How to build Penguin-friendly links?

Recent Google Penguin algorithm changed SEO landscape, pushing off the tops websites focusing on artificial links and many of SEOs faced a problem finding links that work. In this article I’d like to share some thoughts on this process. Let’s start from the very beginning and discuss, what is a “good link” actually?

What is a “good link” for a business owner or SEO agency?

Being in shoes of a business owner I’d say that a good link should match these criteria:

  • Positive ROI. To be published in a local Lincolnshire newspaper I have to pay, let’s say, £500. As a result I’ll get some brand awareness and a relatively weak link from a trusted source. Is it worth the time/money spent on it? This question should be asked all the time. Some time ago it was possible to buy a link
  • Strong power for SEO. The link itself doesn’t pay the bill, only the rankings do.
  • Algorithm changes steadiness. The latest Penguin change highlighted this factor clearly. Nobody likes to see long-term efforts to be discounted.

What is a “good link” for Google?

I strongly believe that Google doesn’t have a term “SEO” in its business model. Or, to put it in other words, the only “good link” for Google is an AdWords one. Taking this in account, we should very carefully consider all official Google recommendations.

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In terms of SEO a ”good link” for Google could be considered as:

  • A natural one. It should be a “good will” link, didn’t financially or in other way stimulated or rewarded.
  • Placed on a trusted resource. Doesn’t require any additional explanations.
  • Keywords non-biased. Google prefers to evaluate the relevance itself, without any additional hints from SEOs.  If a linking webmaster prefers to put a keyword within an anchor text, it should be his own wish.

Where is the intersection?

Let’s take a look at the following options and evaluate them in terms of criteria mentioned above.

  • Articles submission to Ezine-like websites (EzineArticles, Squidoo etc.).It cost literally nothing to produce piece of content and post it with a link incorporated. In terms of SEO these links didn’t bring too much before Penguin and bring nothing now. We even seen a client who shared and “unnatural linking” warning showing his Ezine-like links as unnatural.

Overall rate: 2/10. Probably can help with long-tail non-competitive keywords, no more.

  • Articles distribution across expert websites. Producing costs are very high. It consumes a lot of time and money to create a decent piece of content and persuade website editors to post it on their websites. Sometimes posting also requires financial reward.

Overall rate: 7/10. The only drawback is producing price.

  • Community news websites. Sometimes it’s possible to find community websites featuring external posts on a regular basis. Here is an example of such a project with direct links without nofollow to external content: http://www.quandtnet.de/community_news/“Producing” cost here is only time needed to contact webmasters in order to be featured. Links in general won’t be very strong.

Overall rate: 5/10. Relatively cheap but isn’t powerful enough way to build links.

Overall rate: 4/10. Worth to pay attention on some trusted directories, don’t expect too much out of the others.

  • Giveaways / Contests. Nice way to build natural looking links. “Producing” price depends on the prize you’re going to give plus time & efforts on the contest promotion. Sometimes the websites, publishing giveaways information, additionally charge for this. Here goes an example of the result:


Overall rate: 9/10. If done correctly, it can be an amazing source of natural, permanent and authority links with very low expenses. Brand awareness increasing is a bonus.

  • Infographics creation and distribution. Producing price can be high enough, but you can significantly decrease it outsourcing infographics production at Elance. Infographics creation requires some creativity, also sometimes it’s not so easy to achieve its coverage and posting on other websites with direct links.Overall rate: 8/10. The only drawback is producing price, but you can create infographics very cost-effectively hiring a designer on Elance.
  • Links buying. Oops, I said it. Providing any links acquiring technique requires time, efforts and money, many of SEOs and business owners can ask, why not to simply buy these links and pay to a website owner directly? Links buying still works, but it’s worth to reconsider strategy now.I’d like to share an example from Russian market, where Yandex tweaked low-quality paid links counting algorithm 2 years ago. Their official position on paid links is “we count them, until they are OK for users”.

Here is an example of paid links that looks OK for users:

Overall rate: 6/10. It’s definitely the fastest way to get many links. Depending on budget you can acquire nearly unlimited number of nice-looking links from authority websites. Let’s say some time ago it was possible to buy a link from inner pages of The Wall Street Journal for $800/month (via TLA). The drawback is that you need to pay for these links all the time.

  • Discounts for students. Many universities have a special page with information about discounts available for its students. You can approach them in order to obtain a link (clients database increasing is a bonus). “Producing” price depends on your discount, but in general will be relatively low.


Overall rate: 9/10. A perfect source of perfect links.

Quick summary

Penguin changed the SEO world, now it’s quite possible to affect websites outside, common ways of improving rankings sometimes don’t work anymore. But anyway there are plenty of options of getting links and get organic traffic. Don’t expect quick 2-3 months results in medium-competitive niches with small SEO budget. In order to get a long-term result now you need both time and money.

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