Proper SEO Link Building In a Post-Penguin World

Back in the “wild west” days of the internet, search engine results pages were in a state of disarray. Dubious webmasters came up with all kinds of clever ways to get their listings to appear at the top of the SERPs. Spammy blog comments, link farms, and other black hat methods abounded . This is the way things were done for years, so when Google finally sent in “Sheriff Penguin” with his white hat and shiny boots, confusion and calamity ensued. However, when the dust settled, everyone saw that the SERPs had become a more orderly and less chaotic place. Search users were now free to search without being beset upon by spammy, near-useless search results.
Now that the new law has been laid down, certain rules apply if you want to engage in successful link building. As they’ve successfully proven, Google has little tolerance for deceitful, black hat link building techniques. On the other hand, even if you have good intentions, you can still break one of their rules without realizing it. Even prominent companies have recently had their hands slapped for using paid links. Here are a few questions to keep in mind to avoid being penalized when you run your next backlink campaign.

Does this link make sense?

This question should be the driving force of your back linking campaign. This is because Google’s search algorithms have become wise to “unnatural” linking patterns (e.g., links to your car wash business website from a site about bird watching). If the website you’re linking from has no relevance, you’re better off looking elsewhere.

Is this website purposeful?

The websites you link from should be a valuable asset, not just a website that is taking up space. Yahoo! Directories and DMOZ are two examples of websites that had no other purpose but to catalog other websites, and they both failed. Always consider the value of the website you’re linking from. When in doubt, ask if the website you link from is a site you would want to visit and use yourself.

To nofollow or not to nofollow?

The “rel=nofollow” HTML attribute basically tells Google not to pass a backlink for PageRank. Why would you want to use such an attribute, you ask? This is to avoid passing links for PageRank that are unnatural-looking. Google spotlighted a few of them recently, which include:

  • Optimized anchor text: You should nofollow links that link from anchor text containing your keywords. This is seen as an artificial way to link these keywords to your website, and it looks suspicious to Google’s algorithms.
  • Massive guest posting: If the main purpose of a large-scale guest posting or article marketing campaign is to build back links, it could ultimately hurt your site’s ranking. If your guest posting is for another reason, such as building authority in your field, then you should use the rel=nofollow attribute when linking to your site. Google never specifies what they consider “large scale” guest posting, so it is always better to err on the side of caution.
  • Advertorials, AKA native advertising: This is when a company pays a webmaster to feature a piece of content that contains links to pass for PageRank. Not only does Google consider this as paying for links, but they also note that it’s deceitful to the readers who trust the site’s authority.

Should I Disavow?

As mentioned above, webmasters and SEOs got away with manipulating search engines for a long time, only to be swatted down by Penguin in 2012. Google’s disavow links tool offers a chance at redemption. Basically, you submit a list of websites and URLs you would like Google to ignore when considering your website’s PageRank. However, this should only be used for disavowing links from blatantly spammy websites, and only after you’ve manually removed as many links as you can. If used for any other purpose, it could potentially damage your website’s ranking.

Am I Utilizing Mobile?

Mobile internet use has skyrocketed in the past decade. Considering this, mobile linking strategies simply can’t be ignored. Get a mobile site up if you haven’t already, and consider creating an app for your business. You can also get your business included in other relevant apps (i.e., include your car rental business in an app for finding local car rental agencies).
At the end of the day, link building has become more about building one’s reputation than anything else. Considering that, perhaps the term “link earning” is more accurate. The best way to earn links is to leverage content that people will want to devour and share. This is the way to go about link building, and how it will be on into the foreseeable future of the web.

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Brittany Warnock
Brittany Warnock | Contributor

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