More threads by mborgelt


Jul 22, 2012
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After the discovery of penalized sites still ranking in local, what is the tipping point of bad/spammy backllinks negatively effecting local rankings? The reason that I ask is that we have had several clients come to us with great on-site and off-site SEO but have a ton (ranging from 900-1,900) backlinks from completely unrelated sites. We have gotten some of these clients to rank well despite these setbacks without touching backlinks because their budget doesn't allow a good cleaning but others seem to completely hindered from moving past page 3. Most of these clients are in either DUI or PI Law. Any help is appreciated!
Hi Michael,

Thanks for raising the question. Not sure there is a definitive answer and like most things it probably depends.

Did you see this post? <a href="">Ranking #1 in the Local 7 Pack - Even Though Panda or Penguin Penalty?</a>

It seems if you dig in and read the 2nd post I linked to as well, that there are many times that organic penalties don't affect pack ranking. But then again, I know sometimes it does. Not sure what causes one penalized site to drop out of the pack and another to remain though.

The mysteries of Google... :rolleyes:

Anyone else care to weigh in?
Yes Linda that post is very insightful and part of the reason I posted this. We know nothing in this field is ever hard and fast but it's always nice when you have a benchmark where you can tell clients whether they should worry when you can. Which seems to be disappearing luxury haha.
Just curious, what makes you think there is a tipping point?

If you know that Google has been on a quest to punish sites who are getting unrelated links, why not develop a plan that helps build more quality links? This way, when those crap links get devalued, you still have a strong link profile?

My personal opinion is that Google will continue to get better at identifying unrelated links and will cast a wider net as they move along. If you haven't got caught yet and you are still engaging in this, it's only a matter of time. Not saying that you are doing this, just a general thought.
I don't think there's a tipping point. I also don't think that having links from unrelated sites is necessarily bad in the eyes of Penguin. Penguin was designed to demote sites that are actively trying to manipulate Google.

So, my biggest concern would be to determine whether those hundreds of links were ones that were made for SEO purposes. If yes, then a backlink audit is a good idea. If no, then in most cases you can ignore them.

Also, as Linda mentioned, a site can be affected by Penguin organically and not locally. And one final thing to know is that Penguin can hit sites to different degrees. It doesn't always have to be catastrophic. So, if there are bad links there and your client is ranking, say #9 organic, then there is a possibility that a link cleanup could make a big difference.

My reason to say this is to say that rather than thinking of Penguin as an algo that is "on or off" and has a tripping point, think of it like a filter that takes into account the overall trust level that Google has in a site's backlink profile.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
My reason to say this is to say that rather than thinking of Penguin as an algo that is "on or off" and has a tripping point, think of it like a filter that takes into account the overall trust level that Google has in a site's backlink profile.

Quoting you and repeating that Marie, because I think it's important and well said!

Thanks so much for weighing in.
Marie is a real expert on this stuff. She helped me.

I'd agree entirely with her comments.

Links from unrelated sites could be there for "related reasons" of some sort.......or they could be unnatural and unrelated and possibly for ranking purposes only.

If one is a chiropractor and happens to write in a manner about something that ties topics of that issue with child rearing or diet, its possible mommy blogs and foodie blogs could pick up the interesting article and give the chiropractor practice a lot of links.

Hey that is reasonable. Its also clever. If the article is credible it should pass "google muster". Possibly. Probably, but not 100% guarantee with their filters and analyses.

If your a chiropractor and you have 100's or thousands of links with no credible relationship than it can cause a penalty.

Now if a dui attorney is in a small town and there are 3,4, or 5 competitors than being on the third page for "target town/dui attorny type search phrase is, I would suggest, a sure sign of a penalty.

If the DUI attorney is in a big city and there are 90 competitors, being on the third page versus the first page, needs lots and lots more analysis.

Its quite possible that regardless of the above the dui attorney could still hit the pac.
Haha! Just picked up a great quote from Andrew Shotland at SMX.
Fits in this post...

“Links don’t kill websites. People kill websites!” :)
Sorry it took me a while to respond to all of your responses. I am speaking about potential clients coming to us with completely unrelated links and large amounts of them. As with most things in this industry it looks like it's a case by case basis. Just seeing if something more interesting was happening but thanks, all.

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