I’m going to start this off like every other article you may have read on link building.
Link building is hard.
This statement is true for every company. That’s why every article on link building mentions it.
But when you’re a small business, it’s even harder.
You probably don’t have a dedicated SEO in-house.
You also don’t have the same internal resources to create the “10X content” every other article on link building says you need in order to get links.
And because you’re small, it’s simply not as easy for you to attract links as a big, well-known brand.
However, link building is not impossible. Like everything else that’s hard, it just takes time and effort.
When you’re a small business with limited time and resources, you need to make sure that any time you devote to link building is spent on tactics that will actually work.
Good news: all of the below link building ideas really work. I’ve personally tried all of them with my own clients, many of whom are small businesses. Let’s dig in.
1. Support Your Local Community
Charitable organizations and nonprofits are always looking for sponsors. At least one sponsorship tier will include backlinks to a sponsor’s site.
Think about what organizations you can sponsor in your town. Do they host fundraising events?
Don’t limit yourself to traditional charities. Consider schools and for-profit events as well. Anyone in need of a sponsor is a potential backlink candidate.
Ideally, the sponsorship should make sense for your brand — by either aligning with your physical location or your industry.
To uplevel this tactic, sponsor something that your target customers actually care about, instead of sponsoring anyone who will give you a link.
The goal with link building should never focus solely on links; you want those links to translate to traffic, too.
This tactic does require a monetary investment, but it can take less upfront effort than other link building ideas.
Typically, you don’t have to build a strong relationship with event sponsors, or convince them of why you’re worthy of a link.
Send them the money for your sponsorship tier, and you’ll get everything that’s included.
2. Connect with Local & Niche Bloggers
Who are the popular bloggers who cover your city or industry?
These content creators are expected to drive constant content for their readers. Like any content manager, they run out of ideas from time to time. Be the hero that gives them an idea.
Follow these folks on social media and subscribe to their blog. Comment or reshare their pieces when you find them interesting. Build a genuine relationship.
Over time, this can translate to natural mentions.
In the meantime, pay attention to what they write about, and review where it might make sense for them to include you.
If you’re a florist, you might ask to be included in their roundup blog of local gift ideas.
If you sell accounting software, you might ask a personal finance blogger if they want 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 that, and they’ll want to help you.
As a small business, you’ll have better luck going after smaller bloggers. These so-called micro-influencers may not have the domain authority of a celebrity blogger, but their niche focus makes their backlinks highly relevant for your website.
3. Run a Scholarship
Sponsoring local organizations are one way to give back. College or high school sponsorships are another — and there’s an excellent way to earn juicy .edu backlinks.
I’ve covered this before on Search Engine Journal, so you can read my step-by-step walkthrough for this kind of link building campaign there.
The idea is to create a scholarship for college or high schools students that is relevant to your small business.
If you’re a realtor, ask students to write an essay response hypothesizing the future of the housing industry.
Then, reach out to the financial aid offices at schools and ask them to share it with their students.
You will need to set aside some 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 the local regions where you operate or focusing on schools with a major department that matches your industry.
Plus, after you select a winner, you can always run a press release for additional coverage and potential backlinks.
4. Guest Post for Industry-Relevant Sites
You’ve seen this suggestion multiple times before, and that’s because it works.
Guest blogging takes real effort, perhaps the most out of any tactics on this list.
You have to:
It’s a lot of work, but it’s commensurate with the return you get.
Guest posts provide much more than a backlink. When you land a guest post on a site your target audience frequents, they can drive qualified traffic your way.
Plus, having a byline on these sites helps elevate the status of your brand.
Small businesses often run into roadblocks when they pitch guest posts to popular sites. Instead of going after the biggest sites you’ve ever heard of, pitch articles to sites that are smaller, but relevant, to your industry.
Using our accounting software example, you might go after personal finance blogs with engaged readerships, rather than publishing behemoths like the Wall Street Journal.
If your small business regularly partners with other companies from complementary verticals, consider pitching them a guest post, too.
They’re already in the habit of referring customers your way, so there’s a clear fit there.
How can you write a post for their site that provides value to their readers, while making it natural for them to contact you?
For instance, a short-term rental management company might partner with a local maid service. The maid service could write a guest blog providing tips for cleaning your home in between Airbnb rentals.
5. Offer Case Studies or Testimonials
This is one easy link building tactic I don’t see being used nearly as often as it should.
What vendors or software products does your business use? If you’re happy with them, offer to take part in a case study or provide them with a testimonial.
It’s customary practice for brands to link to the business featured in the case study or testimonial, in gratitude for their social proof.
You don’t want to go into this asking for the link, and you should only do this for brands you’re sincerely satisfied with.
Contact your sales rep. Let them know how much their product or service has helped you, and that you’d be willing to provide a testimonial for them. You’re going to make their day.
6. Reclaim Unlinked Mentions
This is perhaps the easiest link building tactic of all. Brands are mentioned every day online — big and small alike.
Set up free Google Alerts for “[your brand name goes here]” and “[yourdomain.com]”, as well as the names of any prominent members of your leadership team.
Whenever a website mentions you without including a link, reach out.
This is 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 every mention before you reach out. If a site mentioned your business in a negative way, do not consider that your opening to ask them for a link. Instead, consider it an opportunity to evaluate their feedback and how you may need to adapt your business, if at all.
7. Promote Your Content Far & Wide
You’re already writing blogs and sharing advice on your small business website. Are you doing anything else to promote that content, besides the obligatory share on social media?
Take to the internet. There are many popular online blogs that allow you to syndicate your content (like Medium, LinkedIn, and others). Simply due to their massive size, these sites are much more likely to rank for your target keywords than you are.
Don’t get frustrated by that; use it to your advantage instead.
Rewrite a compelling intro for your blog, or rewrite in its entirety, and post a canonical link back to your website.
This tactic is known as content syndication, and fellow SEJ writer Ben Jacobson wrote a great piece on it right here.
You can also share links to your content in social sharing sites and online message boards like Quora and Slideshare.
Monitor the threads that are relevant to your business. Show off your business expertise and provide real value in your response – before pointing users to a piece of content on your website for additional information.
Do this regularly enough, and you’ll start to build a name for yourself as an authority in the space. Users on these sites may start to follow you specifically to see your answers. That translates to 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 valuable for driving traffic — and that’s the ultimate goal of link building, really.
Links are just one way to boost your search rankings. Traffic is what you really want.
Link Building for Your Small Business
Link building can work for small business. In fact, it can work really well.
You just have to be thoughtful about where you put your efforts. Spend your time on tactics that work, and you’ll start to see results.