How to Do Back Linking After the Penguin Update

how to do back linking after penguin updateWhether you have just one site or many sites, you most likely got hit by Google’s most recent update… Penguin.

As far as what’s happened to my own sites, the results are very mixed. The one thing that has been consistent is that a lot of my inner pages from larger websites all experienced drops in rankings.

I’ve read a lot of blog posts a lot of forum posts and a lot of other information on this latest penguin update, and while nobody knows for sure exactly what’s going on and how to deal with it, there are some common denominators that people have figured out.

I myself am not an SEO master over the last few years I’ve learned enough about SEO and getting websites ranked to be able to earn a decent income but after this penguin update there really aren’t any SEO grandmasters.

So, I’m just going to go down the list of any discoveries, hints, tips, tricks, or other relevant information that might be helpful going forward.

Back Linking After Penguin and Any Other Tips or Tricks I Know Of

Internal Linking

Internal linking on your site is something that doesn’t get much attention, but seems like is becoming more and more important. Without attempting to BS my way through an explanation, what makes sense to me is that it does at least two things: 1) it keeps your visitors on your site longer and helps increase your average number of page views which helps your “Google stats”, and 2) it let’s Google see that you link to other pages on your site instead of just a bunch of outgoing affiliate links.

The latest version of WordPress makes it really easy to go through your pages and quickly build links to other pages:

internal linking after penguin

Probably a good rule of thumb is to have more internal links per page than affiliate links.


“Dofollow” Links and Nofollow Links

First of all there aren’t any links actually labeled “dofollow”… I remember thinking I was a genius back in the day by looking at the page source scanning for “dofollow” and never finding any… there are just regular links and then links labeled ‘nofollow’.

I read an interesting idea/theory that seems to be completely accurate… After Penguin,’s results are even more powerful than before, and this theory I read said that even though people think ‘nofollow’ links don’t matter or aren’t ‘counted’ by Google, the evidence suggests otherwise. Then he pointed out that with Amazon’s affiliate program, Amazon has got thousands of people to build millions and millions of back links to their site and individual product pages, and that’s the reason why their product pages rank at the top for every conceivable keyword.

The other thing to keep in mind is that if you use a bunch of different paid link building services, most(or all) of your backlinks will be ‘dofollow’ links, which looks incredibly unnatural to Google. Your link profile should include both types of links.


“Spammy” Back Links and “Negative SEO”

There’s a lot of irony going around… especially from the supposed SEO Gurus. The first part of this comes from Matt Cutts telling us that your site’s rankings can’t be hurt from a competitor pointing thousands of crappy back links overnight at your site. Then on the other hand, Google is handing out penalties for “unnatural” back links, and the gurus are telling everyone not to join “spammy” link networks.

The problems are obvious: If Google does penalize sites for “unnatural” back links, then “negative SEO” is definitely possible… meaning a competitor can knock your site off or get it penalized.

What should you do about this… I have no idea. I point this out merely to illustrate that Google search is perpetuating problems for itself by allowing this to happen, but I don’t have a proposed solution.


Varying Your Anchor Text

This is one part of the Penguin update that everyone agrees on… If you built all your backlinks with your keywords in the anchor text without any variation- or just a little variation, then your site got hammered.

Moving forward, you need to vary your anchor text to include phrases that are loosely relevant and even flat out generic.

For example, if your main keyword is “dog training”, then build links with keywords like: dog articles, pet advice, pet tips, click here, visit our site, check out this article… etc.

Shoot for your main keywords to make up less than 50% of your anchor text as you build back links.


Web 2.0 Sites and Authority Domains Getting All the Rankings

If you want to absolutely geek-out on this stuff, you can read Jonathan Leger’s full post here… One of the main takeaways from this post and thread I’ve read on his forum is that authority domains are getting higher preference in the SERPs even with little to no back links. Sites such as:

  • Blogger
  • Tumblr
  • Blogs
  • Squidoo
  • Hubpages
  • LiveJournal
  • Yahoo Answers
  • PRWeb

So… it seems that you can use the “buffer site” back linking method to kill two birds with one stone: Link back to your main site like normal from these buffer sites, but add some affiliate links as well since these might end up outranking your site for a while.

According to Pat Flynn’s latest income report, he built a site following his “backlinking strategy that works” while he hired a service that claimed to replicate the process only faster, and after 3 months both sites were getting similar results, but when Penguin hit the site Pat had done manually stuck in its rankings and wasn’t hit, but the site the hired company did disappeared from the SERPs.

That’s pretty telling, and is great to know… if that method withstood Penguin, that’s amazing since even a lot of authority sites that were completely white-hat were hammered.

I do also want to point out that Joseph Archibald is the guy behind the “buffer site” back linking method, and this method is more relevant than ever.


Take It Easy(easier) for a While

Slow your roll and don’t try to build back links as fast, and remember to vary your anchor text. Unique Article Wizard has even changed their daily recommended submissions from 25 to just 5, so you might even want to set it to 1 or 2.

And yes, I’m still using UAW and overall, it still does what it says it does.


Conclusion, and What to Do Now

Going forward there are a few key things to do and/or keep in mind.

Diversify your traffic: Go out and try to figure out other traffic methods and put SEO on the back burner. Figure out getting traffic from Youtube, article syndication, tutorial sites, forum marketing, blog commenting… there’s a bunch of stuff.

Ironically, the more traffic streams you get coming into your site, the better your site will do in Google’s organic rankings.

Experiment and Research: Use whatever SEO tools you have to look at competitor’s backlinking profile and anchor text profile to see what they’re doing and to get a feel for what type of sites are ranking for particular keywords. Here’s a tip… you can do most of this with Market Samurai.

For example, enter a new keyword and then click on the “SEO Competition” module:

seo competition market samurai google penguin

Then, click on ‘Generate Results’, and you’ll see the results, and I want you to notice the little down-pointing arrows next to each result:

market samurai seo research after penguin

If you click on one of those arrows you’ll see this:

anchor text analysis for penguin update

Clicking on the ‘AC Rank Analysis’ will show you where they’re getting their back links, and clicking on ‘Anchor Text Analysis’ will show you a breakdown of the anchor text in the back links pointing to their site:

anchor text results for panda penguin

This is very valuable info if you’re trying to rank for these keywords. By the way- researching the top 10 results for a given keyword and analyzing what they’re doing and why will always be the best way to figure out any update.

One Method Per Site: This is a solid, common-sense idea I picked up from Chris Rempel’s blog post: If you have the means, set up as many sites as you can and experiment with one back linking method per site. The idea is to profit from diversification and a ‘safety net’ of many small sites.


That’s it… What do you think about all this? Please share this post and leave a comment below.

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About The Author


Nate is a blogger, fitness enthusiast, and designer.


  • Eric

    Reply Reply May 14, 2012

    Great article Nate. But is it still worth it to use UAW if we only can submit 5 articles per day to stay under the radar?

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 14, 2012

      Yeah I think so. There’s still not a better tool out there, and building links slower would apply to any service.

    • Shuck

      Reply Reply May 15, 2012

      You still use UAW? And it works???

      I still think just using high PR links is the way to go. Any links that will bring traffic is what I’m going for…no more mass submissions (other than to AD’s and Web 2.0’s, but not to my main site).

      • Nate

        Reply Reply May 15, 2012

        It’s all about different linking sources. If your site only has high PR links to it, that seems like it would look even weirder to Google than PR1s and PR0s.

        But yes, UAW works amazingly well on the web 2.0 sites and especially youtube videos.

        By the way, I listened to your podcast with Trent and it’s really good stuff.

  • Jon

    Reply Reply May 14, 2012

    Good, useful article Nate.

    How about this one –

    If you have all of your 10 websites set up with Google Analytics and then suddenly they all get hit.

    Meaning that Google penalizes all of your sites for being the owner of one single site it doesn’t like.

    Say for example, they banned you from Adwords they’ll keep on record the site you use. Then if you have other sites they’ll associate them all together.

    What is the crack on G Analytics – do you trust it? This could be something very important for many people out there.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 14, 2012

      Jon- Yeah there’s debate about all of that… I don’t know and I don’t think anyone does for sure.

      I use analytics for all my sites and they’ve all seen very different results after Penguin, so just from my perspective I would say that Google doesn’t judge your portfolio as a whole.

  • Wine Chiller

    Reply Reply May 14, 2012

    Thanks for the perspective. It gets harder and harder to know what to do in IM with all of Google’s changes. I guess it’s back to teh 2.0 sites for backlinks.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 14, 2012

      It is always changing… there are a few constants but it does get annoying.

  • Lisa

    Reply Reply May 14, 2012

    Hi Nate,

    What are your thoughts on using Google Analytics/Webmaster Tools on a white hat authority site? Is there a drawback to giving Google info about your site even if it’s totally white hat? Or should I use something like piwik?

    Thanks, Lisa

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 14, 2012

      Lisa- check out Jon’s comment above and my reply… I use Analytics and the results across my sites vary greatly… I don’t think it matters.

  • Irwin

    Reply Reply May 14, 2012

    Nate –

    Golden content as always – thanks for the important information.

    I did notice that you’re using Market Samurai (MS) for your Top 10 analysis. A few months ago after all the changes in MS you mentioned you started to like Long Tail Pro (LTP) for your keyword analysis going forward.

    LTP also has a top 10 analysis function in their software but in the video/ blog post you used MS rather than LTP. Is there a reason for this? I had MS, but elected to get a refund and I used those funds to buy LTP so now (for the moment) all I have is LTP. Can I do the same type of analysis you did with MS in LTP? Should I re-purchase MS because their top 10 analysis is that much better? Let me know your thoughts – thanks.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 14, 2012

      Thanks Irwin. I use MS because it’s so much faster… that’s the main reason.

      I still have LTP and if I need to look at SEOTC in depth for something I’ll use LTP- but MS is just faster for looking at a lot of data quickly that I find myself using it 90% of the time.

      LTP does do what MS does, so whether you should get MS as well is completely up to you and if the speed is worth it.

  • Neill

    Reply Reply May 14, 2012

    Another outstanding post Nate. I just had another site disappear into the smoke, so not happy today. I may just
    have to break down and buy Market Samurai, something
    that I’ve been avoiding for quite awhile.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 15, 2012

      Thanks for reading Neill, glad you liked it.

  • Vin

    Reply Reply May 14, 2012

    This is awesome. I definitely believe that the main things we should be worrying about include:

    1) Anchor Text Diversity
    2) Backlink Velocity
    3) Buffer Sites

    The anchor text used for backlinking should be varied with exact match, partial match, unrelated, and unanchored keywords. Because “natural” links will have an endless amount of anchor text variations, you will want to make sure you don’t use any single keyword too many times.

    Backlink velocity is big. Building huge amounts of backlinks in a short amount of time is not natural. Google is now picking up on this and penalizing offenders. The goal is quality, not quantity.

    You’re totally right about Buffer Pages. I think everyone should rock these web 2.0 sites as much as possible. It may take longer, but it’s going to be worth it.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 15, 2012

      Thanks Vin!

  • Bob

    Reply Reply May 14, 2012

    Good Post. I will add this to the mix. Terry Kyle is pretty knowledgeable and the stuff he says about the relevancy of the content around the link back to your website makes sense to me.

    I think im going to stick to your “60 Minutes a day” perspective and worry about backlinking after 50+ maybe even 100 pages are on the site. Unless your recent experience has caused you to change your mind about this.

    The only other thing I have been thinking about experimenting with is using Edwin Boiten’s “WP Price Checker” plugin which builds a price comparison table from multiple affiliate programs not just Amazon, on the review pages of some sites. More as another safety precaution against Google than any other reason.


    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 15, 2012

      Bob- I haven’t seen that plugin, I’ll have to look into it. Thanks for reading.

      • Bob

        Reply Reply May 16, 2012

        Edwin Boiten has a number of inexpensive affiliate plugins that are variations on the Product Comparison one that you use. They are worth checking out.

        • Nate

          Reply Reply May 16, 2012

          Thanks Bob I’ll look into those.

  • Thanks for the post. I guess there’s no quick tricks anymore. Slow and steady wins the race!

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 15, 2012

      Definitely- slow and steady.

  • Logan L

    Reply Reply May 14, 2012

    Brilliant once again!!! Thanks Nate for your timely insight

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 15, 2012

      Thanks Logan- I appreciate it.

  • Gregory B

    Reply Reply May 14, 2012

    Good post. I like the fact that you say what is true. After the update no ones a guru So True.

    I am wondering , I like many have a load of websites (300-400 plus) all built for adsense and usually they have some affiliate marketing on them also. And like you mentioned the results vary across my sites based on the latest slaps etc etc .

    As background I have a load of autogenerated content sites that still rank very well so not sure what the true rules are as you say other than don’t build them fast. Funny part is I also have sub-domain sites that do better than some of my domain sites which every guru told me will never happen so that’s also why I like your advice from the real world experience , perspective style.

    So just wondering your thoughts- do you think it is worthwhile to go back and fix up the older sites that dropped due to I assume the slaps to meet some of the new criteria (are they recoverable)? or do you think its better to just move on, let domains expire etc and build out new sites with the new rules?

    Just wondering your thoughts on best ways to use ones time.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 15, 2012

      Gregory- Good question and it’s debatable. Some would say that a “slap” or penalty isn’t permanent, and to build more backlinks without related keywords in your anchor text to even out your link profile, and others would say the site won’t come back no matter what so you should put the content on a new domain…

      Personally I would wait it out and build more backlinks, because starting over will take months for new rankings anyways… and that’s assuming you can get it to rank.

  • Lisa

    Reply Reply May 15, 2012

    I always wondered why Amazon wasn’t top all the time with what must be thousands of links. However, any search right now shows them No 1.
    Great article. I love how you keep your finger on the pulse and share.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 15, 2012

      Thanks Lisa- glad you liked it.

  • Joe

    Reply Reply May 15, 2012

    Interesting stuff. I’m going through one of my main sites that got hit and changing the internal linking as nearly all 50 pages had a internal link back to the home page with the same exact match anchor text – doh!

    It worked up until the recent updates so don’t feel too silly but will go through and change them now.

    What about links on the side bar? When Google looks at a WordPress page or post does it also look at the side bar widget links? If so that would mean that each post/page has a link to another page using the same anchor text as each post/page has the same side bar widgets. Would this cause problems?

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 15, 2012

      Joe- that’s a deep enough question that I just don’t know. I don’t know what Google’s bots do as far as that.

      It wouldn’t make sense since almost every site is built that way.

  • Greg

    Reply Reply May 15, 2012

    Nice post Nate, really helpful.

    I think I have been hit, really new site only backlinking/bookmarking with socialmonkee. (all keyword anchor text/titles)

    My questions are this:

    – Do you see rankings fluctuate much in the early stages before they settle?

    – Also, have you experimented with duplicate content RECENTLY since the Penguin update (I know you discuss article syndication, etc in your latest WSO) I wondered if it would be possible to post duplicate content on web 2.0 sites, blogs to supplement a potential drop in the rankings for now?
    Basically replicate a site into a wordpress blog/squidoo lenses/hubpage pages/blogger blog/tumblr blog, etc.


    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 15, 2012

      Greg- Sites definitely fluctuate at first, rankings don’t solidify for months, and even then as we’ve seen there’s no guarantee.

      And yes, I think it’s a good idea to post a lot of your existing content into the authority domains like you mentioned.

  • webdunce

    Reply Reply May 15, 2012

    Good summary of everything I’ve been reading about Penguin.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 15, 2012

      Thanks for reading.

  • Thank you Nate, if nothing else it makes building a list even more of a ‘no brainer’ and making sure you always got a traffic supply on tap. Have to confess I’m still a bit stumped by the folks selling their SEO services when no one really seems to have a clue WTF is going on.

    • “no one really seems to have a clue WTF is going on”

      I didn’t quite mean that exactly but I hope you know what I mean : ) it’s all up in the air and liable to change again.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 18, 2012

      Alan- You’re right about building a list… most reliable traffic source there is. And I know what you mean about SEO- it is subject to change at any time.

  • Shelon

    Reply Reply May 17, 2012

    Hi, Nate! Very comprehensive tips you have shared here. From what I have read fro your post and from others, quality content and link diversity are 2 very important factors to consider to avoid being penalized by Google.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 18, 2012

      Shelon- Yeah that’s pretty much what it comes down to. Thanks for reading.

  • mike

    Reply Reply May 17, 2012

    Thanks for the video and post Nate. I recently built a site for a local business and right of the bat it took position 19 in Google it stayed there for 2 or 3 weeks then I got a fiverr gig for some diverse backlinking.

    As soon as the backlinks which were pointed str8 to the site started coming in it danced to postition 98, I left it for a month or so and now its back to #20. It is also an EMD and I’m sure with 30 or so directory links it will hit page 1 top 5 or better.

    last year I built a site with a new domain for another client and with in 2 weeks it topped Google with 10 or so directory links and has stayed on page 1 ever since and all with internal linking apart from the directory links.

    The site is also #2 on Google places for the clients area too, would you think this is still a viable way to do things this year ? I am going to give it a go anyway, what do you think ?


    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 18, 2012

      Mike- Yeah, directory links are safe for the most part. EMDs are still valuable and easier overall to rank than branded domains, but like I’ve said in other posts there are no absolutes. I have stuff all across the board with different results…

      And, if you’re setting up multiple sites experiment with different backlink sources to different sites to see what gets results and what doesn’t, but it sounds like you’re already onto something with the directory links.

  • Wally

    Reply Reply May 20, 2012

    Nate, you completely lost me with the internal linking in WordPress being easier with the latest version. I have 3.3.2 on my dev blog, and my links page doesn’t look like the image you posted. Are you sure that’s not an image of a plugin you use?

    And, in response to Joe’s question about blogroll links, the answer is nobody (well, I guess Google) knows. When the widget is rendered, there is a div created with a class of “blogroll”. We don’t know for sure if Google (or anyone else) treats that differently than something inside a div with a class of “post”.

    If you think about it, a blog with thousands of pages would be providing thousands of links to some targets because of the blogroll – resulting either in great backlinks for some target, or an “unnatural” linking pattern for the target.

    I happen to think Google’s robots are smart enough to know the difference between a blogroll and a post, but again – we don’t know.

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 21, 2012

      If you have Tiny MCEadvanced installed it automatically takes over the look of your link options window… It seems to only happens sometimes- sometimes the ‘advanced links’ options is checked by default and that does it.

      And as far as the blogroll stuff- your guess is as good as mine.

      • Wally

        Reply Reply May 22, 2012

        Thanks Nate, I’ll have to look into that.

  • Joseph Archibald

    Reply Reply May 21, 2012

    Late to the party here Nate, but thanks for this post – its insightful and nicely refreshing! Oh, and thanks for the mention too πŸ™‚

    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 21, 2012

      You’re welcome Joseph- thanks for reading.

  • Trent Dyrsmid

    Reply Reply May 21, 2012


    Wicked post mate. I’ve been toying with how to address the SEO shake up and haven’t posted yet because I didn’t have any hard conclusions. Instead, I’m going to publish a “round-up” article of the best posts I’ve found and will be including yours in it.


    • Nate

      Reply Reply May 21, 2012

      Thanks Trent- sounds good.

  • Bill Davis

    Reply Reply May 30, 2012

    Good stuff, Nate. One thing I have read, and it’s certainly plausible, is Google’s use of Google Webmaster Tools against a website owner.

    I know you talked a bit about that above…but it’s a commonality among many of the sites I’ve read about that got hit really hard.

    Not that they wouldn’t have found your sites eventually. They just may have used the info they knew about in GWT as a shortcut.

    Otherwise—link building is now about relevancy from respected sites, built in a variety of ways (comments, intext, articles, etc.), with a variety of anchor text. Deep link—don’t just get backlinks to the home page.

    Web 2.0 sites are perfect for the deep linking. Sites that are rocking are Google-owned sites like YouTube and Blogger, as well as the big names in social and web 2.0 like, twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.

  • Trung Nguyen

    Reply Reply May 30, 2012

    I have to say that this post is what I’m looking for a while, very interesting and helpful. πŸ™‚

  • Kasia

    Reply Reply May 31, 2012

    Great Post Nate. I find I come to this site as a go to resource from someone really down to earth and who presents that just works.

    I bought your wso on 100 dollar days by just adding a couple of pages a day. In that you outlined a process of adding lots of interesting content that was not keyword focused along with articles that were based on three degrees of relevance.

    It was an amazing wso but I bought it before all of this stuff with penguin. I was wondering if the sites that you build in this way withstood the penguin attack or just how did they fare. I really would like to know because it seemed that you offered a way out of constantly having to create back links but instead focus on creating engaging content.
    The other reason is that I’m on a list where the seo dude says we should avoid a lot of content and build small sites.
    I would like to challenge him but I don’t have the evidence in the wake of the penguin update

    Please fill me on this. I really liked the model you taught and do hope it works. I also wonder if including some curated content would help and then having a good autoresponder series to go with it. A course like that taught by you would do incredibly well, especially if you put it together. πŸ™‚

  • SEO Miami

    Reply Reply June 11, 2012

    Hey Admin,

    Your post is nice.

    You missed one more good website for traffic, i.e. Pinterest


  • koko

    Reply Reply October 8, 2012

    Hi…Nate thank you very much for the advice, my website has just undergone a penalty from google penguin couple weeks ago and then found the suggestion of your website. may all your advice worked and my website became crowded again.

    Sorry if my English was bad, I’m from Indonesia and I make this comment from google translate.
    thank you nate.

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