I am an Angry Shark and I Want to Kill a Bunch of Penguins (Google Penguins)

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Building links in 2012 is a tough job. Years ago, you just needed to buy a ton of exact match anchor text links and point them to your desired location, and you’d be ranking in first position in the SERPs. Drop to second? Buy even more heavy anchor text links. It was quite seriously, a race to buy the most as quickly as possible. Nowadays, however, building links is a completely different ball game—webmasters are more savvy, Google is getting smarter, and the competition has increased dramatically.

Source: http://speacareers.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/minefield.jpg

The implementation of the Google Penguin algorithm update has raised the stakes further still, with tens of thousands of websites (a lot of them very credible and authoritative) receiving unnatural link warnings and penalties. In 2012, link building for a client or for your own website is like tip-toeing across a battlefield riddled with mines. Make the wrong step, and you risk the reputation of your site or your client’s website (good luck explaining to them why you thought that a site wide, side bar blog roll link on a completely unrelated website was a GOOD idea), not to mention the drop in traffic, rankings, and revenue they will shortly be delighted to see.

With that in mind, I wanted to share with you, lucky people, some of the link building tactics that I’m using today—in August 2012—that I KNOW are working well for my clients. I’m not claiming that these are necessarily fool-proof link building tactics. Building a ton of links on .gov domains probably isn’t going to look natural, but a couple here and there will gently pass some trust onto your site. So here we go:

Guest Blogging

A staple in every SEO’s arsenal these days, and I’m no different. What I like to do is start with finding a target, read their last few blogs, read their last few tweets, see what THEY are talking about. Then get in touch, but not with a half-a**ed blog post that you’ve knocked together in an hour, ask THEM what they think their readers would like to read. Is there something that’s really topical that you could put a spin on, that would make for instantly clickable content? The webmaster will be flattered that you’re looking for their input and that you’re even considering what’s important to them—clicks, ad revenue, and visits. Be helpful, be humble, and try to solve a problem for them.

A Helpful Guide on How To…

An extension of guest blogging per se is to create a useful guide within your niche. For example, your client is a Web hosting company, and you want to create the definitive guide on setting up a WordPress blog for beginners. You’re going to cover the domain name, hosting, WordPress installation, the must-have widgets and plugins—all that good stuff. Either approach a Web design blog in the manner described above, or you could even host it on your own blog and ask a number of different sites to reference it—multiple links.

University/Government Sites

Ahh, there’s nothing like a beautiful link from a .edu/.ac.uk or .gov/.gov.uk domain, right? But they’re not easy to come by. There are plenty of opportunities out there that you need to do a bit of “site:” query digging, but there are pages out there. Trust me. The same goes for government and local council websites, use that site query in Google carefully and you can really narrow it down to find relevant pages.

From experience, the most difficult part of what I call “high authority link building” is actually finding the relevant person to speak to about your target page. The amount of red tape involved at some of these places is incredible. Remember, the poor Web manager at these places is not like your average full time blogger, who sat on their Gmail waiting for cool sh*t to drop into their inbox. These are folks who have tons of priorities and updating a Web page about, say, local financial advice, isn’t one of them—no matter how awesome your insurance calculator widget might be. But persevere. Make a polite enquiry and ask “who is the best person to speak to about the xxxx.gov webpage?” It’s someone’s job to deal with those enquiries so let them help you.


If you or your client has a product or service that they can offer for free or even at a discounted rate, use it to build links. If you can offer this discount or freebie to a third-party website (play up the “exclusivity” of this offer, even if it’s not strictly unique), then you’re instantly offering them value and giving them a reason to link to you. Besides the obvious SEO value you’ll be getting from the link, these kind of bespoke blog posts or news articles that are alerting the readers of your kind offer are a massive PR and marketing opportunity.

If you can do this kind of outreach really cleverly, you can tap into entire niches that you would never have dreamed of reaching with your old fashioned paid links. Want links from newspapers? You can take this a step further and send them your free product or invite them to try your service—fully comp’d, naturally.

Image Source: http://613style.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/dusty-shirt-i-love-free-shit-t-shirt.png


Being green/eco-friendly is huge in 2012, so any kind of angle you can spin on what you or your client does presents another huge untapped vertical to go after. There are a multitude of green blogs, directories, resources, forums, and groups that are just waiting to hear how environmentally friendly you’ve decided to make your business. Combine ‘green’ with a study or a survey for instance, and for some reason this instantly becomes news to these folks!

I hope you guys have appreciated these tips. Please feel free to share your own below or tell me that I’m completely wrong! Thanks for reading.

Patrick Langridge
Patrick Langridge is an SEO Consultant for Screaming Frog, a UK based agency and SEO tool producer including the Screaming Frog SEO Spider. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @patlangridge
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  • https://twitter.com/oozn SE TR

    Regarding discounts and giveaway, by this way you will gain a ton of backlinks from irrelevant websites. Won’t it affect SERPs badly?

    What do you think about sending out newsletters to social media sites?

  • http://www.linkability.org Patrick

    I sure wish I knew the 200-some-odd signals Google uses to rank a website. I do feel as though these are great tips that you have offered here; I’ve personally used 3 out of the 5 that you’ve offered above. I keep pondering Duane Forrester’s (the Matt Cutts of Bing) recent post on links – http://www.bing.com/community/site_blogs/b/webmaster/archive/2012/07/20/what-if-links-aren-t-as-important-as-you-think.aspx – and how links are only one part of the equation. Let’s get some discussion around this, because even Google admits that the definition of a link is evolving…

    • http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/ Patrick Langridge

      Hi Patrick,

      Some good points and that’s a great blog post you mentioned.

      I can only give my own experiences and I’ve seen these tactics working, but I totally agree that the definition of how Google values links is constantly changing, and evolving more over the last couple of years than ever before.

      Thanks for reading!

  • http://wpsites.net/ Brad Dalton

    hahahaha. Good stuff. I’ve got an exclusive offer at the moment that i’m trying to build links to so this helps abit.

    Not sure how to use social media for this as its commercial and might not go down to well but its a great deal.

  • http://www.coffy.com Matt Coffy

    Great article about tips, Patrick. It’s also worth mentioning that although Matt Cutts “vaguely” said that Penguin is about links, content is still king. Having a well planned strategy for guest blogging for example can be good for your traffic especially if your article is engaging and informative enough without giving away everything. Thanks!

  • http://www.brickmarketing.com/ Nick Stamoulis

    Content marketing feeds right into your link building. Great, informational content is going to get shared, one way or another. Those natural links are incredibly valuable and speak volumes to the trust of your site and your brand.

  • http://www.contentscientists.com Josh Braaten

    Just watch out for those discounts. You don’t want to end up like Overstock.com did when they gave a bunch of colleges discounts through a link building scheme. I feel this is a gray area still for Google.

  • christine

    It is always with a grimace that i read advice about safe link building practices. I am sure they work for you and work in general, so that is great, but the examples that I see are always in some very information rich and socially popular niche, like web design, or hosting, or social media, where it is easy to create guest posts, or i nfographics, or free giveaways. Try finding a blog for a guest post on for forklifts, or car trailers, or welding machines…

    These are just some of our clients in not so interesting industries. Then we have the little one man shows who we did seo for on a shoestring budget before penguin. We could easily automate some tasks and offer them a good service and good rankings. If i have to even think about trying to spend the time on trying to find a guest blog, chasing down a .edu site and jumping through hoops to get them to accept a post or link on their site, i have blown the clients budget about 10 times over. There is no way out, I cannot do pre-penguin link building any more and simply cannot accommodate smaller budget clients any more, which made out about 50% of my client base before penguin.

  • http://www.techwyse.com Christy

    Very interesting post to read. what is going to happen is gaining a ton of backlinks from irrelevant websites and most probably its going to affect in SERP

  • http://www.animhut.com Sri Ganesh.M

    Informative article. But getting a link back from same niche is good right. I hope it would look like “natural”. Advice please.

    Seen few bloggers first accept Link Exchange but cheating by removing after few days or months when get Trust from them.