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10 SEO Tactics That Will Get Your Site Penalized

Have you received an unnatural link warning in your Google Webmaster Tools account lately, like thousands of other webmasters? It can really be a pain in the neck trying to find and remove all the “unnatural” links to your site while hoping that your website will recover its rankings. It is best to avoid unethical link tactics from the start so you won’t have to deal with these types of problems. Here are 10 SEO tactics that webmasters should avoid at all costs:

  1. Sitewide/Blogroll Links: These type of links are usually located in the sidebar or the footer and are present on almost every page of the domain. Google really doesn’t like these types of links and there is evidence that Google has begun to devalue them.
  2. Blog Networks: A few months ago, all of the popular blog networks were deindexed and as a result, many websites suffered a decline in rankings and webmasters realized they wasted a lot of time and money. Don’t let this happen to you; avoid all blog networks because sooner or later, they will be deindexed.
  3. Lack of Anchor Text Variation: Using the exact same anchor text on all of your backlinks raises a huge red flag to Google, so make sure that your backlinks consist of a wide variety of anchor texts, including unoptimized or unrelated anchor texts like “click here to learn more” or “more info”, etc.
  4. Spam Link Blasts: It’s amazing to think that just last year, this technique actually used to work. While doing keyword research, I would see a lot of websites with hundreds of profile links or spam blog comments ranking #1 for fairly competitive keywords. But after the Penguin update, these links are almost completely devalued and the sites that were using them have tanked in the SERPs. Google values relevant contextual links (links with text around them), which is why profile links and blogroll links have essentially lost their value.
  5. Link Exchanges: This technique is actually not bad as long as it is done only with a few sites that are relevant to your niche. If you are exchanging hundreds of links with non-relevant sites or directories, this will leave a huge footprint so don’t be surprised if your ranking worsens.
  6. Over Optimization/Keyword Stuffing: If you’re targeting a page for a certain keyword, it is best not to have the keyword in every sentence on the page. If you haven’t done so already, check your site’s keyword density and make sure it is at a reasonable value (less than 5%). Many people complained to me about the Penguin update harming their sites for no reason yet when I looked at their sites, most of them had keyword densities of well over 10%.
  7. Hidden Text: This technique used to work a long time ago but now it is obsolete. It involves hiding keywords in the footer or sidebar by making them the same color as the background so that they are visible to search engines but not human visitors. If you’re caught doing this, your site may potentially be deindexed.
  8. Hidden Links: Hiding links using CSS or Javascript is considered blackhat spam and it can get both the site where the link is placed and the site where the link points to penalized. Search engines are not as gullible as they used to be and they have gotten very good at detecting these kinds of schemes.
  9. Doorway Pages/Sneaky Redirects: This refers to a webpage showing a content-rich page to the search engine crawlers and redirecting human visitors to something completely different (Ads, sales pages, etc). This is done by detecting whether a visitor is a bot/crawler or a human visitor by its IP address or user-agent. If a competing webmaster finds out that you are doing this, they might file a spam report on you, which could result in a manual review of your site. If this happens, it is very likely that your site will be deindexed.
  10. Cloaking: This is similar to a doorway page except it doesn’t involve any redirects. The webpage presents keyword-rich content to the crawlers while presenting CPA offers and ads to human traffic. If any form of cloaking is detected on your site, you can bet that page will be penalized, if not completely deindexed.
  11. Paid Directories: It is clearly written in Google’s webmaster quality guidelines that paid links for the purpose of passing Pagerank are not allowed. Paid directories that link to any site willing to make a payment without considering the merits of the site are definitely not the place where you want your links to be found. There are a few paid directories that are reputable (Yahoo Directory,, etc) but most are intended for spam.
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