7 Ways to Protect Your Site Against Google Penalties

Google Penalty ProtectionIf you want your site stick to the top of Google’s first page like superglue, here’s what you need to do:

PROACTIVELY protect your site from Google penalties, like Penguin and Panda.

Question is:

How can you make your site more durable to these updates?

Read on to find out…

#1: Stop Guest Posting (Sort Of…)

Let me get this out of the way:

I think guest posting is a killer link building strategy.

(In fact, I wrote the internet’s most thorough guest blogging guide)

But it shouldn’t be the only strategy that you use.

Remember: the key to avoiding Google penalties (especially Penguin) is a natural looking link profile.

And a site with a too many links from any one source (even guest posts) is asking for a beat down.

There’s also a very real risk that Google will devalue links coming from guest posts.Β  There’s simply too many people guest posting on an industrial-scale for them to ignore it.

Also, guest post links are very easy for Google to detect.

Let’s take a look look at two of Backlinko’s backlinks.

Here’s a natural link from a blog post:

contextual backlink

And here’s a link from a guest post author bio:

author bio link

Big difference, right?

That contextual link has 5-10x more ranking power than the author bio link.

Don’t get me wrong:

Guest posting is an effective and scalable way to build authoritative links.

So maybe “Stop Guest Posting” was a bit too harsh. It should probably be “Stop Guest Posting If It’s Your #1, #2 and #3 Link Building Strategy”.

Action Step:

Don’t Go Overboard With Guest Posting: Guest post links shouldn’t make up more than 20% of your link profile.

#2: Focus On Your LDR

You may have seen the interview with a former member of Google’s Webspam team where he said: “Relevancy is the new PR”.

Google is putting less weight on authority signals like PageRank…

…and more emphasis on Linking Domain Relevancy (LDR).

LDR simply means: “Is a site that links to you in a similar niche?”.

Let’s say that you had a site about dog food…

It makes sense that a fair amount of your link profile would be made up of links from sites about pets and dog food.

Obviously, you’d have some links from unrelated sites. And there would be a few links from “general” sites, like directories and news sites.

But the fact remains: any dog food site with a natural link profile will have links from other dog food sites.

I think Google’s next round of updates will focus on LDR. Sites with fistfuls of unrelated links are going to get hit.

In fact, this may already be part of the Penguin algorithm filter.

Check out this chart from Microsite Masters.com’s Penguin Analysis:Penguin LDR

Sites without relevant links were 50% more likely to get hit by Penguin than those with at least some relevant backinks.

Action Step:

Focus on LDR: Make sure that at least 30% of your links are niche-relevant. They don’t have to be in the exact same niche, but they should have some LDR.

#3: Smart Anchor Text Diversity

You already know that diversifying your anchor text is a must.

Sadly, most people go about anchor text the wrong way.

Instead of replicating a legit link profile…

…they mix in keyword-stuffed anchor text with generic anchors like “here” and “this site”.

That doesn’t look very natural to me (or Google).

And I’m sure — just like with Penguin — Google will use anchor text as a factor in the future.

Just look at Backlinko’s link profile (which as you may imagine, is legit):

backlinko anchor text

As you can see, 66% of my anchor text is unique!

And a grand total of 0% of my anchors are made up of “click here” or “here”.

The rest is a mix of brand, webmaster name (Brian Dean) and URL anchor text.

And if you look at any real site you’ll see something similar to my anchor text distribution.

There’s no magic anchor test ratio, but this ratio should give you an idea of what your anchor text distribution should look like:

30%: Brand Anchor Text (Backlinko)

10%: Bare URL (http://backlinko.com/)

10%: Domain name (Backlinko.com)

10%: Webmaster name anchor text (Brian Dean)

5%: Generic anchors (here, this blog post, website)

45%: Unique anchor text (this post on Google updates by Brian, his link building website, according to Brian Dean’s post)

1%: Money keyword anchor text (link building)

Action Step:

Get Smart About Anchor Text: Use branded, domain, and webmaster name anchor text more often.

#4: Build Brand Signals

There’s no doubt about it:

Google has a love affair with big brands.

Not only do big brands tend to rank better, but they’re more likely to get penalties removed.

So if you want to protect your site against Google penalties, it’s time to start looking like a brand.

Fortunately, you don’t need a six-figure marketing budget to build an online brand for your site.

Here are some cost effective ways to build brand signals quickly:

Legit Looking Site: There’s no excuse for your site NOT to look beautifully designed . Go the extra mile with trust-building brand signals like a physical address and 1-800 number on your contact page.

Social Media Presence: Google may use the size of your social media following (like Facebook fans) to determine whether or not you’re a brand. Brands that you probably wouldn’t expect to be big on social media have huge followings…which tells Google that they’re a brand they can trust. If you want to look like a brand it’s important to spend time on these platforms and grind out a following.

Branded Searches: It’s pretty simple: people search for brands in Google. Even though Backlinko is fairly new, people already search for it in Google:

google trends

Action Step:

Build Brand Signals: Spend some of the time you spend on link building creating brand signals for your site.

#5: Stop Spamming Social Signals

If social signals are ever going to become a major part of the Google algorithm then they’ll have to get really good at spotting fake signals.

I think the next major update is going to target sites with phony Tweets, fake Facebook likes and hyped-up AuthorRank. Just look at this spammy Clickbank review site’s social signals:

Example of Fake Social Signals


6 thousand tweets?! Yeah, right.

And Google may even hit sites linked to social media accounts with fake followers. It’s actually pretty easy to spot: a Twitter account with 10 tweets and zero engagement isn’t going to have 10,000 followers.

You need to be especially careful about gaming Google+.

That’s trying to fool Google with their own product. They’re going to be very proactive about hitting sites that try to do that.

At the very least, they’ll use social signals to confirm the legitimacy of your links. Think about it: how likely is it that a page with thousands of real links has absolutely no Tweets or Facebook shares?

Action Step:

Be Smart About Social Signals: Don’t build an unnatural amount of Facebook Likes, Tweets (and especially) Google +1s. Like with backlinks, social signals are about quality…not quantity.

#6: Build Up Your Site’s Trust

Here’s a quick breakdown of the Google algorithm:

Relevancy + Authority + Trust = Rank

Most people put 100% of their time and energy towards relevancy (“title tags!”) and authority (“PageRank!”)…

…and completely ignore trust.

Trust is a HUGE part of the algorithm.

And when Google rolls out updates, trust is your penalty-dodging trump card.

That’s why a lot of sites with lots of keyword-rich anchor text survived the Penguin update: they had so much trust that Google looked the other way.

If you haven’t already, take a look at your site’s Trust Flow at Majestic SEO:


You want your Trust Flow to be at least half of your Citation Flow.

If you want to learn more about how to build trust, then check out my post about building trust with search engines: http://backlinko.com/google-trustrank

Get Trusted: Get as many links as you can from sites that have lots of .edu and .gov links (better yet, get links directly from .edus and .govs!).

#7: Proactively Prune Bad Links

To stay one step ahead of the upcoming Google update you need to be proactive.

Waiting for the next update — and then frantically trying to clean up the mess — isn’t a very proactive approach to SEO.

You probably have a few links in your profile that you’re not proud of (it’s OK, we all do).


Why not get rid of them today…before it’s too late?

Head over to ahrefs or your link analysis tool of choice and evaluate your link profile.

Pay special attention to:

  • Anchor text distribution
  • LDR
  • Trust metrics
  • Deep links vs. homepage link ratio (you want at least 40% of your links to be deep links)
  • Excessive links from a single link type (guest posts, press releases, article directories)

Remember that Google looks at your link profile as a whole, and so should you.

Don’t freak out if you have a few shady links. As long as your overall link profile looks natural, you’ll be OK.

Prune Bad Links: Delete any links that could hurt you down the road. If you buy links, you may have to reach out to the network owner and kindly ask them to delete your link. I’ve actually done this for clients and have a 100% success rate so far.

Here’s What You Need to Do…

Here’s some bad news:

Reading this article isn’t enough to protect your site from a Google penalty.

To accomplish that, you need to put this information into action.

So carve out 20-minutes today so you’re not a victim of the next update.



Thanks for the tips! I was considering mass submission tools but this article convinced me that’s a very bad idea.

Brian Dean

Sure thing Josh. I usually avoid any mass submission for my money sites. It’s simply impossible to get legit, contextual links on authority sites that way.


Another awesome article Brian. I’ve retweeted it πŸ˜€

Brian Dean

Thanks Andrii. You’re the man!

Justin Garza

Nice blog post. I always stay away from guest blog posting, good thing too. cheers.

Brian Dean

Thanks, Justin. I wouldn’t stay away from guest posting completely. It definitely works as long as you don’t go nuts.

Nancy Martinez

Thank you for the informative article! I especially liked the section where you list the anchor text ratio! I was just researching that yesterday! Thanks again!

Brian Dean

Glad the anchor text ratio helped you out, Nancy. It’s different than some of the others you’ll find out there…but I think my ratio looks a bit more natural.


Man, great post. Thanks for sharing this info. I have learned great tips from all of your posts… I just recently found your site, and wanted to let you know that you have add a new reader to your blog. All the best to you man!

Brian Dean

Thanks for stopping by Edgar! I’m very glad to hear you’re enjoying Backlinko. πŸ™‚

Jonathan Mitnick

Hallo again…I just had to come back and I wasn’t disappointed πŸ™‚ you’ve definitely established yourself as an authority. I’d love to have a conversation with you sometime, can I reply to the email from which I received the free report?

Brian Dean

Thanks for your kind words, Jonathan! It means a lot to me. Sure, feel free to email me anytime.

Abdur Rashid

Thank you very much,
I found many new things here. You are excellent!

Brian Dean

My pleasure, Abdur!


My Website got hit by Penguin 2.1 After that i loose confident on SEO. After reading this blog post, I will do SEO again for My Website. Thanks for this great post, I will share this blog post in Social Media that will help lot of people.

SEO Never Die πŸ™‚

Brian Dean

Happy to have helped! You’re right: SEO is still alive and well πŸ™‚


Hi Brian,

My Google Author Pic is not visible in Google results…it was showing till last night…any idea why is this happening?

Some say that Google is showing Google Author Pic only for “Authority” sites. Some say that I have to post frequently. I’m posting one “in-depth” article a week. Is this a problem?

Please provide a solution.


Brian Dean

Not sure about that, Avadhut. I know Google has stopped showing Author images in the SERPs as often.

Vin Dicarlo

Hi Brian, Really good post. Anyway, My blog got hit by penguin 2.1 but I never did any black hat SEO or even guest posting. Although, it recovered, but still looking for the answer “why got hit?”

Brian Dean

Thanks Vin. In my experience Penguin is all about anchor text. So that would be my guess.


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