Do Link Building SEO Services Still Work? Three Ways to Keep the Penguin Happy

By Jonny Waite in SEO on July 12th, 2013

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With the recent update in Google’s Penguin 2.0 algorithm, which penalizes websites for things like site-wide links and link trading, the same question is being asked by SEO consultants and their clients alike: Is link building worth the risk?

Determine Your SEO Agency’s POV on Link Building

There is nothing wrong with link building in the classic sense. When done correctly, it’s like a trusted friend recommending a website instead of stumbling across it yourself. All search engines—Google included—encourage the practice if links are placed on relevant sites and connect back to a related landing page; even Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam Team, agreed that not all link building is bad in this recent interview with SEO expert Eric Enge.

Over time, however, too many SEO companies began engaging in “link schemes”—strategies that relied on manipulation and trickery to bypass Google’s original algorithm (PageRank) and dupe search engines into giving their site more online authority. Many of these so-called black-hat tactics used to be effective for building a large backlink profile. But with updates to Google’s algorithms, first with Panda and now Penguin, many of these tricks became less effective.

The new mindset for good SEO consulting services is based on content marketing: creating material that shows thought leadership and sharing it. This strategy relies less on link acquisition just for the sake of it and more on disseminating content that draws in relevant links and provides other sites with a reason to send visitors back to you. So which tactics still work and which ones will get you in trouble? Here are three best practices—and two to avoid—to help you keep the Penguin happy.

Good Link Building Tactics

#1 Guest Blogging: This tactic has the highest barrier to entrance. If you can prove you are an authority on your subject and make the right connections, getting your articles published on high profile blogs can be the most effective way to gain visitors and quality backlinks. If you take a shortcut and pay bloggers to post guest blogs, make sure they use varying anchor text and that the content is unique and intriguing, not promotional. The biggest thing to avoid here is duplicating your articles across multiple blogs.

#2 Directory Submission:  Submitting your site to directories—places like Yahoo!, Yelp, Kudzu, Yellow Pages or DMOZ—is a great way to send live traffic to your pages. Just be sure that the directory is relevant to your content. How can you tell if a certain directory would be useful? Try searching for your target keywords and see what directories appear in the results above your site. If a directory outranks you, it may be a good place to get a listing that will increase your visibility to your target audience.

#3 Comments on Blogs or Forums: If the link placed in the comment box is relevant, there’s no problem; if it’s not, you could get called out for abusing the forum to promote your site, a.k.a. trolling. Further, links in comments or your forum user signature that are keyword-optimized specifically violate Google’s guidelines, so comment carefully.

Things to Avoid:

Link Trading: This is just what it sounds like: the act of buying, selling, or trading links with another site. This is a big no-no according to search engine guidelines.

Site-wide links: If you place the same outgoing link on every page of your site, Google assumes it was probably bought and thus penalizes you.

The bottom line? Link building can still be included in your search marketing plan, especially if it makes sense from a traditional marketing strategy for building brand visibility. The goal of Google’s algorithms is to make sure people find the most relevant, quality information when they do a search. If your link building is based on distributing unique content with relevant links in it, then your backlink profile should be healthy and benefit the authority of your site. In other words, keeping the Penguin happy ensures your organic search results will make you happy, too.

Need help planning your SEO strategy? Contact the SEO experts at BKV today!

  • Mary McKitrick

    I had been wondering about recent changes in SEO practices – thanks for the update! What are your thoughts about bookmarking sites for blogs? I read an article about promoting one’s blog that suggested submitting the url to various bookmarking sites. I did that and immediately started getting lots of spam comments. Wish I could undo that move! The only legitimate comments are from people who saw my own posts and comments on a related discussion board. Lesson learned.

    • BKVteam

      Hey Mary –
      Bookmarking is a fine technique, though like everything, you must follow some best practices to get a good return. If you started receiving spam comments, when you didn’t previously, it’s a sign you may be getting more traffic, even though legitimate visitors may not be leaving comments. You’ll need to check your website analytics for referral traffic from those bookmarking sites you used, this will help you decide which sites you should continue using. To get a good return on any social activity like bookmarking, you should get familiar with the site and the community to discover if your content is appropriate or, better yet, resonates with the active community there. Another best practice to keep in mind is is to actually interact with other members, share content from sites other than your own, and be helpful, not just promotional. Google’s search ranking algorithm is moving toward identifying people who are thought leaders in their space, so this type of activity will help you build referral traffic in the short run and search traffic in the long run. Best of luck!

  • Jana Ferguson

    Great information! Thanks for sharing.