Waiting to conduct a link audit after being penalized by the Penguin update would actually be acting after your SERP ranking is already damaged. Instead, you need to use these link auditing tips to ensure that you do not receive an Unnatural Links message in your inbox.
Link building is an excellent way to draw increased traffic towards your website and an ethical strategy is supported and rewarded by all search engines including Google. You can use link building to seek out new opportunities for your new website, find out your competitors strategy and counteract it, and utilize Google Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics to the hilt in case you wish to improve lost rankings after getting penalized.
You can try Google Webmaster Tools to recover from being penalized by opening an account and validating your website. Once you select a website, you need to click on “Traffic”, then on “Links to Your Site”, and then on “More”. You then need to choose the “Download Latest Links” option to download all backlinks.
You need to check each backlink and clean faulty ones using link removal or by using the disavow tool for stubborn ones. Those links that are usually mentioned on or near the date of penalization could be the guilty ones. You will now need to use various paid tools such as Majestic SEO, Ahrefs, SEOmoz, or any one of your choice to get backlink profiles.
You need to extract crucial link characteristics such as URL and IP details of the sites and pages linked to and from your own along with anchor text utilized in those links. In addition, you need to check the trust and authority levels of those links as well as the follow or nofollow position of those links. Once you get a report in any of the above tools, you need to export it to a CSV file. Next, you need to sort that data in an ascending order to find out the weakest and strongest links.
However, you need to dig further to find out if any weak link is actually good or your strong link merely a mirage. You must ensure that each link is indexed by Google by using the “site:name of site” in Google search to get the result. You need to make sure that your links do not get displayed along with unrelated links or those that are considered as spam by Google. Your links should also not sport any virus warnings and need to check if links have not been hacked to display unrelated content upon clicking on them.
Links with Zero or Gray Bar Google PageRank ratings can also harm your own rankings. You also need to avoid links from link networks that share a lot of common resources including common DNS, registrars, IPs, etc. In addition, you need to make sure that every footer and sitewide link is present in a natural manner and a manual audit is the only way to ensure it.
You certainly do need to remove all paid links, especially when you have been penalized. In addition to the above steps, you also need to adhere to the continual changes made to Google’s Penguin to ensure that your website is not penalized. These include ensuring that your website possesses exact match anchor text links that is totally related to the specified webpage on your site. In addition partial match anchor text and using synonyms are also good techniques to make sure that your exact match strategy is not over-utilized and does not fall foul with the Penguin.
Furthermore, you need to ensure brand links with several variations including www., .com, without www., with and without spaces, etc. Using a little creativity can also help avoid generic links such as “Click Here”, “Page”, “Useful Site”, etc.
You can also use various other link removal and link auditing tools such as those found at Removeem.com and Linkdetox.com. However, instead of depending on automatic detection and removal, manual intervention is extremely important to ensure a perfect link audit that rewards you with consistently higher SERP rankings.