According to a reader poll conducted by internet Marketing Ninjas, 65 percent of marketers have been negatively impacted by Penguin. This makes Penguin the „most dangerous“ quality algorithm for sites, as only 40 percent of respondents said they were negatively impacted by Panda. At SES San Francisco, Internet Marketing Ninja’s Jim Boykin shared insights on link strategies that have worked for his clients in the post-Penguin searchscape. 

Exact match anchor text: Do or don’t?

To start, Boykin defies the notion that exact match anchor text is targeted by Penguin. (It’s worth noting that Boykin didn’t provide insights on the types of sites the inbound links in his research are coming from, but his findings are shared here.) According to his research, exact match anchor text links had the highest correlation to increased term rankings. He cited the case of one client that moved from position 85 to five after winning two exact match anchor text links.

Neither links with targeted phrases near the link (but not exact match anchor text) nor links on a page with high keyword density of the targeted phrase (but not exact match anchor text) had the same impact on SEO standing. Boykin reported that keyword density on the page proved more effective than placing keywords near the link for his clients.

Link near keyword from SES San Francisco

He is the first to admit that his data seems to contrtasts other industry data, which shows that sites hit by Penguin have exact match anchor text on head terms for more than 60 percent of their inbound links.

Google’s unnatural link messages: A sign to clean up backlinks!

Boykin also addressed Google’s recent boost in unnatural links messages. As Search Engine Land reported, Matt Cutts had some potentially confusing words for marketers who received these notifications, making it unclear whether or not penalties would be issues around the warnings. On his Google+ page, Cutts said:

“If you received a message yesterday about unnatural links to your site, don’t panic … it’s not necessarily something that you automatically need to worry about.“

Before „panicking,“ marketers should take advantage of Google Webmaster tools to measure links to a site  (and similar services). Boykin explained that clients who are monitoring their inbound links are able to identify spam links – whether they’ve paid for them or not – and act to avoid penalties.

When cleaning up backlinks, Boyking advised SES San Francisco attendees to be on the lookout for suspicious links that could be less relevant to their sites or spammy. His research suggests these pages include:

  • Homepage links (more targeted pages on a linking site are generally more relevant)
  • Sitewide links (same principle as homepage links)
  • Article syndication (Brafton has reported Matt Cutts advises social strategies for link building over article marketing!)
  • Forums links (he suggested these are similar to article syndication links)
  • Blog comments (notably, this goes against tips from other SES San Francisco experts)
  • Blog reviews (this also goes against tips from other SES San Francisco experts)
  • Exact match anchor text (Boykin offered the caveat that his clients are seeing success with these, but it’s best to monitor in light of other industry data)

He referenced Bing’s link disavowal tool as a way to eliminate undesired links from Bing search rankings factors, but many marketers are waiting for a similar feature from Google!

White hat, black hat linkbuilding: Focus on content

Boykin pointed to the idea that the ultimate link building tool is a solid content marketing strategy. While he was quick to admit that some gray hat methods can offer an SEO lift, Google’s Matt Cutts has repeatedly said there are no short cuts to sustainable SEO.

Ultimately, quality content is the new key to linkbuilding. Matt Cutts is watching!

As Boykin put it, „Good marketers do good things and get relevant traffic and links. Great marketers build brands and communities and understand the signals required by engines to build their brands and communities.“

For more on linkbuilding, check out our coverage of „No BS“ linkbuilding tips at SES San Francisco, and find more on the Penguin update in Brafton’s blog post about the Google search zoo.