vs. Not, Alex?

    • Alexander Miklin

      It’s an organic link directory.

  • Thaimeo

    nice post! But i have a small question…you said:”Forget forum and blog commenting links….”. Are you denying the value of the hight quality forum?

  • Tory Reiss

    Thanks, alex!

  • Mukesh Mali

    Zebra update – funny. But on a more serious note, the points on ‘search quality guidelines’ is a bit odd. I get the point about having a physical address, return policy etc

  • Robert

    Thanks for posting the article..

  • Truong Nguyen

    i think commenting links still will give them more benefits, but have to a high quality comment in a trust blog

  • Peter

    In my opinion SEO is virtually a waste of time. People should be campaigning Google to eliminate the top 3 ads and stick to ads solely down the right side. Most browsers when they search at best see the top one or two natural results. The rest of the page is ads. So, why bother with SEO. More money and effort would seem to be better spent on Adwords. Or, in an ideal world a beatter search engine comes on the scene and does not treat its browsers as shoppers ^^

  • raman bathina

    I do link building but not concentrate on auditing.May be that is the reason my blog hitting by google penalty.Now i apply all these tweaks to my blog.Thank you

  • Lorraine Robinson

    I think the comment about ‘forgetting blog and forum posting’ need clarifying and putting into context: from a link-building point of view, perhaps they don’t hold much value, but they still do have advantages.

  • Yogesh

    That’s great tips safe from penguin update. i learn how to get good ranking. but i have a question in mind why ignore article directory. article submission is good for ranking.