Recently I have found that Google have been penalizing sites for using various link building and SEO techniques that in day’s gone by have worked a charm. The obvious thing that comes to mind is paid links, Google have certainly had a big crackdown on paid links and many sites that have been buying them have dropped significantly in the rankings, however this is just the tip of the iceberg as far as I am concerned because many other sites that have not bought paid links have also been penalized (including some of the sites I have been working on). I have been studying the sites that have dropped and they seem to be the ones that have been worked on very recently, they also seem to be the ones with lot’s of anchor text links using a particular search phrase.

In days gone by when I have been building links to a site I would get as many as possible exact match search phrase text links linking to a particular site. The more links I got using a particular search phrase the higher the site would rank for that phrase.

Now the sites that have dropped have just been penalized on the one phrase that has been targeted and overdone, all of the other positions have stayed the same and what I have noticed is that the sites have only dropped to the position they were in prior to the new SEO links being built. Google have been very clever, they have set up the algorithm so that it would be very difficult for you to hurt one of your competitors rankings.

It is still very early days and I am trying to work out whether the sites that have been hit with ranking penalties have simply had the links sandboxed (devalued for a certain period of time) or just penalized altogether, so that something would have to be done about the search phrase text links in order to get the sites to rank high again. I am running a couple of experiments where we are not removing the links to the penalized sites but changing the anchor text to something more natural like the company name for instance, un-SEOin the link profile if you will. I am not doing anything too hasty I am just taking it one link at a time, monitoring the effect and building fresh links at the same time just using the company name as anchor text.

I haven’t noticed anybody else talking about this in detail yet, but I certainly feel that I will not be the only SEO who has been hit by this. I will post more of my thoughts about Google ranking penalties in the future.

Update: I am pleased to report that the experiments have gone really well and all of the sites bar one are back on track.