Improved search engine rankings without penalties: 5 lifehacks

If there’s one word that describes black-hat SEO specialists, it would be “aggressiveness.” Not only do they go against Google’s guidelines, but they do it recklessly.

Back in 2010, you could add the pages you wanted links to a “backlink blaster“—a software that created spammy links automatically—and you would get hundreds of links in a few hours. It may seem far fetched, but that worked!

Those days are long gone. The latest news has shown that Google can identify pages that get an unnatural number of links from low-quality websites, leading to a penalization. This doesn’t mean you can’t build links aggressively as black-hat SEOs used to do; you can, but only if you build white-hat links with the right tactics, the right plan, and the right tools.

To start, you need to develop a list of sites where you can publish your post on. To find these sites, you can use any of the following search queries:

“keyword” + “become a contributor”
“keyword” + “contribute”
“keyword” + “guest post by”
“keyword” + “guest post guidelines”
“keyword” + “submission guidelines”
“keyword” + “this guest post is from”
“keyword” + “this guest post was written”
“keyword” + “this is a guest article”
“keyword” + “this is a guest post by”
“keyword” + “write for us”
“keyword” + inurl:guest-posts
“keyword” + inurl:write-for-us

The websites you find will result in hundreds of opportunities, many of which won’t be relevant to your link building objectives. You want to verify every opportunity and see if it makes sense to pitch to them.

Visit every page you have found and manually verify their relevance by checking off the following points:

  • The site openly states they accept guest posts;
  • The site has published guest posts;
  • The site allows for links in their guest posts;
  • The site has high authority (more on that later on);
  • The site publishes about topics relevant to your website’s

Verifying the quality of the sites you found will increase the chances of pitching sites that will:

  • Accept your guest post;
  • Link to your site;
  • Increase your Google rankings.
After you verify the sites you want to pitch, you need to find the people you will contact—the “targets,” as I call them—and their email addresses. There are several ways you can do so:

  • See if their guest post guidelines page shares an email or submission form—if you find either one, your job is done;
  • See who’s the editor or content manager;
  • See if they have a profile or “About” page where they share their email addresses.

My previous search found a website that openly states they accept guest posts; they even share an email address where I can send them my ideas:

If you can’t find an email address or an editor, then you have to:

  • Go to the company’s LinkedIn page and manually find the editor—usually, that’s the content manager;
  • Plug in the site’s address and editor’s name in a tool like Hunter.

Add all the information you find on the list you created previously.

Finally, you need to write an email pitch to ask for an opportunity to write a guest post. Since you will pitch dozens of people at once, you can use a tool like GMass or Mailshake, which will automate everything for you.

When it comes to writing the email template, here’s one you can use in your campaign:

Hey [NAME],


I know you like to publish in-depth articles with unique insights on [TOPICS THEY COVER]. I’ve come up with some ideas your audience will surely love to read:


What do you think? If you want me to cover other ideas, I’m happy to consider them.

Have a great day.


Repeat this process repeatedly, and you will get dozens of white-hat links per month and scale your link acquisition without getting penalized. If you plan to outsource your link building, make sure they follow this process to avoid any penalties.

When Larry Page and Sergey Brin invented Google’s search engine algorithm, they considered links as “votes.” The more links (votes) a page got, the higher it ranked in the search results. But this is no longer the case.

Take a look at the keyword “web promotion sites,” which Serpstat ranks in the first position. While Serpstat’s page doesn’t have the most links, it has high-quality links that explain, among other factors, its first position.

Nowadays, Google puts a much higher emphasis into the authority a domain and page pass through a backlink than the number of backlinks a page receives. Think about it this way:

  • Website A has high authority
  • Website A creates a backlink on page A
  • The backlink points to page B from website B
  • Website A’s backlink passes part of their authority to page B, something that it’s known as “link equity” or “link juice”

The higher the equity a page receives—which can come from one or multiple pages from multiple websites—the higher the chances it will become authoritative on its own.

While the exact definition of authority hides deep in Google’s ranking algorithm, you can get an approximation by using Serpstat Domain Rank backlink metric.

Instead of focusing on getting links from dozens, or even hundreds of websites, your link building efforts should be focused on acquiring links from relevant websites with high Domain Rank.

To build these links, Neal Taparia, who runs classic game site Solitaire, suggests researching overlapping topics journalists of top publications like to cover, and conducting some unique research around the topic.

His team, for example, surveyed what games like solitaire people were playing during the pandemic lockdowns because they noticed journalists often covered similar topics. They were able to use that primary research to get coverage in good publications.

Milosz Krasinski, Managing Director at web consulting company chillifruit.com, recommends a different approach:

Use HARO constantly, to not only fulfill reporters queries in the precise moment by giving them straight to the points comments but to also build relationships with them. That way it’s much easier to approach journalists in the future and ask them about their current needs or simply about their editorial calendar or simply to distribute your latest well researched infographic. You may also give them exclusive stories.
Start by identifying the main page to target your keyword, then search your site for any mentions or variations of the keyword, and turn these into links to your main page. Avoid exact anchors and use LSI keywords when possible. It’s also important to keep a clean internal link profile by removing links with the same keyword to any other pages; and internal links to the main page with non-relevant keywords.
In the example above, Nike’s website shows a concentration of branded anchor text, which Google doesn’t penalize. But if one post or product page with dozens or hundreds of links has two or three anchor texts, most of which look the same, then that’s a warning sign you need to fix immediately.

In this case, reach out to these sites, and ask them to replace the anchor text with a phrase or broad match one. Also, make sure your link building efforts mix your anchor text, so Google doesn’t penalize your site.

This may look surprising to you, but you don’t need to use any illegal on-site optimization trick to be a victim of Google’s hammer. Your website can be penalized simply by over-optimizing your on-site.

As you know, on-site page optimization is the process of adding the desired keyword to rank for in different parts of your pages, including:

  • The title tag
  • The URL
  • The content
  • The alt-tag
  • The H1, H2, and H3 subheadings
  • The internal links.
According to Google, “you should build a website to benefit your users, and any optimization should be geared toward making the user experience better.”

In other words, you want to optimize your website for your visitors, not for Google’s bots. If you add your exact-match keyword too many times—and unnaturally so—Google will know there’s something off, which will cause a penalization.

If you have already done any on-site optimization to your pages, or plan on doing so, balance the use of your keywords. You can manually search for your top keyword to see how many times it gets repeated; alternatively, you can use a tool like TextOptimizer to assist you.

Let’s take as an example of how this link building company optimizes their page copy towards the keyword “link building services.”

Not only do they mention the exact keyword three times in their headings, but they also repeat it in the text five times—that’s without counting the other phrase and broad match variations. If you read the text, it doesn’t make any sense. No human would ever read those paragraphs and be convinced to work with that company.

The fact the page is on page 7 shows it worked for the company, but it won’t work to get them anywhere close to the top 10.

To balance your on-site optimization, add your page into Serpstat’s One Page Audit, and fix all the mistakes the tool finds.

The “Speed Update,” as we’re calling it, will only affect pages that deliver the slowest experience to users and will only affect a small percentage of queries. It applies the same standard to all pages, regardless of the technology used to build the page. The intent of the search query is still a very strong signal, so a slow page may still rank highly if it has great, relevant content.
To fix the most common and essential speed issues, here’s what you need to do:

  • Enable File Compression. Compress your files with Gzip, a software application that reduces the size of your CSS, HTML, and JavaScript files over 150 bytes.
  • Minify CSS, JavaScript, and HTML. This means you remove any spaces, commas, and unnecessary characters from your code.
  • Leverage Browser Caching. This allows visitors to reuse files that they have already loaded in their browser in previous visits.
  • Use a CDN: CDNs, or content distribution networks, are networks of servers that allow you to distribute your files all over the world. This allows for faster upload of files.
  • Optimize Your Images. Use JPEG whenever possible, as they are often smaller in size, and use lossless compression. You can use a tool like ImageOptim to do the work for you.

Some of these changes require a site-wide optimization, while others—like image optimization—require a constant optimization. As you increase the speed of your website, you can expect an improvement in your rankings.

Google doesn’t like website owners who like to trick their algorithm; they want websites that create high-quality content that helps their users. The tips and tricks you saw here are a reminder that to rank your website without getting penalized by Google, you have to:

  • Use scalable white-hat link building tactics like guest posting and partner-based link building.
  • Build links from authoritative sites that have a high TrustRank and PageRank.
  • Use natural anchor text; mix exact match with broad and phrase match.
  • Don’t over-optimize your pages; optimize for your visitors, not for Google.
  • Optimize your website speed.

As you implement these tactics, you will start to improve your website’s rankings and see an increase in your organic traffic. Better yet, you will keep your positions for years to come, and that’s what makes Google an incredible traffic acquisition channel.

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