Zoo-Proof Link-Building in 2013

Pandas got you down?  Penguins gnawing at your website? SEO is tougher than ever in 2013, now that almost every link-building scheme that once was useful at best and useless at worst has now become a gigantic kick in the pants.

Directory submissions? No.

Blog comments?  No.

Article submissions?  No.

Link exchanges? No.

Paid links? No.

What’s a poor webmaster to do?

The good news is that it’s simple.  The bad news is that it is not easy! That is because quantity is out and quality is in.  That means…automation is out and manual is in.

Gone with the brawn, in with the brains.  Here is what you need.


You need lots of difference sources and types of sources of links.   The zoo gets boring if all the animals are the same, and the penguins and pandas do not like boring zoos!

Directories?  Well, a few good quality directories – especially niche directories and local directories for local businesses – are actually a good thing.

Blog comments?  Yes, well-thought out and substantive (not spammy) comments on real blogs in your niche are very good sources of links.

Article submissions?  Actually, unique articles (ones you submit only to that one directory) on top article directories like GoArticles, EzineArticles and Amazines are a great source of links.

Link exchanges?  Personally vetted exchanges between two sites in the same niche or the same town can be very effective, not just with the search engines, but with referrals (so you want to vet them for quality).  You don’t have to trade links with competitors, just with others in similar businesses (like car washes exchanging with car dealerships exchanging with car parts stores exchanging with driveway pavers, for instance).

Paid links.  Indeed, these could be – I am informed that I am legally required to tell you that these are evil under all circumstances.  Use common sense.  It is pretty rare that it is worth the payment, even without the risk, for a paid link.

a penguin walking next to pool


Surprise!  There are almost no types of links that are bad.

Did you notice that all the types of links that have been discredited are actually still worthwhile when done manually and focusing on quality?

Unique articles.  Thoughtful blog comments. Niche directories. Vetted, relevant link exchanges.

What they also have in common is that they all have to be done manually.  They all take effort and time.  Automation is the road to Hades.

If ever there was a lazy road to SEO nirvana, there is none now.  If you don’t take the time to care for each animal, you’ll have a zoo full of dead animals…and the penguins and pandas do not like zoos full of dead animals.

A Few Favorites

We all have our favorites.  I love Malay Tapirs and Giraffes, as well as Toucans and Poison Dart Tree Frogs.

When it comes to SEO, I very much like guest blogging.  It might just be because I am a blabbermouth, but it also gives me a direct line to readers of someone else’s blog.  Like you.  And good quality links.  Again, the uniqueness of the content and the quality of the host blog are what really count.  For instance, the following email message I received is not an opportunity:

 “We have many websites for paid, permanent link building & guest blog posting. We have list of websites of all the themes & with good back links.”

These are obviously not successful blogs with top quality content, real visitors, real comments, real social sharing and…well, the search engines can sniff out a phony at least as well as you and I can.

I love social bookmarking.  No, not the 1000 social bookmarks for $99 type of social bookmarking.  That is simply a submission service, also known as s-p-a-m.  I man submitting and promoting, voting and commenting on other people’s submissions.  In other words, networking.

I love social sharing, like on Twitter and StumbleUpon.  If your content is truly amazing, other people will spread it for you and they will do all the dirty work of building your links.  Yeah!

In general, my favorites are those link-building techniques that make sense with or without the search engines.

a panda eating bamboo


Which brings us to attitude.  Did I mention quality once or twice in this post?  And you might be wondering how good is good enough.

Uh-oh – if you are thinking that way – trying to do the least you can get away with – you have already lost the battle.

Read again that last paragraph about social sharing.  See the word “amazing”?

If you don’t put every ounce of effort possible to win Gold, why would you enter the Olympics?

Do you think that any other attitude will win against your SEO competitors?

You should never ask, “How good is good enough?”  You should always ask, “How good can I make it?”

So variety, quality, some well-planned techniques and a winning attitude are what it takes to win the SEO game in 2013.

The penguins and pandas will love you.  They will hug you.  And they might not even give you a wedgie on your birthday.

You have what it takes.

Are you prepared to make it happen?

Image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

About David Leonhardt

David Leonhardt is an Ottawa-based SEO consultant who has successfully been navigating the changing search engine algorithms for over a decade.  He runs THGM SEO website promotion.  Catch him on Twitter at @Amabaie.


  1. David, I’ve been wondering if those directories still work for links. I like how you show bookmarking is not purchasing them but being active on social sites. I think it’s all about making connections online via comments, sharing, etc.
    Guest posting too can help to generate more readers to your blog.
    Nice tips, thanks!

  2. You are right. Too many software developers have tried to trick Google in the past, and their customers got unfair advantages. Although this method seems to be harder, it looks much fairer to me. It still takes time until customers will realize that shortcuts do not work any more.

  3. Muhammad Reaz says:

    I already faced some peoples who are using software and selling bookmarking and many things. great post share it here. Thanks.

    • after the updates of panda and penguin one thing is quite clear offsite SEO is really a tough job and not responsive if not handled cleverly..a variety of links which comprise of all will be helpful instead of at once targeting only one source of links

  4. Makes sense. Thanks for sharing your experience. I always afraid to be penalized by Panda, and it takes me a great effort to pay more attention to all the details. I like you humor in the post! Very refreshing.

  5. It’s really all about relationships when it comes to the blogosphere. The more you are connected, the more people you get to know, the more people that gets to know you.

  6. Good to read this exceptional link building post!
    Happy about the favorites and will do the same, thanks for writing!

  7. Hi David.. I guess you have nailed everything here on your post. In this zoo era, it is better to be careful if you are creating backlinks. As of now, I stay away from paid links and poor quality content co’z I believe, it is better to have one quality link than to have thousands of spammed and crap links pointing to my money site.

    I also recently heard that there is another Google update this first week of March. Any idea?

  8. It’s better to build backlinks from a variety of sources because no one can tell when Google or some other search engine is going to stop counting links from a particular source.

  9. Mike Carlson says:

    Having a good quality content at all times is the best way to avoid being affected with whatever update there may be.

  10. Hi! Very good and informative article by the way. It’s very important that you earn your keep by hard work and dedication. SEO and working your way to the top of the ladder of success is not easy, but by following those guidelines, anyone can make a big difference.

  11. Call me old fashion, but about 30% of my website traffic comes from in-person contact, print ads and worth-or-mouth advertising. I guess it depends on the site and your product. But I’m sure these traditional methods are Panda and Penguin safe! Otherwise, +1 on guest blogging and building quality content.

  12. This was well written with a great spin. I don’t want a zoo full of dead animals so I will maintain variety and some fresh common sense. Will you suggest some directories, ezines, and amazines? I’m not familiar with them. Thanks for the tips.

  13. This is a really good article got me laughing quite a few times . The most popular thing in building for 2013 is guest blogging and commenting but you listed a few points i really need to work on in some areas cause for the past few days i really find myself stuck with gaining new visitors .

  14. This Zoo is making many SEO companies suffer as they were 100% depending on Auto not manual. One more thing the Best Tips 2013 found of SEOMoz having the same kind of information too. So there is nothing to deny .
    Like your writing style will try to adopt that .

  15. I once use BlackHat SEO techniques and have employed many automated tools before but after the Penguin and Panda updates, my website’s search engine rankings went down and i felt frustrated about it. Now, I am using the Manual/WhiteHat SEO. Though, it consumes time and needs more effort, but it’s totally worth it.

  16. Thanks for the share really appreciate your views for making SEO efforts count in the scenario of google panda and penguin more we go natural to search engine more the appreciate from it

  17. Impressive and truly guided writeup you have shared a perfect plan to overcome from google animals syndrome ,more real,more quality will result appreciation from google

  18. sherburne county divorce lawyers says:

    wɦoah this weblߋg is magnificent i lіkke studyіmg your
    articles. Keep upp thhe great work! You know, a lott of people are looking round for thiѕ
    info, you could help them greatly.

Speak Your Mind