There is a fine line between ethical SEO promotion, aggressive engagement and flagrant automation. Finding that balance for SEO is what differentiates websites that are impervious to penalties (since they are editorial resources) or those who shine bright from aggressive SEO techniques then fall from grace along with their rankings.
What happens when someone pushes the envelope of link velocity or crosses the tipping point of ethical optimization? It is no surprise; they trip an algorithmic filter and typically get penalized…
I witnessed this type of event today from tracking a competitor and knew they were boosting their relevance with some inflated off page factors in vast numbers. They had several hundred thousand backlinks from low quality directories and sites lacking editorial value through a small footprint of site wide links.
As a result, since they were so heavily vested essentially riding off of the buoyancy of those inbound links, when the algorithm shifted and devalued those less than favorable pages, they feel from grace along with them.
What Search Engine Penalty?
Search engines are the target for massive amounts of spam and automation, as a result, they have filters built into the index to investigate things like duplicate content (just like highlander, there can be only one), automated link building and unnatural patterns.
Penalties vary in their effects and duration but the most common is a dip in rankings for a specific page with the anchor text supporting it. For example, if you have 40,000 new inbound links showing up on your link profile in one month and you have only built 500 links over the past 4 months, that is not natural link velocity and may flag a penalty (particularly if they all have the same keyword/anchor text).
If your website ballooned up from 10 pages to 10,000 pages in one month something similar could be said. There is a reason why keeping it natural means progressively layering multiple layers of optimization to achieve long-term sustainable results.
Also, if you have sitewide links that appear for a short period of time, get deleted or come from an entirely off topic site, the notion of those links passing editorial value is questionable and more than likely will result in a loss of relevance for those anchor text/keywords.
With Link Building, Less is More
Link quality is better than link quantity, after a set number of sitewide links the value is capped; hence it is better to have 100 links (1 link from 100 sites) than 1 sitewide link from 1 site on 100 pages passing the same anchor text.
Search engines can read too, not to mention have some pretty amazing natural language BS sniffers to assess and grade relevance. What worked a year ago (as far as off page SEO) may not work now, so, for long-term SEO results, I suggest diversity based on a premise of solid search engine principles. Give them what they want, if you want organic traffic in return.
Simply avoid getting in the penalty box to begin with by adhering to tactical yet not too aggressive optimization techniques. For example, if you are naturally attracting links (as a result of your websites’ contribution) adding frequent content, using strong internal links, have relevant titles, don’t go overboard with link building/promotion and are consistent (and growing your stable of keywords and visitors) then your website should withstand any algorithmic or manual review.
What are Some Common Optimization Tactics?
There are many ways to optimize a website, here are just a few:
1. Marginal content in root and topical landing pages supporting by a high concentration of backlinks from other sites.
2. Topical content site with multiple sub folders using silos (deep content pages) supported by internal linking.
3. Sitewide links (from footers, sidebars or template driven pages) from multiple IP’s
4. A relevant themed topical website with a handful of powerhouse links from trusted authority sites (from editorial or trusted sources) such as EDU’s, . Gov’s, a site with a high Page Rank or High AC rank according to Majestic SEO.
5. Using a collective series of optimized pages which all hold pieces of the puzzle for a more competitive root phrase.
The list could go on and on, but to simplify, it boils down to the percentage of dependency between on page and off page SEO.
What Metrics are Important to Search Engines?
1. Title Tags – mentioning the singular, plural and providing and alternative keyword or two if the page is going to acquire inbound links with multiple anchors (that way the ranking can stem).
2. Site Architecture - are your main keywords baked into the navigation, the naming conventions, and how deep does the site move away from the root? Are their sitemaps incorporated to serve as a means to irrigate the pages with sufficient link flow?
3. Content Volume - Is the site all about the topic? Is it diffused or sparse, are the keywords only on specific pages? In other words, is the site worthy or being an authority on the topic?
4. Links – how many does it have bother internally and externally? Are the pages working in tandem, is there consistency in the link schema or link graph from other websites?
5. First Indexing – How long has a page been optimal? Was it ideal out of the gate on first indexing or has it been refined, tweaked and perfected over time? Also, how many pages like this exist within the site or is it part of a larger blueprint?
Once again the list could go on and on. Determining what works and why it works is the first order of business; the next logical step would be to not exceed what is considered natural both algorithmically and intuitively to invoke a ranking penalty.
Managing competitive keywords is a full time responsibility. Instead of creating spikes in off page activity and risking an SEO penalty, try to think long-term and constantly add more relevant on page content to spread the ranking factor around as well as build links slowly from other sites over time to pass trust, not just link flow.