Link Building After Penguin

by Tom Demers July 3rd, 2012 

Google is constantly releasing updates to its algorithm, and these updates can frequently devalue certain link building tactics that had previously worked well. The latest major instance of this type of update was Penguin. There have been a lot of great posts about what Penguin is, why it came about, and how you can recover from it, including:

The major question for link builders, however, is what to actually change about their link building efforts moving forward?

What to Do from a Link Building Perspective Moving Forward

Contained in the articles above is a lot of great advice on what to do in a post-Penguin world, but at a high level what it boils down to is:

  • Get More Relevant Links If a majority of your site's links have typically come from off-topic sites and pages, you need to start to build links from documents and entire sites that have a similar topical theme to your site and the keywords you want to rank for.
  • Diversify Your Anchor Text Anchor text isn't evil, but you need to have a more balanced link portfolio that features a mix of exact match anchor text, branded anchor text, and a combination of the two

There are other things you should be doing from a link building perspective (get links from authoritative domains, get links that drive traffic and social engagement, get a high volume of links to compete in competitive verticals, diversify your link sources and avoid being over-reliant on high-risk tactics, etc.) but many of those haven't really been changed at all with the Penguin update: the things listed above have.

Getting More Relevant Links

Whether you've been penalized or not you need to start to think about getting more links from niche sites and topical posts/articles. There are a variety of different ways to do this but some good ones to think about include:

  • Guest Posting Guest posting is a very popular link building tactic, but obviously to satisfy the objective of getting links from relevant sites you'll have to really push on the relevance filter. Two great guides here are Glen Allsopp's on Viper Chill and Kristi Hines' on Kiss Metrics' blog.
  • Create Your Own Blogs/Microsites As links from niche-specific content becomes increasingly important the value of owning and operating multiple blogs or sites on specific topics within your area of focus increases. The post is a bit old but this is still a good guide to creating niche-specific microsites.
  • Build Relationships If you've been leveraging more scalable, automated link building practices it may be time to mix in some honest-to-goodness relationship building with bloggers and Web publishers in your niche (or who write for authoritative blogs and cover your specific niche). This is a great guide to building relationships for link builders.

As you're acquiring links that are on-topic, you also want to start to diversify your anchor text more consistently.

Diversifying Your Anchor Text

One of the easiest ways to get more natural, diversified anchor text is to make sharable, social-media friendly content creation and promotion a more focused part of your content marketing strategy by integrating things like infographics, video, and social-friendly text-based content.

Additionally, as you're getting links where you control the anchor text (as with things like guest posts, directory listings, etc.) you need to start to create a more natural-looking anchor text profile that includes things like:

  • Exact Match You don't need to abandon exact match altogether! Most pages and sites that are dedicated to a topic likely have some anchor text matching that core term exactly, you just need to integrate it with other types of anchor text. If your target term is "dog food" you can still include some links with the text dog food
  • Variations of the Keyword You want to include modifiers, and even link portions of sentences like "best dog food" or "looking for some great dog food?"
  • Branded This is particularly true if you're building links to the home page, but even deep pages on a site will likely have some branded links with a natural piece of content that gets editorial links so if your store is called Dog Days, you'll want to use that as the anchor text, for example
  • Mixed You also want to integrate links that are a combination of the target keyword and the brand, such as "Dog Days dog food" or "dog food from the folks at Dog Days".
  • The URL Another type of anchor text to mix in is the literal URL of the target page, which in this case might be: In a natural looking link profile people will frequently link to your pages with nothing but the URL.

Ultimately most of the things you should have been doing before Penguin (creating useful and sharable content, building links from authoritative sources, diversifying your link sources, etc.) but as you're building links the relevance of the linking site and page as well as the linking anchor text has increased in importance.

Image Credit: Image courtesy of Southern Agriculture.

Tom Demers

I'm the co-founder and managing partner at Measured SEM - we're a small search marketing shop that offers a variety of different PPC and SEO services, such as SEO audits

Measured SEM Blog

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9 Responses to “Link Building After Penguin”

  1. Tory says:

    Pretty much sums it up, Tom. It was always a wise idea to vary your anchors for a more "natural" looking backlink profile, and for all my sites where I did this I wasn't affected. I do have one site that dropped on 4/24, which had high percentages of one specific anchor. Working on getting that percentage down to see if I can escape the Penguin penalty.

  2. Marck J says:

    This post will save a lot of SEOs from limbo :)

    In my case, I seldom use anchor texts for my site's hompepage and I would rather use its bare link for. On the other hand I use exact match anchor text more on the website itself and blogs that I own.

  3. Dan says:

    For me, Guest posting remains one of the best, safest, most Google-friendly ways of building quality backlinks. Guest posting, and commenting in blogs. Thanks for a good post!

  4. Karel says:

    So actually, linkbuilding hasn't changed that much, it has simply been enhanced and became more authenticated, more natural profiles and linkflows. Right?

    The 'build relationships' and 'guest blogging' are very good ideas! However, how can you execute 'guest blogging' for customers? This would mean an very intensive coöperation since the communication expressions should be the same. Or is it merely advice?

    Nice post :)

    • Tom Demers says:

      Thanks Karel – I'd agree for the most part link building hasn't changed that much, and a lot of the basic principles are definitely still the same.

      For guest blogging you can definitely do it on behalf of clients – most clients are fine having you post stuff on their behalf, but clients can also manage this process internally.



  5. ved prakash says:

    I prefer URL as anchor text
    Its really look natural because its like real referral link

  6. Thanks for your expert tips tom…
    Guest posting has come out as best way but blogs which allow guest posting should take control of links they are giving..>Else in no time..Blogs with any link in guest post could be treated as spam web directory..Is int it?

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