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How to Do Link Building: 8 Strategies for Startups (2020 Update)

Bill Murphy

Link building is the process of getting other websites to link back to your website. These links, called backlinks, are essential in how Google determines which websites rank for which keywords. In fact, after studying 11.8 million SERP results, one study found the number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor. Every business owner should be interested in building links to drive referral traffic and increase their site’s authority. 

Link building can be one of the more challenging aspects of SEO. In this post, we’ll answer how to do link building, and walk you through 8 actionable strategies to get a ton of high-quality links to your site. 

Best Link Building Tactics 

1. Blog commenting 

Building links on blogs could be as easy as leaving a valuable message in the “comments” section of a blog. The sooner you leave a comment after the blog publishes, the better. 

Blog comments also come with two other great benefits:

  1. They help you build relationships within online communities.
  2. They offer targeted traffic back to your website.

One thing to note is that the comment submission box must have a field to add your website. 

The comment submission box must have a field to add your website.

The website field means you can include a link back to your site, that anyone who reads your comment can click. Google notices when you get links back from your comments on large, well-established blogs. According to this study from Neil Patel, links from high authority sites, even through user-generated content, help with rankings. 

If you choose to use this tactic, you’ll want to focus on blogs that allow Dofollow links in comments. Google uses Dofollow links to figure out how many users link to your page and determine your website’s authority. The more Dofollow links you have, the higher you’ll show up on Google search. 

If you aren’t sure how to find blogs that allow DoFollow links, Google search the following:

  • “Dofollow blogs” – you’ll discover articles listing out blogs that have Dofollow links. 
  • Followlist – use this directory to find blogs that have Dofollow links.

Actively comment on your niche’s blog posts, and be sure your comment adds value to the topic of the blog. Posting spammy links will just cause your comment to be removed.

2. Expert roundup

Building alliances with companies that offer products that are complementary to yours or influencers in your space give you a win-win relationship. 

Sharing the opinions of leaders in your industry via an expert roundup blog post will help you build backlinks, boost your website’s traffic, and add SEO value.

This type of blog post gets a lot of traffic since the experts who are part of the roundup sometimes share the content with their audience. And as an industry expert, they likely have a large following. 

Since roundups are valuable pieces of content, they have a higher chance of being shared by other people, even if they weren’t one of the contributors. Plus, the backlinks you’ll get from major websites will boost your domain authority and search ranking. 

To create an expert roundup post, think about a topic relevant to your industry that you’ve always wanted to discuss. Ask the most relevant questions about the topic in your blog post, and answer them with experts in your field. 

Consider using a tool like Ninja Outreach to find and reach out to industry leaders if you’re not sure where to find experts for your roundup post. 

3. Ego bait

Who doesn’t love a little ego boost?

The ‘ego bait’ link building tactic is similar to the expert roundup strategy. If you positively feature another person on your website or blog, they’re more likely to return the favor.

Like most people, experts and influencers want to be recognized for their accomplishments and skills. By sharing those accomplishments with your audience, you inspire those experts to share your content and link to your website. The key here is creating content around a specific person, business, or group of people.

The main types of ego bait content are:

  • Interviews
  • Roundup Posts
  • Listicles
  • Directories
  • Awards

For example, if your business is a small tech startup, you can make a “51 Game Changers in Tech You Should Follow” list and mention different personalities and websites. They’ll appreciate it and probably will share the content with a link. Pick the right type of content and industry leaders from complementary businesses to reach your SEO goals.

4. Local directories

Adding your business to an online directory is an easy way to build links and draw traffic to your site. 

People use online directories to locate businesses that sell what they’re shopping for at that very moment—since directories index businesses by niche, location, and category, adding your website to a directory attracts highly-targeted (and high purchase-intent) traffic to your website. 

You increase your chances of sales by having your business listed in a directory, and you also boost your business’ visibility. Online directories are trusted sources and are typically high-ranking on Google. 

Most of the time, adding your business to a directory costs you nothing. Many online directories – for example, Bing Places, Yelp, and Foursquare – allow you to submit your business information for free. Still, some online directories do charge a listing fee.

Choose a directory relevant to your niche, and the chances of reaching your target audience and boosting your SEO will be much higher.

5. Brand mentions

Unlinked brand mentions are when people mention your brand online without linking to your website–which means you’re already halfway towards earning a link. The blogger already knows of your business; thus, you have the perfect excuse to reach out and ask for a link back to your site.

What kind of mentions can you link back to? Anything that mentions you or your brand can serve as a backlink, for example, product names, services, slogans, and even your name.

To start, create a list of any unique products, services, and brand representatives for your business. Then, you can search them on Google or use a tool like Ahrefs Content Explorer to find mentions of your brand online. If you are building awareness and already started doing some traditional marketing, such as press releases, you’ll likely find articles where you or your brand is mentioned online. 

A few rules before asking for a link: first, don’t be pushy. Ask yourself if adding a link makes sense within the context of the article. Secondly, don’t request links if they don’t add value. If the article expresses an unfavorable or critical opinion of your brand, you probably shouldn’t ask for a link. Last, always offer value. If something could be expanded on or improved in the article, don’t be afraid to mention it in your email outreach. Using these three rules, you’re more likely to get a favorable response when you ask for a link to your website. 

6. Sponsorships

If you want, you can secure backlinks from local projects or causes you already support. Many cause-based sites have pages dedicated to donors where they show their sponsors’ logos and link to their websites.

Different sponsorship opportunities

  • Sponsoring an event to get publicity and brand visibility. 
  • Consider sponsoring a podcast or a webinar. You may get a backlink from it.
  • Conference sponsorships get your name in front of a niche audience. 
  • Non-profit sponsorships stand for a great cause while also helping you achieve an authoritative link. 

7. Link building tools

Link building tools can help you to find backlink opportunities. If you have some money to spend on tools, we have some useful options:

  • BuzzStream is a perfect tool to create a list of prospects and do outreach for them.
  • Ahrefs is a tool you can use to analyze backlinks from any site and look for relevant content and keywords. 
  • Moz is great for prospecting for expert roundups or even want to add external links to your articles. You can use MozBar to know the domain authority of each one directly from the Google results page.

8. Guest blogging

Guest posts are probably the number one way companies look for backlinks. But is the link equity being passed to your site? Unlikely — but maybe. 

John Mueller, a Google senior webmaster trends analyst, recently said on Twitter that links within guest blog posts or contributed content should be nofollowed.

Still, many SEOs still believe in the power of guest posting. Google somehow still counts those links, and there’s no question may marketers have seen benefits from these opportunities. Whether it be SERP improvements, increased traffic — or most importantly, more leads.

A poll by SEO marketer, Dan Petrovic, showed that many SEO experts use guest blogging to build links.

 Dan Petrovic showed that many SEO experts use guest blogging to build links.

When you write a guest post for another site, you’re proving you’re an expert. You’re also offering quality content to a similar audience in another site (meaning probably they’re going to visit your website). Just because Google’s algorithms may ignore the link doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Guest blogging could be very valuable for your company.  There are many ways you can find guest blogging opportunities. Adam Steele of Loganix gives these guest blog tips:

  • Google search modifiers. You can find great things using the advanced search in Google. Here are some examples of search combinations you can try:

You can find great things using the advanced search in Google.

  • Join and contribute to online communities, like Reddit and Quora, or even groups in LinkedIn and Facebook. It’s essential to be an active member.
  • Social searches. On Twitter, you can find shared guest posts about specific topics.
  • Use competitor backlinks. If they already accepted a guest post from a competitor, there’s a good chance they’ll accept one from you as well. You can find competitor backlinks through Ahrefs or SEMRush.
  • Target guest post sites. Some websites actively looking for guest bloggers and even openly advertise that fact.

how to find guest blogging opportunities

Conclusion and Closing Thoughts

To wrap up, our top eight strategies for how to do link building for startups include:

  • Blog commenting
  • Expert roundups
  • Ego bait
  • Local directories 
  • Brand mentions
  • Sponsorships
  • Link building tools
  • Guest blogging

Link building best practice: Remember that you’re talking to people, not robots. 

Write personalized emails for your link building outreach campaigns. Secondly, be patient. Link building will not give you results instantly; it’s hard work upfront, but it always pays back.

About Author

Bill Murphy is the founder and chief strategist for Colony Spark.

Follow on Twitter @billmurphy | LinkedIn

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