Is the Google Panda cute and furry? It’s open to debate.
The guidelines of Google are designed to promote quality and uniqueness. Your competitors may be engaging in shady SEO practices, which may propel them to the first page of SERPs for a while, but the results are short-lived. Even big corporations such as JCPenney, Forbes etc. were penalized due to linking tactics that did not meet the strict policies of Google.
When all the competitors are doing it, it may look foolish not to follow suit. It can be frustrating when you see the competition surging ahead for certain keywords purely on the backing of thousands of spam links. Google may penalize them, but when?
The question to ask is whether you are willing to bet your reputation and SEO results for temporary gains. If you have built your results on spammy backlinks, it is only a matter of time before Google descends upon you, with a whip to set you right.
Linking to any Tom, Dick and Harry, especially when they are on sale, is not really a smart thing to do. So how do you determine whether a site that you are trying to get a link from is good or not? Here are a few pointers:
Judge on the content
Forgive me as repeat this the nth time, but content really is king. Judge the content. Not just on grammatically flawless language, but also on the niche that the website is focusing on. Content mills, even those with stellar editorial standards such as Suite101, are not exactly loved by Google. In fact, Suite101 was hit hard by the Panda update. The best links are not from article directories that talk about everything under the sun, but from authoritative websites and blogs of those who are in the same or related industry as yours.
Ads are bads
If a site exists purely to gain advertorial revenue from Adsense, Kontera and flashy banners, you may want to have nothing to do with them.
Traffic and social media outreach
Even if a site has great content, but it does not attract much traffic and does not have much social media clout, you may want to think twice about getting a backlink from there. Such sites may be on the Panda’s menu next.
Concentrate your efforts on attracting organic links by creating blogs, infographics, white papers etc. Spamming unmoderated websites with tons of comments with backlinks to your website is not a feasible long-term strategy to stay in Google’s good books.
The Panda is not easy to please. But what can you do, you just gotta live with it!