Yes, you can agitate Google a ton, even if you don’t mean to do any harm!
Unfortunately, Google takes a stance of proactively penalizing SEO behavior it doesn’t like.
Wouldn’t it make more sense just to have the undesirable behavior not count at all towards your rankings? That way, you wouldn’t have to worry about penalties for doing what appears to be the right thing.
Anyway, that’s a whole different discussion.
For now, let me explain some ways you can accidentally make Google angry, even though you mean well.
Let’s give credit for these tips where it’s due to industry thought leader Neil Patel.
- Exchanging Links with Other Webmasters
You give them a link, and they give you one. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?
It’s okay, but make sure your partner (and you) don’t put that link in the footer of your website. Here’s why Google abhors such links:
- They’re in the footer, and the footer has been used manipulatively by SEOs in the past (It appears on every page on your site, and having it link to internal pages and other sites gives a lot of links, which worked very well to boost rankings in the past).
- You can get a lot of links way too fast. Google looks at your “link velocity,” the rate at which you get links to compute your rankings. If you use the footer of a big website, you can get thousands to millions of links from that site overnight. That’s too many, and Google thinks you do this to manipulate your rankings.
- Too many links from a single site. There’s no “perfect percentage” of links to get from one website. However, if you have 200 links now, and all of a sudden 1200 more from another website, now more than 80% of them come from one site. That’s suspicious in Google’s eyes.
The cure for this mistake? Fortunately, it’s easy. If you switch links with someone else, make sure their link and yours comes from a page that appears just once on your or their website (and not a sitewide area like the footer).
- Make Sure Who You Outreach to Knows SEO Best Practices
Neil shared a story where one client reached out to moms who ran blogs. To earn links, the company requested the owners of these blogs link to them.
They got a much bigger response than anticipated. Unfortunately, these blog owners often used exact-match keywords in their links (a big no-no now!). That got the client a devastating penalty.
- Some sent 10-20 links in a single post
- Many of these blogs were already penalized themselves
- Numerous blogs were extremely low authority. This is a subjective measure, but you should have just a small percentage of links with a domain authority of less than 20 according to Moz coming to your site.
The fix again, though, is easy. If you outreach to one or more sites:
- Use Mozbar to check their domain authority (look for 20+)
- Don’t let ad-heavy websites link to you
- Make sure the site has a clean, organized, and professional design and copy
- Tell the site you want a link from that you want just a single link and that they can use whatever anchor text they want, as long as it’s not exact-match to your primary keywords
If you choose to ask for links, make sure you watch those things closely. Google does allow these mistakes to some degree, but you should aim for never allowing any of them to affect your website.