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Future-proofing your Link Building Strategies

3 April 2013 BY

Ever since Google announced the first iteration of the penguin update, future-proofing their SEO output has been a major focus for lots of agencies. Lots of us have seen signs of agencies frantically removing links (both high and low quality) and changing their approach in order to hide from ‘the penguin’.

In addition to the changes that Google has made so far, it’s fundamentally important for SEOs to be thinking ahead of the curve, in order to protect the work they’re doing for their clients and also their business.

The following tips are focused on what I believe Google will be doing in the not so distant future in order to improve the quality of their results and prevent websites from ranking through manipulating their algorithm.

Avoid obvious footprints

Guest post references:

Guest posts have become the new ‘easy’ tactic for SEO’s of late, which has consequently left it as an opportunity for Google to target algorithmically. Although placing content on other people’s websites isn’t something that I would consider spam, it’s something that is being over-used and is probably having a considerable affect on the quality of Google’s rankings – so therefore I think sooner or later Google will address this (by devaluing these types of links).

My recommendation for this would be to try your best to get contributor slots or columns on websites, as these don’t have the same ‘guest post’ footprint that makes the link susceptible to being de-valued. I would also recommend trying to get bloggers to place their content under their own name, as this just makes a guest post link a good, natural reference link.

The same principle applies for infographics, if you can think of another term for your graphics to avoid making it easy for Google to take mass action, it would help to make it a more sustainable link. Offering to write an introduction is a great way of doing this with infographics.

Although there’s no guarantee that the search engines are going to take action against these link building tactics, there have been lots of hints from Google representatives.

Avoid websites that are / have been selling links

A few years ago, when I used to get replies from bloggers asking for money in exchange for placing articles, I used to try really hard to get them to place the content for free and I always saw it as a great achievement if I succeeded. Now, it’s important to think about how other SEOs are responding to requests for money – if they’re all paying for links, search engines are clearly going to think you’re paying too!

With this in mind, I think it’s really important to avoid any site that is selling advertorials or links in general because search engines will be looking for patterns within the content being published.

At the very best, links on editorial websites that are selling links are going to be devalued, making it a waste of content and time.

Keep your links diverse

For the vast majority of SEOs at the moment, the focus is primarily on building branded links, commonly to counter aggressive anchor text distribution from pre-penguin times. I would strongly recommend mixing things up in terms of they types of links you target and not just trying to generate the same branded links within articles.

The way I look at it, search engines are looking for unnatural patterns within link building and in my mind, generating lots of text links from articles is clearly identifiable. I would recommend trying to completely mix things up and target image links, image credit links, branded URL links, citations within articles, combined branded and keyword anchor links etc.

Think about quality signals!

Although there’s a lot of debate as to whether quality signals are playing a part in SEO at the moment, I believe that there are obvious signs of whether an article is high quality or low quality that search engines must / should be looking at.

I believe that targeting links from websites that are generating social shares and comments / engagement is going to increase the value / sustainability of links, be it now or in the future. We generally try to get our clients to engage with articles where they’re featured, be it by sharing on their Facebook page or via Twitter or by commenting on the article and trying to encourage more people to do so. I would recommend this, as suddenly the content looks a lot more natural if it’s generating a response from its readers.

Think about the value of context

Over the last 18 months or so, there has been a lot of talk about how Google interprets context and uses it to understand the value of a link. One of the most frequently referenced principles is LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing), which is basically a process for identifying context or meanings of an article or content based on the words in the article and how they’re used.

I don’t know if search engines are using LSI within their algorithms or if/how they’re measuring context as part of link valuation, however I think they are probably doing something. With this in mind, I think it’s really important (especially on the topic of future-proofing your link building) to keep content as relevant to the website you’re link building for as possible.

On this note, we’ve also started targeting citations within articles as (in addition to the benefits citations can have for local SEO) we believe that this is something that search engines are going to be looking at or look at as a quality signal. Rand Fishkin did this whiteboard Friday on co-citations as a potential replacement for links last year.

Simon Penson wrote a great post on link building without links on SEOmoz recently (he’s also written a lot of the best articles I’ve read recently on SEW), which references LSI and is definitely worth reading.

This article from Aaron Wall also discusses LSI and how search engines can use it to understand context.

Start using author profiles for link building

Authorship has been a hot topic for the last year or so and is widely expected to be a big part of Google’s ranking algorithm in the future. Authorship is expected to start ranking articles by the person who wrote it and attributing value to the links based on this.

I would recommend using authorship on all articles being written on behalf of clients, whether you use your own name or the name of a full-time employee (obviously post-conversation with them).

Please feel free to add any other suggestions for future-proofing link building efforts in the comments section below.


Paul Rogers currently works as the Organic Performance Manager for Buyagift PLC. Before joining Buyagift in June 2013, Paul spent three years working for GPMD (a London-based ecommerce agency) as Head of Digital Marketing.
  • Wouter Blom @stramark

    The penguin is not very effective (jet).
    Just 2 weeks ago a very new company rankes postion 2 on “zoekmachine marketing” (search engine marketing in dutch) just using startpages with links. No real links from any authority website. just the linkfarm type.

    they did it in 4 weeks.
    Their keyword variation is just”zoekmachine marketing” and “zoekmachine marketing bureau” nothing else…

    • Roy

      Didn’t he just copy your profile? :P

      • Wouter Blom @stramark

        auch! that hurts :-}

        no he did not have links from maybe you have heard of them? :

        • Wouter Blom @stramark

          although that is probably not contributing..

          • Dennis Goedegebuure

            Not sure which site you are looking at Wouter, but from your comment I can see there is something unclear to you about a Penguin penalty.

            Any site with unnatural back link profile, or other violations against Google’s Quality guidelines risk the Penguin. However, there is one important part of such a penalty, the site first needs to be properly crawled and indexed. Then, over time when a Penguin update rolls out, there is the chance that the site in question might receive the penguin penalty.

            Crawling, indexing and ranking happens on a continuous basis, where the Penguin updates are more time bound, like a Google dance.

            It could very well be that your site in question is in between the first part, being indexed and ranked, and hit by the Penguin.. if these even happen in The Netherlands.

            If the ranking site is bothering you, man up, either report the site, if you are “that kind of guy” or step up and do some real SEO work. (And I don’t mean creating countless pages on your site for singular and plural forms of the same word just to get the KW coverage).

            The last option is to shut up, especially as your own back link profile has similar footprint…

            Either way you choose… I don’t care, as I’m not playing in the space of Internet Marketing in The Netherlands…


          • André Scholten

            Couldn’t agree more, your own link profile isn’t that great either, or were the footer links on for example kantoorfruit dot nu and nieuwbouwwijzer dot nl spontaneously placed by the website owners? And what about the pages on your site called “internet marketing bureau”, “internet marketing bureaus” and “internet marketing bureau amsterdam”? Are those really visitor oriented, or just created for search engines?

          • Dennis Goedegebuure

            Imagine somebody building a new house for you, after which they are finished, they leave a giant billboard on your roof claiming their company has built your house. Even after you paid the full sum, they don’t remove the billboard.

            After 6 weeks, you start receiving letters from your local government agency that you will need top remove the billboard, or you would need to pay a penalty.

            You feel lost, you paid for the house, but never agreed the general contractor to leave the billboard on YOUR roof advertising THEIR business. And now YOU are paying the penalty for it…

            Pulling your backlink profile in Majestic, exporting to csv, pasting unique domains online…tempting, but I won’t do it!

            It’s your full client list…

  • ppcpros

    All great points, actually our team here at PPC Professionals in Fort Lauderdale/Miami FL has been building a list of good to great blogs to become guests on in the near future. And if all else fails you can use Google AdWords we wrote a nice guide here called AdWords 101 which is actually advanced techniques for PPC Managment on

    • Dennis Goedegebuure


  • Martin Reinert

    Viewing how Google rules the net and how articles are written by professionals, hobbyists and SEO people, I see a trend that is scary. It was best before Google came. Anyone could link to anything they wanted with what ever ancor-text they wanted or image. It was fun in those days. Now you can get punished and banned. Our freedom as writers is deminishing. If a site writes about many topics it will get devalued as it is not specific about a topic. With author-ranking, I am afraid it will be the same. If you as an author write about many topics (my personality-trait is always to be interested in sooo many things), then that author is not an expert in anything and hence his/her ranking will deminish. But who is Google to decide this? Was it not to “do no evil”?
    I see it more and more as a grid that ensnares and hinders free writing and linking.
    It is too much Big-brother over it for my writing, liking and linking.

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  • riththear

    Mascherano mengalami cedera harmstring,

    Berita terbaru dan terkini bola Soccer dari Agen Bola Indo11 – Javier Mascherano terpaksa masuk ke dalam ruang perawatan setelah berbenturan dengan Sergio Busquets. Dia dinyatakan mengalami cedera hamstring.

    Agen Bola Indo11 Terpercaya – Benturan kedua pemain terjadi dalam laga Barcelona vs Real Sociedad, Rabu (25/9/2013) dinihari WIB. Bermaksud menghalau bola, kaki Busquets malah mendarat di paha Mascherano. Pemain asal Argentina itu pun terjatuh dan mengerang kesakitan.

    “Tes awal mengindikasikan Mascherano mengalami cedera hamstring di kaki kanannya. Si pemain akan menjalani tes tambahan pada hari Rabu untuk mengetahui beberapa lama dia bakal absen,” demikian pernyataan di situs resmi Barcelona.


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