SEO is always changing, with search engines continuously updating their algorithms to provide more dynamic rankings, and the practice of optimization evolving with those changes. While many ranking metrics fluctuate–such as Google’s recent inclusion of site encryption–some consistently remain important. Of all ranking signals, one is still considered the strongest and most important for sites to optimize for: links.
Links are the core of Google’s search algorithm. A diverse portfolio of high quality backlinks from reputable sites establishes your own site’s trust. It also has positive implications for your PageRank, Domain Authority, Page Authority, and Moz’s own MozRank link metric. Different links carry different weight, which makes the authority of the sites linking to you equally important. This is why link building remains key to a successful online marketing strategy.
There are many ways to build links back to your site, and SEOs should always be on the lookout for new link building tactics. But be careful; Google frequently refines the algorithm to penalize blackhat activities. Certain methods, such as guest blogging, are overused, considered spammy, and generate low quality links. Fortunately, you can think outside the box without resorting to black hat tactics. Here are some link building opportunities you may be missing out on.

1.)   Claim links you should be getting

You may be surprised how often your site, product, or service is being mentioned without any link to the actual website. Reaching out to sites that should be linking to you is both effective and Google-friendly. If the website is already talking about you, it’s likely they are a relevant link partner, and they have a better chance of accepting a link. Some ways to claim missing links include:

  • Link reclamation: Use tools like Mention to find instances of your client being mentioned and reach out to the website requesting a link. You can also contact sites that already link to your client and request a more optimized link (more targeted anchor text, a link to a different page).
  • Reverse Image Search: You can use services such as TinEye to find images of your client’s that are used, but not linked to, on other sites, and request a link.

2.)   Buy Links–the Right Way!

Paying for links has become synonymous with black hat SEO. But there are ways to monetarily ensure links that are so strategic, that they bear no resemblance to traditional, low quality link buying. Depending on your client’s scope or budget, some high-concept ideas include:

  • Event Sponsorship: Offer to co-sponsor an event, in-person or online. You can choose the event based on location or topical relevance. Find out what their sponsorship needs are, and request a link in exchange for your contributions.
  • Charitable Donations: Donating to a non-profit is not only a noble thing to do–it can also earn you a link on the organization’s donor’s page.

If your client does not have the budget for something as large event sponsorship, there are other lower scale options. Paid content placement involves using a vendor to place content on a relevant publisher’s website, with a link back to your client’s. You can also form a content partnership with another relevant site that involves syndication of content or mutual content creation.

3.)   Update old content

Content is still an important part of Google’s algorithm, and a solid content strategy is just as important as your link building efforts. In fact, link building and content marketing go hand-in-hand, as you can use your link building strategies to promote and strengthen your content.
Evergreen content is always of interest to readers, but depending on your client’s vertical, information on their site can become outdated and should be updated periodically. Updating this content allows you to pitch your page to other sites as a relevant source of information. Your content is current, timely, and for sites discussing similar topics, presents an opportunity to link to a related source.
You can also search competitor pages to determine content gaps you may be able to fill. What information is missing in your client’s verticals? What needs are not being met? Create this content, and then promote it to establish credibility in the space and build links. Search Engine Land recommends a similar tactic for Infographics, creating revitalized versions of competitors’ outdated graphics.

4.)   Answer questions and become an expert in the space

One interesting way to build links is a longer-term play that may be slower to yield immediate links, but if executed correctly, can help establish your client as an authority. Similar to finding and meeting needs in the space, dig through Question & Answer sites, forums, and the comments sections of popular sites to determine what is being asked the most, and what gaps exist. You can create content to answer these questions, and link to that content in summarized, yet detailed, answers you post in the forum. You will establish trust in the online community, and if you’ve given a quality answer and it performs well, this increases the chances of that content being linked to. Quora is a great example of such an opportunistic site.
Link building is the bread and butter of a successful SEO strategy. Many of your tried and true methods will always be effective, and there is no reason for thinking outside the box to replace those strategies that already work for you. However, to stay ahead of the curve and keep up with Google’s ever-changing algorithm, SEOs should always look for ways to innovate their practice. When executed strategically, and without overusing them, these nifty link building tactics can set you apart from the competition!