Small Business Link Building Ideas

Dec 15th

It's easy for the big guys.

They have big advertising budgets. They have brand awareness. Every time they twitch, some business journalist will be writing up a story.

But what if you operate a small business? You have a limited budget, you've got a pile of other things that need doing, and very little time to devote to any one aspect of your marketing strategy. How do you build links without breaking the bank?

Let's take a look at how the small business can generate quality links, and do so without a great deal of time and money.

1. Use Your Agility

The small business has one huge advantage over the big business when it comes to SEO: agility.

For a big business to change, it takes time. There is layer upon layer of sign offs. There are meetings. There are lawyers, managers and shareholders. This is a difficult environment in which to undertake SEO.

The small business, on the other hand, can move very quickly.

Chances are, there are only one or two people making decisions, so use this to your advantage. Are there aspects of your industry where speed is essential? Can you react to fast breaking news before the big guys can? Can you spot fast emerging consumer trends, and publish information on them before anyone else does? To help you monitor breaking news and trends in your area of interest, sign up to trend sites, such as Google Trends, and monitor news feeds using Google Alerts.

Big business finds it very difficult to be controversial, yet controversy can be a great marketing tool. The Sex Pistols built a career, not by copying the establishment, but by butting heads with it. Everyone knows about "Will it blend?". That viral campaign was edgy, risky and out-there. If Blendtech hadn't taken that risk, they wouldn't have been worth remarking on. A blender is not a new invention, and there are a lot of big competitors making blenders, but Blentech made their name by being a bit wild and crazy.

Are there opportunities for you to go against the grain and stand out? If you do, you'll be link worthy. Can you borrow controversial ideas form other market sectors and apply them to your own?

2. Publishing Strategy

It is becoming increasingly difficult to get people to voluntarily link to purely commercial sites.

Consider adopting a publishing strategy that has a non-commercial angle. If need be, create a second site. It is much easier to get links for sites that have utility beyond selling a product or service. Create glossaries, unbiased buyer information, review sites, blogs, wikis, or industry news sites. Once the site has built up some link equity, and is ranking well, you can add your own advertising, or link it to your commercial site.

Try to create niche information sites that cover areas no one else is covering. Think small. If you're one of the few sources for a particular type of information, you stand to get more links than sites that compete in saturated areas. Try not to compete directly with the bigger operators. Redefine your niche until you can make your offering unique.

Take a step back from your site. Is it remarkable? Would you link to it? Be honest. Think about what it takes for you to link out. Why would someone link to you? Can you make the people linking to you look good? Consider writing favorable reviews about indirect competitors. Does your site provide genuine utility when compared to your competitors? Think about what problems you can solve for people that no-one else is solving. PlentyOfFish.com made millions by providing a free dating service when every other dating site was using a paid subscriber model. Provide information that solves a problem.

Links should follow.

3. Nail The Basics

Cover the basics of link building.

Get listed in relevant directories, local business organizations, and industry verticals. To find these sites, search on industry name + add url

Issue press releases whenever you have relevant information to share. Make a list of the top sites in your industry sector, and try to get a link from them. Can you offer to do something for them, like writing an article, in return for a link? Look at who links to your competitors. Use tools, such as Yahoo Site Explorer, to find these links

Make a list of those sites and see what your competitors did to get these links. Copy what they did. Put most of your efforts into getting quality links, rather than getting low quantity junk. It's surprising how few links you need in order to rank well, especially in niche areas.

4. Give Something Valuable Away

Web designers often give away templates. They create a template, and place their link in the footer.

Think about what you can create and give away. Compare the cost of developing these widgets and freebies with the cost of buying or chasing links. If you're providing something genuinely valuable for nothing, people are certain to remark on it, especially if your competitors charge for the same thing. You can also submit your offering to sites that feature freebies, such as TheFreeSite.com. While every other guy is "giving" the opportunity for a link trade - which isn't of much value - you're going one step further.

Offer coupons. Simply by offering coupons, you can get included in coupon and bargain hunting sites.

5. Local News Interest

Local newspapers and news sites are always on the lookout for local content. Unlike major newspapers, the barrier to entry is often low, but the link equity can be just as valuable.

Is there a local aspect to your business? Are there ways you can get involved in the community that would lead to reporters writing a story about you? Issue press releases with a local angle, and try and build up a relationship with local reporters. Offer to be a spokesperson for your topic of interest if they have future stories for which they need an expert opinion.

6. Sponsor Charities

Charity sites are often amenable to linking out to those who support them. The cost of the donation might be nothing compared to the value of a lifetime link from a well-placed charities.

Offer to do work of genuine value for the charity. Could you help them market their website? Design a new website for them? Can you write an article for them, or find a way of featuring in their news stories? These links are pure gold,and because it takes some effort, it is difficult for your lazy competitors to follow.

Search on terms such as donor, sponsors, and donations to find these sites.

7. Request A Link In All Communications

Whenever you mail someone, include a link request in the footer. The communication could be an order confirmation, an email newsletter, or an invoice. Here's an example on SEOmoz.

Highlight featured content in your email footer. Update the links in your email footer regularly, so people are more likely to look at them. Think of your communications as a call to action. How can you get people to engage further with you?

Start a Twitter account and post your articles. Do the same with Facebook and any other social media channels you use.

8. Participate

Go where your audience are.

It's not just about getting links that pass PR. It's about creating meaningful relationships. If your potential audience hangs out on forums, then post to those forums. Become a trusted member and advisor. People link to SEOBook.com not just because of the great information ;) but because of the quality of the relationship has been established in the past.

This approach will serve you well for the future. Google will be placing more and more emphasis on engagement metrics in order to determine rank. Why?

The problem Google was created to solve - finding relevant information - is morphing into a problem of locating quality information. There might be a lot of crawlable information on a given topic, so finding it isn't an issue any more. Finding the information people find most useful is the new challenge.

How people engage with your site is going to become increasingly important.Look to establish meaningful relationships, wherever possible.

Further Reading:

Published: December 15, 2008

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Comments

December 16, 2008 - 1:44am

Aaron, the video on this post: http://www.seobook.com/baking-seo-workflow does not work, or is it just me? Do you know any other source to get it? Thanks.

December 16, 2008 - 7:10pm

The video has been fixed. :)

December 17, 2008 - 11:32am

Hi Aaron,

I have written an article on simple link building methods. Hope your visitors benefit from it:

http://www.dilipshaw.com/search-engine-optimization/link-building-tips-a...

Best,
Dilip Shaw

December 18, 2008 - 2:11pm

Thanks for the link to your article. Very helpful. I will share with some clients as well.

December 16, 2008 - 2:20pm

Great article Peter. Another good tactic that kind of blends a couple of your ideas is to invite well-known pros to chime in. Offer something of value to encourage them to participate on your site/blog in some meaningful way (article, comments, review, etc.), and many times some of their followers check in on what you are doing.
But it's all about doing things your lazy competitors won't.
And thanks dilip for the link - was a well written article.

December 17, 2008 - 1:19am

Thanks for the link Peter! This post hits upon some solid points. Bookmarked and shared with the folks at the office.

websitedesigner
December 17, 2008 - 1:47am

Great Article Peter! Perfect for us small biz guys. I knew pretty much all of that but it's good to read the article with the perspective - "Okay, now which of these things am I really utilizing and which am I not and how can I start utilizing them?" and kind of just work from there.

Cool stuff, thanks!

-Sean

December 17, 2008 - 4:38am

Thanks guys, and thanks for the extra tips :)

December 17, 2008 - 5:48am

useful Article for me to improve my link building

what a great pity is I couldn't write qulity content to absord one's attention

any suggestion?

December 17, 2008 - 5:53am

If you are passionate and practice writing then eventually you get good at it. It might take a few weeks or a few years, but I know I did not start off as a popular writer (or a writer with much natural skill).

December 17, 2008 - 10:57pm

>>any suggestion?

Practice :)

Write every day. Start a blog. Get into the habit of writing often.

I recommend the book "On Writing Well", by William Zinsser.
It's a great instruction manual for writing non-fiction.

December 18, 2008 - 12:54pm

A lot of great tips here. Another thing you can do is use free websites such as LinkedIn, LookupPage, Naymz, etc. to add "do-follow" links to your company website. Building professional profiles on these sites for key individuals in the business carries the added benefit of improving your company's overall web presence as well.

Reuben

December 18, 2008 - 4:34pm

>any suggestion?

There are plenty of places you can go to hire people who can write, and given the recent media layoffs it's a buyers' market.

December 19, 2008 - 1:46am

What a great post! Been small means you can overcome the giant by being fast and agile.

January 13, 2009 - 10:43pm

I have read a lot of posts lately on webmasterworld that Google has made links from directories, article sites, press releases, reciprocals, etc of no value. They are saying about the only link that is relative is true news, reviews of sites, and third party articles.

Aaron, how do you feel about this? Do you feel this is correct or not? I am about to embark upon a link building program and do not want to waste valuable time in unproductive areas.

What links are still valid or valuable to google, and yahoo?

January 14, 2009 - 4:43am

I don't think all those links are discounted, but many of them are. If you have specific questions about your SEO strategy you can get them answered in our member's forums.

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