Safe Link Building with the 3 Golden Rules

Google has been fighting low quality link building for over a decade, and since the Google Penguin update (April 2012) they’ve increased their efforts to eliminate tactics that they feel manipulate their algorithm.

If you’re going to execute an SEO strategy in 2014 or beyond, you and your SEO team need to understand what tactics you should avoid. At Eyeflow we’ve created the 3 golden rules of link building in order to ensure each strategy will align with Google’s link scheme guidelines.

3 Golden Rules of Link Building

  1. Links should be earned. A link should be added to a page because your site or content deserves to be there. Does your site or content really belong on the page?
  2. Links should be editorial in nature. A link should be on the page because it’s helping the visitor find information they are potentially seeking.
  3. Links should be relevant. Links should be relevant to the page they are found on. If it’s a page about finding an attorney and there’s a link to cheap laptops. That doesn’t seem very relevant.

Sure ways to get a link penalty.

google link building penalty graph
Hidden Links – Avoid sneaking a link into page. If you find yourself trying to find ways to get links from a site and have no intent of telling that site about the link, then stop right there.

Automated Programs – If you ever get an offer to utilize software to build links automatically, decline that offer. These programs are typically built to exploit security holes on other websites. The links may also be placed on a large network of low-quality sites owned by the software developer.

Footer/Template Links – The most common occurance of this type of link building is when a web design company puts a link to their site in the footer of their customer’s website. Google doesn’t want you to acquire a lot of links because you built it into the template of someone’s site.

Buying Links – Going back to Rule 1 of the Golden Rules of Link Building… you should not get a link on a page simply because you paid the webmaster. The link should be earned, not purchased. An example of an earned link would be providing the webmaster with content or information that will be valuable to their audience. A paid link is typically goes something like this: I’ll give you $500/month if you put a link here.

Anchor Text Abuse – If you’re manually picking the text that will be used in the links pointing to your site, then you’re on your way to a Google link penalty. This does not follow our Golden Rules whatsoever.

Can be done if done right.

Link Exchanges

Wrong: If you find yourself in a “I’ll link to you if you link to me” situation ask yourself if that link would ever be relevant to the visitor of that site.

Right: If you have business partners it could be beneficial to link to each other. Just make sure it still follows the Golden Rules. Also avoid any network of sites which participate in excessive link exchanging.

Article Marketing

Article marketing was once seen as a very ethical and effective way to increase rankings. Google has since changed its stance on this practice and now if done incorrectly it can lead to a Google penalty.

Wrong: Writing a low-quality article, submitting it to a series of different article directories like or, and picking your own optimized keyword anchor text (or link text).

Google provides an example of this:

Links with optimized anchor text in articles or press releases distributed on other sites. For example: There are many wedding rings on the market. If you want to have a wedding, you will have to pick the best ring. You will also need to buy flowers and a wedding dress.

Right: Writing high quality articles and working with a trusted third party website to get it published. Then leaving it up to the editor of that site to link to you in the way they feel adds value to their audience.

Advertisement Links

Advertisement links can be a very effective way to drive relevant referral traffic to your website, but Google doesn’t want to count those links towards your organic rankings.

Wrong: Having paid banners and links pass PageRank.

Right: Nofollow your paid banners and links so they do not pass PageRank.

Press Releases

Wrong: Just like Article Marketing, Google doesn’t want you hand picking your own optimized anchor text for your press release links.

Right: Only use brand name or URL links instead of optimizing the links with keywords.


Wrong: Submitting to dozens or even hundreds of directories. A few years ago this was even recommended in Google’s guidelines, but since then they have changed their stance.

Right: Only submitting to authoritative directories like with branded link text.

Social Bookmarking

Wrong: Submitting to a lot of low-quality bookmarking sites.

Right: Only submitting high-quality content to authoritative bookmarking sites that have active communities like

Forum or Blog Comments

Wrong: Writing comments on blogs or forums with optimized anchor text as your name or signature.

Right: Contributing to active discussions on blogs and communities that are relevant to you without doing it just to get an optimized link but to connect with like-minded individuals.


The days of “link building” are over. Instead you should be focused on “link earning” and participating on sites that have more benefits beyond getting PageRank juice. The funny thing is if you focus on the first part, it will now lead to better SEO than chasing links and PageRank will ever do.

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Director of Operations|Director of Operations at Eyeflow Internet Marketing Chris has been involved in digital marketing since 2005 and has performed hundreds of SEO audits. He's also presented at local Pittsburgh events on various SEO topics.

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