7 tactics that really work
I’m going to start this like every other article you may have read on link building.
Link building is hard.
This statement is true for every business. That’s why every article about link building mentions it.
But when you’re a small business, it’s even harder.
You probably don’t have a dedicated in-house SEO.
You also don’t have the same internal resources to create the “10X content” that all the other link building articles say you need to get links.
And because you’re small, it’s just not as easy for you to attract links as a big, well-known brand.
However, link building is not impossible. Like anything difficult, it just takes time and effort.
When you’re a small business with limited time and resources, you need to make sure that all the time you spend on link building is spent on tactics that will actually work.
Good news: all of the link building ideas below really work. I have personally tried each of them with my own clients, many of whom are small businesses. Let’s dig.
1. Support your local community
Charities and non-profit organizations are always looking for sponsors. At least one level of sponsorship will include backlinks to a sponsor’s site.
Think about the organizations you can sponsor in your city. Do they organize fundraising events?
Don’t limit yourself to traditional charities. Also consider schools and for-profit events. Anyone in need of a sponsor is a potential backlink candidate.
Ideally, the sponsorship should make sense for your brand – aligning either with your physical location or your industry.
To improve this tactic, refer something that your target customers are genuinely interested in, instead of referring anyone who will give you a link.
The goal of link building should never focus solely on links; you want those links to translate into traffic as well.
This tactic requires a monetary investment, but it may require less upfront effort than other link building ideas.
Typically, you don’t need to build a solid relationship with event sponsors or convince them why you deserve a link.
Send them the money for your referral level and you’ll get everything included.
2. Connect with local and niche bloggers
What popular bloggers cover your city or industry?
These content creators are supposed to generate constant content for their readers. Like any content manager, they run out of ideas from time to time. Be the hero who gives them an idea.
Follow these people on social media and subscribe to their blog. Comment or share their articles when you find them interesting. Build an authentic relationship.
Over time, this can result in natural mentions.
In the meantime, pay attention to what they write and review where it might be a good idea for them to include you.
If you’re a florist, you can request to be included in their local gift ideas roundup blog.
If you sell accounting software, you can ask a personal finance blogger if they want to hear your CEO’s top tips for getting a tax refund.
The key here is to share something of real value for their readers. These bloggers are influential because their content helps their audience. Help them do it, and they will want to help you.
As a small business, you’ll have a better chance of going after smaller bloggers. These so-called micro-influencers may not have the domain authority of a famous blogger, but their niche makes their backlinks highly relevant to your website.
3. Run a scholarship
Sponsoring local organizations is one way to give back. College or high school sponsorships are another – and there’s a great way to earn some juicy .edu backlinks.
I’ve already covered this in Search Engine Journal, so you can read my walkthrough for this type of link building campaign.
The idea is to create a scholarship for college or high school students that is relevant to your small business.
If you are a real estate agent, have students write an essay hypothesizing the future of the housing industry.
Then contact the schools financial aid offices and ask them to share it with their students.
You’ll have to budget for this, but it’s one of the most effective link building campaigns I’ve ever run, and it really helps students in need.
As a small business, I recommend limiting your campaign to local areas where you operate or focusing on schools with a major department that matches your industry.
Also, after selecting a winner, you can always issue a press release for additional coverage and potential backlinks.
4. Guest Post for Industry Relevant Sites
You’ve seen this suggestion many times before, and that’s because it works.
Guest blogging takes real effort, perhaps the most of all the tactics on this list.
You have to:
It’s a lot of work, but it’s proportional to the yield you get.
Guest posts provide much more than a backlink. When you get a guest post on a site frequented by your target audience, it can drive qualified traffic your way.
Moreover, having a signature on these sites helps to elevate your brand status.
Small businesses often run into obstacles when featuring guest posts on popular sites. Instead of searching for the biggest sites you’ve heard of, submit articles to smaller sites that are relevant to your industry.
Using our accounting software example, you could seek out personal finance blogs with an engaged readership, rather than publishing behemoths like the Wall Street Journal.
If your small business regularly partners with other businesses in complementary verticals, consider offering them a guest post as well.
They’re already used to referring clients your way, so there’s a clear fit there.
How can you write an article for their site that provides value to their readers, while allowing them to contact you naturally?
For example, a short-term rental management company could partner with a local housekeeping service. Housekeeping could write a guest blog providing tips for cleaning your home between Airbnb rentals.
5. Offer case studies or testimonials
This is an easy link building tactic that I don’t see used as often as it should.
What vendors or software products does your company use? If you’re happy with it, offer to participate in a case study or provide them with a testimonial.
It’s customary for brands to link to the business featured in the case study or testimonial, as a sign of gratitude for their social proof.
You don’t want to enter this link request, and you should only do so for brands that you are genuinely happy with.
Contact your sales representative. Let them know how much their product or service has helped you and that you would be willing to provide them with a testimonial. You will make their day.
6. Retrieve unlinked mentions
This is perhaps the simplest link building tactic of all. Brands are mentioned every day online, whether big or small.
Set up free Google alerts for “[your brand name goes here]” and “[yourdomain.com]as well as the names of all the prominent members of your management team.
Whenever a website mentions you without including a link, contact them.
It’s a friendly audience who already thought you were worth mentioning to their readers. It’s only natural for them to include a link to your site, so their readers can learn more about you.
Pro tip: Review each mention before reaching out. If a site mentions your business in a negative way, don’t consider it your openness to ask for a link. Instead, see this as an opportunity to gauge their feedback and how you might need to adjust your business, if necessary.
7. Promote your content at scale
You already write blogs and share tips on your small business website. Do you do anything else to promote this content, in addition to the mandatory sharing on social networks?
Go online. There are many popular online blogs that allow you to syndicate your content (like Medium, LinkedIn, and others). Simply because of their massive size, these sites are much more likely to rank for your target keywords than you are.
Don’t be frustrated by this; rather, use it to your advantage.
Rewrite a compelling intro for your blog, or rewrite it entirely, and post a canonical link to your website.
This tactic is known as content syndication, and fellow SEJ writer Ben Jacobson wrote a great article about it here.
You can also share links to your content on social sharing sites and online discussion forums like Quora and Slideshare.
Monitor discussions that are relevant to your business. Show your business expertise and add real value to your response, before directing users to a piece of content on your website for additional information.
Do it regularly enough and you’ll start to make a name for yourself as an authority in the field. Users of these sites can start following you specifically to see your responses. This translates into traffic.
Speaking of traffic, this tactic usually (but not always) results in unfollowed links. While less valuable from a link equity perspective, nofollow links can be just as useful for driving traffic — and that’s really the end goal of link building.
Links are just one way to improve your search ranking. Traffic is what you really want.
Link building for your small business
Link building can work for small businesses. In fact, it can work very well.
You just have to think about where you put your efforts. Spend your time on tactics that work and you will start to see results.
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Featured image: rawpixel/Unsplash.com
Screenshot taken by author, October 2018.