Many small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) dismiss link building as something they don’t have time for. SEO in general can often be viewed as an unnecessary nuisance that many SMBs ignore.
In fact, link building is absolutely necessary, but only if your business is interested in search visibility. If your business would benefit from search visibility and traffic, then you should be considering links. Not only is link building important for visibility in search, it’s also achievable for small businesses.
Anyone Can Build Links
The truth is anyone can build links.
Link building requires hard work and determination, but really it can be done by anyone – there’s no magic or secret sauce involved. Many people think you must invest time and money into content creation in order to build links. However, it’s possible to build links without content.
Content marketing and link building are complementary, but they are not dependent on one another. I’ve said before that link building and content marketing work great together, but they are still two separate strategies that serve different purposes.
Having great content will certainly make building links much easier, and if you have the resources to invest in content you absolutely should. As a small business though, you might not have the budget or time to pursue content creation, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still pursue links.
Here is a list of possible tactics you can use to build worthwhile links without creating content:
- Image link building
- Local link building
- Fresh mentions
- Link reclamation
- Relevant niche directories (RNDs)
These are some relatively “quick win” strategies that don’t require content in order to be successful. If you’re a small business that doesn’t have time to invest in content, you can still implement some of these techniques to build worthwhile links to your site.
Image Link Building
The first quick win strategy worth exploring is image link building.
It’s possible to build worthwhile links with the images you already have, especially if you have great images hosted on your site. Chances are there might be a number of websites using your images. All you need to build some links is to find these sites and ask for a citation link.
To build links with your images you will first need to compile a list of images associated with your company or brand that could potentially be floating around online.
Some examples include:
- Employee headshots
- Branded graphics
- Product photos
- Company buildings/locations
Anything that is closely tied to your business or exclusive to your website is worth considering.
Once you have gathered your list of possible images it’s time to start searching for them on the web. To find the images you will need to perform a reverse image search. There are few different options when it comes to reverse image searching, such as:
Each tool operates a bit differently, but generally they can all get the job done, so it’s up to your personal preference on which one to use.
Essentially a reverse image search will show you where your images are being used online. All that’s left is to reach out to the webmasters using your images and ask that they provide citation via a link back to your site. For example:
I am contacting you because I noticed you feature my image [IMG NAME] on your site, specifically on this page: [PAGE URL]. First, I want to say thank you for featuring it, and secondly I wanted to ask if you could please attribute my image with a link pointing back to my site – [SITE URL].
Thank you for your time and please let me know if you have any questions.
That’s just a sample template, and depending on the specific situation the message should be slightly different. The main point is to always be polite and courteous, as more often than not these webmasters will gladly provide an attribution link.
Local Link Building
Another great way to build relatively quick and easy links is through local link building strategies.
Some common techniques for building local links include:
- Local partnerships
- Give testimonials
- Local sponsorships
- Engaging within your community
One option for building relevant and easy links is through local partnerships. In fact, these partnerships may already exist for your business and all you need to do is simply ask for a link. Look at your existing partners’ websites and see if they have a “Partnerships” page where they could include a link back to your site.
Even if you don’t have any official partners, you can still build links by providing testimonials to businesses you regularly interact with. These are great links because they provide value to the site linking to you through a public endorsement. Simply provide the company with a testimonial and suggest that they include a link to your website as a citation.
Another local strategy that can lead to links is local sponsorships. Typically charities or special events have websites dedicated to them, and these sites often have “Sponsors” pages. If your business sponsors local charities or events, ask if you can have a link on the event’s website via their ‘Sponsors” page – these are links you deserve.
Finally, you can find link opportunities by simply engaging within your local community. For example, if the local news covers an event you are involved with there’s an opportunity to build a link on that news outlet’s website. If the news team mentions your business, ask that they turn that mention into a link (more on this in a bit).
Likewise, if there is an event website you have an opportunity for a link there as well.
Other link opportunities that exist within your local community include:
- Loyal customers with websites
- Business associations and community groups
- Group interviews/surveys
All of these opportunities exist within your local community, and you can build links by simply being involved and then reaching out for a link where opportunity exists.
Finding fresh mentions can also be fruitful for small and medium businesses.
Building links through fresh mentions is somewhat similar to image link building via reverse image searching. Instead of looking for images related to your brand you are searching the web for brand mentions and terms.
Again, before you do any searching you want to ensure you are casting a wide net. Compile a list of any and all terms associated with your company, for example:
- Company name
Once you’ve organized a list of brand terms, you will need to use a tool to find mentions across the web. Google Alerts is a free option, but for more comprehensive mention searching and monitoring you should use a paid tool like Fresh Web Explorer or Mention.
Again, you will need to reach out (typically via email) to webmasters that mention your brand and ask that they include a link to your site as attribution. You can utilize a similar type of email as the example I provided for image link building. Once more, remember to be polite and professional.
Another great link building strategy that requires zero content creation is link reclamation.
Link reclamation is named as such because it involves reclaiming lost or missed link equity. One of the most common methods of link reclamation is retrieving link equity lost to 404/dead pages. This can be a great strategy if your website has had updates or migrations recently.
If you aren’t sure which pages on your site are returning 404s, you can use Google Webmaster Tools to identify them – simply go to the “Crawl Errors” section and look for pages with the response code 404.
Once you have the URLs of all the pages on your site returning 404s, you can begin to look for sites that link to those pages. In order to find inbound links pointing to 404 pages, you need to use a backlink tool.
Some great options include:
- Open Site Explorer
- Cognitive SEO
- Raven Tools
Once you find these linking pages, it’s time to reclaim your link equity. To fix your broken links you have two options – contact the webmaster of the linking site and ask that they adjust the link to point at your new page, or create a 301 redirect from the 404 page to a new page on your site.
Depending on the situation, one option might be more appropriate than the other, but always remember to check link quality first to ensure it’s a link worth reclaiming.
If you are struggling to find any links to your dead pages, you can broaden your search and potentially find more opportunities by examining the backlinks of a competitor that has recently gone out of business. With this strategy using 301 redirects would not be a viable option. But you could still reach out to these sites and let them know the company they’re currently linking to is out of business, and it would be more useful for them to link to you.
Relevant Niche Directories (RNDs)
Finally, relevant niche directories can be a viable way to build worthwhile links for SMBs.
It’s still possible to build useful links on RNDs, as long as there’s an emphasis on the words “relevant” and “niche”. While building links on low quality and irrelevant directories is a dead tactic, it does not mean all directory link building is useless.
For me, the best criterion for evaluating a directory is to look at it from a user standpoint and determine if the directory would actually be helpful or not.
If a directory is very broad and has links that point to sites from several different verticals, odds are that’s not a directory you want a link from. However, a directory that focuses solely on a specific niche or industry (and is relevant to your site) is likely somewhere you do want a link.
Also, hyper-focused local directories should be considered as well. Any local directory that contains relevant businesses in your community should also feature your website.
Some examples of local resources that pose link opportunities include:
- Chamber of commerce
- Local business directory
- Local business journal
- Local review sites
Local directories don’t have to be specific to your niche, and can be very useful for both driving traffic to your site and foot traffic to your store.
Link building may not be for every business, but if you want any sort of visibility within search you need to build links.
Anyone can build links; there are no secret tricks, it’s just hard work and dedication. Many people believe you must invest in content creation to build links, but that is simply not true.
While engaging content will always help to supercharge a link building campaign, it is not wholly necessary. Even if you don’t have the ability to create fresh content, you can still build links through some of the quick win strategies outlined in this article.
Images via author.