Is Link Building Dead? 3 Tips For Link Builders Post-Penguin 2.0

google-matt-cutts-links-1364992271 ”We’ve detected that some of the links pointing to your site are using techniques outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines….”

For enterprise SEOs, receipt of this notification is usually followed by a deep, sinking feeling in your chest.

You check your keyword head-terms in the SERPs and realize that you can’t find your website anywhere.  A lump forms in your throat as the realization sets in — you’ve been penalized by Google.

The Link Building Challenge

Google’s crackdown on unnatural links over the past few years has raised the question within SEO circles: “Is link building dead?”

The reason folks might think it’s dead is because Google’s definition of what constitutes an “unnatural” or “artificial” link seems a bit…broad:

“Any links intended to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme.”

Not to mention the penalty for “suspicious links” is quite severe. Whereas sports celebrities are fined or suspended from a few games for breaking the rules, businesses whose websites violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines could find themselves losing a lot more.

Some good businesses have taken major financial losses as a result of the infamous Google Penalty. Estimates suggest that costs to big box retailers and enterprise e-commerce companies could easily hit $5 million per month in lost natural search revenue.

Smaller businesses facing such penalties could end up ruined, having to close their doors.  Yes, Google can put you out of business — whether you deserve it or not.

The fear Google has instilled into the hearts of SEOs over bad links is unparalleled.  Is it any wonder that so many are asking, “Is link building a dying art?”

Link Building Lives!

The answer to the above question is an emphatic, “No!” Link building is not dead; in fact, link building is alive and well. But you do need to be careful.

While all the recent reports about Penguin 2.0 might lead conservative SEOs to advise against active link building, the vast majority of page 1 rankings are on page 1 because of their link profile.

Links are Google’s “weak link” in the search industry. Google still remains heavily reliant on links as its primary form of ranking websites within its search results pages.

So, how can enterprise SEOs navigate link building without getting penalized for building links? How can you rank organically, using good links, while avoiding penalties? Read on for the high road to link building, according to three  link experts.

1. Perform A Link Audit

This is, hands-down, your first step. Conducting a link audit will require several phases and tools; however, if you follow Chuck’s advice here, you’ll be able to get through it.

In How To Conduct a Link Audit, Chuck Price does a great job walking readers through all the steps involved in a link audit. Whether you plan to do any link building or not, I highly recommend you do a link audit now — doing so may help you avoid potential issues down the road.

Chuck explains how to “Download Latest Links” from Google Webmaster Tools and how to get a complete backlink profile. This will allow you to determine which links need to be reviewed and considered for removal/disavowal, including:

  • Links from a domain not indexed in Google
  • Links from a website containing a malware or virus warning
  • Links on the same page as spammy, unrelated links
  • Links on a page with Google PageRank that is gray bar or zero
  • Links coming from link networks
  • Sitewide links – especially blogroll and footer links
  • Paid links

2. Keep It Relevant

Your next important step is to ensure relevancy. Ken Lyons wrote an excellent article on how to build relevant links to your website.

Ken’s article, “Link Building: Get Relevant or Die Trying,” is a fantastic read. He includes Authoritative Guides, Infographics, Industry Spotlights, Group Interviews, Industry Awards, Guest Posts, and, yes…”Buying Links” as a relevant link tactic. This is a must-read for all SEOs.

Ken describes link relevancy as Google’s way to determine trust, decipher the topic or context of a target document, deliver relevant information in the right context (i.e., relevant query results) and sort out link spam.

Speaking of relevancy, Ken also provides tips on a few more relevant link tactics such as:

  • In-Depth Reviews: noteworthy products or services
  • Free Tools: prime targets for link outreach
  • Curated Content: extensive articles and weekly round ups
  • Broken Link Building: unearthing high-authority, relevant link opportunities
  • Niche Microsites: dedicated to a specific topic or niche

3. Exploit PR Strategies

Lastly, I want to recommend something not often elaborated upon: using PR to build links. Cassie Gillette, Director Online Marketing at KoMarketing, has an excellent article written recently, “5 PR Strategies You Can Use To Build Links Now.”

Cassie reviews PR-focused tools that let you find content, post pitches and seek those looking for sources — all great ways to “make connections and discover potential link opportunities.”

She points out the fact that reporters are using social media to source stories, which has given search marketers, “a huge window of opportunity for link building.” She also offers tools for creating segmented reporter lists and gathering data.

Another great source of links can be event interviews. Cassie points out how there is always someone looking to interview attendees before, during and after the show — at some conferences, they’ll even set up interviews for you!

Lastly, she suggests monitoring editorial opportunities, which can offer several outstanding methods for building high quality inbound links to your website.

Thanks to these creative professionals above (and there are many more), link building is alive and well. Everyone knows that links are the bedrock for SEO results — so I encourage you to consider these tactics.

This isn’t the end-all answer to link building by any means; however, enterprise SEOs can’t go wrong by including the above steps in their linking strategy: 1) perform your link audit, 2) keep it relevant, and 3) exploit your PR strategies.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Link Building | Link Week Column


About The Author: is Managing Partner at PB Communications LLC. Specializing in SaaS solutions for Enterprise Store Locator/Finders, Semantic/Organic/Local/Mobile and SEO Diagnostic Audits for increasing online and in-store foot traffic.

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  • Nick Stamoulis

    “Another great source of links can be event interviews.”

    I’ve started doing expert interviews on my own blog and it’s a great source of quality links! Not only can you get a link from the expert’s site itself, people love to quote and source industry leaders (you did it in this article!) which can also create inbound links for your site as well. Plus, it’s always nice to get another point of view in the mix.

  • Bayut

    “Link building is not dead; in fact, link building is alive and well. But you do need to be careful.”
    We can say it in other words. Link building isn’t dead but it has become old for sure. And we must become elders of the house now. People should come to us and link from us like the kids come to the old for their advice as they have all the wisdom in the world that reflects from their words i.e. content.

  • marathiunlimited

    Point ” Links from a domain not indexed in Google”
    If domain not index in google… how will google count this link?

  • David Lewis

    I wonder what analysis has been done on link relevance and context? While I have seen some (largely anecdotal) evidence that this matters, and have certainly seen this whole idea proclaimed loudly and proudly on internet forums for the past 2 years or so, I am beginning to wonder where the substance and evidence is to support these claims.

    I’ll make it clear. I have no doubt that Google and ethical SEO’s are indeed keen for this to be the case, and also I’m certain that Google’s efforts are directed this way and have indeed has “some” success.

    No worries there. No issues. We are singing the same song here.

    But it is the actual MEASURE of that success that I doubt.

    While 8 million hacked Eastern European sites and almost 100 million URL’s thereon provide illegal (the site were hacked remember) authority to hundreds of thousands of sites in some extremely commercial niches I have to wonder how good Google is if it can’t spot an enormous footprint and such huge incongruities as this and do something about it well over a year after it began?

    Sites that have absolutely ZERO relevance to the hacked sites they gain links from, not even sharing the same language.

    Those promoting through schemes like this have had 14 months of huge and rapid SERP and PR increases. Cases of sites gaining and maintaining A PR of 5 within 90 days of a domain being purchased (how does that not set off Google’s “oh so clever” self promotion alarms)

    Worse still (yes it just gets worse) The landing pages riding high on the tide of these illegally hacked links are (for the most part) terrible. Overt “Buy This Product” that add nothing what-so-ever in terms of value.

    This isn’t a short term issue. Google has known about this for almost 15 months now. The owners of some of these sites have banked 7 figure sums in that time – and there are thousands upon thousands of these sites ranking high on hacked links. A footprint so obvious – growth metrics so incongruous – but yet Google do precisely nothing (well they do – they give the target sites top billing in their index and allow them top accrue huge authority – for month after month after month) This system continues to promote a massive number of sites with no relevance, poor context both onsite and in terms of inbound links.

    If Google is so darn clever. If relevance is so important, if link context is “a must”. Then how does this happen on such a large scale and for so long in such an open and commercial sector while Mr Cutts sits back and pontificates on how great his new algorithm update is?

    Where is the proof Mr Cutts?

    I read articles like this, and then look at what is ACTUALLY ranking now – today and wonder if I live in the same world as the authors.

    Yes relevance and context SHOULD count – but a 2 minute look at commercial terms on the internet today – tells me they really don’t matter a great deal at all in terms of SERPs.

    Repeating the line Google trot out as if it is true because you WANT it to be true. Because darn it it SHOULD be true. After all Google told you they were going to MAKE it true is one thing.

    A look at the current sites ranking high and banking large in SERPs tells you it just isn’t the case. It’s going that way maybe in baby steps – but it’s a flipping long long way from getting anywhere close from the rubbish I see ranking high. And that’s not much of a change from 2002

  • Justin Clark

    My question is simple if link building dead then what is next? if not dead then how to choose the websites for quality links and how to know about their google penalty as it will give bad impact on your website it you got a link from a penalized website.

  • Faizaan Khan

    It does not appear in Index and Google SEarch Results, but in actual, Google knows it well

  • Gargi Banerjee

    Great insights Paul. What I gather post the Penguin update is build links or no, as long as your website links to a high PR website, your site health is fine. If Google can detect any effort on establishing a link that does not seem ‘natural’, it is going to affect the website. In this regard, I find sharing views and joining communities is a great way of staying connected and yet make no attempt to build link that is forceful. It is one form of PR that has a high potential.

    Gargi Banerjee

  • Casie Gillette

    Thanks for including a reference to my article Paul!

  • disqus_W4KjfaOksA

    Thanks for the post, Paul. There are some great links to good information. As a copywriter, I haven’t paid much attention to link building. I just focused on writing great content. However, I will be putting more emphasis on link building in the future.

  • Happy man

    nice post

  • AdMamu

    Excellent….though I see lot of work to be done, but this gives very constructive and crisp information on what to do….I see a way to work on my website : now.

  • Natasha

    I am manging a backlink campagin for my
    cigarette electronique
    website. If you have any recommandation for me tell where should i post it?

  • Natasha

    Hey for my website
    cigarette electronique
    i am managing the whole back link campaign can you give me any advice?

  • Michael Johnson

    Very True, It’s always fun having the conversation with my clients that link building is no longer about acquiring 100′s or 1000′s of links but instead about getting handfuls of quality, relevant links each month and doing link building that makes SENSE.


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