Source: Steven Depolo

Source: Steven Depolo

Any honest person working in SEO will tell you the industry has its fair share of problems. While many of these problems are a result of less than straight forward information from search engines about how their algorithms actually work, a large amount of the issues within the industry come from bad SEO consultants who will do anything to get a new client.

This isn’t to say that the industry is a scam or that even the majority of SEOs are bad, but there are more than a few SEO consultants who will tell you just about anything to “make the sale.” How do you know who to trust? You can look at what the SEO tells you to start. For example, if any SEO company tells you they can get you the top spot on Google no matter what or improve your rankings immediately, they are likely a bad choice. But, sometimes it is better to look at what they don’t tell you.

Marketers are trained in knowing what to say and what not to say, but that idea should be reserved strictly for the optimization and actual marketing on the pages they run, not meetings with clients. Pratik Dholakiya has been working in SEO for years and has run into his fair share of bad SEO consultants and recently shared a list of things they will try to hide from potential clients. Most consultants will give you a realistic idea what to expect when you’re considering hiring someone to optimize for you, but if they avoid telling you any of the five things on his list, chances are they are hiding much more and you should think twice before signing a contract with them.

Have you received an unnatural link penalty from Google? Are you worried about getting one? Or maybe you are just curious what constitutes an unnatural link. The answers out there are often woefully incomplete, or contradictory to other reputable sources out there.

It can sometimes feel like every different major SEO news source has their own exact definition of unnatural links, and sometimes they aren’t even that consistent. The problem just gets worse as these varying definitions are then interpreted by other writers trying to offer tips on how to recover from the penalties many have received.

If we can’t agree on a singular definition to unnatural links, how are we supposed to agree on a united way to deal with the penalties? All the confusion does is lead many site owners trying to get their site back on track down yet another wrong path.

Well, Search Engine Journal’s Pratik Dholakiya undertook the mammoth task of condensing all the information anyone could ever need to know about unnatural links and the penalties that come from them all into one informative article. From the basic information of how unnatural penalties became a huge problem for the SEO community and a singular definition for unnatural links, all the way to the secret tips many professionals haven’t been sharing, everything you need to find is there.

There are more than a few articles out there telling you the “right” way to do link building. Despite what they say, link building isn’t a uniform process for every website. If it was, it would probably be able to be totally automated at this point. There are more than a few wrong ways to do link building, but the right link building process for your site depends on a lot of different factors. Pratik Dholakiya explains why there will never be a single “right” link building strategy.

Repeatable Means Replaceable – An easily-explainable and easily accomplishable link building strategy sounds great, but it isn’t good in a competitive market. Any strategy simple enough to be easily copied, can be easily scaled. A smart, unique strategy will out-think your competition, but a repeatable strategy means it will be a competition of who can spend more on scaling.

Search Engines Don’t Stay The Same – There will never be a “one-size-fits-all” strategy for link building because the internet doesn’t sit still. Everything is constantly being made obsolete and reworked. In the past, link building was only about the number of links you could get. Now, search engines judge the quality of links, devalue paid links, automated links, press releases, and many other forms of old “standards.” Even if you find the perfect link building strategy for your site, it won’t work forever. It might even stop working next week.

Every Niche is Different – Link building inevitably relies on the creation and sharing of content. The better the content is, the more impact it will have on a site’s performance, and the quality of the links being generated. But, content comes in virtually endless forms, and different content is more appropriate for different industries. SEO loves long informative blog posts, lists, eBooks, infographics, and that type of thing, but long blog posts and videos don’t work as well on web design blogs. Restaurants looking for links won’t have any use for infographics, but photographs and social media will be essential for their market. You have to find what works for your specific website.

Even if you already know that link building isn’t easy or uniform, it is easy to fall into habits and using the same strategies over and over. Every website is different, and link building has to be tailored to each individual site, otherwise there will always be wasted potential.

Less than a year ago, Google unleashed an update called the “webspam algorithm” that seemed innocuous at first, until experts began to notice how widespread its effects were. The impact of the update was so large, Google eventually gave it an official name more in line with their other update, Panda. The “webspam algorithm” became Penguin.

The original name for the update was an accurate description for what this update did. It was aimed to demote sites violating the Webmaster Guidelines for Google, specifically sites full of webspam. These sites used manipulation to improve their rankings in the search engines, but some innocent sites were affected, and more have been affected by each subsequent update to Penguin.

These “black hat” methods such as keyword stuffing, cloaking, participating in link schemes, and purposefully using duplicate content had been around on the internet since SEO has existed (pretty much as long as the internet has been widely used), and Penguin sought to finally deal with the spammers, but with it a new set of rules for SEO were created.

Pratik Dholakiya has collected these rules into “The Definitive Guide To Penguin Friendly SEO” which explains which methods have been shunned and what new techniques are favorable for SEOs.

If you were actively using black hat techniques, you won’t find new ones to continue spamming in a different way, but for any SEO looking to legitimately improve their search performance with good content and practices, this list will help steer readers away from any bad methods.

With all of the changes Google made in the past year, it is easy to get mixed up as to what changes affected what areas of a site’s SEO information, and what was penalized by which algorithm updates. Combine that with a disavow links tool which most don’t seem to understand, and it is a wonder anyone can keep up with Google’s updates.

Pratik Dholakiya, writer for Search Engine Journal, recognized how confusing this all must be, and sought to explain which types of updates affected what, as well as all of the misconceptions surrounding these updates. He breaks them down into three basic types of updates, and each focused on different aspects of SEO.

EMD Algorithm Update – The September update targeted sites with exact match domains (EMDs), or sites named after keywords instead of brands. This change didn’t so much penalize most affected as it removed a special boost they were receiving due to the name of the website.

The only people really penalized by the update were those who had over-optimized their site around the keyword. There is also a misconception the EMD updates were Panda or Penguin related, but Matt Cutts has put that idea to rest.


Panda Updates – The main area the Panda updates looked at was your on-site content. Google was trying to weed out low-quality or duplicate content, and they’ve been churning out constant new versions of Panda all year.

Penguin Updates – Despite the close association with Panda, Google’s Penguin updates are actually their own beast, formerly known as the webspam algorithm update. They are targeting all of the spammy sites out there, and unless you’re a spammer, the only penalties you may have seen from these updates were from links.

If you have seen any penalties from these updates, Dholakiya explains how to help fix the problems. The Disavow Links tool can help with that, especially if you’ve seen penalties from the Penguin updates, but it isn’t a magic solution.