Optimizing your website for SEO purposes is one of the most important things you can do to gain search visibility. However, it is equally as important to keep up to date on the latest algorithm changes to ensure you don’t get penalized.
Many times, the marketing companies that promise higher rankings for your site will use unnatural links, which are an active violation of search engine regulations. Now, websites are seeing the affect of those link penalties on their SEO visibility.
Unfortunately, Expedia is one such company.
Expedia has recently been reported by Search Metrics to feel the wrath of Google’s unnatural link penalties. As a result, they have lost 25% of their search visibility. Many sources have blamed unnatural links and paid links to be the reason for the major drop in their search visibility.
Expedia had specific keywords had significantly declined visibility, such as: “car rentals,” “hotels,” “airline tickets,” “vacation,” and many others. This points to unnatural backlinks, which were likely strategically placed in order to manipulate their search engine rankings.
This was certainly not a seasonal drop, as you can see by this graph, which compares Expedia’s traffic to one of their main competitors:
There are several different types of unnatural links, which can negatively affect SEO that you should be aware of. Here, we are going to discuss several types of unnatural links for ecommerce stores to avoid:
Types of Unnatural Link Schemes:
Obviously, paid links are unnatural for SEO. Websites that manipulate the system by exchanging money (or any method of exchange) for links is unethical and will be penalized. Search engines are cracking down on these unnatural links and penalizing websites, yet it is still a common practice for many websites.
If you are aggressively link building in low quality directory sites with exact match anchor text, this will negatively affect your website traffic and rankings. These links send negative signals/votes to search engines which will result in lower website performance in SERP.
Article sites are similar to directory sites, in that they send signals of link manipulation to search engines. Links from article sites are a violation of Google’s guidelines. Anchor text, strategically placed in article submissions, is a common way for websites to manipulate SEO.
Guest blogging for links is another very common way of placing artificial links, in order to affect SEO rankings. It is not bad to have a few guest posts out there, as long as there are not any unnatural links in the blogs. However, large-scale posts with overly optimized anchor text are cause for increased SEO penalties. This method of link building has been abused and is now penalized by search engines.
Social Bookmarking sites use keyword based anchor text to build massive amounts of artificial social bookmark links. These are another type of unnatural link that are widely abused by SEO companies.
Generating inbound links, keyword stuffing or optimizing anchor text links in press releases are unnatural links, according to Google. Websites should instead focus on only using press releases for valuable, newsworthy content. It is okay to include one or two links with your business’ name in order to get the reader to the appropriate website.
If your link profile is 50% from footer links with exact-match anchor text, your website will surely get penalized.
Driving traffic to your website through links is still the primary objective of SEO optimization, but it is important to do so by using natural links, building quality content, and not manipulating the system.