2012 was a big year for SEO and arguably the biggest shakeup was the Google Penguin update. As you probably know, Penguin targeted web spam tactics like link schemes, exact match anchor text, blog networks and so forth. Link building tactics that had, for better or worse, been working fairly well for a lot of site owners are now penalizing those same sites and many site owners that were hit by a penalty are still struggling to recover. As a strictly white hat SEO professional whenever a Google update comes around I don’t panic and worry what is going to happen to my site’s search presence because I know that I’m not doing anything that might ever make my site (or the sites of my clients) show up on Google’s radar. Instead of looking for loopholes within the algorithm to exploit I’ve always focused on building high-quality links from a variety of sources that will serve as gateways to my site and help drive targeted traffic over time.

It might sound crazy coming from an SEO professional, but the best link building happens when you don’t worry about Google and focus on building links that will actually drive traffic.

In an interview I did with link building guru Eric Ward he mentioned that “At the end of the day, there are a trillion web sites. There are a billion search phrases. Yet there are only ten to twenty search results being fought over…The sites that thrive and survive will be the sites that find ways to create link profiles that provide them with traffic other than from Google…links are my lifeblood, not Google.”

In my experience, the kinds of links that will ultimately steer targeted traffic to your site are usually the kind of links that Google rewards sites for having. What kind of link do you think has more value in the eyes of the algorithm—a generic directory link (even if it is in the footer) or a link from a company profile on an industry site? And which link do you think is going to send the right kind of visitors over to your site? For instance, I got a white paper one of my client’s wrote listed as a resource on a niche site that their target audience visits frequently. In just 3 months that one link sent 71 visitors to their site. Now I know that 71 visitors might not seem like much, but imagine 10 links just like that one sending the same amount of traffic over. All of the sudden you’ve got 710 unique and highly targeted visitors coming to your site that might not have otherwise found your company.

Want a more substantial example? I asked a blog owner for a blog I routinely write guest posts for to just mention the same Eric Ward interview I quoted before because I knew his audience would find it really interesting. The blogger obliged and mentioned my interview in another post he wrote and my site got over 500 visitors from it in one day. That was several months ago and traffic still trickles in through that link every single day. I’ll take guaranteed high quality traffic, in whatever amount I can get it, over trying to play the algorithm any day of the week!

A long time ago the quantity of links in your link profile might have been the key to SEO success, but nowadays, especially in the wake of Penguin, your link building needs to be all about quality. The less you worry about how well your site ranks and what furry animal Google is going to drop on your head next and the more you concentrate on building quality links that help you connect directly with your audience the better off you’ll be in the long run.