If you’ve received an unnatural links warning or have been hit with a link-related penalty from Google recently, possibly due to the latest algorithm update, should you look at all aeas of your site, beyond links? Absolutely, and here’s why?

I’m yet to find a link-penalised site that had nothing else wrong

A very common question we’re asked, and probably the most common question a lot of SEO agencies are asked, is “Why was I doing so well before all this happened?” My answer is that sometimes links, no matter how dangerous, can hide a whole range of sins. To put this in perspective, you can’t get a site ranked with amazing meta tags alone, but you can rank it quickly with links. That’s how powerful they are.

Certainly, these very same links can come back to haunt you – they may not even last long – but a lot of sites that were built years ago have sailed through algorithm changes with little upset, and somehow those rankings have lasted. If everything seems to be going well for your website and its links, why bother fixing something that isn’t yet broken?

When you’re filing a reconsideration request to Google, you’re stating that your site no longer violates Google’s Webmaster Guidelines – which includes more than just links.

What if you have some old hidden text in there, or you have a page saturated with irrelevant keywords?

If you’re not up-to-speed with SEO, could you be missing something vital?

Even the most seasoned of SEO professionals knows that simply keeping up with best practices is very time-consuming. I live and breathe SEO, but as someone with a primary focus on link building, there are many times when I refer something out because it’s too far outside of my knowledge. There’s just no way that I can keep up with everything that’s recommended, or know exactly what needs to be implemented in which cases.

Pretty much everyone in the SEO industry knows that simply keeping up with the best practices takes time. A lot of time. If you control a site’s SEO but you’re not an actual SEOer, I simply cannot imagine how you can keep up. Because of this, chances are high that you (the hypothetical non-SEO SEOer) could infringe Google’s code of practices, thus incurring some sort of penalty – even by complete accident.

Ultimately, as painful as it can be, a link warning or penalty is the perfect time to start looking over everything you have – absolutely all corners of the site you’re in charge of. This centers around but is not limited to your backlink profile; don’t make the elementary mistake of thinking that the cleanup of some bad links will totally solve your problem. It very weel might do – such is the power of the link – but while you’re looking under the hud, check out everything.

Fixing and improving should go hand-in-hand

You may not actually be violating Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, but it’s  a good opportunity to sort out issues or make SEO improvements to our site. Maybe you aren’t using authorship yet you’ve posted hundreds of blogs? Maybe you haven’t implemented any Schema on your site? Maybe you have canonicalisation issues up the wazzoo?

Something doesn’t have to be an actual violation to need to be fixed or improved – doing so will ensure that your site bounces back stronger than ever, and that you’ll remain wiser for the future.

So when you get slapped with a penalty by Google, think of it as a blessing in disguise – because, from an SEO perspective, it really is.

Forget the rankings, take a look at your site regardless

See if you’re doing anything that might have been acceptable a few years ago – before the algo updates – but is frowned upon today. Check if there’s something more you could be doing that might improve visibility – you will almost always find something.

Links aren’t always to blame when it comes to rankings/Google penalties – but it’s very characteristic for something more to be wrong with the site when they are to blame.