On April 25, 2012 many webmasters found themselves scratching their heads and wondering what happened to their Google rankings. The evening before Google had unleashed a major algorithm update called Google Penguin. Penguin penalizes websites that took short cuts and were too aggressive with their link building. Before I outline what are the good links to obtain for your website I will go into what the bad SEO backlinks are so you can avoid them.

The Bad SEO Links Google Penguin is Punishing

The Google Penguin update targets websites that obtained links for the sole purpose to game its search results. Good examples of this are blog networks.

A month before the update Google was able to identify some of the more popular blog networks and ban them completely from their index. Google was able to identify these networks by the content and their linking patterns. Bad SEO Links Vs Good SEOMost if not all the blog networks had what’s called spun or duplicate content. Spun content is the process of taking a well written article and changing the sentence structure and adjectives around to make the content appear original. The big problem with that is after the articles are spun they don’t make sense.

The second big red flag is these blog networks only seem to link out using keywords. This doesn’t look very natural at all. Why would a blog with 300 blog post always link out using keywords and not the business or domain name? If it was a high quality blog it wouldn’t which leads into our next Google Penguin problem, over anchor text optimization.

If you showed ten different people a domain name and asked them to link to it naturally how many different anchor texts do you think you would end up with? You are likely to get at least 5-6 different anchors. Most will probably link to your company name. Some may add the dot com in the anchor but if you are lucky only one or two people would choose a keyword anchor. When Google Penguin hit websites that over optimized their anchor text lost rankings in a big way.

Pro Tip: Always have more branded anchors than anything else. Anything less and you might not be able to survive the next Google update.

The Good SEO Backlinks Google Penguin is Rewarding

Gone are the days of ranking meant getting some cheap directory links and then calling it a day. If you want to rank well in Google today it means harder work. Google gives much more weight to links that come from websites with an audience. Websites that have a following generally have good unique content get shared on social media and receive traffic from Google.

Here are my four tips to look for when evaluating if a website is quality:

1. Is the website actually index in Google? People often overlook this, sad but true. Just because the toolbar shows pagerank doesn’t mean the website is still indexed in Google .
2. Does the website actually rank for anything? Doesn’t have to be number one but are they getting some kind of Google traffic. If they are not that is a bad sign. You can use SEMRush to spy on their keyword rankings.
3. Check Google for duplicate content. Copy a sentence from a page and post it in Google with quotation marks on both ends. What other results came back? You will be able to see if there are any exact duplicates. Also, be very careful if you see websites that have nearly the same sentence. This means someone just changed a few words around. Do this for 3-4 pages to ensure the website isn’t just stealing other people’s content.
4. Do a search in Google for “domainname.com + expired” this will tell you if this domain has been recently purchased. In the past few years people have been buying up expired domains and trying to sell seo backlinks on them. Stay far away from these.

Protip: When link building stay clear of “sitewide” links as they seldom look natural in Google’s eyes and too many can hurt your rankings.

Google has already had one refresh of the Penguin Update. They plan on updating it on a monthly basis. If you follow these four steps in evaluating websites your links will be safer and you will help steer clear of the Google Penguin updates.