Assuming an appropriate amount of on-page optimization has been done, and a sites structure is good, how does a small local business acquire links without resorting to purchasing them?
The numerous free directories are obvious candidates (DMOZ, local.google.com, local.yahoo.com, superpages.com, infousa.com, botw.org and others).
Beyond these, where else can I acquire legitimate links?
A couple of my competitors are ranked higher than I am because of what looks like bogus (purchased or traded) links. Is my only option to produce content on my site relevant to our business and hope that my content gets linked to? I believe I could do so, but it would be very time consuming and I have a business to run!
1) have a blog (with summaries of the latest 4-8 posts on your home page) -- the posts should be articles about trends in your industry, thoughts about future innovation, etc.
2) offer to write articles for other relevant websites. You don't need to specifically ask for links back -- your byline would have your name and website, and likely be linked.
3) find relevant websites and post comments, along with a subtle link to your website. (i.e. Don't post a comment on The Superficial saying "I like Justin Bieber too check out my website http://buy-platform-shoes.com ")
4) send out a press release on your company -- this will get picked up by numerous smaller websites, which will all have links back to your site, but will not be counted against you as illicit text link ads...
5) just keep at it -- it won't be something that will change overnight, but even if you post one article (or send out a press release) once a month, it will start to pick up...
Focus on running your business...that's the most important thing you can do. :-)
Link building is not a one time job. It is an ongoing process. It is a small and necessary segment of your marketing effort. Links are never enough as your competitor is also building them.
Either you put 1 hour daily or outsource it but the comittment is necessary.
Even writing content does not guarantee links. The best you get is content farm syndicating your feed and you get a link in return.
Just hire someone on freelancer or odesk and let them do the link building. It is the best investment as your time would be definitely worth more than the amount you will pay to the outsourcer.
Writing your own blog is definitely a great way to start building your link and this had SEO benefits as well
Then you can try submitting these posts to various article submission sites and also social bookmarking sites like Digg, Stumbleupon and reddit and this will get you links as well as chance of attracting more visitors to your website.
Self promotion: You can also try to engage service provider like our company http:smebackoffice.com to help with your link building exercise every month.