Link building is one of the most important techniques related to search engine optimization, and one of the hardest as well. There are many potential sources of links for small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), but not all links are created equal.
SMBs are typically characterized by limited budgets in terms of expenditure for digital marketing in general and SEO in particular. As such, the little available funds should have careful direction in order to ensure that the business receives maximum possible benefit for the investment. Below is a short description of ten methods entrepreneurs of young and small businesses can use to improve their back link profiles and hence fortify their SEO strategy.
1. Social profiles
Most frequently, blog and social media profile comments have nofollow links, which means search engines do not assess or crawl them. Even though such links do not pass link juice to the website, hence improving search ranking, they are still important to have since your audience can still follow them back to your site.
While most social networks only offer nofollow links, there are those that allow sites to have dofollow links recognizable by search engines. Dofollow links hence strengthen the social signals of a website, which in turn can improve ranking on SERPs. Such social networks include YouTube, Hub Pages, WordPress, Blogger, Reddit, Tumblr, LinkedIn and BizSugar. However, be careful about the regulations to ensure your dofollow links are recognized as such.
2. Directory links for local companies
Many potential customers turn to Google in search for locally available products or services, and a large percentage of such customers end up into a local directory of some sort. Local directories have the advantage of performing well in organic SERPs; therefore appearing in a local directory that ranks highly for your targeted keywords can help you gain high traffic from organic search.
Local citations, which are made up of both links and brand mentions, can significantly improve your site’s ranking on ‘national’ organic search as well as Google Places or Google+ Local results. Other than Google Places, a few directories worth noting include Facebook, LinkedIn, Yellowpages.com, Yelp, Local.com, Whitepages.com, Manta, SuperPages and Citysearch among others.
3. Brand mentions
Brand mentions are a useful source of links, especially since they are already existing ‘links’ only that the links don’t yet exist. You can use third-party tools like Fresh Web Explorer and advanced search commands on Google to identify sites that have mentioned your brand without adding a link. You will need to take time to learn advanced search commands and operators for maximum efficacy.
Once you identify potential sites, focus on those that can earn you the highest qualify links i.e. those with high page authority. Avoid press releases since it’s virtually impossible to gain links from there. Once released, PR’s are difficult to edit. For the rest, contact the sites’ webmasters on email/phone and ask them to include links to your site. Develop a good pitch and state the value of having a link to your site, don’t just assume they’ll link back because they mentioned your brand.
Contests are almost becoming an overused SEO technique, but can still add value if carefully executed. This is true for instance for sites that are already popular enough, meaning that they can generate noise and buzz around the content. You must be creative – do what others have not done before and create a contest that cinches the interest of your audience. Lastly, ensure you have planned every aspect carefully, including audience motivation, contest prizes and longevity among others.
5. Guest blogging
Guest blogging has also been around for a while, so you want to go about it creatively. Don’t go for the overused “keyword + ‘write for us’ ” string, because that’s where everyone goes. A different strategy might be to use ‘keyword + ‘inurl:guestauthor’ which is less frequently used. Usually, this provides sites that don’t openly invite guest posts, but they can accept them if the deal is good enough. Contact the webmaster on phone/email and pitch your idea convincingly.
You can also use Alltop, which creates a list of the best websites on the Internet for every category. Approach those webmasters with your post pitch as well.
6. Existing content
Before going to other sites, ensure that your most popular content pieces are getting maximum airplay. Inreach is easier than outreach, and definitely faster with results. Set up Blog Directory submissions and RSS feeds which creates links for all new posts as they get published. You can use your internal link architecture to make your most popular content stand out and perform better on SERPs, among other techniques.
7. Suppliers and partners
Participate in forums where your partners, suppliers and B2B clients are participating online. If you have a good relationship with them, you can approach them directly for links back to your site. You can also host meet-ups and events with them, then write about it and ask them to do the same on their sites, linking back to you.
8. Blog comments
Quality blog commenting using services like Quora can be very helpful if used in the right proportion to other SEO strategies. Quora for instance comments on blog posts that are newly published and highly relevant. Using comments is a cheap and effective SEO tactic to gain links. However, add links only where it’s clearly adding value to your comment, or you risk rolling down the dangerous road of spamming.