Link Building in a Post-Penguin World

Link Building in a Post-Penguin World

In the early days of search, it was incredibly easy to game search engines — including Google. However, users quickly got sick of seeing low-quality content and pornography served for unrelated queries. It is estimated that Google has put more than 1,000 person hours into perfecting its core algorithm. Webmasters building links these days have to think of innovative ways to get those precious votes for their websites. Check out these link building strategies for today’s search environment.

Guest Blogging

Yes, I know this is an old one and perhaps a little overdone, but it remains an effective way to get high-quality, contextual backlinks to your site. The reason you can get such good backlinks from guest blogging (assuming you can get other webmasters to agree to your methods) is that you have the ability to place links in the body of content where they are most effective. You can also use anchor text of your choice in many cases.

  • Use Google Blog Search to find websites and blogs that are similar or complimentary to yours. Once you have identified a site where your content may be well-received, use their contact form or listed phone numbers to reach a decision maker. Offer to submit writing samples or suggest collaborating on a post.
  • Check your own tracking data. Specifically, look at blogs or websites already referring traffic to you. Go to those websites and reach out to the site owners in the same way. If they are already sending you traffic, chances are their visitors will be receptive to your message.
  • Tap your customer base for guest-blogging opportunities. Someone with whom you do business undoubtedly has a blog that may be related to your business objectives. Customers may be much easier to contact because there is already an existing relationship. They also have the potential to become brand evangelists, sharing your content on their own blogs and social networks.

The process of building links through guest blogging requires some sales skills. You have to reach out to people whom you may not know and get them to buy in to what you want to do. Be friendly and collaborative. You may not always be successful, but if you continue to try on a regular basis, you will get some takers.

A Badge Campaign

People love to win awards and display them on their websites. It really doesn’t matter what the award is as long as it’s at least somewhat legitimate. A badge campaign is a great way to build backlinks because you can make up an embeddable award or badge that recipients can install on their websites. The badge can contain a link back to a page of your choosing. Examples might be an award for best web design, customer service recognition, best social media presence or whatever.

  • Make the award legitimate. Don’t just send out embeddable code with an image to thousands of emails. It has to be somewhat coveted. Try to actually come up with a process for determining a winner of the award, and send out embeddable badges to websites that really deserve it.
  • Make it related to the industries of businesses you are sending them to. Don’t send out arbitrary awards that don’t make any sense. Do a little research and find out what a business might want to be recognized for.

Here are some examples from Angie’s List and Zillow:




The intentions of these sites with their badges isn’t entirely clear; however, there are links to their pages included in the code to embed the badge. Even if the motivation is to allow parties related to their site to display their affiliation, a nice backlink also comes out of the deal.


One of the basic ideas behind why backlinks are used as a ranking factor is that people naturally share links to good content. An easy way to make good, shareable content is to research and design an infographic and present it as an embeddable piece (with a link) on your website for people to share. People love sharing infographics because (if done well) they are interesting, and they also make the sharer look smart.

  • Do your homework to come up with something meaningful. Don’t just put out a short piece of common knowledge. Do some research and work with a designer to make an infographic that people will want to look at and share.
  • Share your infographic yourself on social sites that lend themselves well to images. Pinterest business pages and Facebook are both sites that are good for sharing images.

Building an infographic is no easy task, and it can be a time-consuming and expensive process. If you can create something that will resonate well, though, it will be worth the effort. This is especially true if you can get the piece to go viral. If you want to see some really great examples of infographics, check them out here.

Scholarship Campaigns

This one is a bit more involved, and it would require a larger budget, but it can have some large returns in the form of increased traffic. While there is no difference in terms of link authority between .edu’s and other TLDs,  links from .edu’s are more reliably authoritative. The problem is that for most webmasters looking to build links, institutions that use these domains couldn’t care less that you want them to link to you. Try starting a scholarship that you can give out to one lucky recipient and then using that program to reach out to educational institutions to aid you with promoting it. This doesn’t have to be anything outrageous, but it does have to be well thought out.

  • The scholarship has to be real. Allocate 500 or 1,000 dollars to be awarded to someone who can use it to go to school. Have a real process for applying for the scholarship as well as rules and other procedures.
  • Reach out to .edu sites to help you promote the scholarship. Ideally, you want to get your write-up with a contextual link back to your site on their website; however, any link would be good as long as it is on an authoritative domain.
  • Reach out to as many institutions as you can. Unlike a badge campaign, you don’t have to limit the amount of colleges or other educational entities that you contact.

In a post-Penguin world, building backlinks needs to be taken seriously. Many of the methods mentioned in this post require modest to significant investments of time and money. That’s because if you plan on doing this professionally and successfully, you can’t afford to not spend the time or money to launch a quality campaign to promote your website. Building links on web 2.0’s, wikis and similar properties is fast, but it won’t get you the rankings you want.


Recommended Resources: (not affiliate links)

Here are some services you can use to help you build better backlinks:

Post Runner – A simple and easy way to find and submit guest posts.

My Guest Blog – A high quality guest posting options for both publishers and site owners.

Designer Infographics – Goeff and his team at Designer Infographic create stunning pieces of work!


How do you build backlinks? Is there an innovative strategy with which you have had success?

Shawn Manaher

Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.

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