With Google sending out an average of 20 unnatural link warnings a day, in addition to the 20,000 that have already been sent out, it may be useful to know what links are affecting your site and what link building tactics are responsible for the warning or penalty.
Here is a list of link building tactics that Google frowns upon, and, if you are using these tactics, it would be in your best interest to stop or at least do a better job of hiding it.
Exact Match Keyword Anchor
If you have been in SEO for any time at all, you know that to help boost a term, you should use that term as the anchor text for a link; however, when all your links use the same anchor text, it looks unnatural, meaning you will be seeing a warning.
Look at it this way, if your link profile has 10,000 links, and 6000 have the same anchor for keyword one, 2,000 have the same anchor for keyword two and the last 2,000 are a mix of junk anchor and partial match, then odds are you will be receiving an unnatural link warning. You want your link profile to look as natural as possible, with a healthy amount of exact match, partial match, junk anchor, followed and nofollow links.
No Link Balance
On the subject of followed to nofollow links, sites that only have followed links look unnatural. Having hundreds of only followed links with keyword anchor looks completely unnatural.
Go for the natural approach and don’t worry about what kind of link you are getting. If you get a nofollow, it’s not going to hurt you, it may even help. The main point is to get traffic to your site, right? So, if you snatch a nofollow that gives you an extra 100 visitors a month, what’s wrong with that?
Not only have websites been penalized for buying links, but, more recently, SEO agencies as well. Buying links is a definite move to manipulate PageRank, meaning Google will shoot you down the second they think you are buying links.
So instead of buying links, use your budget on freelancers for guest posting or get very familiar with link bait. I’m a huge fan of link bait, since a natural link is always more valuable than a link you created. See more on how link building here with this complete guide.
What others say about you > what you say about yourself
Sidebar and Footer Links
Too many sidebar and footer links will immediately set off a warning. It is okay to get a few of these, but consider how the average site is crawled:
Header > Nav Menu > Content > Sidebar > Footer
The higher you get your link, the better off you are. This is where guest posting and link baiting comes in. Get those links in the content and avoid any unnatural looking links.
Side note: this also goes for internal linking tactics. If you use a footer that includes every link on your site for more than the homepage, then you are splitting link equity and overusing key anchor text.
No to Low Moderation Directories
You want links meant for users, not search engines, and if you come across the opportunity that seems too good to be true, then it probably is. Danny Sullivan wrote a great article for Search Engine Land called Link Building Means Earning “Hard Links” Not “Easy Links” that really hit this one home.
Anyone can get a link at any point by going to a directory, especially those with little to no human moderation, and submit their site to be included on the list for a small payment. The main problem with this is the fact that your site will be associated with hundreds of irrelevant sites that could deal in the shady areas of porn, gambling, payday loans, etc. Remember this could be a huge hit on your reputation as well, and anyone with an online profile or website should use tactics to keep their reputation clean.
So instead of wasting time and money on these kinds of directories, find niche directories that would actually give your site a chance to be viewed by its target audience.
If you have ever owned a blog, then odds are you have seen the hundreds of spam comments that come with it. These links provide little to no value and if you are using this spammy strategy, then you should know Google will hit you with a warning.
Instead of commenting for a link, comment for a relationship. Build a rapport with the person and turn that relationship into a link opportunity. Think of how much easier it is to ask a friend for a guest post opportunity then a cold call or random stranger.
Social Profile Links
Since Google Plus allows you to add followed links in the contributor section, many have started to produce multiple profiles, just to grab keyword links from a high-ranking site. While you want to add links in your social profiles, you don’t want to create idle social accounts just for links. I’m no rocket scientist, but I’m sure Google can tell if a Google Plus account is inactive.
Social accounts have tons of value, and as search and social are becoming closer and closer, it is a good idea to set up a strong social infrastructure.
Link farms and blog networks are dying out, and Google is making sure of that. Sites like these have lost keyword rankings and traffic over the past year, which would make me think they have a negative link value as well. So, to me, it doesn’t make sense taking a piece of content that could be used for a guest blog or for your site and put it on one of these sites.
Instead of wasting time on tactics like these, focus on high-quality link building tactics. Build links for the future, not for the now. When you can accomplish this, you have less of a chance to be hit with future updates and warnings.