Getting lots of high quality links remains the holy grail of SEO.

Indeed it’s not like the old days when you could trick Google into thinking your website is more authoritative than it actually is.

Effective link building in 2015 requires you to be ethical and employ low risk link building tactics.

Note that I’m using the word “low risk” instead of “no risk” simply because Google’s algorithm is pretty easy to trip these days even when using ethical strategies.

In fact, every time Google makes an update to its Penguin algorithm (that’s Google’s alg that focuses on spammy links) there are a limited number of websites that get caught in the net despite not having done anything wrong. Your Google ranking can change overnight, in either direction, and there’s rarely anything you can do to rectify it straight away.

Google does correct itself some of the time, but you still need to be extra careful when generating links to your website.

However, let me make something clear: Great SEO includes building lots of great content and posting that content to your social media and sharing it with anyone who is willing to read it and share it. Great SEO is also not taking for granted that not everyone will find your content – therefore, it is completely ethical to employ strategies to get other websites to link to and share your content. That’s the point of ethical link building.

Here are 9 Low Risk Link Building Strategies for Higher SEO Rankings:

1. Content Marketing

– Write great content and people will link to you – right? Sort of. Writing valuable digital content is necessary to position your business as an authority. In fact, I argue that all local businesses should invest for the long-term in content marketing and build content on a regular basis with the goal of becoming the de facto resource center in your community for your product or service. Content marketing isn’t about selling anything – it’s about building valuable content that is useful, entertaining, and when possible – engaging. For instance, if you are a general contractor you can write content, post videos, and share pictures of how to hang drywall, lay tile, properly hammer a nail, etc. Content should tell a story and / or be “how to” so that the reader benefits and is more inclined to share (social media, with a friend) and link to your web page. In addition, you should ask relevant websites to link to your content and / or resource center. Don’t wait for websites to link to you – be proactive getting links!

2. Contribute Content to Blogs and Media

tc-techcrunch

– Once you build up yourself or your business as an authority (maybe you already are) you’ll be in a position to become a contributing author on high authority blogs and media websites. Here’s a recent example of an article I contributed to the popular technology website Techcrunch. In most cases you have the option of either repurposing existing content (from your blog, website, speaking presentation, etc) or write original content. Publishing your work is a great way to increase your online visibility – it’s also a great way to build links back to your website through your author byline. An author byline is a short bio (and link) that typically appears at the bottom of your content. Be careful to avoid “blog networks” that allow you to share content where money is exchanged (by you or a buyer) or the pure intent is to game Google’s algorithm.

3. Start a Blog

WordPress

– Starting a blog is free and represents the lowest hanging fruit to get started right away writing content. Note that (1), (2), and (3) of my link building recommendations have to do with content marketing – it’s that important and necessary. Remember – Google ranks web pages, not websites. The more web pages (content) the more rankings and the more traffic to your business. Keep in mind that a blog also allows you to share more about your company vision, culture, and team. Be creative and have fun. Allow your staff to contribute to the blog and interview them on video and post the videos to your blog and YouTube. Have select interesting guest contributors write for your blog. Make your website a resource and a value-added place for your current and prospective customers.

4. Sponsor Contests

Holiday Contest

– Sponsoring contents is an easy way to generate links to your website and buzz about your business. For instance, if you own a business that offers products or services in the home services space you can sponsor a contest asking for people to submit their worst personal remodeling experience (winner gets a room make over, $250 Home Depot Gift Card, or something else fun). We all have a story to share where we probably should NOT have attempted to install carpet, paint the front of the house, or reupholster the family room furniture. HINT: You don’t need any special software – you can simply post the contest to your website or blog (the image above is from a contest held by MOSS Buildings and Design and simply posted to their blog and Facebook page). You should promote the contest on social media and you should also ask participants to do the same. If you are tech savvy you can use free or inexpensive software (or a WordPress plugin) to have your community / visitors vote. The key here is to get your participants to really help you promote the contest. For instance, if they have a personal blog they can post about the contest and ask their followers to go to your site to vote (voila you just earned a link!).

5. Publish Games, Widgets, and Quizzes

This advanced link building tactic allows you to build links by publishing widgets, games, or quizzes on your website or on someone else’s website. See two excellent examples below.

ReferLocal Deal Widget

In the above image you see how one of my start-ups (Referlocal.com) created a deal widget that we publish on over 100 newspaper, TV, and radio websites across the United States.

OKCupid.com

In the above image you see how dating website OkCupid.com created a simple game to decipher nerds from geeks and dorks. People love to link to these types of “viral” games because they are fun and buzz worthy. BTW – OkCupid just earned a link from me. Go figure. 🙂

As I mentioned, creating widgets, games, and quizzes requires some advanced technical skill. However, if you are creative and you tie the concept into your business the benefits from a link building perspective can be significant.

6. Speak at industry events.

PubCon Bio

– One of the benefits of speaking at conferences and events within your particular industry is that you are likely to share your bio on the conference / event website, which will include a link back to your website like this one.

7. Earn Awards and Badges

Earning awards isn’t easy, but it’s not as hard as you might think. The first step is to apply – if you don’t get accepted or recognized this time around keep trying. In addition, note that there are likely dozens of awards in your industry that are available and many will be less competitive than others. If you win you’ll get the benefit of the recognition and you’ll almost certainly be able to get a link from the award sponsor.

Here are a few award links I’ve earned over the years:

Awards and Badges

8. Donate to Charities (My Favorite)

Nascar Foundation

Chances are you give money to a range of different causes. From local charities to National charities, when you donate money you will often receive recognition as a donor on the recipients website. Click the above Nascar Foundation button to see that I earned links to two of my start-ups (ReferLocal and KBJ Capital) (simply by asking) for a donation I made to a Nascar celebrity poker tournament that was held in my hometown. BTW – you can earn links from donating to charities in two ways. First, you can look for charities that post and link to donors and donate money to that charity. Second, you can look back on all the donations you’ve made (and intend to make) and simply send an e-mail or call the charity to see if they would be willing to create and publish a donor list. You’ll be surprised to see how many charities (especially local charities) will support your request.

9. Get listed in Business Directories

Business Directories

There is no better way of automatically increasing your online visibility and (arguably) no easier way to get backlinks to your site than by signing up your business to online directories. There are about 20-30 directories that are absolute must-be-listed, including Yahoo, Bing, Google my Business, Yelp, CitySearch, Best of the Web, Merchant Circle, ReferLocal (disclosure – I own ReferLocal), YP.com, etc. Sign-up for a FREE Trial to LSEO to get a full list of directories you need to be listed.

Keep in mind that there are great tools out there like Yext, Moz Local, and UBL that provide listing management services. Listing management is also a service offered by LSEO as part of our “Do it Yourself” and “We’ll Do it For You” software and service offering.