Links are one of the toughest elements to SEO since Google stepped up its algorithm updates in 2011. The first Penguin update as we know it rolled out back in April 2012 and impacted 3.1% of all queries in English across the web – with dodgy link profiles high on the list of offenders.
Since then website owners have been scrambling to clean up their link profiles and get their search presence back on track. The trouble for non-SEO folk is link building has become a tough art. You need a strong profile to rank well, but if you get it wrong you can pay a heavy price. So today let’s look at five trusted ways to build a link profile that builds your search presence without getting you hit by a nasty Penguin penalty.

#1: Guest blogging

Matt Cutts ruled out guest blogging as a link building strategy last year and caused a stir in the SEO community. The head of Google’s anti-spam team (currently on an extended break) quickly corrected his statement and denounced the old-school trick of using guest blogging purely for SEO and link building purposes.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t guest blog though – you definitely should. But instead of blogging purely for the links, guest post to build your online profile within your industry. Build a relationship with relevant website owners and you’ll often get a profile with a link to your website. More importantly though, you’ll get your name and knowledge seen by the kind of people you want to visit your site and build a natural stream of traffic to your site.

#2: Visual content

Visual content like infographics and video are incredibly engaging and a sure-fire way to get your content seen in a competitive market. Better yet, they are incredibly sharable across social media and other bloggers will often source and credit your visual content in their own blogs. All this exposure comes with a link back to your website, which means more valuable links and traffic coming back to you.

#3: Content syndication

Duplicate content is a big no-no when it comes to SEO and Google algorithms. But this doesn’t mean you can’t leverage your content across the web to build your link profile. There are a number of content syndication sites out there that legitimately publish content from other sources and credit it to the original owner.
This is a great way to make your content go further and gain genuine links back to your website. Just make sure to use established, high-quality sites that use the rel=canonical tag so Google knows it’s legit. Also keep an eye on Google’s Panda updates to make sure syndication doesn’t become a future issue. And finally, don’t syndicate all of your content – the vast majority should still be original and only published on your site.

#4: Outreach

Seek out the authorities in your industry and create a list of blogs by experts and leading names. Put them in order of influence and work your way up from the bottom of your list by commenting on blogs that have a larger audience than your own.
Get involved in the discussions and come up with useful comments, contributions and new ideas. This will get your name out there, but you can also approach these blog owners after making a presence on their blog and eventually you can contact them directly and offer a guest blog. Gradually work your way up the list and you can establish yourself amongst the leaders in your industry.

#5: Build your social presence

Google denies that social signals don’t currently influence search ranking, but a number of experiments within the industry suggest the opposite. Regardless, social probably will (if it already doesn’t) play a large role in SEO, but you also want to get sociable to increase your content exposure and build natural inbound links.
Visual content is once again invaluable as the social web becomes increasingly focused around images and video. Create content that people want to share, like and comment on – this will expand your audience and get people talking about your brand. Not only that, but it will build your profile with the kind of natural links that Google loves to rank highly.