In editorial or content-based link building consulting, one of the most common kinds of conversations is scale -- that is, how can a given linkable asset or tactic be used multiple times or across multiple prospects and still drive valuable links. Answering this question is probably second in difficulty to the link building ROI question.
Safe Links (in Your Market, for Your Site...)
Safe is certainly a relative term that will depend on how your SERP competitors have attracted, how you've earned links in the past, your domain age, and much more.
As a rule of thumb when considering a given tactic, you could certainly ask yourself, "What would Matt Cutts think?" Alternately, based on your competitors, you could simply make sure your site's the one "wearing running shoes" in your market.
Your emphasis should be on building links that drive targeted referral traffic and that influence authority and/or trust at the search engine level. Do very little anchor text manipulation. Individual keyword SERP impact should be fairly far down the list of concerns.
For the purposes of this article, safe means "not intended solely or even secondarily to impact single keyword SERPs." That is, the goal is to build links that would still bring targeted traffic even if Google shut its doors tomorrow.
7 Traits of Highly-Valuable Links
This is our rough hierarchy of a link's value. Treat this more as a general guide rather than a hard and fast rule set for valuation, and certainly your or your clients' business goals should be a key deciding factor here. Note that there are certainly more than seven traits of a valuable link.
- The link reaches a targeted audience: Will the audience who sees your link and its surrounding context actually care about it enough to click? Will the context compel them to click?
- The link flows "brand juice" to your site: That is, being mentioned on this site or by this person is "braggable" or worthy of an "As Seen On" badge.
- The link funnels visitors toward a conversion or other deeper brand interactions: Home page links are great, but is there a deeper page that's also valuable and can lead to a sale, sign up, or other conversion that you can grow into a sale later on?
- The link is on a marketed, shared, and trusted page: Ideally the link goes on a page that the publisher promotes via an e-mail newsletter or through their social media channels.
- The link is placed through your relationship/trust/reputation with publisher: It becomes easier to earn great links once you've established yourself with many individuals in your market.
- The link continually drives traffic: Valuable links send targeted traffic every day -- usually just a trickle, but this trickle adds up. Note this continual traffic is often because the linking page ranks well or has earned its own valuable links.
- The link is followed, plus it includes targeted anchor text: These are great things, and certainly will relate to how a given link impacts your SERPs.
Scalable Link Building Assets
Here are some examples of some link building assets that are scalable through lots of link prospecting and even more elbow grease.
- "Real" reviews (asset = free trial or product for review)
- Genuinely notable news
- Expert interviews (asset = experts with "free time")
- Expert guest posts/articles
- Free tools
- Book/PDF excerpts
- Data: reports/analysis/surveys (bonus: turn this unique data into an infographic!)
- Group interviews
- Awards for contests
If you're still not sure where to start, or how to figure out what could be scalable in your market space, check out "How to Conduct a Link Opportunity Inventory (Plus 9 Common Link Opportunity Types)."