Google’s recent Penguin Update redefined the basics of SEO link building. Prior to the update, sites linking to yours weren’t an issue. However, with guest posting becoming increasingly popular and more and more people engaging in it, link spamming has increased and Google has jumped on it, penalizing sites with unnatural links in posts. Now, SEOs and webmasters are hurrying to find ways to fix the link issue and prevent their sites from being hit.

Google refers to the unnatural linking in guest posts as link schemes and defines them as follows:

Any links intended to manipulate PageRank or a site’s ranking in Google search results may be considered part of a link scheme and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This includes any behavior that manipulates links to your site or outgoing links from your site.

While we recognize that businesses selling links and sites building spammy link profiles are practicing bad SEO and applaud the Penguin Update for penalizing them, what about those of us who are just looking to guest blog — you know, those interested in creating well-written and relevant content that will be posted on another site?

It’s not the end of guest blogging
Don’t be discouraged! Guest posts can still be a useful and legitimate way to get your content hosted on another site with a backlink, expose your content to the online community, and even connect with other bloggers. In short, Guest blogging can still go a long way in your link building efforts. Google doesn’t want to do away with guest blogging — it just wants to make sure that you’re following the best linking practices.

A guest blog shouldn’t just be a few hundred words stuffed together without any clear purpose or understanding of the subject matter, with a link or two shoved in seemingly at random. The most important factor in a guest blog is relevancy. That goes for both content and links.

Guest blogging best practices
Here are some important guidelines that you can follow to ensure that your guest post doesn’t get hit by Penguin:

  • Post to sites that are relevant to the industry you are writing about. Avoid over-diversified sites.
  • Avoid posting to low-quality blogs or websites (the site should have a strong domain authority).
  • Don’t use exact-match anchor text and make sure it looks natural — use long tail words or a call-to-action phrase.
  • The page you link to should be relevant to the hyperlinked phrase.
  • Don’t post to blog networks or article directories.
  • Make sure your title is unique (type it into Google to ensure that it hasn’t been used).

Tools to help you spot and remove bad links
Whether Penguin sent you a warning about your links or you want to check and ensure that they are safe, Open Site Explorer and Majestic SEO are two of the most effective free link tools for analyzing backlink profiles.