Link Building Pitfalls to Avoid in the Real-Time Penguin World

Let’s face it, Google’s Penguin 4.0 update can arguably be said to be the most anticipated algorithm update in recent times.
However, despite the spike in SERP movements over the past few days turning out not to be an early penguin release, it can be safe to say we’ll be welcoming Google’s Penguin algorithm soon, more than a year after the last official, Penguin 3.0 update.

Like all algorithmic refreshes, this Penguin update will also be significant in a whole lot of ways, and the biggest news is the fact that it will be a real-time Penguin as confirmed by Google.

There will be gains recorded by webmasters and SEO consultants who have abided by Google’s rules of engagement, cleaned up their link profiles, and with the disavow tool, have ‘vowed to go forth and sin no more.’ However, for those who might have defaulted on ‘Google’s path of righteousness,’ there will be consequences.

Link profile? Errm, yes! Backlinks remain a very integral part of SEO and search engine results. Therefore, keeping a solid and robust link profile is a lifeline that could make or mar your successes on the online stage.

The following are critical link-building pitfalls to avoid to be seen in a positive light by search engines and stay safe from the upcoming real-time Penguin in 2016.

Opting For Quantity Links over Quality Links

For those in the know, this might sound obvious. However, many people still believe their link-building successes depend solely on the number of links rather than the quality of the platforms from where they are building such links. Still doubting? A quick ‘link building’ search on Fiverr will provide a ton of results from merchants promising even up to 20 000 links for $5.

Amigo, if it were to be that easy, don’t you think everyone would be ranking on the first page in search results? In fact, this is the quickest way to put your site on the Penguin algorithm rather. In order to avoid this link building pitfall, you must target links from websites that pass a wide range of metrics checklist such as:

  • Domain Authority
  • Domain Age
  • LRT Power*Trust
  • User Engagement, etc.

Favoring Self-promotion over Real Value in Content

This is one link-building pitfall that is really easy to fall for. We all know the benefits of keyword optimization and anchor texts, I get it too.

However, it is 2016, and it is no longer news that Google and other search engines prefer natural patterns when it comes to links – even better when those natural patterns provide value to users – those who are seen to be of paramount importance.

Therefore, it is important that pieces of content aren’t just farmed out for external publications from a promotional point of view but from valuable, informative, and educative perspectives.

Asides, the fact that it will help guarantee you as an authority within your niche, it will also increase the chances of gaining natural backlinks from those who’d be glad to quote you as a source to help their audience or visitors.

Focusing Solely on External Links over Internal Links

Unfortunately, many sites are still unconsciously missing out on the benefits of internal linking. They believe that only external links matter when it comes to link building, and this is just wrong.

Why commit yourself to this link-building pitfall of solely seeking external links when you can help users to properly navigate your site, enhance your site architecture while at the same time spreading some valuable link juice throughout your site?

How do you optimize your internal links in this regard? There are several ways to properly link internally across your platform, but you might want to begin the basic and obvious by creating a lot of valuable content.


In these pieces of content, you can try the best practices of linking, such as:

  • Using contextually relevant anchor texts where applicable
  • Linking deep across your site
  • Using a reasonable amount of links in the body of each piece of content.
  • Plus, you have the liberty to make all your links do-follow – why not take advantage?

For more on this, check out Neil Patel’s 7 Commandments of Internal Linking to get a better picture.

Building Links from Irrelevant Niches

How do you think a professor of law would perform lecturing an engineering class? I also wonder what the Penguin algorithm’s ‘answer’ would be if posed with this question.

This year, you might want to focus on building more niche-related links rather than building links from just any niche where you are able to get a link. If, for example, you operate in the fitness industry, building links shouldn’t make sense to you in the casino niche; the same way, it wouldn’t make sense to the algorithm.


However, it is still possible to build links from complementary niches as long as there is a strong relevance. In this case of the fitness niche, building a link on a motivational blog won’t be far-fetched.

Topics such as “How CrossFit Can Inspire You to Achieve Your Life Goals in 2016” perfectly make sense in this regard.

Too Many Uniform Anchor Text over Variety

Variety, they say, is the spice of life…

For your anchor texts to be seen as natural, they need to vary, be diversified, and even be an assortment of different keywords. For example, do you think Google would see your link profile as natural when you have the same uniform keyword in each anchor text and linking to the very same pages?

If your links were to be natural, they would have been built by different individuals who do not have the same mindset. Therefore, using the same anchor texts, linking to the same page each time is just a possibility with a very low probability ratio. Ensure you stay safe from Penguin this year – make your anchor texts an assortment targeting a variety of words in English. Also, it’s important not to focus solely on do-follow links alone; introduce some no-follow links as well.

Irregular and Massive Link Velocity over a Short Period

Too much of everything is bad, so the saying goes! When a website or blog that used to get just a couple of links a month starts getting tons of links a day, this might be suspicious from the perspective of the Penguin.

Fine, it is understandable in the beautiful event of a valuable piece of content going viral and attracting huge volumes of natural traffic and backlinks. However, when these patterns are not natural, and the links prove to be solely for link building alone, then there will be Penguin concerns.

Even though links are very important and critical, anything short of natural patterns will make you liable to penalties, which you don’t really want anyway. Ensure your links are within reason and spread out over a given period. This way, it could appear you’ve suddenly picked up a new positive habit which is sending the natural, valuable, and contextual links your way.

Excessive and Irrelevant Linking

Well, you might be doing everything right by creating valuable and original pieces of content and getting published on top platforms. Sometimes, however, we link a ‘little’ too much…

There’s nothing wrong with linking back to your platform or pages within the body of your pieces of content. What is wrong, however, is when you stuff the whole piece of content with links directed to your site. This doesn’t help you better in any more than when you link moderately; rather, it only entraps you into this link-building pitfall, and who knows who might just come calling?

Penguin, anyone?

Buying Links

I wouldn’t even mention this, except for the fact that I still come across many bloggers and websites (not mentioning Fiverr opportunities, of course) still charging for links (fortunately, I’ve come across fewer and fewer offers for reciprocal links, so I won’t focus on this even though some still do it and shouldn’t).

At least, I’m convinced they wouldn’t remain in business if they don’t have a market – according to the basic law of demand and supply. One thing about the purchase of links is the fact that it goes to anybody who can afford it, and this itself should be a red flag. Do I need to mention the possibility of getting a backlink to your site, but which might also invite Penguin?

Link building still works and only requires effort and creative strategies. There are still a lot of ways to provide value, build relationships, and earn natural backlinks – all without falling prey to a link-building pitfall.

Brief Takeaway and Example towards a Natural Pattern

  • Create a blog or knowledge base for your site if you already don’t have one
  • Create quality and original pieces of content that create value. This will also help your personal branding.
  • Build relationships across your niche and industry
  • Set goals towards your link building target
  • Employ an effective outreach strategy to guest post quality content on the quality platforms you’ve built relationships with
  • Moderately and contextually link back to your website in the body of these pieces of content.

Obvious Link Building…

Huh? What’s he been saying all along?

In actual fact, Google and other search engines do not want or expect you to build links at all. Building links yourself is therefore seen as some act of attempting to manipulate search results, and it comes with dire consequences in the form of the Penguin and penalties.

However, there’s no denying the critical importance that links provide, but they won’t just build themselves to your site, except your brand is already out there and can build links naturally such as CNN – see? They just got a link right there?

Exactly why I’d like to see this as some sort of carrot and stick kind of approach, which needs to be threaded on with great care.

This is where link building in the most natural of ways come in – building relationships and providing value through informative, educative, inspiring, challenging, and even disruptive pieces of content.


Especially unique link-building strategies that won’t let you fall prey to the link-building pitfalls and real-time Penguin in 2016.

As the saying goes, link building is sweat plus creativity!