I always try to get link building integrated into the DNA of my client's daily activities. Links as "votes of confidence" shouldn't be requested, but earned.
Being conscious about the activities that promote linking is the most important step to improve your ranking. That doesn't mean you can't actively hunt for links. In heavily competitive industries you need continuous link building to maintain your current ranking and additional boosts to improve your ranking on selected topics.
The following activities should be streamlined and mixed for best results.
1. Participate in the Online Community
Any media attention for your brand can attract links as long as you have additional background information on your website. Online mentions of your name without a link should be seen as a lost opportunity, so learn what background information is needed for each mention type.
You should also make someone responsible for your corporate response to relevant hot topics and create an active role for your website within your field of expertise. Participate with insightful content contributions, clear opinion pieces, and openness about the challenges your company faces. Try to communicate through many platforms and empower ambassadors to promote your brand.
2. Benefit From Regular Partnerships
Votes of confidence are logical when people are enthusiastic about your brand. Provide testimonials for the services of your business partners and request something similar in return. A clear description on what they like or dislike about your services is sure to be relevant and looks much more natural to Google than a site-wide footer link on their website.
Promotional partnerships offer great link building opportunities, but most forms of advertising should be nofollowed to be safe with Google.
Joint promotions and member discounts are situated somewhere between advertising and votes of confidence. That's because bigger brands wouldn't just risk their reputation by promoting supplemental services that they don't fully trust.
"Buy a Samsung interactive TV and get 6 months Netflix for free" will probably be accompanied with additional info on Netflix including a couple of links. Interesting joint promotions like this can be found in many industries and even bigger brands like Samsung link (dofollow) to their partners.
3. Continuous Partner Search
In the previous activities there shouldn't be a clear focus on the ranking improvement for specific keyword combinations. Diversity is a much stronger signal of a broad-based authority to Google. That doesn't mean you shouldn't focus on ranking.
For keywords in more competitive industries additional link building will be needed. This part of your link building effort should focus on groups of related keywords and the most relevant partners you can find for them. This starts by looking for well ranking sites and finding methods to convince them to link to you.
After having contacted the most relevant partners you keep broadening your search for partners until you've attracted enough links to outrank the competition. The anchor text and the text surrounding the link should be on topic, which can even make up for less relevant partners that have a great link profile.
4. Viral Boosts
In really competitive industries link building by requesting individual links just isn't enough. You need messages that spread themselves and hopefully attract a lot of links from a wide range of websites (and social media). Viral link building is the best way to achieve this. Virals with product innovation, targeting weird niche audiences or research with a newsworthy outcome can all be used to attract links.
It is important that your viral incorporates multiple storylines so everybody can find their own unique media fact in them:
Is it funny?
Can someone feel offended by it?
Does it seem unbelievable?
Is your type of company an uncommon sender for these messages?
Is it interesting for a wide range of audiences?
Is the topic controversial with both protestors and proponents?
These are just some of the questions that make a good viral. As long as your website holds a central role in the message, links are sure to follow.
Use sites like BuzzFeed for additional inspiration. Highly competitive industries like dating, insurance, and gambling often provide the best examples of viral link building. Once you detect one, try to reverse engineer their strategy and learn from it.
Evangelism to get Everybody Involved
Link building isn't just some activity you do. It should be an integral part of all your activities, even outside regular marketing.
Awareness to detect chances and just some small changes to regular activities can make link building an automatic flow. That's why 90 percent of your SEO effort should be to get everybody involved. Online mindedness can be taught, but it takes effort and a lot of patience.