Traditional backlink building involved a straightforward process of link placement, based on frequency, to bolster the strength of a subject’s domain and eventually earn higher ranks site-wide.
Today, Google’s search algorithm is much more sophisticated. It’s capable of discerning the intention, context, and value of a backlink and taking appropriate action. If a link is deemed valuable, it will pass authority to the target domain, but if it’s deemed spammy, irrelevant, or intended solely to manipulate rank, it can end up getting your domain penalized.
Avoiding Google Penalties
Modern backlink building would then be akin to traversing a minefield—hoping Google doesn’t determine your links to be useless or irrelevant. But it doesn’t have to be that way. The old process of building links manually doesn’t work anymore (for obvious reasons), but that doesn’t mean there aren’t safe, reliable ways to earn more backlinks for your domain. Plus, backlinks are practically necessary if you ever want to get your domain off the ground.
Safe Strategies To Earn Backlinks
Most of these link earning strategies involve the creation, curation, or syndication of content; this content serves as a kind of contextual framework for the link in question, giving the link a reason to exist and a measurable value to a pending reader. Of course, some forms of content-based link building are better than others. Here are some of the best:
1. Circulating viral content
The first strategy is the most effective but is also one of the hardest to pull off. Here’s the central theory: Google rewards natural links and penalizes artificial ones, so why not bypass the process of “link building” entirely to let your users build links to your domain on your behalf? If you can create content worthy of being cited and syndicate that to a large enough audience, the resulting shares, visibility, and audience reception should naturally give you dozens, if not hundreds of new links.
Getting a piece of content to go viral is more than luck, and more than just writing a “good.” article. You need to offer something unique, an original research, valuable, such as practical advice. The content has to be targeted to your audience. It has to be informative and entertaining but also surprising—all in one piece. Still, if you can do that, and make your piece known through social channels, you should be able to generate a substantial new flow of links as a result.
2. Using interviews to get backlinks
Interviews are another useful way to build links, and they offer two unique advantages—first, you won’t have to write the content yourself (that’s the interviewer’s job), and second, you’re almost guaranteed to get a link. For example, take the recent interview with Park Gallery West founder Albert Scaglione. The interview’s content is valuable and entertaining for readers and simultaneously shows off what the gallery has to offer. The trick is landing an interview—generally, you’ll need a pre-existing reputation as a leader in your industry if you want to attract a top source.
Accordingly, you may wish to reserve your pursuit of interviews until you’ve established a modicum of authority in your respective niche. To get things started, look for opportunities to be one of the several contributors to a piece, such as answering a group-based question or offering a piece of insight on an emerging piece.
3. Submitting press releases on a regular basis
Press releases naturally have a link pointing back to their subject’s website; they’re also typically posted on a news site, making that link rich in authority. There are several modern ways to publish a press release, most of them relying on software like PR Newswire. However, it’s also possible to shop your press release around individually to different news sources in your industry and area.
The key to success in press release syndication is to stay relevant. You can’t publish a press release for casual events, such as a staff member’s birthday or achieving a particular sales figure; instead, reserve your press releases for only the most “newsworthy” events—otherwise, your press release might be rejected by a greater percentage of potential sites.
4. Publishing guest content on industry sites
Getting featured as a guest writer isn’t hard if you already have a significant following on your company’s blog. If you don’t, that should be your first step in development. Once you’ve become a proper authority in your industry, all it takes is an email to a relevant webmaster with a solid pitch to get yourself featured.
However, getting one link from one source isn’t enough. If you want to see any substantial returns, you’ll have to publish many types of articles on many different sources, diversifying your strategy and maintaining a constant posting frequency. Over time, seek higher authority sources—it will get easier as you move forward.
5. Giving free samples or trials to notable influencers
If you have a product or service unique to your industry that’s worth a review, consider lending a free product, sample, or trial, to a series of major influencers in your industry. Search for review blogs, and get in contact with their webmasters for an opportunity to have your work reviewed. A blog review will naturally feature a link pointing back to your home page or a product page—and you should get some good press out of the deal.
For example, if you offer some travel-based amenities like luggage, or if you own a hotel, you could offer complimentary items and visits to well-known travel blogs. Just be careful not to have your attempt mistaken for bribery.
These five strategies are some of the safest, most reliable ways of building backlinks there are. Assuming the link is relevant to the content, and the content is well-written, there’s no risk of being cited as a spammer, and most of these strategies practically guarantee that you’ll be featured on a high-authority, relevant third party site.
Beyond that, these strategies all offer secondary benefits, including greater brand exposure, opportunities for brand loyalty development, referral traffic, and an increased social media presence. With few downsides and relatively minimal investment, these strategies should be a part of any long-term SEO strategy.
Anna Johansson is a freelance writer and researcher from the Olympia, WA area who loves to obsess about weird topics and then write about them. When she isn’t writing, she is outside on her bike and contemplating her eventual trip to graduate school. Find her on Twitter.