After Guest Blogging…What’s Left for “Safe” Link Building?

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As link building tactics get shot down by the Big G, online marketers are left wondering what’s left.  Guest blogging has been devalued, alongside every other known scalable method to build links, including comments, forums, article marketing, and directories.  These almost sound like dirty words in today’s marketing environment, but years ago, they were the way to rank.  So what now? What can you do to get your site to rank?

Everyone is now touting the benefit of Content Marketing as the only safe tactic left.  But what happens when EVERYONE starts doing it?  Mark Shaeffer from BusinessesGrow coined a term called Content Shock.  There’s simply too much content being produced.  So is content marketing a sustainable model for every businesses wanting to improve their presence in Google organic?

Safe Link Building Strategies

Let’s start by changing the paradigm.  “Link building” is over, done, kaput.   Any of the known methods used to build links are now on Google’s radar to penalize.  They really, really, really don’t want anyone “Building” links.  They want everyone Building content that THEY can monetize on.  Think about it.  All those great long tail articles that you are creating will help improve relevancy which in turn helps them improve their bottom line.  If link building is out, what can you do?

penguin safe link building, alternatives to guest blogging


Image Courtesy of Shutterstock

Forget Link Building, think Link Earning

The concept of link earning is one we’ve all heard about, but have difficulty turning into a scalable methodology.  Great content can’t assure links.  But great content CAN be the foundation for which you implement other methods to EARN links.  The best way to achieve this is using integrated online marketing.

How to Use Integrated Content Marketing to Earn Links & Social Signals

Before you think links you HAVE to think content.  Content Marketing is the foundation for an integrated marketing strategy.  Your social, paid, and organic promotions depend on highly authoritative, quality content.

Once you’ve created amazing resources, get your content in front of people with Social Media.  Create community by building an engaged audience ready to share and like your content.

Amplify your content using paid social channels as well as Direct Outreach to increase the visibility of your content.  Marty Weintraub, who coined “Paid Organic Amplifcation” has been teaching marketers how to amplify content using Facebook for years.

The combination of content, social media, and paid social leads to visibility which in turn links to those Coveted Links and Social Signals that help you rank organically.

Continued Psychographic, Semantic, Persona and Keyword Research will drive the content creation strategy which in turn will bring in more users from different stages of the sales funnel.

The Goal:  

Build high quality content assets that can be placed in front of a socially engaged and psychographically targeted audience which then shares and links to your content – naturally.  No byline, no manufactured links profiles…just genuine shares and attribution to great content.

Scaling Link Earning

Once you have great content, how do you guarantee visibility for this content?

Let’s start by discussing some of the different types of content that can have traction in this over-saturated environment.

Vanity Bait & Round-up Articles

Have you been emailed a question by bloggers as part of a round-up where your answer gets aggregated with that of other influencers? These posts tend to be extensive, chock-full of knowledge, and a genuine resource.  And guess what happens when it’s published? You email the influencers who are published in the content piece and announce that the content is live.  What will 9 out of 10 people do? Share it socially – why not show off this mention? So you generated content and social signals with a little bit of high-end, targeted outreach.


Influencers have to promote themselves, too and generally love to share their knowledge.  Build connections with high-profile industry influencers and ask them if they’re willing to be interviewed.  Google Hangouts are a great way to create video content that is highly shareable.  I recently interviewed Jesse Wojdylo on a Hangout, and his share of our interview generated some nice social activity for us both.


Using SurveyMonkey to create surveys can generate a plethora of content pieces that contain both statistical data as well as many other potential content pieces.  Instead of just regurgitating what everyone else is talking about, why not get some actual HARD data that you can turn into blog posts, infographics, white papers and case studies?


I know this is an old practice that has been abused, but there’s still massive value in creating infograhics.  People love visual content, and infographics are a great way to convey a message without boring people with a lot of text.  People’s attention span just keeps getting shorter, so engage them with gorgeous visuals that are also informative.  Combining infographics with direct outreach, even offering to write custom intros for those infographics, can generate great results for earned links.

Amplify your content with paid social ads

Now that you’ve created all these content pieces, how can you guarantee eyeballs?  Place that content in front of the people who are most likely to share and link to it.  Using Facebook ads is the most precise method due to the highly advanced targeting capabilities.  In a groundbreaking post dating back to 2012, Marty Weintraub outlines a precise method to amplify content using Facebook. You can use other social promotions channels as well, including Twitter, Reddit, and Stumbleupon.

And Pretty Please…don’t Forget Google Plus

Even though this isn’t a link building tactic, you really can’t ignore Google Plus.  Google has stated that they WILL be using social signals in the future, and the only signals that they fully control are those from their own social platform.  We’re already seeing more Plus pages ranking in Google, and the trend will only continue.  In the same way you use links to build authority, now you have to build connections to build social authority, which is in turn connected to your site and persona as you publish across the web.

Direct Outreach is a Crucial Component

Even when you place content in front of people, the most effective way to generate links and mentions is via direct outreach.  This outreach is what leads to the connections made for interviews and round-up posts.  When promoting an infographic, finding people who have shared contextual infographics and telling them about yours WILL lead to links.  Perhaps they didn’t see your post on Facebook promoting your infographic, but if you reach out to them via email, Facebook, or Twitter then its possible they’ll share the infographic. Direct outreach is the jelly in a PB&J sandwich – you really can’t practice Link Earning without outreach.

Don’t forget to Track!

Before you start your integrated marketing campaign, make sure you have clear goals with associated Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s).  Tracking these KPI’s will help you identify what content pieces are working best, movement in both social and organic results, and of course conversions.  It’ll help drive the content creation strategy.

Guest Blogging is NOT Dead

Who am I to contradict Google’s head of web spam?  What I will say, from someone who spends 80% of her time doing link audits, analyzing link profiles, and doing competitive analysis – is that most of the links that Matt has pronounced as “dead” are really NOT.  What’s dead is “Footprint  Link Building”.  If ALL of your links are guest posts, then yes, this will cause your site to be penalized.  If you have money terms in your anchor, Penguin will likely catch you at one point or another.  If too many of your link ratios create a footprint, then your link building is not safe and will lead to manual or algorithmic penalties.  If I believed guest posting was dead, I wouldn’t be writing here, would I?  SEJ is a valuable site and most of us who deeply understand the industry will continue to share our voice and ideas through this and other high-quality industry sites.

As many have said before, use high quality guest posting as a small part of your internet marketing campaign and you won’t have any problems.  Just make sure to vary your link profile and use many different types of link earning sources and you’ll stay safe from Google’s dangerous animals.


Featured Image Credit: Shutterstock

Marcela De Vivo
Marcela De Vivo has been an SEO since 1999, promoting thousands of sites including large corporate sites and small mom and pop businesses. She loves... Read Full Bio
Marcela De Vivo
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  • Great Article Marcela,

    Now that Google has confirmed that they do not like guest blogging, SEOs and online marketers have to figure out new ways.

    The list you provided is a great kick-start for alternatives.

    • Hi Robin,

      You have taken it wrongly, actually Google also like the idea of guest blogging , because it existed even before Google and continues to the future for these reasons: 1. Branding 2. More exposure 3. Reaching new audience in your community.

      So, guest blogging is still good if done properly. What Google don’t like about guest blogging is, increasing number of poor quality or rewritten articles that don’t add any value to the user, their sole purpose is to get backlinks, those kind of links Google wants to target.

      Since poor quality guest blogging won’t bring you traffic, leads and sales, which is the ultimate goal of any business, they just fail here.

  • Hi Marcela, let me thank you for this post. I do agree with your idea of footprint link building. And surely yes, whether it’s a guest blogging or other type of links we must act smart to make our overall link profile look as much natural as possible.

    But in my opinion, high quality guest blogging will work just fine. Guest blogging on top niche sites that gets lot of traffic every single day and approves only high quality guest posts that adds some value to the user.

    In this case the guest post will surely be read by many people and will send some decent traffic to the source. This should be absolutely fine. Can you through some light on this. Thanks.

    • I’m with you, totally agree!

  • Awesome tactics collected! I am also going to implement these all tactics in my next seo project and also I have already started building community. Thank you Marcela De Vivo

  • James Halloran

    Marcela, these are awesome pointers! What Google wants everyone to learn now is that they need to EARN links, not “sell out” to get links. There’s a big difference between the two.

    Thanks for sharing this! Very resourceful.

  • Thanks James, glad you enjoyed! Do you have other ideas for “link earning”?

  • very insightful article. I’ve never been a fan of guest blogging. I don’t write enough blogs to post on other sites, nor do I relish the idea of someone posting something on my blog. what I have decided a few months ago, is to stop worrying about google. not about what google is doing, nor what it is going to do next. you asked a very pertinent question. ‘after you fell all the trees, how are you going to stand in the face of the wind that will blow then?’ I’ve been posting some controversial posts on forums. not only did they generate a lot of traffic – kinda like ‘who’s this guy?’ and they check your website – but also my share counters are galoping. more importantly, some of the posts are showing up on the top 50 results of related keywords and some are even advancing! so to all ye seo I say ‘if you feel it’s right, right on. do your thing!’

  • Great points souleye, totally agree with you. I think Quality is now fundamental and posting less often but fantastic quality will make a big different. What other tactics have worked for you?

  • Thanks for sharing such amazing piece Marcela 🙂 The bottom line is as soon any tactic become popular enough to be misused, Google puts its foot down. You have highlighted some pretty good ideas.

    • You are right preeti, Google always learns from SEOs abused methods and devalues it. But this will not stop in SEO industry, because the natural of search engine industry works in this way only. And from the years same thing is happening, the history repeats every time when any method reaches to it’s peak.

  • Excellent post Marcela, thanks for sharing this. I’m new at SEO and I found this to be very beneficial. Thanks again!

  • Excellent post Marcela, thanks for sharing. I’m new at SEO and I found this to be very beneficial. Thanks again!

  • Thanks Cameron! Glad you found it helpful. Let me know if there are other aspects of SEO that you’d like to learn more about so I can write future SEJ posts about them.

  • Thanks for sharing such superb piece Marcel. The bottom line is that any available strategy, when misused, could get a flag down from Google. You’ve highlighted some pretty smart ideas here.

  • I don’t write enough blogs to post on other sites, nor do I relish the idea of someone posting something on my blog. what I have decided a few months ago, is to stop worrying about Google. not about what Google is doing, nor what it is going to do next. you asked a very pertinent question. Thanks

    • Google is always a great source of traffic so I don’t necessarily suggest not worrying about Google, but what I do advice is thinking sustainable.

  • Fahad

    Thank you Marcela for sharing this great article.

  • Hi Marcela,

    You have listed some excellent points and considerations for increasing exposure.

    One option I was a little surprised to see that was left off was use of a press release. Yes, times with Google have changed and we recognize at one stage, many companies were abusing press release services by trying to send out useless information pumped with links. Not as bad as articles, however.

    There are a couple of reason why we put this out.
    Fact: Journalists are not going away anytime soon. They still depend on a press release from credible sources. Fact: News is news and it still needs to be distributed.
    Fact: One of Google’s lead Webmaster Trends Analysts (John Mueller) had mentioned even though all links within a press release should be no-follow, “there is still great value to using press releases”. (Third paragraph:

    With sites using NO FOLLOW, that have valuable information that will be newsworthy, this is still an excellent tool for increasing exposure and links from valuable third party news sources. The key is having newsworthy information.


    • Hi Michael, I personally don’t use press releases as I find them to be generally abused, and haven’t really had any follow through from journalists, I prefer to do direct outreach to journalists, but if people have had success getting news stories published from press releases, then yes!

  • That last paragraphs about guest posting made me think that guest posting is not really dead and it’s still one of the effective ways for link building if we will do it in a proper way just like what you’ve said. 😉

    • Yes, high quality guest posting is definitely still a great tactic, but definitely not the only one.

  • content will NOT improve search engine rankings in organic listing. Never did, never will. That is all 🙂

    • All is relative. Technically, no. But if you look at content as keyword-optimized pges that help attract links and authority, then I have to disagree with you.

  • Just when i trying to find online on how to build links safely for my new blog i found this post extremely useful. Thanks Marcela for sharing your tips with everyone

  • Andrew

    Looks like Google’s scare tactics are really working.. People are really buying into this stuff. Now everyone is afraid to build links or are confused about how to do it.. Good job Matt! Mission accomplished!!

    • Andrew, I hate witch hunts too, but in this case, I’m seeing a lot of reconsideration requests pushed back with low quality guest posts as examples. It wasn’t just a rant – he definitely sent the web spam team instructions to start pushing back on low quality posts.

      • Andrew

        While this may be true, I think people are missing the point. The reason Google does not want you to build links is because it still works extremely well. The fact of the matter is that the internet is driven by content, which is why it will always work. Whether you choose to label an article as a “guest post” or not, content and link diversification is still king. I hate to say it, but I’ve ranked many sites using article directories, my private blog network, web 2.0, Wikis, and so on.. You just can’t deny the facts and data. The proof is there, which shows that when done right, these old school tactics that people like Matt say are dead still work very well. They obviously know this, which is why they continue to tell people not to do it. Google will never tell you what actually works and why would they? All they will tell you is to just write “quality content” and the rest will work itself out. Sorry Matt, but that’s just not the way it works. Do natural links happen? You bet they do. Are they as common as building links? Nope, which is why the majority of sites on the internet are still link building. I know a lot of people are going to argue with me on this, because most people on SEJ don’t like to hear things like this. I know everyone will say “well all this works now, but for how long? Google will eventually put a stop to all this.” Well, this might be true, but as of right now, they have been unable to do so. Sorry, but I’m just being honest… 🙂

    • as far I’m concerned ‘mission unaccomplished!’. and thank you for your insight. I don’t trust google anymore. my experience lately has been if you follow what google says, it’s gonna hurt you. you try to play by the rules – by their rules – then you see a lot of ranking websites that blatantly ignore or disregard those very rules. I have come to naming matt cutts ‘chief of smokescreen’. all he’s good at is steering the whole seo industry off course. that makes for fun play. google has some interest in muddying the waters. if all the rules are clear, game over. there’s no more secret sauce. plus, how many changes you can bring to a ball game without repeating yourself?

      • Andrew, I agree with you. I spend 90% on my time doing audits and competitive research. I use every tool out there, and some that are private, analyzing what works and what doesn’t. And here is what I’m seeing:
        – Spammy links – yes, they DEFINITELY still work. Until you get caught. So long as your eyes are 100% wide open and you understand the risks – do it! Go for the spammy links. They DO work.
        – One of my specialties is audits and penalty removal work. As much as I see sites with spammy links ranking, I also see them lately when they’re asking for help because they have manual or algorithmic penalty. Whether a competitor outs you, or your footprints finally sends out enough red flags, when you get caught, it’s brutal. I live this day in and day out as people reach out to use for help, and I see those sites that were previously making a killing off their spammy links losing 50 – 80% of their traffic.
        – And once again, it’s not just a witch hunt. Until the 20th, it was very rare for low quality guest post links to show up in unnatural links letters. Now they do. Yes, it’s a witch hunt, and Mat”s trying to scare people. But if you keep doing it, it’s possible you WILL get caught. I’ve yet to see them point to an example of a high quality guest post though.

  • I think that if we listen to everything Matt Cutts tells us about link building that we would never accomplish anything. Instead of focusing on avoiding every method Google detests; why not spend more time testing current methods to see what is still working and what is not. Then, instead of writing another post about what Google says, we can write about what really works!

    • Travis, I thought that’s what this post was? Methods I’ve tested that work and don’t result in penalties? Am I missing other tactics you’d like to add? FYI I spend massive amounts of time testing what works and what doesn’t, using some pretty sophisticated tools.

  • Great post. It’s getting so hard for small business to do online marketing but they have to get on board with content creation and social media but grey font have time. The flood of knowledge is great and old SEO is dead . #martyweintraub is a genius. Paid ads and social seems to be the way

    • Hi Virginia, I agree. The bar keeps getting raised higher and higher. The advantage to this is that whoever has the patience and persistence to keep at it will have an advantage as so many others won’t. And yes, @martyweintraub is truly a genius and I believe the ‘Father’ of modern-day SEO, he’s light years ahead of most.

  • @Marcela,

    How are you doing? This is no-doubt a great piece of linking strategies you have described here and there are also niche strategies you can do for your niche related business and find links in your own niche and search your competitors and find them how they are building links on vertical and horizontal niches also go for link partners in your niche and social media is a great tool like G+ sharing but with caring.

    Plan for good infographics, e-books, email marketing, lead generation and arrange webinars, utilize ppc strategies with proper channels and smart mind and now video optimization and testimonials are must for business.

    Go for Local SEO and make your brand recognition and online reputation management always fight for your negative reviews on websites like Ripoff Report and try to present yourself unique on Google SERP play with long tail keywords too as with competitive ones.

    Keep check your webmaster for manual penalties and algorithmic penalties and always go for white hat link building slow but steadily make your name in the market.

    Very good share marc!!

  • Although the list of tactics you have provided in this article is good, my hate sense are tingling.

    This: “Forget Link Building, think Link Earning” – I cannot tell you how sick I am reading all that crap about link buidling. This is like the hot trend of SEO articles. Rand Fishkin says it is bad and we should use the term “link earning” and then the whole community starts repeating. Let’s see what is on my list today.. oh yeah lets write and article about the death of link building…

    I don’t want to be a troll here but that is crap and I will tell you why:

    First of all link building works… it is not dead, it is healthy and kicking hard! Directories, profiles, comments, article directories, press releases, splogs, satellites …. they all work..if you know how to do it right.

    Matt Cutts says that we should stop using them – but reality of the SERPs says otherwise. They can’t control it algorithmically – the endless diversity of the web and its ever changing nature means that they just CAN’T DO IT. And what is their move? They start a fear propaganda campaign of the worst type, saying that you should not build links.

    Say link earning one more time!

    So you create infographics for your new website – great! But nobody will know about them because you don’t have any visibility in the SERP – you don’t have any traffic.. How do you expect to get that traffic with an infograph?

    Even if you have built the best website in your niche and your content rocks – nobody will come if you are not ranking in the SERPs. And why are you not ranking? Because your website is new and you don’t have links.

    Links are fundamental part of SEO – links were working long before search engines used them as a ranking signal and they are the best signal – this is what made google the number one search engine remember? Links are just too good of a signal to be ignored. Pure onpage ranking would destroy the user experience so badly that it would be total absurdity.

    An the term “LINK BUILDING” is f*cking fine! I build them, and I rarely earn any and I’m fine. Lets speak the truth for once – this link earning stuff does not correspond with reality. How do you expect to earn links about a website that sells pipes or plumbing or carpet cleaning services? F*cking forget it! Nobody gives a shit about your great content and your blog and nobody even knows you exist… if you don’t have links and this is why you need to BUILD THEM!

    I am so sick of this bad connotation that the word “SEO” received after the animal updates of google – suddenly SEO became a negative word. SEO solves problems.. SEO is not SPAM and the same applies for link building.

    Lets admit it here – many people here actually bought this propaganda of google, they tricked you, cheated you, bullied you… but I will tell you what it is – it is a move that has large side effects such as – decreasing the ROI of SEO and make people less willing to invest in SEO – “because that is dark matter” but hey lets use this awesome/ amazing tool called Adwords and spend budget there “safely”. So the small companies are kicked out of the organic results with these moves SEO is just too expensive and too risky for them – or that is how appears to be…

    And I’m not calling for switch to bing – but lets be honest and recognize the propaganda for what it is, lets admit that link building works, and stop pretending that it is all white hat most business niches in desperate need of good SEO are rulled by the gray/dark side of the force.

    • Tsvetan, your hate sense doesn’t really belong here. I hear many of your points, but they would be so much better understood without all the anger and hatred. SEJ is not a place to go on an anger binge. You can make many of these same points without the rage and accusations. I will respond to your points in a separate post submission to SEJ.

  • @Tsvetan,

    What a fabulous explaination you have given here and i have become your big fan now, as you are a good public speaker and speaks well and too much. Well, you are absolutely right here that link building is not dead and its alive and we need to build links but you know man what kind of links we should build and why? Yes Google animals are here and they are not here to harm us but safe us from doing crappy stuff and SEO is now more clean and pure because now the backlinks should be of very high quality, good and niche relative as we have to clean our world of web from non-relevant people so links should also be relevant. Good links always worth and G also likes these links which are build through natural link efforts and time.

    Bing is no doubt a good search engine but i still love google as it is fighting for link spam and content spam and want to build the web which is just for all sincere fellows who want to build their links with natural and white hat link building and do efforts for getting a good link.

    It is not true that G wants to sweep the small companies out of the organic results, if the small companies have good links and good content they can compete on G for top rankings but all in natural ways. Google is still the king of web but some people are getting jealous of it. LOLZ.

    Good Article Marcela and link earning is a good way for all link prospects. As it is also called ego-baiting and link baiting and you have a damn good content and content syndication strategy to make compel any reader to share it.

  • Link Building is dead, long live Link Building!

    Let’s be real here. According to Google, a link scheme is defined as:

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

    Google’s solution?

    “The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community … and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”

    Call it link building, link earning, , or whatever you want to. Anything other than publishing a webpage and praying to the Google gods that people will miraculously find your content and link to it is considered link building.

    • Bronson – I think the difference is intent. Link BUILDING is generally pretty obvious – the links were obviously manipulated. Link earning is placing the content in front of others so the links is editorially. I know what you’re saying – and I agree. But really we are monkeys jumping through Google’s hoops, and this is what Google wants, so if we want a piece of the Google traffic pie, we have to play the game their way. Or you don’t and you acquire traffic through social or other channels. But to avoid penalties, the links have to look editorially earned.

  • I appreciate how well you have expressed your observations in this article. You’ve written information I can finally agree on and use. Thank you for writen this piece of contact.