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NickMorris
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Firstly I don’t think most SEOs do create purely non manipulative links but if they were to then it would involve some of these processes;

Creating interesting and useful content;
-Analysing what’s already out there and what’s needed
-Identifying target customer’s pain points
-Identifying what linking audience likes to link to
-Identifying the types of content that your target market likes to consume
-Sourcing unique and valuable information such as by curation, original research, personal experiences, good stories, funny jokes, breaking news, expert analysis etc.
-Sourcing good quality images, photographs, diagrams, tools, widgets etc.
-Facilitating the writing of the content including headline, call to action and content itself

Getting it seen by those with websites and social accounts;
-Form relationships with industry influencers
-Distributing through appropriate channels where those targets congregate
-Building a regular following so they will share and distribute your content
-Target specific individuals through interview, ego bait, roundups etc. to encourage them to link to and share your content
-Using paid channels to distribute your content such as stumble upon’s paid discovery
-Make content easily sharable ie. easy to reach/see buttons, fast loading pages, ‘link to us’ text

Submitting to websites with strict editorial process;
-Identify these websites relevant to your industry
-Determining how good your submission needs to be in order to be accepted
-Create content, submission etc. to that standard
-Submit

There’s a number of things you can do to ‘grease the wheels’ and encourage your content to be linked to and shared. The more ‘greasy’ these techniques get the closer it becomes to a manipulative link tactic. Here’s a few;
-Look for broken links on target’s site then email them to let them know and while they’re there ask if they will look over this recent blog post you wrote and possibly link to it and/or share
-Do a group interview where you pay one or two big names to be involved which will incentivise others to get involved for free (who may not have agreed to otherwise) because that association with the big names helps their reputation as well

This is on top of all the regular SEO best practices of course.