When it comes to building inbound links, many search marketers (myself included) would put link building near the bottom of the list of ‘SEO tasks I actually enjoy doing’. In the age of Penguins, Pandas, and Hummingbirds (oh my!), it’s only getting more and more difficult to identify and act on quality link building opportunities. Fortunately, there are still a number of ways to generate safe, high quality backlinks in 2016. Here are 16 of my favorite link building examples.
1) Links from Educational Sites
In terms of top-level domains, “.edu”, or educational websites, are among the most valuable and authoritative link sources on the web. With rare exception, educational sites are extremely safe, if difficult to acquire because of their closed nature. Finding a student community forum where you may be able to answer questions or provide help is a great way to get a foot in the door on educational websites. You can also try offering a small scholarship or other sponsorship in exchange for a permanent link, though this is definitely a ‘pay-to-play’ approach.
2) Links from Government Sites
In the same vein as “.edu” websites, any site ending in a “.gov” domain is prime link building real estate. The only trouble is, it can be near-impossible to actually get one of these links placed. My advice? Go for the local government portals, as they are usually much easier to achieve links for. Sponsoring community events, or participating in a municipal government are great ways to build “.gov” backlinks.
3) Links from Niche-Specific Directories
Directories are a page straight out of the ‘old-school SEO playbook’, but there are certain examples that are still valid in 2015. The Open Directory Project (DMOZ) and Yahoo! Business Directory are two well-established directory portals that are still trusted and considered high-quality. By doing a bit of research, you can unearth quite a few non-spammy, decent quality industry specific directories that may be worth your time.
4) Links from Industry-Related Forums
Like directory links, building links on forums is a bit of an old-school approach. That being said, there are ways to set yourself apart, build brand equity, and achieve links that work on industry forums. The method is simple: participate in discussions by actually contributing or adding value. Gone are the days of “Love this post! Please do me a favor and check out my site http://mycrappywebsite.com/blogpost2.html” – users today are considerably more savvy than even 5-10 years ago, and as a result they can smell spam a mile away.
5) Links from Industry Blogs
Guest posting on sites that cover similar topics as your site is still a foolproof way to generate content, build links, and grow your network online. This one requires cold, hard outreach: Find some blogs you actually enjoy reading, tell them why you enjoy reading, and then nicely ask if you may be able to help contribute.
6) Links from Niche Blogs
There may be topics outside of your business industry that you have expertise in. Take advantage of it!
One partial caveat here: Building links to blogs that are outside of your industry and niche run the risk of becoming ‘unqualified traffic’ – if you write a blog post about In-N-Out burgers on your tech blog that happens to be shared like wildfire, users who come to your blog expecting mouthwatering burger pictures and food reviews will be disappointed, and will probably leave your site in a hurry. High bounce rates are never good news.
7) Links from Traditional Publications
Almost any link from an established publication will be worth its character length in gold. However, traditional publications come with a lot more bureaucracy than ‘new media’ publications – often, the only way to get one of these bad boys is to become a columnist or contributor, or offer quotes or soundbytes to journalists writing on a topic you’re well-versed in.
8) Links from Sponsorships
Providing financial sponsorship for organizations or events is a surefire way to garner links – again, this starts to veer the route of ‘pay-to-play’, but there’s typically a bit more involved than just cold hard cash.
9) Links on Social Media Networks
A lot of search marketers are quick to dismiss social media because of how little authority is passed by these links, but that’s changing slowly. Not to mention, the value of content visibility to social audiences is huge, and worth pursuing in its own right beyond any link value. You should already be doing this as part of a holistic inbound marketing strategy. I said, you should already be doing this.
10) Links on Video/Media Assets (YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, etc.)
YouTube (a Google property), Vimeo, and other media hosting services offer quality link-building opportunities. With any media assets you upload, you are often given an area for title, description, and maybe even a dedicated link (YouTube lets you shove links straight into the description!). Additionally, the benefit of having content that’s accessible through completely different search engines opens up exposure to a wider audience than your website alone. Anyone who’s ever been stuck in the weird part of YouTube can attest to this.
11) Links from your Clients
If you provide search marketing services for clients, have them sing your praises! If you’re truly good at what you do, at least some of your clients should be willing to help you out.
12) Links from Journalistic Leads
Services like Help A Reporter Out (HARO) are dedicated to helping reporters find quotes and sources for specific topics – Journalists will post asking for a quote or opinion on a given topic, allowing for submissions. If your content is compelling enough, you may get quoted! The publications that use services like HARO range from small-town newspapers, all the way up to huge industry names like Forbes and Business Insider. Caveat: HARO is a paid service.
13) Links from Social Bookmarking/Directory Sites
User-Generated-Content (UGC) aggregators like Reddit, StumbleUpon, and Digg are all popular sites with large user footprints. Sharing your content through these services can lead to massive exposure. However, the user base dictates the success or failure of content on these sites, so high-quality content is more important that ever when it comes to social bookmarking. Oh, and don’t post blatantly spammy or transparent content to Reddit. They really, really don’t like that.
14) Links from RSS Directories
These are quick, easy, and safe, though they don’t provide a large amount of link authority. Good for building links in a pinch.
15) Links from Wiki Entries
Wikipedia (and other wiki services) are great link sources. However, they often come with stringent rules and requirements to make changes or additions to wiki entries. Add citations to your website only if it is appropriate within the context of your article, or it will be promptly removed and you may be banned from editing further entries.
16) Links from People who Love Your Content
As always, the best way to build links is to build great, irresistible content. No amount of elbow grease and legwork on your part will ever hold a candle to the power of an online community to build virality behind a piece of content. Build a crazy good infographic. Write a blog post that educates your readers on a topic of importance. Write candidly about a current event topic. Whatever you do, make sure you’re doing it well.