The Ultimate Guide to Smart Link Building After Penguin 4.0


I’ve seen many bloggers writing about how to do link building, some of them are good, others are not, but what most of them have in common is that they talk about black hat links at some point.

After some time I’ve decided to write this guide about link building because, after all, this is what has worked for me.

link building seo

Note: If you still don’t know what’s SEO, I recommend you check out this article from Expresstest.

My Link Building Case Study

The guide you are going to read is based on real facts.

Before starting with Passive Income Wise, I created a bunch of sites.

I’ve been learning and testing until I found the best backlink strategy. A strategy which has been proven to work.

The image below shows the results for one of my site-niches.

In only 3 months I managed to increase my organic traffic x15.

case study link building

If you want to create your own web, I created a tutorial that will help you start your own blog in 10 minutes.

How Did I Increase My Organic Traffic x15?

As part of my marketing strategy, during the first few months, I focused on creating top-quality content.

In September 2015 I started creating backlinks pointing to my niche site (my money site). This is shown in the top screenshot.

It took only 3 weeks to start showing results. Since September I kept constant creating links.

In this post, you will discover all my secrets.

You will be able to follow step by step how and what did I do to build my own backlinks. Backlinks which made me rank 1st in Google for my given keyword.

But before starting, you might what to know want is link building.

What Is Link Building?

Link building is the process of acquiring backlinks from any other sites to your own. Users navigate between pages on the internet through links.

Link building is one of the most difficult parts on a SEO campaign.

SEO is always changing and building high-quality links now is more important than ever.

Understanding and implementing high-quality campaigns is mandatory if you want to boost your online business to the next level.

The Structure Of A Hyperlink

To understand the importance of link building, first, you need to know the basics and structure of how links are created.

Below you will see how search engines see links:

structure of an hyperlink

  1. Start of a link tag. It opens the link tag. It tells search engines that a link to something will proceed.
  2. Link referral. It’s compound of “href” (hyperlink referral) and the URL to which the link is pointing.
  3. Anchor text. This is the text that users see on the page. It’s where the user needs to click to open the link. It’s generally marked in a different colour or with an underline.
  4. Closure of link tag. It tells search engines that there is nothing else related to this hyperlink.

What You Will Learn

  • How to choose the best anchor text.
  • Where to build your links.
  • Where should your backlinks land.
  • How to leave your backlinks.
  • How to do natural link building.
  • BONUS1: When to do tier link building.
  • BONUS2: How to Eliminate Toxic Backlinks.

With this tutorial, you will be able to apply a smart link building strategy without putting on risk your website to be penalised by Google Penguin. No more black hat links.

If you follow the recommended strategies, you will be able to sleep peacefully knowing that your website will not be penalised.

Even more, I can guarantee you that you will be able to rank for your keywords in Google first page.

This method takes time but it’s safe and effective.

Google Penguin 4.0

With the recent updates in the Google algorithm, one of the most popular strategies used during old times is starting to be penalised.

It’s not possible to leave the majority of our links with the keyword we are targeting to rank.

If you wanted to rank  for the keyword “soft cheap carpets”, you’d like your anchor text to be “soft cheap carpets”.

Creating 100 backlinks with all of them having your main keyword “soft cheap carpets” you could rank higher in Google within days.

Unfortunately, this is not working anymore, Google doesn’t like shortcuts and in April 2012 Google Penguin was born.

In September 2016, Penguin 4.0 was released and many websites have been deindexed from Google. One of the main reasons is because of the anchor text.


When you build links and use the same anchor text, Google detects it and penalise it. Following Google Webmaster Guidelines, Google penalised websites with artificial (no natural) backlinks.

You will agree with me when I point out that using the same anchor text will trigger Google alarms, right?

Google launched the Penguin Update in April 2012 to better catch sites deemed to be spamming its search results, in particular, those doing so by buying links or obtaining them through link networks designed primarily to boost Google rankings.

The game has changed, and with it, the rules. The strategy to follow now is different, it will require a little bit more of time and programming, but will be as easy as before.

Anchor Text Heterogeneity

The anchor text of the links that point back to your site using your primary keyword should be around 20-30% of the time.

Modify your anchor text using secondary keywords. It’s better to explain it with an example.

For example, if your website is about “cheap electronic devices” (, the anchor texts that you should use to link your website should be:

1. Brand Anchor Text

You need to use your brand name when creating backlinks. For the example we are using it should be:

  • Cheapy Tech

  • Tech Cheapy

2. Domain

Another way of creating safe anchor texts is using your domain, for example:


There are many other combinations you can find and use with your anchor text.

3. Keywords

Of course, you need to use your keywords, but you also need to include synonyms to make it look more natural.

  • cheap electronic devices

  • cheap electronic accessories

  • economical electronic devices

  • low-cost electronic devices

  • electronic low-priced devices

4. Combine keywords with brand name

Use your keywords combined with your brand name or domain, more or less like this:

  • cheap electronic devices cheapytech

5. Keyword in sentence

Most of the keywords are having 2 or 3 words. Leave anchor texts with exactly 2 or 3 words could sound a little bit weird.

To make it more natural is recommended to link your website with a sentence containing your keyword.

cheap electronic devices

In this example, the keyword “cheap electronic devices” is in the sentence.

Linking with a complete sentence is fine with internal linking but as a backlink anchor it may be a bit too much, I wouldn’t do it too often.

6. Standard

You also need to use the typical anchor text.

  • Website

  • Read more

  • Click here

They are used by most of the people and they make it look more natural.

When choosing the density of the anchor text between the six types I mentioned before, I recommend you to use 1 and 2 as often as you can. If you leave backlinks in high Domain Authority sites use 3 and 4. I personally hardly ever use keywords in sentences.

Moz recommends that 25% of your anchor texts should be category URL (your domain, described in point 2) and 17% as your brand name (Cheapy Tech described in point 1)

distribution anchor text moz

Why all of this is important?

Mainly because of two reasons: it looks natural and you are telling Google that you’re a real brand.

Google falls in love with brands. Big websites like Wikipedia or Reddit are always on the first page for almost all the high-volume keywords.

Use Long Tail Keywords For Your Anchor Texts

Google wants you to earn links naturally. Long tail keywords will help you to create natural links.

Let’s suppose your website is “” and the keyword you are trying to rank for is “best safety razor”.

Following the anchor text guidelines described above, you would consider anchor text variation as:

  • Use of the URL:
  • Use the website name: Best Safety Razor
  • Keywords combination: safety razor best, top safety razor
  • Standard: click here, more info, read more

Modifying your anchor text like that will work, but after some time, you will run out of ideas for the keyword diversity.

Long Tail Pro As My First Choice For Anchor Text Generation

With Long Tail Pro you can go to the next level.

The list of suggested keywords that Long Tail Pro gives when you introduce your main keyword make awesome anchor texts.

In the example from above, here are some results I obtained using Long Tail Pro:

long tail pro keywords

Using Long Tail Pro, I’ve got a great list with more than 100 keywords I can use for anchor text that looks natural.

You also should include some of these keywords on the page you’re trying to rank for too. This will help you to rank higher for the targeted long tail keywords.

If you want to try Long Tail Pro, now there is a 10-day trial version for only $1.

You can sign up for 10 days and cancel afterwards. If you only want to do keyword research to find hundreds of anchor texts, the trial version is enough.

1$ Trial for 10 Days

You can cancel it anytime after your 10 days of trial.

My Real Example

The screenshot shows the traffic Acquisition from google Analytics from one of my niches.

my real backlink building example

As you can see, most of the traffic is coming from organic search (Google).

Long Tail Pro has helped me a lot to develop this site to where it is right now. Keyword research applied to content generation and anchor text diversity are two main factors to receive organic traffic.

Organic traffic has also lead to other types of traffic. People who like my site has bookmarked (Direct traffic) and shared it (Social traffic).

Backlinks not only boosted my SERP, they also brought 25,000 visitors in the last year (Referral traffic).

Try Long Tail Pro


Sitelinks are created by Google to help users navigate your website.

They look like the links shown below some of Google’s search results.

By linking to your website using your brand name as an anchor text, you can show Google that you’re a real brand.

For example, one of my own websites, Beathem, has many backlinks with brand name anchors, like “beathem” or ““. And that’s the reason why Google shows site links when you search for beathem.

beathem web results

Sitelinks are good. Google shows site links for those websites which are considered as real brands.

Where to build your links?

When doing backlinking, not everything is valid. You need to find sites related to your niche. This will give more value and weight to your backlink. So, where to leave your link? To make it simple, I’ve summarised it in 3 steps.

#1 Sites Directly Related To Your Niche.

These backlinks are the most valued ones, they are the most difficult to get too.

Sites with similar niche are competitors, and getting backlinks from competitors is in most cases difficult. In our example about “cheap electronic devices”, we want a backlink from another “electronic devices” site.

#2 Sites Indirectly Related To Your Niche.

Websites no directly related to your niche, but they keep a certain relationship. In our example, we are talking about websites with gadgets, music or video games. Getting backlinks from this kind of websites helps to make it more natural.

In my example, we are talking about websites with gadgets, music or video games.

Getting backlinks from this kind of websites helps to make it more natural.

#3 Contextualised Sites.

Websites with high Domain Authority (DA), no related with our niche, but having an article talking about your niche linking your site.

For example, on a website about how parents should educate kids, there is an article talking about what kind of rewards parents should give to kids when they have a good behaviour.

The article suggests when giving rewards to kids and what kind, and then, they mention our website (following our suggestion) to buy cheap tablets for kids.

This is a contextualised link because this article is talking about education and kids, and introducing a link to our website will add SEO value.

You need to avoid certain websites, all of them which are not related (either directly or indirectly) to your niche and/or you have not been able to contextualise.

Pay particular attention to authority sites having a lot of external links, some of them could harmful and not related to your niche.

How To Detect Penalised Websites?

Websites penalised by Google are dangerous and you should avoid them.

If you have the feeling that certain website has been penalised you can use Semrush.

If you see that organic visits are decreasing dramatically… it’s better not leaving a link. It’s also convenient to check if the website is indexed.

semrush penalised niche site

The graph on top is an example of a website which has lost traffic due to a penalty.

It has been taken from Semrush. It’s very easy to check, you just need to type the domain you want to check after you sign in.

You don’t need to register in order to use Semrush, but if you sign up for free you will be able to unlock extra features which will help you to check the right sites to leave your links.

Try SEMRush For Free

How Do You Know What Is a Quality Link?

Not all backlinks are equal. Some backlinks won’t improve your search rankings at all, in fact, some might even have a negative impact.

What makes a backlink high quality is a combination of factors listed below.

It’s unrealistic to expect your backlinks have all these criteria, but as long as it ticks a few of these factors, they will be considered high quality links.

#1 Links From a Relevant Source

Google aims to provide relevance every time they display search results. A relevant source is any website that talks about similar stuff than yours.

Your backlinks can be relevant if the overall relevance of the linking site, specific page or even directory are present.

You want to link your “dog training” site with others talking about “dog training”, “pets”, or for example “cat training”.

#2 Links From A Trusted Source

In order to determine if a website is trustworthy, Google uses a database of trusted sites, for example, The New York Times, Wikipedia, BBC, EDU sites, etc.

In this image, you will have a visual of what do I mean by a trusted link.

what is a trusted link

This is measured with the TrustRank. The higher is the TrustRank of a site, the higher the quality of the link.

Sites with low bounce rates and high average time on site are also considered trustworthy.

Here you can check the TrustRank of any website.


#3 Links Next To Authority Sites

Authority sites are high quality websites that are respected by knowledgeable people in its industry.

It is a website that has content on it that is so good and makes the site so useful that people are actually glad they landed on it and want to share it with their friends.

In order words, high quality links come from high quality sites. Easy, right?


To make it even easier, I listed a series of metrics which will help you see whether or not a site is an authority site.

Metrics To Know What Is An Authority Site


Where should your backlinks land?

A very common practice is to link everything to your home page. Many small businesses rank their keywords in the home page, but this practice is strongly penalised, it doesn’t look natural to link only to the homepage. My recommendation is to link to other internal pages/posts of your website. By doing it, you will give more variety to your links and therefore provide more strength to your internal pages. You will improve the ranking of the internal pages , thus, affecting directly to the overall rank of your site.

How to leave your backlinks?

We’ve already talked about where to leave your links, what anchor text you should use and where should they land, now is the turn to explain how to leave your backlinks.

Basically what I want to explain here is that it’s better to leave backlinks in pages with long content, this will provide more value to your website. By long content I understand pages with at least 800 words, this doesn’t mean that pages with less than 800 words are low-quality pages, but it’s a factor to consider. Remember: length is strength. Perhaps you already know, but long content smashing short blog posts. By using BuzzSumo you can check how length affects to social shares, even for the particular posts you want to have your link in.

You also can use images when leaving links, of course modifying the anchor text. Don’t make the typical action of registering in a forum, leave your link in your profile and then leave, you need to participate in the forum too, making it looks more natural.

Here is where most of the people struggle during the link building, many think that the importance resides in the number of backlinks but what is important in fact is the quality of them.

What would you prefer, 100 low-quality backlinks or 5 high-quality ones in relevant places?

I would choose the high-quality backlinks. It will take almost the same time building those 100 spammy backlinks than to get 5 links from authority sites and the results will be very different.

Consistency when building links

You need to be NATURAL when building backlinks. It’s not normal to receive a peak of links every Monday just because it’s the day you schedule in your diary to work on link building. It’s important to distribute your backlink tasks over the whole week and if you have an average of 100 links/month, try to keep that average of links. It doesn’t need to be exactly the same every month.

what I’m trying to say is that it doesn’t look natural if during February you get 30 links, in March 10,000 and then in April 50. Google is an expert in finding activities, this means peaks and they could put a penalty on your site if they realise it.

Use link pyramids carefully (tiered link building)

Link pyramids have been used for tier link building since long time back. They can give really good results, but they can be dangerous as well. When building a link pyramid, tier 1 and tier 2 are generally taken care of, but from tier 3 and following levels, all the links are spam and very low quality. Spam links (tier 3) will lead to Tier 2 which leads to Tier 1 which leads to your money site.

tier link building

Google is clever and the more famous your site will be, the more eyes you will have on it. If your intention is to create an authority site, I would never recommend building a link pyramid, sooner or later you will get caught.

However, if you opt or already have a link pyramid, you need to be careful with all tiers in the pyramid, from tier 3 to your money site. After all, they are indirectly pointing to your website.

If you are starting a website and you don’t know whether to build your own link pyramid or not, ask yourself: “what kind of website am I gonna create?”. If the answer corresponds to any of the business models pointed below, it worth to build a link pyramid.

 1# Seasonal business

For example, in 2018 will be the World Cup in Russia. If you want to be rank 1 in Google with everything related to the World Cup, it’s recommended to build a tiered link building pyramid. Once the World Cup is finished, your site which has been created with the sole purpose of this event will cease to be visited. So, you will not be bothered if it’s penalised after all.

#2 Micro-niches

The purpose of a micro-niche is to rank high for a keyword, write content, do some SEO and go ahead with another microniche. So far, creating link pyramids are perfect for this model of business. It doesn’t take a lot of time to build and you can rank high for a long time. You don’t attract much attention because it’s not an authority site and the risk of getting caught is low. Plus, even in the unfortunate case that you get caught and you receive a penalty, it’s a micro-niche and after all it’s just a small portion of your business.

TIP!$1 trial for 10 days of Long Tail Pro for keyword research and create a micro-niche.

#3 Micro-Sites

You can create additional sites around your main “money site”. These micro-sites don’t link directly to your website, but they sell your products or services. You can create link pyramids for micro sites but I would never recommend going beyond tier 2, and only with high-quality backlinks.

Eliminate toxic backlinks

If you have the feeling that you did something wrong in the past, there is a link which you believe is not helping your website to rank higher or simply somebody is doing negative SEO to your site, it’s convenient to eliminate those toxic backlinks manually.

  1. If the website is owned by you, delete them directly.
  2. If the website is not owned by you, contact the webmaster to ask politely to delete those links you believe are affecting negatively your SEO.
  3. At last instance and only when you can’t eliminate links by using 1 or 2, you can use Google tool to disavow links. Please, be very objective when using this tool because if you ask to disavow a series of links but they see that you have other links (that you like) which don’t comply with Google standards they will delete them as well.

Deleting toxic backlinks is something you need to do periodically, otherwise, after few months it can be a painful task and a headache.

Keep an eye on your competitors

It’s important to monitor your competitors in order to get high-quality links. Keep an eye to each of the keywords they are ranking, research what kind of strategies they are implementing and analyse how many backlinks they are getting every month and where are they coming from. Try to get backlinks from those sites as well.

What I normally do is to create an Excel spreadsheet with all my direct competitors and once a month scan their websites with Moz or Ahrefs (they offer a 14 days trial which deserves to be tried). I copy and paste all the new backlinks for the last month and then go one by one analysing them.

What kind of marketing strategies are they doing and which ones are giving better results? It’s possible that one of your competitors have created an event or video and as a consequence of such as action they went viral. Viral content gets lots of backlinks and it’s something we would like to have as much as possible.

If you are thinking about starting your own blog, I created a tutorial-guide that will help you start your own blog for cheap, You need very little investment, starting at only $3.95 per month (this deal is only through my link) for blog hosting. Additionally, you will get a free blog domain (valued at $12-15) through my Bluehost link, only if your purchase is for at least 12 months of blog hosting. My recommendation is for you to be self-hosted. This is important if you want to monetize your blog because your website will look more professional.


About Francisco Anes 89 Articles
Francisco Anes is a personal finance blogger who loves blogging and spending time with his family. He works from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday but his dream is to reach financial freedom. On his blog, he writes about saving money, budgeting, pay off debt and making money blogging. Francisco lives with his family in Cambridge, UK.


  1. Hi Francisco,

    I had read this article some time ago, and recently saw it on Reddit so thought I would have a s second look. While the article teaches the basics very well and also touches on some advanced (to me) topics, I was expecting the buildup to culminate in the actual ‘link-building’ part. How did you increase your traffic 15x? Was it guest posting, blog commenting, PBNs, something else? I guess this article would become a real super guide if you could talk about those things also.

    Btw, some of the images seem to be broken – they don’t load.


    • Hey PiiGirl,

      I recently made some changes on this post (this is version 2.0) and currently I am working in the version 3.0 which I will publish sometime early October.

      Version 1.0 was the one you read some time ago I believe, this version has double of content compared to the version 1.0.

      For the version 3.0 I will include much more explanation with real examples of how I multiplied x15 my traffic, but just to give you some hints, it was a bit of everything, but mainly since I purchased Long Tail Pro everything changed for me. =)

      Thank you for the comment on the images. I fixed them.

      Two days ago I had a problem with the blog and I restored a backup, unluckily many images got broken and it took some time to fix them. I didn’t notice that some were missing here.

      See ya!

    • Francisco, you definitely get props: not only for authoring such a detailed post, but also for actually putting in the time to have gained the experience of applying your SEO knowledge. I cannot throw a stone at that.

      But honestly homeboy, I agree with @Piigirl. While theoretically you were a big help, I kept waiting to read how you went about gaining your referral links via outreach – and nothing happened.

      I don’t say this to criticize, but to inform. Those of us above the rank amateur category would like to see a little more meat on the bone (ahem! Specific tactics).

      All in all, outstanding work!

    • You already got the traffic which is more difficult to obtain, and one of the ones that better pay.
      If you want to rank in India, you will need to find keywords used in India. Also, blog commenting and forum post in websites which rank in India will help.
      I assume the language is English, otherwise use the language spoken in India.

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