Links, links, links. Love them or hate them, we all need them when it comes to doing search engine optimization.
The importance of high-quality links in SEO is no secret.
What is highly contested, though, is how to generate inbound links “the right way”.
For many SEO professionals, this means strictly white hat link building methods. For others, a little *ahem* ethical flexibility… is OK.
But we can all agree that attracting links the natural way pays off in more ways than one.
So, no matter your preference, it’s worth uncovering some creative ways to earn links naturally.
Link Building, Au Naturel
Natural link building is the process of attracting links without having to go and generate them yourself – such as through guest posting, outreach, or buying links.
The idea is that your website, content, and marketing are so awesome that other website owners just can’t resist linking to you.
Easier said than done, perhaps.
I recommend combining natural link building methods into your existing link building strategy to take a completely holistic approach.
Benefits of Natural Link Building
The benefits of natural link building versus traditional link building are different. The main benefits include better rankings, more traffic, and increased brand visibility.
However, there are a few pros that make naturally earned links shine above the rest:
- Industry recognition: Getting your website mentioned in a popular industry publication increases your own brand’s visibility.
- Exponential link growth: When your website attracts links from some of the big-name authority sites, it increases your chances of generating even more natural links from industry blogs.
- Social shares: There’s a strong correlation between content that attracts natural links and a high number of social shares.
- Relationship building: Gaining natural links can present opportunities for you to start conversations with other people in your industry, which can then lead to beneficial relationships in the future.
- Confidence: There’s no better feeling than to discover that your website has attracted 100% natural links. This can encourage you to up your SEO efforts even more.
Natural link building can pay off in more ways than just traffic and rankings. Plus, it’s a great feeling to attract high-quality links with no outreach and little marketing spend.
What Do You Have to Do to Get Other Sites to Link to You of Their Own Accord?
So, if natural link building doesn’t include outreach, is one just supposed to sit and wait for links to start pouring in?
There are still things you have to do to make your website worth linking to. It goes a bit beyond a hope and a prayer.
The key is making your content irresistible and marketing your site across multiple platforms.
If no one has heard of you, they won’t link to you. You need to make your site, content, and brand hyper-visible.
Fortunately, any of the below methods can be scaled up or down according to your budget and bandwidth.
Here are 12 examples to help you get the link building wheels turning.
1. Content Marketing
The foundation of any great link building strategy is creating content worth linking to.
With traditional link building, you may be able to incentivize sites to link to you in exchange for a guest post or the like. With natural link building, it doesn’t work like that.
Building out evergreen content is your best bet when it comes to attracting links from high authority sites – especially if you are able to get that content to rank with SEO.
If your content is routinely at the top of the SERPs and is a highly valuable resource, it becomes the obvious choice for sites to link to.
Further, actively marketing your content across platforms increases your visibility, versus simply waiting for SEO to do its thing.
2. Social Media
Your personal and business profiles on social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn present you with several opportunities to include links to your website.
For instance, Twitter gives you two fields – the Web and Bio – to include links. While these may not do much for your website authority, they do allow you to generate traffic to your site.
Similarly, LinkedIn gives you three links within your profile. You can even add media like videos and documents. These are all opportunities to capture traffic, generate leads, and increase the visibility of your content.
Beyond these rather set-it-and-forget-it links in your profiles, social media marketing helps you get your content in front of more eyes.
Share highly relevant, engaging content and it may entice other website owners to link to it of their own accord.
3. Editorial Links
An editorial link is a naturally-acquired link that occurs as a result of great content and marketing. They tend to carry a lot of authority and legitimacy because they typically involve a feature in a major publication.
A great way to attract these links is to publish content about current events and trends. That’s because high-authority sites like Forbes and Entrepreneur prefer to reference reputable sources and fresh, expert-generated content.
You can find these topics by watching trends online. Some great tools for this are:
- Google Trends
- Bing Trending Topics
- Twitter Trending Topics
- Google News Stories
Simply write your own expert take on a trending topic and share it across multiple platforms to generate some momentum.
If you are ahead of the curve, you have a good chance of ranking organically for the topic before other sites hop on the trend. Then, other sites are likely to link to you.
4. Resource Pages
While we’re on the topic of irresistible, high-value content, let’s discuss resource pages.
Resource pages are typically evergreen pages that list a variety of high-value resources like PDFs, videos, downloadables, guides, tools, and interviews that help users in some way. It’s essentially a tool kit for your target audience.
Too often, other sites limit their resources to individual blog posts. But if you build out a more robust resource hub, that’s an incentive for other industry sites to link to you; they’ll see that their users can find everything they need all in one place.
Resource pages are also great when it comes to targeting keywords like:
- “how to ___”
- “_____ guides”
- “_____ tips”
Users who are looking for an answer to a question or a guide on how to solve a problem will benefit greatly from a resource page. Knowing this, other sites will see the value in linking to your page.
Quora.com is a Q&A site where users can share their knowledge and find answers to their questions. Quora gets 200,000+ unique visitors per month.
In order to attract natural links via Quora, the key is to focus on providing value. Many users use Quora for link building purposes, so if you simply drop a link, most users can see right through your intentions.
Find and answer questions related to your industry. Offer your expertise and contextually include a link to a valuable resource within your response.
If a user finds your response to be authentic and thorough, they may be inclined to visit your site and even link to the page themselves.
Help a Reporter (HARO) is a platform that reporters and publishers use to source expert advice, quotes, and information for their articles.
When you sign up for HARO, the site emails you daily opportunities to respond to reporters’ requests for expert feedback and community opinions.
If you provide the information and value a publication is looking for, they will typically reference you as a source – including your name, title, and website.
As with Quora, the goal is to provide value – not just write for the sake of a link. If a reporter gets the sense that you are doing link building for SEO purposes, they are unlikely to link to (or even respond to) you.
You can sign up for HARO for free and respond to new queries every single day to increase your chances of earning natural links.
7. Website Tools
Similar to a resource page, you can create a valuable tool and host it on your website. If your tool is one-of-a-kind and helps users in some way, other industry sites will find it valuable as well.
Some examples of useful tools include:
- Free SEO audit tools.
- Budget calculators.
- Blog topic generators.
- Meta title counter tools.
Think of a tool that would be beneficial to your audience, preferably a tool that doesn’t currently exist. Then, you should be able to work with a developer to create a tool for your website.
Got an awesome writer on your team? If so, it may be worth writing an industry-leading ebook to generate natural links.
An ebook can be a great authoritative piece of content that sets you apart in your industry. Like any other piece of content, the more value you provide, the better. If your ebook stands the test of time, it can generate natural links for years to come.
Check out Search Engine Journal’s complete ebook library for some examples.
Reddit isn’t just for r/rants and r/politics. Redditors also flock to the platform for news, to seek answers to their questions, and to share their own knowledge.
That means there is ample opportunity for you to provide value, answer questions, and even get a link.
I recommend creating an account that has nothing to do with SEO. Simply act like a typical user.
Then, subscribe to subreddits that are related to your industry. Answer user questions, build up your Reddit “karma”, and share value. Occasionally, you can drop links to your own resources that may be of value to the community.
If other Redditors like what you have to say, and if your linked content is of interest to them, they may decide to share it elsewhere or even link to it in a future article.
10. Ego Bait Content
“Ego bait” content banks on the idea of “I scratch your back, you scratch mine”. It involves creating content that highlights one or more industry expert and encourages them to “thank you” with a link (without asking, of course).
Ego bait content can be a part of your regular link outreach methods, or you can simply create the content and wait to acquire the links naturally.
The idea is that whoever is featured in the content is so honored that they are inclined to link to and share your content saying, “Hey, look how awesome I am!”
Some ideas for ego bait content include:
- Expert roundup posts
- “Best of” articles
- Expert directories
Check out this guide on ego bait content for even more ideas.
Don’t underestimate the value of a good ol’ conversation.
By building real relationships with people in your industry, you can uncover a wealth of opportunities to collaborate. If people like you, they are far more likely to share your content.
This can work both ways. If you link to their content, feature them in articles, or ask for their expert advice, they may think to do the same.
Just remember to do it for the right reasons instead of with the intention of being self-serving. People can typically see through that.
12. Video Marketing
With video SEO becoming increasingly hot right now, SEO pros are thirsty for more video content.
But not everyone has the time or budget to create their own videos. Often, they venture to YouTube to find valuable videos to feature in their blog posts.
You can create valuable video content and publish it to YouTube to increase your chances of other websites featuring your videos. Not only will this direct traffic to your videos, but it also gives you the chance to ask for a feature.
If you discover that another website has referenced your video, you can ask them to give credit to you via a website link. Even if they decline, you can still direct users to subscribe to your channel or visit your website via a link in the video description.
Not all link building involves tirelessly reaching out to websites, guest posting, or cold emailing people in your industry.
By providing value online, you may very well attract links the natural way.
However, this is not done without effort.
That’s why I recommend combining these natural link building methods with your own strategy in order to cover all of your bases.
Then, you can attract links from multiple sources and increase your chances of getting your content circulated online.