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Managing Backlinks and Navigating Search Engine Penalties

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Before I got into SEO I did Online Reputation Management (OM) services for global clients, most of whom where high-wealth and corporate clients. It turns out that the best bodyguard is an even better assassin.

Managing Backlinks and Navigating Search Engine Penalties

Googlegeddone Marchageddon Algogeddon

I have been writing some SEO articles about how so many of my full-stack and organic, on-page, SEO clients have done their own brand irreparable harm by buying into decades of bulk backlink buying, a strategy that can be very effective in the short term and had been very effective in the past, but now bulk and link-farm-harvested backlinks are going from being lifegiving inbound citations to becoming link fentanyl.

Google Gulag

From weaving your website, ecommerce store, online community, or app into its wider world of birds of a feather into becoming a pariah, being imprisoned by the Google Guards, thrown into the Google gulag, into Google Jail, into the Google sandbox. And, in most cases, this expulsion from being safely and soundly indexed in Google and Bing search into the hellfires of low ranking on the SERP and even deindexing is self-harm, it's also something that competitors can easily and cheaply do to each other. So, even if you don't currently have--or have never had--a backlink strategy or campaign, it doesn't matter.

Toxic Backlinks

You should really still keep an eagle eye on your backlinks, making sure that you don't suffer from highly toxic backlinks that have been pointed at you from either your competitor or by a former employee or SEO professional who holds a grudge against you. Hell, if you don't care about the positive benefits of a well-considered, premium, citations and backlink campaign and just want to throw shade at your competitor, you can scrape the bottom of the barrel of backlinks and send them at your competitors and take them out at the knees. Who would ever know?

Et tu, Brute?

And, because very few of my current and past SEO client really have ever concerned themself with their SPAM score or the toxicity of their backlinks, you can probably hobble your competitors for months if not years before they are fully able to diagnose the source of that mortal blow. It can be so easy and so cheap, buying those garbage backlinks from disgraced link farms, that I'm extremely surprised that I don't need to do disavow toxic backlink competitor attacks more often. I don't think I've really ever seen an attack like this in my very modest practice via UpWork and via word of mouth. But, it's entirely possible. And, I really don't think there are breadcrumbs back to a toxic backlink attack.

Every Six Months

Really, the only thing you can do is keep track, every six months or a year, routine like a doctor's visit, is the best way to do it, the best way to keep ahead of the issue. I am sure that MOZ and the other SEO platforms, dashboards, and services, offer quite a few of these tools, I use SEMRush to keep on top of toxic backlinks for my clients. When it comes to my site,, I have been online with the Chris Abraham site for the last 25-years. As a result, there are a lot of old backlinks, there are plenty of backlinks that used to be real but now come from dead sites, zombie sites, sites that have been poached by a squatter, or has not followed the pathway from being an HTTP site to upgrading to an HTTPS HTTP/1, HTTP/2, or HTT/3 site with current certificates and keys.

Even Paranoids Have Enemies

So, while I don't think there's anyone attacking me (I am only a controversial figure on social media not not here on this site) but, over time, as the Google algo evolves and Google becomes less and less tolerant for willful ignorance and not-so-innocent mistakes (like they used to be), I have learned that it's even essential for me to check my MOZ spam score and SEMRush backlink toxicity a couple times a year because the target is always moving.

Googlegeddone Marchageddon Algogeddon

I had just cleaned up my toxic backlinks last year; however, I just checked after Googlegeddone Marchageddon Algogeddon and the changes that were implemented (probably to do with filtering out zombie sites and sites that are still unsecured HTTP sites) and I found out that new problematic links had emerged. This constant vigilance may seem like overkill to some, but it’s crucial in maintaining a site’s integrity and rankings in the face of an ever-evolving search engine landscape. The changes in Google’s algorithms, which now emphasize secure connections and penalize poor-quality links more harshly than ever before, means that what was once a harmless backlink can suddenly become a liability.

Digital Warfare

To those new to this side of SEO, it might sound a bit like digital warfare, and in many ways, it is. It’s a battle against not just the algorithms but also against competitors who might use underhanded tactics to gain an upper hand. This is why it’s not enough to just set up your website and forget it. Active and ongoing management of your SEO strategy and backlink profile is essential. One must always be on the offensive, ensuring their digital presence not only survives but thrives in such a competitive arena.

Deeper Mechanics

For anyone venturing into the world of SEO, here’s a piece of advice: it’s not just about chasing the latest SEO trends or stuffing keywords into your content. It’s about understanding the deeper mechanics of how search engines view your site and how external factors like backlinks can influence your standing. Education in this field is continuous. Platforms like MOZ and SEMRush not only help track potential toxic backlinks but also offer insights into better strategic decisions for your site’s SEO.

Manipulate Within the Rules

Remember, the goal is not to manipulate the system but to work within its rules to provide the best possible experience for your users while protecting and enhancing your online reputation. As daunting as it may seem, the payoff of a well-managed SEO strategy is immense. It leads not only to better rankings but also to increased trust and authority in your niche, which are priceless commodities in the digital world.

In Conclusion

So, keep your eyes open and your tools ready. In the world of SEO, complacency can be your biggest enemy. Stay informed, stay vigilant, and keep adapting. That’s the only way to ensure your site not only survives the harsh conditions of the digital ecosystem but also flourishes.

FAQ: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Managing Backlinks

Q1: What are bulk backlinks and why are they harmful now? Bulk backlinks are large quantities of inbound links acquired in a short period, often from low-quality or irrelevant sources. While effective historically, search engines now view them as manipulative, potentially leading to penalties such as lowered rankings or deindexing.

Q2: What is the "Google Gulag"? The term "Google Gulag" humorously refers to the consequences of search engine penalties, where websites are significantly downranked or removed from search indexes entirely. It implies severe isolation from potential online traffic, akin to being thrown into a virtual prison.

Q3: What are toxic backlinks? Toxic backlinks are links from dubious sources or those violating search engine guidelines. These can harm a site’s search engine standing due to their poor quality and suspicious nature.

Q4: How can competitors use backlinks against you? Competitors can engage in negative SEO by directing toxic backlinks towards your site. This technique aims to reduce your site's ranking by making it appear as though you're attempting to manipulate rankings.

Q5: How often should backlinks be monitored? It is recommended to monitor backlinks routinely, about every six months to a year, like a regular health check-up. This helps identify and address any potentially harmful links and adjust strategies according to the latest search engine algorithms.

Q6: Why is it important to stay updated with SEO practices? Search engine algorithms are constantly evolving, and practices that were once acceptable might become penalizable. Staying updated helps avoid penalties and ensures optimal performance in search rankings.

Q7: What tools are recommended for monitoring backlinks and SEO health? Tools like MOZ and SEMRush are highly recommended for monitoring backlinks and overall SEO health. They provide valuable insights into backlink quality, competitor strategies, and help in making informed decisions.

Q8: Can old backlinks become problematic? Yes, as search engine standards evolve, links that were once benign can become problematic. This includes links from sites that have since turned into spam sites or those that no longer meet secure browsing standards.

Glossary of Terms

  • Backlinks (Inbound Links): Links from other websites pointing to your website. Quality and relevance can influence your site’s search engine ranking.
  • SEO (Search Engine Optimization): The practice of optimizing a website to increase its visibility and ranking in search engine results.
  • Bulk Backlinks: A large number of backlinks acquired rapidly, often from multiple dubious sources.
  • Google Gulag: A metaphorical term for the state of a website that has been penalized by Google, resulting in lower search rankings or removal from search results.
  • Toxic Backlinks: Links that negatively affect the search engine ranking of a website due to their poor quality or non-compliance with SEO guidelines.
  • Negative SEO: Techniques used to harm a competitor’s search rankings, often through toxic backlinks.
  • MOZ/SEMRush: SEO tools and platforms that provide analytics on backlinks, SEO performance, keyword research, and more.
  • Algorithm Updates (e.g., Googlegeddone Marchageddon Algogeddon): Changes made to the algorithms that search engines use to rank websites, often aimed at penalizing poor SEO practices and rewarding high-quality content.
  • HTTP/HTTPS: Protocols for secure communications over the internet. HTTPS indicates a secure connection, increasingly important for SEO.
  • Deindexing: The removal of a website or webpage from a search engine index, usually due to severe violations of guidelines.
Apr 23, 2024 06:55 PM