Building inbound links is a major headache for most search marketers, due to a painful combination of factors. Having a great inbound link profile is necessary to get any kind of SEO visibility, but at the same time, building bad links can earn you a penalty and set you back weeks or months. Thanks to Google’s Penguin algorithm updates, the link building process has become somewhat simplified but also more difficult to tread, especially if you’re new to the world of SEO.
If you’re concerned about your strategy or you’re just looking to start, use some (or all) of these 16 safe link building sources.
1. Any Educational Site. As most search marketers already know, domains ending with “.edu” are some of the most valuable, most authoritative sources you can get. For the most part, these educational sites are completely safe. Offering a scholarship and then reaching out to individual institutions is a great way to acquire some of these links.
2. Any Government Site. If there’s another type of site with as much authority to pass as an educational site, it’s a government site, with a “.gov” extension. Getting on these types of sites can be tough, but they’re safe and incredibly valuable. Sponsoring a public event and becoming involved in your community are a couple ways to get these types of links.
3. A Niche-Specific Industry Directory. Website directories have a bad reputation since the majority of them were de-indexed by Google during the rollout of the first Penguin algorithm. However, not all directory sites are bad. The Open Directory Project and the Yahoo! Business Directory are a couple examples of high-quality, curated, trusted directories. If you can find directories that are very specific to your niche, take advantage of them.
4. A Forum Related to Your Industry. Similarly, if you find a forum related to your industry, you can use it to your advantage. However, your goal with forum interactions shouldn’t be to get inbound links. Instead, participate in discussions in ways that add value. Include your name, title, and website URL in your signature. When other forum users have a question that you can answer with an in-depth blog post, write it and publish it on your blog, then respond to the discussion and link to your post. You’ll build your brand, get inbound links, and also grow your traffic.
5. A Blog Related to Your Industry. External blogs directly related to your industry are a perfect opportunity to build links. You can post as a guest author or become a regular columnist or contributor.
6. A Blog Covering a Topic You Have Expertise In. Just because a blog isn’t focused on your industry doesn’t mean it’s a no-go. Look for any blog that covers a topic you have expertise in. Leave helpful, valuable comments in the discussion portion, and contact the editor about becoming a contributor.
7. A Sponsorship or Contributor Page. Many organizations, especially nonprofits, have a “sponsorship” page or something similar to recognize businesses that have made donations or contributions in the past. These links might cost you a donation, but they’ll usually be permanent and highly authoritative.
8. A Major Publisher. Almost any major publisher will be valuable to your domain authority, so long as you’re posting in a subsection that’s relevant to your industry. To get links on major publishers, you have a couple options: 1) become a columnist or contributor, or 2) contact a journalist and pitch them a story to get coverage.
9. Any Social Media Platform. People sometimes lose sight of the fact that links posted on social media also pass authority, though less than a significant traditional-web counterpart. Get involved on as many social media channels as you can; the links are nice, but the branding value and other benefits are even better.
10. YouTube, Vimeo, and Other Video Sites. YouTube, Vimeo, and similar sites also offer great opportunities for link building. Every time you upload a video to your channel, you’ll have a chance to include links to your website. Furthermore, videos that go viral will get links to them, strengthening the value of the links to your website.
11. A Client Site (If You Use Testimonials). Ask some of your current clients for testimonials. Getting them to post a short blurb on their site about you can go a long way.
12. A Journalistic Site. Programs like Help A Reporter Out (HARO) exist to help webmasters find journalistic opportunities. In exchange for volunteering some information, expertise, or an opinion, you’ll get a juicy link and a mention in their article.
14. An RSS Directory. RSS directories are always safe places to build links, and in most cases, getting a link is a snap.
15. A Wiki Site. Wiki sites like Wikipedia are open to public editing, which means you have complete control over the links you’re building, but also be careful to obey the rules of the site. Use your website as a citation only if it makes sense to do so in the context of the article.
16. An Audio Sharing Site. Audio sharing sites like SoundCloud or Bandcamp are completely under-utilized as backlink sources. Record any sound file (such as music or human speech), upload it, and you’ll get a free backlink to pass relevant authority to your site.
17. Anywhere That Does It For You. The best and safest way to build links is to let others do it for you. Publish amazing, shareable content — like infographics or videos — and let your audience run with it, publishing it on their own blogs and encouraging more links in turn.
As long as your link is built to be relevant and valuable to the audience seeing it, posting your link on any of these sources should allow you to remain safe from any penalties. As you continue building links, be sure to diversify your sources and diversify the types of links you build — your links should appear natural in each context, and the more diversified your efforts are, the better.
For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!