Do you know where your links are coming from? Are they stacked against you? Links are an incredibly important part of SEO, and they can be tricky to get just right. Even if you’re focusing on quality links from one source, you’ll likely encounter the issue of an unbalanced link profile. Too many links from one source look unnatural and can be just as dangerous to your SEO as using black hat link building techniques. You need to diversify, and here’s how.

1. Vary the Anchor Text of your Incoming Links

One link-related penalty doesn’t care where the link is. If every link you have coming into your site has the same keyword for anchor text, you’re doing yourself no favors. Varied anchor text is just as important as varied sources for your links.

The first thing you need to do is analyze the anchor text of all of the links coming into your site. How many variations are there? A larger number is better here. Once you know if you have an issue, you can take steps to fix it. On sites and posts, you control, go back, and edit the link text. It will take a while for the changes to propagate through Google’s index, but they will be beneficial when they take hold.

Once you have taken steps to change existing links, change your strategy for building more links. Encourage natural phrase links, rather than specific keywords or brand names. Google is hinting at brand mentions – the unlinked mention of your name – is a potent factor in future SEO. Double up on your SEO link power by including brand mentions along with your link.

2. Use Your Newsletter to Request Backlinks

One surprisingly effective technique for social media engagement is to simply ask for what you want. Asking users for likes and shares is effective in earning your likes and shares. Why would it be any less effective in other areas?

In this case, you can diversify your link base by asking for links from your readers. If you’re in a tech-focused field especially, it’s surprisingly easy to pull in relevant backlinks just by asking your audience.

Your newsletter is already populated by some of the most engaged readers you have. Many of them have websites of their own, in the same niche or a related field. Make sure you specify relevant links! If you’re a blog dealing with SEO, you likely don’t need a link from a quilting site. All you have to do is include a paragraph in your next newsletter explaining that you’re working on a new link campaign and hope your readers can contribute by linking to your pages on their sites.

3. Ego Bait Influencers with Interviews

Most entrepreneurs don’t get where they are by being reserved introverts. They have a passion for what they do and they have an aggressive sense of self-promotion to make it happen. This makes them successful in their endeavors, but it also makes them vulnerable to ego baiting.

Ego baiting comes in many forms. The main idea is to appeal to the ego of an influencer and thought leader in your niche, in some way. Attract their attention by mentioning and complimenting them. This puts you in a good light – flattery gets you everywhere – and makes them more likely to link to you.

One way to ego bait is the interview. Entrepreneurs like being considered knowledgeable and experienced enough to be consulted as an authority. Interview them about the niche, their business, current events, anything that strikes your fancy. Publish the interview on your site. Chances are very good that the interviewee will then link to your site to promote their interview. Just like that, you have a quality backlink from an authoritative source.

4. Join Discussions and Add Relevant Content Links

The process of link dropping is somewhat frowned upon in most Internet communities. In some, it’s actively discouraged through heavy moderation and account penalties. That’s with link dropping that involves you coming out of nowhere, joining in on a discussion you weren’t part of, throwing your link at the group of users, and never returning. Such practice is, understandably, disruptive, and ineffective.

If you use it properly, however, you can convert link dropping from a shady ineffective technique into a valid use of your time. The key is participation. First, you need to find relevant discussions. You can do this by searching for communities dedicated to your niche on web forums, searching though Twitter and Facebook hashtags, and joining LinkedIn groups.

Once you have identified communities holding ongoing discussions relevant to your niche, step in, and participate. Offer your opinions on the matter at hand. Within a few posts, you can provide a link to your content. This gives you time to pick a blog post that best fits the topic at hand, or gives you the chance to write a new one to fit the community.

5. Investigate Industry Relations and Offer Guest Posts

This one you should be doing on an ongoing basis throughout your content marketing. Always be vigilant, looking for blogs, authorities, influencers, and thought leaders in your niche and any related niche. Identify these blogs and rank them by their domain authority and relevance to your site. Start at the top of this list and work your way down, getting as many guest posts on as many of them as you can, staggered throughout the months.

Guest posts are great, though their utility has declined in recent months. Google doesn’t like it when you pay for guest posts and followed links. What it likes is when you organically develop connections with these sites, and a guest post is a great place to start. It puts you in their field of view. In the future, they’ll know your site and they’ll recognize your connection. You can work to build a relationship from there, with value for both parties.

6. Disavow or NoFollow Old Paid Links or Negative SEO Links

Part of diversifying your future link base is dealing with the actions of the past that continue to hold negative consequences for your future. There are a few things you can do here.

• Locate links to your site on dead, irrelevant, or spam sites and use the Google Disavow Links tool to get rid of their negative influence on your SEO.
• Look for signs of a Negative SEO attack and similarly disavow any such links. While it’s questionable whether Negative SEO is effective, it can’t hurt to remove such links from the calculations.
• Look for old links you paid for and request they be changed to NoFollow if they aren’t already. Google sometimes assigns a penalty to sites lined on known link sellers, so paying for links can hurt you. Setting those links to NoFollow – or disavowing them – gets them away from a healthy link profile.

7. Focus on Varied Link Sources Using Link Detective

This process requires a few specific tools and steps. First, use the Moz Open Site Explorer to download your site’s link profile as a CSV. Take this CSV file and run it through Link Detective. This will scan and categorize your links by the type of site they come from. You’ll be able to see, in a handy chart, how many of your links come from articles, directories, comments, profiles, and a handful of other sources.

With this information, you can see categories of links you’ve been neglecting. This will vary from blog to blog, of course. Identify the weak points in your link program and search for relevant sites that fit the criteria. Target your links to broaden your profile for maximum benefit.