Pubcon Liveblog: Link Building Without a Penalty

Rhea Drysdale, CEO of Outspoken Media, Joe Youngblood, founder of Winner Winner Chicken Dinner, and Russ Jones, chief technology officer at Virante, are going to talk link building in this Pubcon Las Vegas 2014 session. But first a disclaimer from Bruce Clay, session moderator and Bruce Clay, Inc. president: if you are going to build links, proceed with caution. The tactics mentioned herein are for your information; Bruce Clay, Inc. does not endorse any of these tactics.

A session on link building presented at Pubcon
Tactics shared at a session on link building at Pubcon should be considered with caution.

“When you’re dealing with inbound links you have to consider whether the links are organic or inorganic to your site’s theme. You have to understand the policies of the search engines relative to possible penalties. You wouldn’t want to overwhelmingly support a single technique. You have to use any technique in moderation,” Clay advises. “You shouldn’t go from one to sixty links overnight on one technique – that sends a signal to the search engines that you’re involved in a heavy link development program and it could ultimately lead to a penalty. Follow the Google Guidelines. Links should be good for your users, contribute to your site content and make sense.”

Rhea Drysdale

Editor’s note: Coverage included here is only a partial reporting of Drysdale’s presentation due to Jay Baer’s keynote address running long.

Don’t just pay attention to Google Guidelines, Drysdale asserts. Pay attention to the actual law – make sure you understand the expectations for giveaways and contests. Take the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as seriously (if not more seriously) than you do Google Guidelines.

Build a real business. You need to have a firm grasp and understanding of your brand/business. What we do as marketers ends up becoming business strategy. SEOs go into a meeting and are asked to build backlinks. What SEOs need to know, though, is who are the client’s audience and what content resources we have to give them.

Invest in diverse growth strategies. Marketing strategy has to be robust.

Russ Jones: Broken Link Building

“Broken link building is a link building tactic where a marketer contacts a webmaster who has a broken link on his/her site and recommends one or more alternatives that include his/her target site.” (Moz)

Why Broken Link Builders Succeed Where Others Do Not


  1. Identify broad and related keywords to prospect for resource pages related to your topic. TOOL: Use nTopic to find words and phrases that occur on content like yours.
  2. Find resource pages. Use smart search queries to identify resource pages related to your topic. TOOL:
  3. You can outreach to the resource page to tell them about their broken link, or you can look up the backlinks to on Majstic, Moz and ahrefs and reach out to all of them about their broken link.

Panda Rules

Find what the page used to look like and examine the content. Follow the Panda guidelines to make your new version even better. Consider:

  • Was this content written by experts?
  • Would you consider this content trustworthy?
  • Is this page an authority on the issue?
  • Would you see this content in print?
  • Are there any obvious errors on the page?

You’ll have more success if you create a replacement piece of content that is superior to the first.

Use to determine relevancy, quality and potential for improvement.

Contact Finding

Finding good webmaster contact information is one of the most difficult parts in this process. Consider outsourcing it. Try Mechanical Turk or the outreach app in

Finding the right outreach style can dramatically improve your conversion rate!

  • Long form: take the time to personalize a long email that will explain why your new piece of content is better than the first. This is the most successful strategy, but also the most time-consuming.
  • Short form: simple and quick heads up
  • Slow play: send an email that says you have a broken link, but don’t tell them what the broken link is or offer a replacement. Then, the webmaster is likely to email back and ask
  • Double tap: webmasters don’t need a nudge – they need a complaint. Create a false demand by sending complaint emails from email addresses (that aren’t yours).

Follow Basic Ethical Rules

  • Don’t spam
  • Don’t commit fraud
  • Don’t steal content

Joe Youngblood: The Royal Guide to Google Safe Link Building

Youngblood offers four different link building strategies (see slides).

Scholarship Link Building

  1. Set up the scholarship via scholarship management service.
  2. Create a page on your website describing the scholarship.
  3. Find targets on .edu sites to link to your scholarship page.
  4. Get listed in scholarship search engines and directories.
  5. Use scholarship-related content to drive links.

Interview Link Building

Google has slapped down guest blogging. Interview link earning is a very similar concept, but it’s much better.

  1. Join the email list and MyBlogU.
  2. Seek out an expert to interview and arrange how you’re going to do the interview (phone, email, Google Hangout, Tinychat, in person, etc.)
  3. Write up some ideas for questions you’ll want to talk about and let the person you’re interviewing know your rough idea of how the interview will go so they know what to expect.
  4. Once the interview is done publish it and ask them to share socially.
  5. Use that interview for outward-facing communication to show that you are a go-to source for this information.

Photo Credit Link Building

This is a passive strategy. Find images that people are looking for. Use Find a highly trafficked image request that you can create.

  1. Use set to “images,” and type in a base query.
  2. Take list of all applicable keywords and put them in Google AdWords Keyword Planner under “Get search volume for a list of keywords or group them into ad groups.”
  3. Sort by search volume and fin image keywords that match content you’re creating such as blog posts, articles, product pages, etc.
  4. Find image queries that currently don’t have a lot of good results.
  5. Make the images and publish them on your site with ALT and Title tags.
  6. Do reverse image searches at least once a month to find new websites that have used your image and ask for a photo credit with a link to the original article.

Reddit Link Building

Reddit was accepted into Google News, and journalists are paying increasing attention to Reddit.

  1. Look at the types of content shared on any of the default sub-Reddits such as DataIsBeautiful.
  2. Create content that matches that sub-Reddit and target Reddit users to share the content on your behalf (some allow you to self-submit also).
  3. Once your content is shared, join in the conversation about the content.
  4. Encourage upvotes on your content by sharing it in social media (but don’t ask for upvotes – the Reddit community heavily frowns on this).
  5. Consider using Reddit ads to target a sub-Reddit with thank you’s, special discounts, etc. for sharing and liking your content.

EDITOR’S NOTE: We recommend checking out our online SEO Tutorial for step-by-step guidance on proper link building, link profile maintenance, and many more search engine optimization topics.

Kristi Kellogg is a journalist, news hound, professional copywriter, and social (media) butterfly. Currently, she is a senior SEO content writer for Conde Nast. Her articles appear in newspapers, magazines, across the Internet and in books such as "Content Marketing Strategies for Professionals" and "The Media Relations Guidebook." Formerly, she was the social media editor at Bruce Clay Inc.

See Kristi's author page for links to connect on social media.

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4 Replies to “Pubcon Liveblog: Link Building Without a Penalty”


Thanks for the kind words. I have a full write up on my site that might give you some more insights into the presentation and how to do Photo Credit Link Building.

I don’t like broken link building – it can be regarded as manipulative. Google will find a way to punish it eventually!

thank you Kristi.
Photo credit link building is smart way to get quality passive backlink. thanks for great idea :)

Hello Kristi,

I have tried broken link building technique and it is very time consuming process. I think it is more simple to build new backlinks than to hunt for broken links and acquire that links.


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