Links remain one of the most effective ways to move the needle on your SEO performance.
The only caveat is that the quality of your links now needs to be at a much higher level than they ever have been in order to bring you sustainable results that won’t have you looking over your shoulder every time there’s an algorithm update.
This has led to a lot of doom and gloom in the SEO world with cries that link building is dead and it isn’t a tactic worth pursuing.
The reality is quite the opposite.
The gains to be had are bigger than ever if you’re prepared to put in the work and use the right approaches to get your links.
As is the case in most areas of life, when something is difficult it only makes the payback all the more rewarding as others aren’t prepared to go the extra yard.
Below are 17 ways you can do this so that if you are one of the people prepared to invest time and resource into the link building process you will be putting it into the right places that will bring you a good return.
1. Get Interviewed
I know what you’re thinking, who’d want to interview me right?
Well, you’d be surprised.
Blog interviews have been around for a long time and might be a bit harder to get featured in good places, but podcasts are blowing up as a channel with more and more shows out there that are desperate for people to interview (as that’s generally the form that a podcast takes).
Do some research around the top podcasts in your niche, and reach out to them to let them know you’re available for interview with a quick blurb around why you’d be a great guest.
And guess what?
Podcasts usually have a dedicated website which lists episodes and links to relevant content from each show, and the sites of people on them.
2. Guest Writing
A tactic that has taken a beating in recent years following Matt Cutts’ announcement but which remains a great approach if done right (like most approaches), as evidenced by the fact that I am writing for SEJ here!
The key is to identify good quality publications in your industry that your audience is reading and then write great stuff for them.
Avoid doing it for any site just for the sake of a link.
This can become increasingly effective the more often you write and the better targeted the publication, and not only brings the value of great links but also increased brand awareness and referral traffic that might result in leads and business.
3. Reverse Guest Writing
Here’s a crazy idea, how about instead of you writing on someone else’s site you get them to write on yours?
But how does that yield links for you?
Well, you’ll find that the majority of authors list and link to articles and places they’ve been featured, so if you’re one of those then that can lead to some very nice links indeed, as well as free content that can consistently bring traffic to your site.
4. Traditional PR
I wrote recently about the power of PR on SEO performance, and it is the link building aspect of this that holds most of the benefit.
Links on top-tier publications like national newspapers and industry publications, carry lots of power. Even just a couple can have a significant impact on your ranking performance.
Whether you follow #journorequest on Twitter, carry out stunts, or hook into news trends, good old PR will never stop being effective.
5. Be the Source
If you break news that the world wants to hear, then people will link to you as the source of that story.
Now, it’s unlikely that you’re going to be sat on world-beating news before anyone else, but even if you have just a small nugget in your locker that you can announce before anyone else then it could lead to some big links.
Maybe you feature a property that well-known celebrities could be visiting on honeymoon, or you get the scoop on a recent change in regulation in your industry.
You should always be aware of this kind of opportunity, even if it’s seemingly small. Ensure you can be used as a source if needed.
Publish it on your blog or build relationships with key industry journalists so they know that if they need a source for a story you’re the one to come to.
6. Create Linkable Assets
There’s no more satisfying link building approach than one that works on autopilot.
Done right, this is the dream tactic.
This involves researching the different types of content in your industry that attracts links, recreating it (and making sure it is better than what’s out there), and then trying to get onto Page 1 for the phrase people search for to find it.
The best way to do this is to look at the pages on Page 1 for certain phrases and see how many links are pointing to the results. If there are lots of links pointing to lots of the page 1 results, you probably have a good linkable asset.
In travel, a good example is the phrase “top travel blogs,” which is packed with pages that have lots of links pointing to them.
It makes sense; whenever someone is writing an article about travel bloggers they want to reference a list that features the best ones and so do a search and link to one of the results. It’s the link version of the rich getting richer.
7. Content Marketing
We use content marketing as a way of gaining links on top-tier publications that are difficult to gain through other channels, except maybe traditional PR
The approach is similar to PR, but where we create a piece of content to give to the publication that may be an infographic, illustrations, maps, or some other asset that can be used in an article on their site.
This approach has led to coverage in a wide variety of top-tier publications from national newspapers to specialist places like Lonely Planet.
Check out these examples of it in action.
8. Buy Old Blogs
Like many approaches, this tactic hinges on being done in a genuine way rather than just spammily buying a domain for its links. However, if done right, it can be a hugely accelerated approach to gaining lots of relevant links and content in a short amount of time.
It’s actually something Rand Fishkin highlighted many years ago on Moz, and the same approach could work just as well today.
There are lots of blogs out there that have become stale and may not be updated at all, or may just be getting the minimum attention from their owners.
We see this a lot in the travel industry from people who have been away traveling, written about their travels and developed a blog, but then forgotten about it when they returned home and joined “the real world.”
But the content and links those blogs have are still extremely relevant and can have a significant impact if you move the content across on to your domain and redirect the links into the relative destinations on your site.
The key is to keep the old content and redirect to like-for-like pages, rather than just deleting everything and redirecting the whole site to your homepage (not good).
9. Competitor Analysis
Two for the price of one here:
Analyze Their Profile
From a strategic perspective, look at your competitor’s link profile and see what kind of links they are getting to drive their performance.
Try to get a feel for the reasons why they have gained certain links and look to replicate those approaches.
Don’t focus on things like directories or easy-access approaches here. You should look for the hidden gems that other people won’t be using.
Look at Their Top Pages
Using Ahrefs you can look at the best pages for links on competitor websites that will help you identify the best types of content to produce that will attract links.
Like in the Linkable Assets point earlier in this post, this will help pinpoint exactly what kind of pages get linked to in your industry so you can work on replicating it and doing it even better.
10. Link Reclamation
Link reclamation is an approach that is more effective for larger brands, but is still worth being aware of for everyone.
If you aren’t tracking your brand name then you should set up a Google Alert straight away so you can see when people are talking about you.
If you see something pop up and they haven’t linked to you then drop them an email and ask nicely if they could add a link.
Even better, give them a good reason why they should link to you by sending them a link to some relevant content on your site that is useful in the context of how they mentioned you.
11. Carry Out New Research
New data is something that consistently attracts links and, if done the right way, can lead to lots of links in one fell swoop.
The key is collecting data and forming research that shows off something new and interesting that journalists will feel compelled to cover.
Research that shows Macs are a popular choice of laptop probably won’t be as interesting as one that shows that Chromebooks have halved the use of Macs over the last 5 years (imagine that!).
Surveys are a good way of collecting data from consumers that you can use to establish interesting trends. The key here is to write effective questions so that you get data which will feed an interesting narrative.
This post from Andy Crestodina is a great guide on how to do so, and his blogging survey shows how effective the approach can be.
12. Give Testimonials
Simple, but effective.
If you use tools, software, services of other people and are a big fan then tell them about it!
People love positive feedback and usually take the opportunity to feature it on their site, which could well include a link back.
Quick, effective. What’s not to like?
13. Broken Link Building
Broken link building can be an arduous task and is often something people shy away from.
However, it can be incredibly effective if you do it the right way.
Fortunately, this great guide from Ryan Stewart breaks down how to do it for lazy folks.
14. Image Link Building
Having a body of great images is another overlooked way of getting links to your site on autopilot.
There are more people publishing content than ever before, and those people are constantly searching for images to use in their articles.
If you can offer something different to the standard stock photos then you’ll be head and shoulders above the rest.
The key is to make sure your image bank is findable, which mainly comes down to being found when people search for “photos of [insert keyword here]”.
It’s particularly effective in travel where bloggers and websites are constantly in search of images for the destinations they are writing about and that are hard to take yourself unless you are in those places.
I’d urge you to read this fantastic guide from Stacy Macnaught for a step-by-step on what to do.
15. Quote or Feature People in Your Content
This involves mentioning other people in your content so that you can tell them about it (and say thanks!).
This could be a roundup of the best articles on a particular topic or a quote from someone within an article you’ve written.
The key to success behind this approach is doing it with people who have a page on their site that lists places they have been featured.
Now, I’d never recommend mentioning people who don’t deserve it, but if you create a list of lots of sites that have this kind of page, then you can pick out those that do have great content or comments to feature in your articles.
Then all that’s left to do is write your article, feature them in it somewhere, and tell them about it!
16. Create a Tool
This is an amazingly effective and incredibly underused approach.
If you can identify a tool that would be useful in your industry then it is almost certain to attract links.
People think this means you have to create something brand new, but just taking an existing idea and putting a spin on it that is specific to your niche would likely be enough to warrant being linked to.
Whether it’s “best XXX tools” posts or press coverage announcing the new tool, this is a great way to attract links on an on-going basis.
17. Make Friends
Another slow burner, but one that can lead to huge results.
Find people to partner up with so that as you promote yourselves you can also promote and mention each other.
This might be linking to each other, but also brings other benefits like sharing each other’s articles or even referring clients.
The key is to finding good people that fit with your values and what you offer, without being direct competition, as you don’t want to partner with anyone.
However, if you spend some time nurturing these kinds of relationships then you can reap the rewards long into the future as you both grow side by side.
You don’t need to start every one of these tactics straight away, but even if you just carry out one or two of them you can generate some high-quality links that will help push your overall performance forward.
The key is to identify which approaches will be most effective in your industry, and also which fits best with your own time, resource, and budget limitations.
Those with lots of time might focus on relationship building and guest writing, whereas those with more budget available might be better buying existing blogs or developing larger content and research projects.
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