Backlink Analysis – Google Penalties Case Studies

We had a “full-house” Webinar on Friday (all 100 seats were occupied). As promised to everyone in the webinar here is the recording for to digest.

Main Topics

  • What are Unnatural Links?
  • How do I spot them?
  • How do I recover from an Unnatural Links Penalty?
  • Quick Overview of the recent Interflora Penalty.
  • “Unnatural Link” Sites Analyzed – Case Studies
  •     SmartLipo – Medical Surgery Niche
  •     Allesovergokken – Online Gambling Niche Netherlands
  •     Webhostingmadness – Webhosting Review Niche
  •     Learnenglishindublin – Learning Foreign Languages Niche

What are Unnatural Links?

  • Links that are created with the sole purpose of influencing a search engines rankings.
  • Mostly DOFollow links, these links can be spotted by Google using trained algorithms that search for specific patterns in specific niches.
  • These algorithms are also “helped” by humans that verify specific sites and possibly flag them. You can read more about this if you search the cognitiveSEO blog for Google Rating & Webspam Guidelines. There was a leaked document last year that explains the process.

A few examples:

  • blog comments built at mass scale
  • link networks that interlink and link to a specific site to help it increase its rankings
  • paid dofollow links (advertorials, sponsored links etc )

More on the subject here.


The BIG 3 Rules of Ranking with Natural Links

1. Google is a machine that is trying to “emulate” the real world.

  • What it seems unnatural in the real world should be unnatural to Google. (if it is not now, it will be in the future)

2. Become Trust Worthy!

  • Prepare for this. It Takes Time. (like in real life).
  • Basic Idea – Show Google that you are Trust Worthy and Google will give you Ranking Juice.
  • Gain Trust without Commercial Anchor Text.
  • Be Strategic & Patient.

3. After Google Trusts you Don’t Abuse it!

  • Start using Commercial Anchor Text to guide Google to rank you better.
  • Continue to build trust!


The BIG 5 Rules of Unnatural Link Analysis

1. Each niche is different, and this can be seen by the different link profiles.

  • This is from a naturalness point of view.
  • Everything has a Context. Put is out of the Context and it has no value.

2. The same rules to identify unnatural links in different niches will not apply.

  • There are generic ones that will apply though, such as – high number of low metric links.

3. Look for Backlink Profile Extremes.

  • Analyze from different angles. Profile by Site Type, Link Type, Metrics etc.

4. Big Density of Commercial Anchor Text compared to Brand Anchor Text

5. Look for Links with Similar Footprints. (Advertorials, Link Networks, Footer Links etc)


How should I recover from Unnatural Links Penalties

  1. Identify & Mark the Unnatural Links.
  2. Ask the site’s webmasters to remove those links.
  3. Most of them won’t, so your only chance is Google Disavow.
  4. Do it carefully! Don’t sent the whole list of links to Google. It won’t work.
  5. Explain what happened and give details for as much unnatural links as possible.
  6. Remove all unnatural links from an affected domain.
  7. Wait … while “waiting” start building natural links. Increase your Trust and Dilute you Bad Link Profile.


Quick Overview on the recent Interflora Penalty

  1. Interflora is a site that sells flowers in the UK and other countries. It is one of the biggest flower sites in the UK.
  2. Approximately a week ago it was penalised by Google and the entire SEO community started to analyze this.
  3. My opinion is that this is an enforcement of another guideline from Google regarding “advertorials”. This is because Matt Cutts himself posted the same day on twitter a short note about the specific guideline.
  4. There were other cases in the past with sites like JC Penney and others that were penalized by Google.(“brands”). For Google this is the easiest way to spread the word about an enforcement of their guidelines.
  5. A way of educating the SEO community.
  6. Was this purely about other unnatural links? I do not think so. Other competitors of Interflora have a big amount of unnatural links and still they are not penalized. This was about “Advertorials”.
  7. If we check these against their competitors we will see that this makes the difference.
  8. A “new old” unnatural link = the advertorial link.
  9. What it works today … might not work tomorrow!
  10. But a lot of spammy tactics still work.
  11. Work for a day or a week. But if you plan for longer than that you have to comply.
Read more on the interflora penalty here.



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