An Over-Optimizing Nightmare: Staying Off Google’s Naughty List

Disclaimer: The below post illustrates a personal experience. The views and opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect those of or the work performed with their clients.

For the most part, link building is pretty straight forward and simple. You can publish your articles, request some directory listings, bookmark links, guest blog posts, request links from other webmasters or even purchase links if you’re feeling particularly rebellious. But keep in mind if you don’t have a strategy behind it, you might fall face-first into a ditch filled with sorrow and regret.

Many times so many of us start a website in hopes that in 5-6 months we might start seeing some decent cash rolling in. Because you need link building to attain those rankings, you need to make sure the links you’re acquiring match the progress that your website is currently at. Let me explain.

Most experienced search engine optimization professionals understand that you need a healthy balance of links. Building links in moderation and keeping a proper anchor text to non-anchor text ratio is crucial. If your entire backlink portfolio consists of anchor text links, it isn’t going to look natural to the search engines. Same can be said if everything is a directory link, bookmark link and especially a comment link.

If you are submitting articles, make sure that you are using your anchor text but also make sure that some of those links back to your site are strictly the URL or business name. If your site is brand new, the number of anchor text to branded links should probably be a 50:50 ratio so your backlinks don’t look unnatural.

However, the same cannot be said about large, established websites. Odds are that if your site has 40,000 backlinks, submitting higher ratio of anchor text links aren’t going to hurt you or your rankings. For example, if you pointed 1000+ spammy, anchor text filled comment links to YouTube, do you think it’s going to make a difference? On the other hand, if you did the same to a brand new site with no reputation or authority, you’ll probably get a penalty very quickly.

I’d like to share a personal experience with this. On one of my personal websites I wasn’t following my own advice. I got in the habit of submitting content using my anchor text. There was variation of the anchor text but I never threw in my URL to make it appear more natural.

For a couple months all I saw was an increase, and for two of my main keywords I even attained first page rankings. I was very happy and hopeful that this website might actually bring in some money. Then, on one fateful day, Google dropped the hammer…


As expected, I was very perturbed to say the least. After looking through my backlinks I found that I clearly wasn’t following best practice. I wasn’t building enough natural looking, credible links. Instead I got caught up in my fantastic rankings and continued submitting content, directories, bookmarks and other links using only my anchor text.

Because I was a new site with a limited online existence, building these links worked for almost two months, but it caught up with me. If I was a site with some authority and a very healthy, natural looking backlink portfolio, this probably wouldn’t have happened.

Just remember that the links that you are pointing back to your website need to vary when it comes to your anchor text and method of link being built. I think the same analogy (for the most part) applies to life, “too much or too little of anything, is a bad thing. Keep everything in moderation.”

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  1. Jonathan Roseland says

    Hmmm… Good post, I’m building out about 25 blogs right now in a variety of online spaces and will keep this in mind.


  2. William says

    We just started a new site and are considering some link building. It is so confusing. It seems like you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t. I understand the authors point about moderation and mixing it up. I am not making light of the article in any way. I think it is very well written. I am just frustrated. You need “natural” links. In actuality they are “natural looking” links. I don’t know anybody that goes to a website and says wow that is a nice website. I think I will fire up FrontPage, add a link from my site to that site because I want the world to quickly leave my site and go to this newly discovered site I just found. Most people just bookmark their favorites to they can go back to the site in the future. So you should have anchored text but be careful not to have too much. Add some directory links but not too much. Get links but don’t buy them. Some say reciprocal links are worthless. How hard is it for a search engine to find a list of outbound links under the word link or partners and see if they are linking back and discount them. If you don’t link you don’t get listed. If you do decide to link, you spend tons of time making the unnatural look natural. If you don’t link according to some secret formula you get penalized. Anybody else out there frustrated?

    • Paul Parramore says

      That was an awesome reply. I do support your views completely, but that said I would like to add that without sweating on the issue that you are trying to excel in, its not possible to attain efficiency. So all I can advice is, keep at it, one day you will be rewarded(I’m not sure of the ‘when’ factor).

  3. Gurgaon says

    add a link from my site to that site because I want the world to quickly leave my site and go to this newly discovered site I just found. Most people just bookmark their favorites to they can go back to the site in the future. So you should have anchored text but be careful not to have too much.

  4. Robert says

    I agree with William, there seems to be too much confusion. Build links and plenty of them but not too fast and don’t pay for them. What is too fast? I see sites with 40,000 links. How can sites gain 20,000 links a year by natural means? I guess Gurdaon’s post above is a good example of how a company gets 20,000 links a year. Perhaps the moderator should consider removing Gurdaon’s link since he just copied part of William’s post verbatim and posted it to obtain a link. I wonder if he knows these are probably no-follow links?

  5. Cody says

    What type of ratio would you recommend for link building. For example 50% target term, 25% other target terms and 25% web url and company name?

  6. James says

    I never experienced a drop in rankings even not varying the anchor text at all. However, I realized that varying the anchor text with long tail alternative had a huge impact on me ranking for more keywords and therefore having more traffic, and strangely, I also ranked higher for the main keyword.

    So yeah, anchor text variation is a core element of my seo campaigns now.

  7. William says

    What options are available to you once you get on the naughty list? I guess you can apply to Google for reconsideration. Can you apply for reconsideration to MSN/Yahoo? What do you do as part of the reconciliation process? What other options available to someone who has offended the search engine gods? Do you send flowers? How is it handled?

  8. Steve says

    Interesting. I am new at this and was not aware of the way the two types of links are considered.

    Can you provide an example of both a proper anchor text link and a non-anchor text link? I’m not sure I know the difference.

    • Sergei says

      a proper anchor text consists of your keyword. When talking about a non-anchor text link you can insert URL to your site instead of a keyword you are trying to target.

  9. Derek Lyons says

    The additional benefit of varying your anchor text is that you will get ranked in Google different keywords too, for example, if you wanted to rank for “seo agency” you can link back to your site using “seo agencies”, “search engine optimization agency” etc.

  10. Ian says

    Yes, great points and a good reminder thanks Kevin.
    I try to include more natural looking links too, but can sometimes get catch up with only doing anchor text link building.
    Good to mix up the even the domain linking too as quite often people will link uses different methods, use all these versions as anchor text:

    All the best, Ian

  11. Ketan Raval says

    Dont know how I got this post today.. but your post is still fresh for current scenario .. many are suffering from over optimization penalty these days….

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