Ok, let’s face facts for a second. Google and their various spokespeople over the years have been very direct about the need for links in order to rank well in their search engine.
Matt Cutts famously said that links being the main part of the algorithm would likely live on for years.
The issue for small business is that it’s pretty difficult to build links because of both the difficulty involved, but also the time that it can take. As a small business owner, I’ve been there.
I’ve had to make tough decisions about getting things done for my business in the short term or the long term and like many small businesses, it’s hard to find the time every day to do both.
To that end, here are 5 ways that a small business can build links while staying within Google’s guidelines and without breaking the bank in terms of money or time.
Help a Reporter (HARO)
If you’re going to spend 10 minutes a day on any backlink building method, in my opinion, this is the one. While I hope you’re already familiar with HARO, it’s short for Help A Reporter Out and unlike any other type of Public Relations out there, connections don’t really matter.
When I first started my business, I spoke to a number of PR companies and they told me that they’d love to have a wine of the month club as a client. When we got to talking, they were planning on charging us a few thousand dollars a month and offered that we’d be lucky to find two major placements per year.
Through HARO, I’m consistently able to build one of those major placements as well as about 3 links per week. Before you shake your head at those numbers, this takes me maybe 15 minutes per day and those links have come from places like Fortune, Forbes and the Amex Open Forum.
As you might imagine, as a small business with a marketing budget of pretty much zero, there’s no other reasonable way for me to gain those type of links.
This might quickly be becoming the third rail of online marketing. Matt Cutts talked some time ago about the death of guest blogging for SEO, but in reality, he was talking about massive, easy to find blog networks that often required some level of payment to participate.
For those us handwriting guest posts, in an effort to get our names out there as experts in our field, or even just to get known as small business owners, there should be room to continue writing guest posts.
Here’s some of my own general rule of thumb about guest blogging while still stay in Google’s good graces in that regard:
- Don’t make it your only backlink acquisition method.
- Don’t judge sites only by the link acquired if there is one.Traffic counts too.
- Write them yourself, don’t hire a writer.
- Tell your story
- Write stuff that you’d gladly show both your competitors, as well as, your spouse.
All in all that means if the site is a real blog that has some traffic, that’s a place I want to be talking about my small business. More of that is better than less. Btw, feel free to check our guest posting plans.
Good, Old Fashioned, Outreach:
Ok, so can we be honest for a second…..old fashioned outreach sucks! What I mean is that, if you’re creating outstanding, evergreen, 10x or whatever the buzzword of the day is, content….normally it’ll just sit there and no one will see it. You have to, especially at first, encourage people to see it and encourage them to link to it.
So how do you go about that? First and foremost, have some content ready. Really, really damn good content ready. Then you’ll need to find bloggers in your niche. You can do that pretty easily, but it’s labor intensive. Bloggers almost always have a list of friends someone on their site.
I’d suggest that you keep a detailed excel file of blogs in your niche, their contact information, social media information and any contact that you have. Start by following them on Twitter, or at least creating a Twitter List with all of these names.
Basically, you’ll need to get yourself on their radar and preferably that should happen before you have an ask for them.
Check our outreach tutorial in the Expert Roundup Creation guide.
So there’s any number of local links that every small business should have, without question. Most cities have a list of businesses that have permits in their city. You should get that.
Additionally, many libraries and other local resources (think the Chamber of Commerce) do much the same. You should search those out.
One way to look for those is to check links for other local businesses in your area. Everyone has their own favorite backlink checker (mine is Ahrefs) but start with your local coffee shop, ice cream place and other spots in your neighborhood that don’t normally build links.
You’ll be surprised to find a number of local bloggers and online magazines have already talked about your neighborhood and these folks are usually pretty open to being pitched-largely, because unlike major media, it happens so rarely.
Check our tutorial on how to build backlinks for your local business.
Blog. Video Blog. Podcast. Create content
This sits outside of my general suggestions in regard to outreach. You’re going to need to create excellent long term content for that stuff. But, small business cannot afford to produce that type of content on a daily basis. I wish we all could. But, we can’t.
Regular updates of your website helps SEO in two major ways. First and foremost, spiders coming to the site on a consistent basis has shown to correlate well with higher rankings.
Secondly, getting new website content up on a daily basis gives you the chance to interlink your posts.
Internal links aren’t talked about much in terms of higher rankings and they definitely do have their limits but think about Wikipedia for a minute. The site soaks up an absolute ton of traffic, it’s among the 5 highest trafficked websites on the internet and it interlinks its pages so much as to be annoying.
Does Wikipedia rank in your niche? In my niche, it sites somewhere around page 4 for most major search terms. It’s article has basically no outside links (because it’s lame) so that’s all based on their broader domain, as well as, it’s internal links.
Try out some internal linking on your site. First, it’s good for your readers. I often reference wines that I shipped at some point in the past as part of my wine clubs, I mentioned types of grapes in every post, there’s basically no finite number of chances for internal links on my site, or I suspect yours.
If you keep your internal links in mind and only link in an effort to help your readers understand your posts-this stays within Google’s guidelines and will lead to better rankings.
You are using WordPress? I have great news as recently I’ve reviewed a plugin that does internal linking almost on autopilot. It’s called LinkWhisper and you can read the review here. I’m pretty amazed by the results.
Try it on your site today, you’ll see some movement in about a month for the pages that you link to.
I brought up video blogging and podcasting because I find those to be two ways that you can easily create website content in a few minutes. For me, a short video blog with my thoughts of the day creates about a thousand words of content.
I have my video blogs transcribed by a human (by Rev) which costs me $1 per minute. It’s a hell of an easy, and cheap, way to create content quickly and easily.
I hope you have enjoyed this short intro to building links for small business. It’s a long term process and one that you shouldn’t expect to see results from overnight. But, it comes with the long term benefit of possibly bringing in thousands of new customers.