Google Takes Aim At Press Releases

Press Release SEO

Google has now updated its Link Schemes documents in the guidelines saying that it now considers optimized links inside content distributed across other sites as in Articles or Press Releases to be unnatural.

This line from the Google Webmaster Guidelines, specifies the point…

Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites.

John Mueller, a Google’s lead Webmaster Trends Analyst has said in the video below that Google will now consider Press Releases with money keyword anchor links that are DoFollow – as unnatural links.

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Guest Blogging – Now Being Targeted

Guest Posts

It appears that as of August 2013, Google is now going to target websites that are indulging in mass guest posts – IF the posts and/or the sites being posted to are of low quality and are not adding much value to readers.

There is now clear evidence that Google wants you to NoFollow your links in the content you post on other sites as Guests Posts.

Worth noting is the fact the new guidelines explicitly warn against large scale guest posting campaigns, paid advertisements, press releases and articles with optimized anchor text.

They have even updated their link schemes section inside Google Webmaster Guidelines. The guidelines now say that Large-scale article marketing or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links may negatively impact a site’s ranking in search results!

The bottom line: guest blogging done on a large scale may trigger a manual review, especially if the quality of the blog is in question. It now appears that guest blogging falls under the definition of unnatural linking – and, if you fail to nofollow the links, you may leave yourself open to manual penalties.

That said – Guest Posts can still give you a lot of juice, but you need to do it right and stay clear of the low quality signals that Google considers as webspam, and could thus trigger a manual review of your posts and backlink profile.

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Low Quality Toxic Links that could Trigger an “Unnatural Links” Penalty

Google Slap

In this post I am going to define what Google sees as low quality links that are “toxic”… and how, if they are detected, in “excessive amounts” in your backlink profile – they can result in getting you the famous “unnatural links” penalty or warning in your Webmaster Tools area, such as the one shown in the image below.

If you want to avoid the penalty, then it is absolutely important that you stop directly link to your main site or its inner pages with excessive amounts of low quality links and reduce the use of “money keywords” in your anchor link profile.

You should also make sure that your off-site backlinks have proper anchor text optimization done and the ratios of keyword anchors that you use are natural looking.

“Low quality toxic links” and “money keywords in the link anchors” are bad IF done excessively.

Unfortunately, this thresh-hold is very low but varies from niche to niche and is based on the competitiveness of a particular niche.


While it was possible to jump into any niche and just purchase a blast of 20,000 forum profile links for $20 and see some good SERP movements – those days are long gone and this is not possible anymore. In fact, it will definitely hurt you more. So, beware of buying low-quality bulk links.

While you may be able to get away with a few (fraction) of low quality and toxic links, as compared to your overall high quality backlink profile – you need to be very very careful.

A single sitewide link from a poor site (low PR) having 10,000 pages – can ruin the party for you.

So, before you go hire someone on fiverr to kick-off your link building efforts with 5000 cheap forum profile links – you need to stop and read this.

By indulging in this kind of link building activity you could be causing irreversible damage to your sites rankings.

While it is entirely true and observed that you can have a certain percentage of low quality links in your overall backlink profile – you need to watch these levels very closely.

Google has turned up the dial on this one and is throwing out a lot more manual and algorithmic penalties for sites with lower thresholds of low quality and toxic backlinks in their overall link profile.

Doing stuff like this, will sooner or later trip the algorithm and these links will start to pass down negative link juice to your main pages. So, do not indulge in these kind of links for your main domains. (you may get away with this by creating a Tiered structure – but that is a topic for another discussion).

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Google Penalty Evaluation & Recovery Plan – Case Study #1

Penguin Penalty

This case study does not describe how to figure out which specific Algorithm Update and Penalty the site being analyzed has been hit by.

I will cover that topic in detail in a later post where I will show you exactly how to use Google Analytics and freely available data to determine which penalty your site has been affected by. I will also discuss the a clever tool that is available in the market to do this for you.

This is a simple case study that will evaluate an inner page of a site that was hit by the Penguin 2.0 update for just a couple of keywords – based on what was observed inside organic search data in Google Analytics.

We will prepare and outline the evaluation and proposed recovery plan below. In this case it is fairly simple and straight forward (we will get into more complex case studies in the near future).

I will document the actual implementation of the recovery plan as we proceed with this project in the coming weeks. This will give us further insight into what is working and if our analysis below is accurate.

Situation Overview

  • The Client has indicated that domain (actual URL hidden for privacy reasons) has received a negative ranking factor for keyword “ipad repair” associated with the url
  • Since this penalty is not sitewide and probably targeted at this specific keyword-url pair, the recovery process will be non-complicated.
  • Since the other pages in the SERPs are sticking to where they are and only one internal page has been effected, this is an algorithmic penalty and not a manual penalty that has been applied site wide.
  • The exact date of the penalty is un-known as of now, but can be determined via Google Analytics data for this keyword. We also need to examine and determine if any other URLs and/or Keywords were also hit. This data can be analyzed via Analytics access.
  • Once we get access to Analytics we will share the exact keyword and organic search engine traffic charts that will confirm that the site was hit by the Penguin 2.0 update. I will post this in the coming weeks as I get this data.

Continue ReadingGoogle Penalty Evaluation & Recovery Plan – Case Study #1

Anchor Link Ratios Revisited

SEO funny

I regularly get new clients who come to me with slapped sites and are totally panicking because they don’t know what went wrong.

Many of these clients worked with bad SEO companies low quality link builders who have not bothered to keep up to date with the Penguin updates and what Google wants to see more of moving forward.

While I am not a big fan of Google, and we do not yet know their real intentions for coming up with all these updates – we do need to see what it wants or the sites you are doing SEO for will drop out of the ranks very quickly.

Tip: Make sure to read my Anchor Text Optimization guide that shows you how the SEO pros optimize their backlinks and anchor ratios from their link building activity.

One of the key criteria that started to be discussed in the forums is the over use of the primary and secondary keywords (the money keywords) for which people wanted to rank. According to Google, they believe sites with over-optimized anchor link profile will be penalized for unnatural link signals.

So, for example, if you are selling blue shoes – and if you use the keywords “buy blue shoes”, “cheap blue shoes”, “best blue shoes” … which are your money keywords… say 70% of the time in your link building – then this is a red flag and Google will penalize your site. Google believes now (after 15 years) that this is an unnatural way to build links and if this pattern occurs in someones link profile – then their profile is being artificially built for SEO and the links have not been “earned” naturally by real third party people creating the page for you.

While this does make a lot of sense, it has its drawbacks which we can discuss later. For now, its important to understand that Google wants to see a natural pattern in your anchor link ratio – even if you create this natural pattern artificially and do it yourself, rather than wait for other people to create links to your site – which can take for eternity.

OK, so what exactly does Google consider natural anchor link profile?

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First Things First – Fix Your Anchor Links, Baby

Anchor Links - How to Remove Bad backlinks

If you suspect your site got hit by the Penguin update that just rolled out, the first thing you need to do is STOP WHINING because it won’t help you.


OK 🙂

Now calm down, take a deep breath and examine your “anchor link” over-optimization (Penguin is mostly about the anchor links pointing back to your site).

This is largely responsible for majority of penalties, in addition to the penalty for low quality links… that is backlinks on pages that have thin content, low trust, low page rank, located on de-indexed sites, on poor sites etc. – and I will make a separate post explaining that later.

What happened with the Anchor text penalty – is that Google does not want you to “game” them so easily by using your main “money keywords” (primary and secondary keywords you want to rank for) in the backlinks.

They figured that people gaming the rankings and doing SEO have simply left a “pattern” of unnatural anchor links in their backlink profile – that is easily detectible because it contains mostly money keywords as the anchors and not keywords that look natural… natural being the “anchor link pattern” and ratio that the other majority sites have.

Google figured that people forcefully doing SEO would repetitively stuff and use money keywords in their anchor links – in their race to rank on top. And, this is unnatural.

This is ironical because…

The original Google algorithm and patent defined how it ranked pages in the first place… using keywords in anchor text links, as a measure to pass link juice down to pages and rank pages for specific keywords, and devise the PageRank factor for each page.

Now, fixing your anchor links profile is going to take a little more than simply changing a few of your anchor link this time.

You’re going to want to make it look as natural as possible to the search engines.

This means building a lot of links that have LSI keywords (please see note at end if you don’t know what LSI keywords are), generic keywords, raw URL links, general niche links, brand links, full sentence links, randomly looking anchors as well as image links.

For example: if you have used your main keyword as the anchor text link in over 50% of your backlinks, chances that your site got hit are very high.

Google is giving sites a negative penalty for doing this, rather than devaluing the links. This is definitely the most dreadful thing they have done. As a negative penalty is harder to recover from – and requires you to fix things and then file a Disavow Tool and a reconsideration request for your site recovery – which probably may not happen (as per survey done only 10% of sites that are hit have been able to recover). We will discuss how to do all the formalities of recovery in another document in this report as it requires detailed and careful handling and understanding.

So here is the new “rule” of ratio distribution for you to follow while you are building your anchor links.

Continue ReadingFirst Things First – Fix Your Anchor Links, Baby