Real Websites Show Exactly What They Did Wrong To Get Bitten By Google’s Penguin

Penguin Fishing For Bad LinksI just watched an interesting video posted on the cognitiveseo blog. In the video, several real websites were analyzed to show viewers precisely what was being picked up by Google’s Penguin update as unnatural backlink profiles. This is one of the only times I have seen a piece that used multiple real world examples to show specifically what bad linking practices are and offered recommended fixes for the specific websites.

Not only were the websites, themselves, analyzed, but side by side comparisons of those websites and highly ranked competitors’ websites within the same niche were shown. If you don’t have time to watch the rather lengthy video, there were several factors that were pointed out time and again as looking fishy to Google. And, as many have learned the hard way, too many “fishies” is food for a hungry Penguin.

Things that caused websites to drop were:

  • Link profiles that heavily implemented anchor text rather than the website name or “click here” type of keywords.
  • Links from obvious blog networks and blogs that had no consistent theme but only served as a place to insert an article that contained a link to another website.
  • Links from sidebars where many other non-related websites also had links or from sidebars hosted in the same place as the website they were linking to.
  • Footer links from non-relevant websites or websites that had many outgoing links to different websites in their footer.
  • The majority of links were from low quality websites and few to none from higher authority websites within the niche.

The questions and answers portion that followed the video emphasized something that I have stated numerous times - there is no such thing as an optimal keyword density percentage for your on-page content. The only thing that is important is that your page is written for people, not search engines. There are pages where a keyword may show up 5% of the time and be completely natural. There are times when under 2% looks completely unnatural. If you were consciously thinking about keywords and forcing them in when you wrote the copy, chances are, the keyword density is probably too high.

More than ever, it is important to see what the top ranking websites have in their link profiles and to try to emulate it as best as you can. If the top pages have a radically different link profile than your website does (proportion of article links, comment links, forum links, footer links, etc), chances are, you will not be joining them on page one of the SERPs. Hopefully, those of you that are part of our MVP program, are utilizing the Competitor Link Thief tool to shore up your link profiles.

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Dave Hermansen

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Dave Hermansen is the “Coach” at, a community dedicated to helping individuals create profitable online stores. Dave is widely respected as an eCommerce expert and is best known for his interview on Fox Business News. You can find Dave on Facebook, Google+ and on Twitter @DaveHermansen.