Fat ninja penguin with katanaBacklinks were given a bad name due to malpractice within the SEO community. Black hat agencies were buying links to boost their client rankings and make a name – and a tidy fee – for themselves along the way.

But as usual, Google sniffed out this sneaky “link scheming” and launched the deadly Penguin. The fallout was devastating and editors of online magazines are now reluctant to accept articles with links embedded.

As a result, industry magazines often only allow rel=nofollow links, but do allow you to mention your business in the author profile and will typically insert a link back to your website.

Subsequently, online business owners have understandably been put off guest posting and have dropped the strategy from their SEO campaign. But there are still advantages to gain writing for third party sites.

Websites you should NOT contribute towards

It’s worth mentioning that Google is not totally against backlinks, after all they still rely on valid inbound links to help them rank webpages. What the search company does not want to see is backlink scheming intended to falsely manipulate PageRank.

Search engines therefore class backlinks from the following type of sites as spammy and dish out penalties.

  • Websites that have a lot of content with outbound links to commercial sites
  • Websites with poorly written content or top 10 list articles
  • Press release sites with over-optimised anchor texts
  • Backlinks created in bulk using software
  • Links for low-quality directory pages
  • Keyword-rich links embedded in widgets
  • Optimised anchor text left on forum sites and blog comments

How to run a backlink strategy

Guest posting is now considered as building an online profile rather than backlinking. Writing for industry magazines may not earn you valuable ranking links, but it will give you creditability and mark you down as an expert in your industry.

Although this is a good path to follow despite the rel=nofollow, building an online profile this way will take time for you to build a reputation, so don’t expect overnight success.

Also stick with one or two reputable online magazines that cover your industry rather than spreading content around the web as this will not attract repeat readers, thus you will not catch anybody’s eye.

Inbound links that will boost your PageRank have to be earned from bloggers that genuinely want to promote your site to their readers. This does happen if you produce good content and can be found through search engines or social media.

You may even be invited by a website owner to contribute content to their site in return for a backlink. This benefits both parties, as they post good quality content that helps their search engine rankings and you receive a genuine inbound link.

Working with influencers

The other option is to work with influencers that will promote your site through their blog. If they genuinely admire your product or service, they may be willing to review your product or write an article about you or your company. Again this is content for their website which helps them grow.

If this is a path you do choose to follow, make sure to select your influencers wisely. Ideally, they should have a strong following together with good trust and authority scores from search engines, although the latter is not entirely essential if they are a relatively new site, but are producing quality content and improving their rank month on month, so ask them for site stats.

Before approaching a potential influencer, conduct a quick recce of their site to answer the following questions:

  • Is the blog relevant to your industry
  • Are they producing good quality content?
  • How many social media followers do they have?
  • Are they active on social media networks and engaging followers?
  • Are they including spammy looking links in their content?

Once you have established a publisher you would like to work with contact them explaining who you are and what you would like from them. Will you contribute content to their site, or would you like them to produce content for you.

If your idea falls into the latter category, you may want to offer them a product to review, either for them to keep or for a trial period. The writer however, must declare they have received a product as a gift or solely for review purposes.

Backlinking is still worth pursuing, simply because search engines still award inbound metrics with optimum merits – providing the link does not look spammy or has been paid for.

Google developers apply common sense when programming their algorithms. If you apply common sense when reviewing websites to contribute towards, you are more likely to fall within Google guidelines and avoid Penguin penalties.