Nobody gets a site penalty on purpose. Sometimes it happens through carelessness, sometimes through black-hat techniques, sometimes spamming and, sometimes, through common SEO mistakes.
I have watched 3 common mistakes happen recently. These websites were honestly attempting to follow SEO best practices, but they were penalized. Why? I will explain all the possible reasons here.
It is actually worth noting that I wrote this article based on the real-life experiences, so this is not the pie-in-the-sky theory. Each point that I am going to discuss below is tied to a real life ranking problem. Each example that I am going to discuss is connected a to a real-life online business model.
3 Common SEO Mistakes:
1. Link-Leveraged Business Relationships
The problem explained: Many businesses create relationships with other businesses. As a way of cementing the business relationship, the businesses offer to create links to one another in order to enhance SEO and click-through traffic.
Sometimes, however, these good intentions — trading links — end up hurting one or both of the sites.
Example: A major online retailer of greeting cards — we’ll call them “FaithCard” — entered into a business relationship with a major brick-and-mortar retailer, “AM Stores.”
Every AM Store carried FaithCard’s products. FaithCard’s arrangement with AM Store provided a discounted product price, as long as AM Store’s website would include a link to FaithCard’s website for the link exchange.
So, AM Store placed a footer link to FaithCard.
Obviously, FaithCard will get a ton of links as a result of this footer link — 16 million, to be exact. Every page of AM Store’s website included a direct link to the homepage of FaithCard’s website.
This became highly problematic in SEO. Soon after the footer link was added, FaithCard got hit with a manual penalty.
Investigating the link profile, it was obvious that FaithCard had a highly suspicious link velocity, a disproportionately high number of links from a single site, and link positioning in the footer of the website.
The problem with the website of FaithCard was compounded by the fact that they had quite a few other harmful and spammy backlinks for the website. The footer link buildup from AM Stores, however, was the last straw. The Footer links are notoriously slippery for SEO. Their impact ranges from negligible to dangerous.
This issue could have been worsened if the two websites had swapped or exchanged links — that is if FaithCard linked to AM Stores, and AM Stores linked to FaithCard in a reciprocal way (also consider as black hat SEO technique). Reciprocal linking is a shady area and needs to be entered into with extreme caution — i.e., as naturally as possible. No footer link of the website swaps.
Solution: In this case, the solution would be to have the partner website remove the footer link to FaithCard. Obviously, FaithCard will now have to deal with the fallout of the SEO penalty, but one of the best ways to swiftly and conclusively deal with it is to have an actual link removal rather than a simple domain disavowal.
2. Affiliate Programs
Affiliate linking can either help to SEO of the website or it can kill it. It all depends on how you implement it. Rand Fishkin once called affiliate links “a nasty gray area and a frustrating one for many SEOs / webmasters / websites over the years.”
It’s true, and it leaves many SEOs scratching their heads to how exactly to deal with affiliate links of the website.
The Problem Explained: Online affiliate relationships are the very big business. For the most part, they are spam free. Companies can engage in affiliate relationships without fear of penalization from the search engine.
But if any company goes into affiliate linking willy-nilly, they can get bit.
Example: In my client’s case, they put together an in-house online affiliate program pretty quickly and rolled it out without a very clear explanation to their affiliate partners.
Their business — we will call it “ZoomZoomPic” — did brisk sales in the stock photography business. Their online affiliate program was designed to help existing customers gain some income while also growing their subscriptions into the same business.
When it rolled out, however, the existing customers were not told how to implement the affiliate link successfully into the website. Many of these customers, amateur photographers, added sitewide links to ZoomZoomPic’s homepage. These weren’t affiliated links, though. They were just generic homepage links of the website.
You might think that ZoomZoomPic would benefit from all these links, even if they weren’t strictly affiliate links. In actuality, however, it hurt them.
ZoomZoomPic’s affiliate clientele of amateur photographers did not have high-authority websites. In fact, all the links from these websites looked more like junk links or spam links for the search engine at the time of crawling.
With the sudden buildup of harmful links, ZoomZoomPic got hit with a major penalty from the search engine, which crushed their online affiliate business. Instead of growing through the online affiliate program, they got sunk by it.
Solution: ZoomZoomPic engaged in typical link remediation, but they had to be really careful how they asked for removals of the links.
Most of these harmful links came from their existing customers or clients. What’s more, these customers or clients were excited, because they thought that by linking back to ZoomZoomPic, they would be cashing in on some affiliate money (also known as affiliate commission).
ZoomZoomPic was honest about the situation, but they still had some negative backlash after requesting the link removals from their existing customers or clients of the online affiliate program.
The safest way to conduct affiliate linking is through the following methods:
- Use a trusted affiliate relationship provider to conduct 100% of the affiliate program rollout.
- Create a dedicated landing page for large affiliate providers. If you have relationships with major organizations, go ahead and created a dedicated landing page for them specifically.
- Test all affiliate links from time to time. To maintain website integrity, it’s best to go through each affiliate link and make sure it’s functioning properly. If you find any broken links, be sure to create a permanent redirect to avoid penalty from the search engine.
3. Guest Blogging Niche
If you do it right, guest blogging is awesome for your website. However, guest blogging is not without its dangers.
I’m going to discuss one of those dangers from common SEO mistakes, but it might not be what you expect. Like point three above, this danger involves the niche in which you guest blog, not simply the fact that you are guest blogging.
The Problem Explained: Earlier this year, the SEO world blew up when Google’s head of webspam, Matt Cutts, announced that guest blogging was largely “done” as a link building tactic (backlinks creation method), explaining that it had become increasingly spammy for the website over the years.
He didn’t outright condemn the practice, however, noting that there “are still many good reasons to do some guest blogging” and that he wasn’t referring to “high-quality multi-author blogs.”
And so, we all stood back up, dusted off our jackets, and went on guest blogging with purpose and caution. We became selective with our guest blogging opportunities, limiting ourselves to high authority websites that would provide some benefit beyond a link for SEO.
Unfortunately, some of us didn’t realize that it wasn’t just about the websites themselves — it was also about the niche we were guest blogging in.
The niche I find myself in is completely legitimate. I’m guest blogging on high-authority sites with impeccable editorial standards and extremely high authority.
But some of my clients weren’t so fortunate.
Example: I worked with an individual who ran one of Dubai’s successful online casino sites. He faced problems prior to the guest blogging fiasco in 2016 when things really spiraled out of control for online gambling and casino websites.
The poker niche is not known for its adherence to ethical, white hat SEO standards. That’s why a lot of the black hat forums are given to discussing nefarious methods of ranking gambling websites.
Thankfully, there are legit ways for gambling websites to rank. The approach is taken by my website, “MoneyManCasino,” was not a very effective way. He chose to guest blog on all the gambling websites he could find.
Unfortunately, those websites were spammy, penalized, and downright dangerous. The bio linkbacks he received from the guest blog spots were sending dangerous link juice to his website, which eventuated in a penalty from the search engine clampdown on his website.
Solution: Obviously, the general solution is to be careful where you guest blog. Although guest blogging lives on and still carries SEO value, it does have sharp edges.
In my experience, the most dangerous side effect of guest blogging has to do with the neighborhood in which you do your guest blogging. If you choose your neighborhood carefully and wisely, you shouldn’t have a problem from the search engine.
So, what now? You blew it. You’re sorry. You need to move forward.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite as easy as bashfully sidling up to Google with a sob story. You’ve actually got to do penance — the hard and time-consuming spadework of a penalty recovery process from common SEO mistakes.
I’ve met very few people who actually enjoy having their websites penalized. No one goes in hoping for a penalty. By staying aware of these honest mistakes, you can avoid the plight of a penalty and keep your SEO held high.
Siddharth Pal is a full-time digital marketer who loves to explore deep insights of digital marketing. He has a passion for helping newcomers make their skills noticeable and money making. Contact now to Get his free guide to start from scratch.