7 Ways to Link to Your Website That Won’t Get You Penalized

On-site optimization is important for SEO, to say the least. Not only is it necessary to give search bots something to crawl and index, on-site optimization is also your best opportunity to optimize your pages for specific keywords. However, without the power of inbound links, your SEO campaign doesn’t stand a chance of success.

Table of Contents

+ The State of Link Building
+ 1. Feature your business.
+ 2. Cite specific facts, metrics, or research.
+ 3. Give a quote.
+ 4. Point users to further information.
+ 5. Use yourself as an example.
+ 6. Utilize your author bylines and profiles.
+ 7. Cite yourself as a contributor, partner, or affiliate.
+ Miscellaneous Tips for Better Link Building

Google ranks sites based on both relevance (which is tied to keywords and topical focus) and authority, which is calculated primarily using the quantity and quality of external links pointing to your pages. Though the algorithm used here is complex, the more links you have pointing to a page, and the more trustworthy those links are, the higher that page is going to rank for various relevant queries.

Finding the best way to build those links can make the difference in the eventual success of your campaign.

The State of Link Building

If this is the first you’re hearing of this, you might be tempted to figure out how to place as many links as possible on external sites to build up the authority of your top pages (and your domain overall), but as experienced optimizers know, Google has safeguards in place to protect against this. These days, Google has algorithms that evaluate how “natural” a link is, and may penalize your website if too many of your links appear suspicious or unnatural.

It’s possible to attract links completely naturally, relying solely on the quality of your content to entice your readers to cite you as a source, but this method is inconsistent, and won’t allow you to grow as quickly as you could with a formal link building strategy.

So, spamming links isn’t an option, but you can intentionally build “natural” links by including them as a citation in your off-site content. Basically, the process works like this:

If you want your links to appear natural, however, you’ll need to make sure your citation is sensible. In general, your citation should meet the following criteria:

If you’re not used to link building, that list of criteria may seem intimidating. So instead of relying on these characteristics individually, I’ve defined seven different archetypes of citations you can use to link to your brand in ways that fulfill all these important requirements.

Specific Modes of Citation

These are the seven types of citations you’ll be building if you want your links to seem natural and count toward your domain and page authority. Each one has advantages and disadvantages, and should be used in different contexts. Your best approach is to use each of these in balance with each other, across the entirety of your campaign.

1. Feature your business.

Your first option is to write a piece of content that focuses specifically on your business. In most link building tactics, you’ll need to find a way to introduce your brand into the body of an article, but here, you may be a part of the headline. This citation style is advantageous because it allows you to freely cite yourself, using a homepage and a brand mention, without the possibility of seeming irrelevant since the entire article is about you.

The downside is, of course, that most publishers won’t accept content like this—it reads as too self-promotional. To succeed here, you’ll need to be choosy about where you’re getting published and how you’re syndicating your work.

Content examples:

Your choice in content type is the real secret to getting this type of content successfully published.

Keys to effective use:

This is an effective strategy for your first few links, since it doesn’t require much finesse.

2. Cite specific facts, metrics, or research.

Citing specific pieces of factual information may be the safest way to build a link. Though publishers vary in how they set and enforce formatting standards, it’s generally a basic journalism requirement to link to your sources, especially for numerical facts like dates, percentages, and other statistics.

Specific information like this makes written content stronger and more convincing, and most publishers require at least a handful of facts to support your claims in every article you submit.

You need to include stats, and you need to link to your sources when you include them. Basically, that means you have a free pass to link to your site—as long as it contains valuable statistics for you to reference.

Content examples:

These are just three prominent examples, but I’m hard pressed to think of a piece of content that couldn’t be improved by the inclusion of more supporting facts. Literally any piece of content could use this citation style.

Keys to effective use:

The biggest hurdle to overcome here is sourcing some original facts to reference; this typically means conducting original research, which might include a full-blown survey, or even a simple poll on your brand Facebook page (or Twitter page).

3. Give a quote.

If you don’t have original research to offer but you still want to contribute something valuable to an external piece, consider contributing a quote by an influencer or decision-maker within your organization. There are multiple ways to approach this, but two are especially common.

First, you could copy and paste a short section of a blog post on your site into a post you’re writing for an external publication. Second, you could ask someone in your organization for a quote (or make one up, attributing it to them with their permission), and cite the name of your organization when you name your source. For example, you could lead into your quote with something like: As Jayson DeMers of AudienceBloom explains, “(quote).”

Again, you’re expected to cite a source here, so it’s a free opportunity to build a link as long as you have something valuable to add.

Content examples:

Like with specific facts, quotes can be used liberally, in almost any piece of content you can imagine. Just be sure you or whoever is providing the quote is well-qualified to do so.

Keys to effective use:

This doubles as an opportunity to promote someone else’s personal brand, so make the quote count.

4. Point users to further information.

So far, I’ve been discussing how to use links as a mode of direct citation, crediting a source for information or acknowledging the source’s existence for credibility purposes. Here, we’re going to shift gears and use links as a way to send readers to somewhere else.

This mode of citation is a method of elaboration. Most articles you’ll write for external publications will be limited in scope and length, so you won’t get to explore your points fully in the body of your primary work. For example, you may make reference to the importance of marketing in a crowdfunding campaign, but you won’t be able to embed a definitive guide on the subject.

Readers may be interested in learning more than you’re permitted to include, so your link serves as a gateway to introduce that content. Here, you can include your links inconspicuously, using your target subject matter as anchor text, or introduce your link with a phrase like, “to read more on this topic…”

You may even be able to mention your brand by name. However, I find that using the title of the asset or content you’re directing the reader to gets the best click-through rate (assuming you’ve used a great title). For help choosing a great title for your content, see 101 Title Ideas for Your Next Blog Post.

See what I did there?

Content examples:

Keys to effective use:

The quality of your work here will significantly impact how your link is interpreted; these need to be really high-quality, in-depth pieces.

5. Use yourself as an example.

This method is useful because of how flexible it is, but it’s also prone to making you appear too self-promotional, so be wary. The idea is to present a series of examples of some topic, either as the focal point of the piece or as illustrations in one specific section of the piece. You could also use your brand as a standalone example to illustrate your article’s point, but it’s usually better to have yourself as one of several examples.

The easiest way to do this is in list format, with each list item containing another example, but you can also mention yourself in an aside in the body of your content. For example, if I’m writing a section within an article about the benefits of getting exposure on major media publications, I might include something like this:

Acquiring brand mentions across the web brings many other benefits aside from just the obvious SEO value of inbound links. Did you know your conversion rates can go up as a result of them, too? One way to help with this is to include logos of the publishers on which your brand has been mentioned; this creates social proof and aligns your brand with trusted media outlets. For example, look at the homepage of and you’ll notice that we have a scrolling banner which lists many of the logos of publications on which we’ve been featured. We’ve seen a 34% increase in conversion rates since we implemented it.

Content examples:

Keys to effective use:

Using yourself as an example may seem easy at first glance, but there’s a thin line of relevance to walk here.

6. Utilize your author bylines and profiles.

Rather than citing yourself in the body of your content contributions, you can rely on citations found within your author profiles and bylines. Usually, when you’re accepted as a recurring guest author or columnist on a specific external publication, you’ll be given a dedicated page or blurb explaining who you are, what your expertise is, and possibly including a headshot and links to other resources.

You should optimize this area to show off your main area of specialty, and you’ll usually be given allowance for at least one link to your site (often the homepage) as well as your social media profiles. This link will pass authority to your site, like any other link, and will attract some traffic (but usually not as much as a link in the body of an article).

Relying on this one-time, permanent citation can come in handy when working with publishers that frequently remove your in-article links, esteemed publishers that have rigid linking standards, or those that you don’t plan to contribute to on a regular basis.

Here’s an example of my author bio at

Content examples:

Rather than being tied to any specific content types, you’ll be creating bylines and profiles with specific types of publishers.

Keys to effective use:

Depending on how they’re used, links in author profiles can be one of your most powerful resources. Don’t underestimate them.

7. Cite yourself as a contributor, partner, or affiliate.

Similar to your author profile, you can also build a semi-permanent standing link to cite yourself as a contributor, partner, or affiliate of some other site. These don’t need to exist on sites that publish your work specifically; as long as you’re affiliated with the site in question in some way, you can likely build a link there.

You can have your brand listed on a dedicated page, get your link mentioned on specifically related pages, or potentially even build your link in the footer of a site, depending on the circumstances.

Content examples:

This citation method is best understood through examples:

Keys to effective use:

Miscellaneous Tips for Better Link Building

The art of link building itself warrants a guide of its own, which I’ve written and published here: SEO Link Building: The Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide.

But for now, consider the following tips to use in conjunction with the preceding citation “archetypes.”

As you gain more experience building links, you may find yourself favoring some citation styles over others; this is fine, as most of them will pass authority to your site in the same way. To be successful, you just have to make sure your links are valuable, natural, and on high-authority sites.

If you find yourself struggling and need some extra help, feel free to contact us or check out our link building services; we’ll help you get the links your site needs to succeed.

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